Find out what it takes to get into Oxford or Cambridge, as well as some tips if you’re uncertain about which one to apply to and whether you should apply to both or just one.
What information do I need to know in order to apply to Oxbridge?
You are undoubtedly aware that the way things are done at Oxford and Cambridge University are rather distinct from how they are done at other universities in the UK. The most important distinctions between the two are outlined below for your reference.
The end of October benchmark
The application deadline is far earlier than the one imposed by Ucas in January for the majority of courses. Make sure that you are well prepared for the application deadline for Oxbridge, which is on October 15 of each year.
Talk to your school or college as soon as possible and let them know that you could be interested in applying to Oxford or Cambridge. This will allow them to help you in any way they can, including providing you with timely feedback on your personal statement.
The structure of the colleges
Only a select few institutions are organised along collegiate lines, and Oxford and Cambridge are two of those universities (Durham and York also have this).
In both Oxford and Cambridge, you will spend the majority of your time living and studying in the college that you choose to attend. Colleges are like miniature communities in and of themselves.
The fact that the college you end up attending won’t have any bearing on whether or not you are offered a spot there is the single most crucial piece of information to have.
Consider the following factors while deciding which institution to attend:
Check to see that it provides the academic programme that you are interested in, think about its size, how old or how new it is, and where it is located, attend to an open house, and trust your gut.
If you are unable to choose a college, you have the option of submitting an open application. In this scenario, your application will be assigned at random to a college, and after that, it will be processed in the same manner as any other application.
Term lengths and schedule
The academic terms at Oxford and Cambridge universities typically last approximately eight weeks, but terms at other universities typically last ten weeks. There is a possibility that there will also be study weeks before and after these.
It is important to keep this in mind when entering into lease agreements, making preparations for the upcoming holidays (such as going home), and searching for job that is part-time.
In connection with this topic, it is common knowledge that Oxford and Cambridge actively prohibit their students from working part-time jobs during the academic semester due to the shorter length and increased amount of work required.
If your marks start to suffer, your instructors may begin questioning you about how you’re allocating your time if they notice this trend (this includes non-work activities too, such as representing the university in sports).
On the other hand, you may be eligible to take on certain paid responsibilities on campus, such as positions as a research assistant.
Investigate other sources of funding such as bursaries and scholarships if the expense of attending university – and studying at Oxbridge in particular – is a concern of yours.
These could be provided by Oxford and Cambridge University themselves, or by other organisations, employers, or charitable organisations. They would be granted in consideration of the applicant’s personal circumstances, academic accomplishments, and extracurricular activities.
There is a lot of competition for these opportunities, but if you are successful, they have the potential to completely transform your life; thus, you should look into them. It is something that you would want to inquire about at an open day.
Both Oxford and Cambridge are generally known for having a relatively small number of students enrolled at each institution (ie white, upper-middle class). However, there have been attempts made to cast a wider net and attract students from a greater variety of racial and cultural origins as well as households with lesser budgets.
For instance, in 2018, Stormzy made the announcement that he will provide financial support in the form of grants for both tuition and living expenses for two black students attending Cambridge University each year.
The scheduled activities and programmes
Both Oxford and Cambridge put on a variety of events and activities throughout the year to provide prospective students with a taste of life at an Oxbridge university and to encourage students from a diverse range of backgrounds to apply. These are the following:
open days include tours of the university’s facilities and departments; summer residentials give students the opportunity to live on campus while conducting research and writing a short assignment; outreach programmes allow students in their senior year to attend weekly classes in their community that are structured similarly to those offered at Oxbridge; open days are held throughout the year. Students are given homework each week in preparation for group talks, and they have the opportunity to receive additional support when it comes time to apply for jobs.
Ruby, a student at Oxford, shared with us her reflections on her time spent in the Floreat programme at Balliol College.
It has been quite beneficial to participate in a humanities class that is taught by former students of Oxford University. Not only have the seminars enabled me to extend my views and investigate new topics, but they have also assisted me in determining whether or not I am able to handle the intensity and approach of the teaching at Oxford.
My abilities in debate and public speaking have improved thanks to the weekly group talks I’ve been participating in.
Because the weekly tutorials that students have at Oxford are effectively a one-on-one or two-on-one argument with an expert, where you will be required to support your beliefs in your work or on anything you have read, this is very important information for a candidate to Oxford.
Should I go to Oxford or Cambridge? Which one is better?
Oxford and Cambridge are the two oldest universities in the United Kingdom; hence, they are highly comparable to one another in terms of prestige, collegiate system, teaching methodology, and the competitive entrance procedure.
The question then is, what differentiates one from the other?
The pinnacle of excellence
Both Oxford and Cambridge University are held in extremely high regard by both academics and employers all around the world. The two universities frequently take turns sitting atop the yearly university league tables, rotating between first and second position.
It is possible that it might be beneficial to take a look at where they now stand in the rankings for your particular topic, to see which of the two comes out on top.
There is a widespread belief that Cambridge is somewhat stronger in the sciences, whereas Oxford is marginally stronger in the social sciences and humanities. However, both universities argue that there is no significant difference between them despite this perception.
Having said that, a degree from either Oxford or Cambridge is not likely to be looked down upon, regardless of the schools’ respective reputations for being known to be slightly more biassed toward one group of disciplines over another.
Both the topic and the degree type
There are some differences between the curriculums offered at Oxford and Cambridge.
There are certain courses that are exclusively offered at one of the Universities; as a result, your decision may have already been chosen for you, despite the fact that certain courses share quite a few similarities with one another.
For example, the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) course is only offered at Oxford. Cambridge, on the other hand, offers a course that is fairly comparable to it called Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS).
When you apply to Cambridge, you will be considered for the flexible natural sciences degree, which is sometimes referred to as the “NatSci Tripos.” This degree gives you the opportunity to combine any of the biological and physical sciences or to specialise in a certain area based on your preferences. In the meantime, Oxford only provides courses that focus on a particular scientific discipline.
In addition, if you wish to study for a combined degree, you won’t be able to do so at Cambridge but can pursue a joint degree at Oxford (though you might be able to do a module in another subject area, here).
When deciding which university to attend, the programme that you are interested in taking should be at the top of your list of priorities, so make sure to give it careful consideration.
And just as the content of comparable courses varies from one university to another, the content of comparable courses at Oxford and Cambridge will have significant differences; therefore, it is imperative that you investigate the specifics.
For instance, students pursuing an English degree in Oxford may have access to a greater variety of literary genres and authors than those pursuing the same degree at Cambridge. Check this out if you want to delve deeper into a particular field or subject area, for example.
Which of these modules do you feel best represents your interests? How do you feel about the three different types of assignments—exams, coursework, and practicals?
Conflict in the city
Both cities are tourist magnets because to their amazing architecture and world-famous universities; nevertheless, the student experiences that can be had in each city are quite distinct from one another.
Both are approximately an hour’s commute from London, with Oxford being slightly further away. As is the case with the universities themselves, the only way to know for sure which city will work for you is to travel to that location and experience it for yourself.
We highly encourage going to each of these cities in person if you have the opportunity to do so, but here is a quick overview of each one:
The majority of universities have distinctive customs, characteristics, or names for the same item; Oxford and Cambridge are not an exception to this norm; they both have their own unique traditions:
Although the illustrious teaching approach may be the same at both universities, the very intimate study sessions are referred to as “tutorials” at Oxford (sometimes known as “tutes”) and “supervisions” at Cambridge.
May Week is an annual event in Cambridge, which is a time of celebration following the end-of-year examinations. Attend some garden parties, galas, and other gatherings.
The University of Oxford has educated a total of twenty-eight British prime ministers, including Boris Johnson, David Cameron, and Tony Blair, amongst others. Do you consider yourself to be the next in line? It is generally thought that Oxford has a more traditional outlook than Cambridge.
The Cambridge University Constabulary is the name of the institution’s very own private police force, which serves the University of Cambridge. At graduation, the Constabulary performs a significant role in maintaining order among the throng and providing assistance to guests.
What are the requirements for admission to Oxford or Cambridge?
You need to differentiate yourself from the strong competition, but does that mean getting perfect scores across the board in all of your GCSE and A-level classes?
To put it simply, the answer is no. There are some students at Oxbridge who don’t believe in God, but you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that many others do.
In spite of the fact that each application should be evaluated on its own merits, there are a few prerequisites that you need to fulfil in order to keep your chances of getting into Oxbridge alive.
So, in order to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, what do you need to do?
The priority that is placed on academic performance is the characteristic that most differentiates the admissions process at Oxbridge from that of other universities.
While other universities may offer you a place based on the skills, extracurricular interests, and experience you’ve talked about in your personal statement – or accept you even if you narrowly miss the grades of your offer come results day – the things that really interest Oxford and Cambridge are your academic performance, potential, and ambitions.
While the majority of Cambridge’s conditional offers are A*AA, the median conditional offer for Oxford can range anywhere from A*A*A to AAA (depending on the subject).
More extensive reading
If you want to go into Oxbridge, it won’t be enough to just follow the curriculum and accomplish the bare minimum that your lecturers ask of you.
Reading extensively on your topic and staying current on any new information related to it will be beneficial to you, especially if you are applying to a field in the humanities, social sciences, the natural sciences, or the engineering field.
To do so will result in the following for you:
have more pertinent information to discuss on your personal statement – Oxbridge statements tend to be more academically focused; be able to talk widely around a subject during an interview – it’s pretty likely that you’ll be required to attend one; and be more prepared for the pace of reading that is expected of you at university.
You shouldn’t be hesitant to criticise what you’ve read either, but make sure to back up your claims with specific examples or arguments. Instead of merely regurgitating what they have read, the tutors at Oxbridge want to see applicants who are able to create their own opinions and explain how they came to these findings.
The preparation for the interview
You can anticipate receiving an invitation to an interview at either Oxford or Cambridge. The interviews are scheduled for the months of November and December, although there is a remote possibility that they will continue into January.
It is possible that you will be needed to attend more than one interview with various people, including interviews with more than one person at the same time. This is especially likely if you are applying to a combined subject.
Should you be required to remain overnight in order to participate in these, the university will provide both food and lodging for you.
Your interview will, in many ways, take after these small classes to determine whether you are matched to the teaching style that is used at either Oxford or Cambridge. A good portion of the teaching that takes place at either university takes place in small classrooms.
In addition to gauging your level of interest in the topic at hand and the amount of relevant experience you’ve amassed, an admissions tutor will have the chance to see how you think and how you react to a question or a discussion.
Aspiring young scientists and mathematicians should be prepared to figure out problems either by writing them down or writing them out on a whiteboard.
If you’ve been asked to an interview, it’s a good idea to run through some practise scenarios beforehand with a friend, parent, instructor, or career counsellor. You should read through your personal statement once more before your interview because you can be asked questions concerning what you put here.
Admissions test scores
It is anticipated that applicants to Oxford and Cambridge will be required to take at least one admissions test in order to be considered. This will assist separate high-achieving prospects from other applicants (timed and written). Please be aware that any tests you complete as part of your A-levels, Scottish Highers, or other similar programmes will not count toward this.
The purpose of admissions exams is to evaluate your problem-solving skills by presenting you with a variety of questions that you have likely never seen before. Because they are an evaluation of your innate abilities, they typically do not call for any additional preparation, meaning that there is no content that must be reviewed.
There are some degrees, such as medical, law, mathematics, English, and current language applications, that often require you to take one. Other degrees do not. The vast majority of students applying to Cambridge are required to demonstrate their knowledge in a particular field by passing an examination.
Some admissions exams are administered during the interview process, while others must be performed on their own at a separate location, such as a private testing centre. Find out which assessments you’ll need to do and when as soon as feasible, as there may be deadlines to register for these and obtain your results by (in addition to fees to pay); therefore, find out as soon as possible which exams you’ll need to take.
In addition, as part of the application process, both universities require certain applicants to provide examples of their written coursework.
In addition, applicants are expected to submit a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) to Cambridge. This is done to ensure that the university has a comprehensive understanding of the applicant and that they have accurate information. Students who are applying from countries that are not members of the European Union could be required to fill out a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA).