Getting into Oxford University - A Guide. Image courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger via Flickr Commons.

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How Do You Get Into Oxford University? Is It Hard? What Grades Do You Need?

Getting into Oxford University - A Guide. Image courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger via Flickr Commons.

We have prepared this detailed guide to answer all your questions about getting into Oxford University. In this article, we will help you understand what grades you need to get into Oxford, how hard it really is, and what you can expect if you do get admitted to a college. Let’s get started. 

How do People Get Into Oxford?

First things first. How do people actually get admitted into Oxford University? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Most students that currently attend a college will tell you that they achieved their required grades (A-Levels, usually) and applied through the UCAS. Many also had to take an entrance test and submit written work, attend an interview, and wait patiently for a call letting them know if they had been admitted. Different courses have different requirements. For example, if you want to study maths at Oxford you will have to pass the MAT, a subject-specific admissions test. 

Is it Hard to Get Into Oxford?

Getting into Oxford is not easy, but it’s probably not as hard as you think either. The thing that colleges look for the most in new students is not necessarily academic brilliance – but an honest and demonstrable interest in a subject. A key component of a successful Oxford University application is confidence. Oxford classes are small and have a sort of adversarial style of discussion. Students are encouraged to argue, to justify their positions. It’s, of course, not about inflexible. But about being able to address an issue in a logical way, reason a conclusion, and stand up for your own ideas. Extra-curricular activities are not as important as many think. Oxford appreciates intelligence and enthusiasm, not whether you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. 

What Grades do you Need to Get Into Oxford?

In order to apply to Oxford University courses, you will need to meet certain qualification requirements. A-levels are recommended although not mandatory. If you’re planning on studying science, for example, you will need some A-level standards or their equivalent. Offers for students studying A-levels range between A*A*A and AAA depending on the course. GCSEs will be taken into account too, but more as an additional aspect of your Oxford application. 

The Process of Getting Into Oxford - Step by Step

The Oxford Admissions Tests

Many Oxford courses will require you to take an admission test (not all do, however. For example, “Archaeology and Anthropology” doesn’t require you to take one). You should always research and practise for your test. You can find the correct ones for your subject and use the test pages listed here to practise. All of Oxford University’s tests are administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (or CAAT). Keep in mind that you need to follow a few steps to sign up for the tests; registering to the CAAT portal is NOT enough. 

> Read more about Oxford Admission Tests here

Getting UCAS Support

The UCAS is an independent charity that supports young people apply for undergraduate (and graduate) courses. They provide advice, and information, and can help you with your University admission process. In 2019, the charity handled over 2.79 million applications! Many of the students they assisted were accepted at Oxford University. Their website can help you choose what and where to study, meet with other students (that have been admitted or are trying to as well) and give you tips for your Oxford interview or audition. You should complete a UCAS application form a year before the start date of your course. Applications open in May.

Written Work

Many Oxford courses will require you to present a sample of your written work. The goal of this exercise is to demonstrate your reasoning, analytical ability, language, and writing skills – of course always related t the course you have chosen. It’s common for your written work to be mentioned in your interview, so you should always keep a copy of it (and make sure you’re familiar with what you said!) for your own reference. 

The Interview

The admission test and the interview are probably the two biggest things to prepare for when you are preparing to apply to Oxford University courses. You will normally be interviewed by two tutors, who will assess your academic potential and your ability to study, think, and learn in a certain way (Oxford has small classes and tutorials). Tutors are looking for two things during your Oxford interview: Enthusiasm and self-motivation, Your appearance, background, or manners do not matter. Only your ability to engage with new ideas and think independently will count. Lots of people get very stressed thinking about the interview, but you should see it as an opportunity to learn more about the college, your tutors, and other potential students. You’re likely to have more than one interview or to be interviewed by more than one college.

The Offer

If you do well in your interview, Oxford University will make you an offer to start your course. Decisions are released via UCAS Track early in the morning, and you will then get direct communication from the college. You can also request feedback on admission decisions by sending an email to the college that considered your application. 

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