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Programme of Support for Oxbridge

If you are considering applying to Oxford or Cambridge you will know that these are highly competitive application processes requiring a great deal more intentional preparation compared to other UCAS degree applications. The key criteria is that you need to make your application stand out. There is lots of information here, please read it all carefully. It is designed to help you make the right choices and make your application as strong as possible.

When Oxbridge admissions’ tutors assess candidates they consider not only your predicted grades but also the combination of subjects you are studying. Generally they prefer applicants to have taken certain subjects or combinations of subjects that they feel will help their studies once they arrive at the university. For a many courses there are certain subjects which you are required to have taken and will achieve a top grade in. Check out admissions information and links to useful pages here:

Admissions tutors want to know two main things about applicants:

  1. Is this person capable of completing the course to a high standard ? (Does this candidate have the academic potential and the initiative to explore the subject, ask awkward questions and not be satisfied with an easy answer? Is there flexibility in his/her thinking?)
  2. Are they committed to this subject and course? (Does this candidate show a real passion for their subject beyond the classroom?)

Capable: Academic Requirements

Your exam grades (predicted and actual) plus references will be evidence of your academic ability. If you’ve done your research you will already know that the minimum requirement for most Oxbridge courses is AAA for A-level or 38-41 points plus 776/666 at Higher Level for IB. You will also need a run of grade A/7 and above at GCSE/iGCSE, with very few grades, if any below a 6.

Grade requirements at other Russell Group universities will usually be a minimum of AAB for A-level and 35-38 points plus 666 at HL for IB, but these do vary – you need to do your research and find the right courses for you, we cannot emphasise this enough.

Bear in mind that grade requirements are the minimum expectation, admissions tutors are looking for students who have something about them beyond just their academic grades. Be ambitious but also be realistic and make sure you also have a back-up insurance choice which has a lower grade requirement in case you don’t get the grades you expect.

Most Oxbridge courses will also require you to take an admissions test after you have submitted your UCAS application and before you get to the interview stage and many will also ask you to submit some written work.

For some courses this varies from college to college – make sure you look at this. Please make sure you also ask your relevant subject teachers for help in selecting appropriate work to submit and to help you prepare and practice for the admissions tests.

Everyone applying will have the appropriate grade predictions – entrance tests are used to filter and shortlist applications, as such they are incredibly important and must be practiced.

You can find details of course entry requirements and the relevant entrance test and practice papers for your course on the relevant admissions requirements page:

For Law Cambridge do their own test, Oxford use the LNAT which is also used by a number of other universities. For information about King Edward’s programme of support for Law see here.

Details of medical school tests can be found here. For information about King Edward’s programme of support for Medicine see here.

King Edward’s pupils can register for most university entrance tests through school via Mrs Todd in the Exams Office. King Edward’s School is an authorised test centre with Cambridge Admissions (they run all the tests, irrespective of the university you are applying to). For the latest information on these entrance tests, please go to the Entrance Tests page in Firefly. The main exception here is the LNAT which must be done at an approved outside centre.

If you are unsure of the requirements and admissions process for your chosen courses, please ask for help from Mr Davies, Mrs Phillips or Mrs Davies.

Committed: Wider reading/courses/activities beyond the classroom

You need make yourself stand out in terms of commitment, passion and ability beyond just exam grades. This can be most effectively done through wider reading and evidence of participation in activities such as workshops, seminars, work experience or essay competitions beyond the classroom. The following information should provide some useful ideas. Make sure you use your time between now and the time you submit your application wisely and productively.

Current affairs

You should all be keeping up with current affairs, particularly with stories relevant to your chosen course. Good sources of reliable information include broadsheet newspapers and journals. Please do not rely on social media.

  • Broadsheets:
    • The Guardian (free online), the Times and the Telegraph both have a paywall but you may have a family subscription for these, if so – use them. Some US newspapers such as the Washington Post and New York Times also allow you to access a limited number of articles for free.
    • The school has a subscription to the Financial Times – log in here with your school email address
  • Journals:
    • The School has online subscriptions to the following which you can use for free:
    • The Economist. Log in details are username: password: KESW1234# – Particularly good for those looking at humanities/politics/economics related courses
    • The New Scientist. Log in details – please ask Mrs Harris.
    • National Geographic is also good and you can access a limited number of articles for free without a subscription.
    • Any other journals relevant to your particular courses.
  • Competitions/Online courses
    • has a fantastic selection of free online courses in a whole range of subjects. Most ask for just a few hours work each week. Go direct to the website to find one suitable for you. It is strongly recommended you do one.
    • For economists the Financial Times has a Young Economist of the Year Competition.
    • This essay competition for humanities/economics/law related degrees is well worth entering if you feel up to the challenge. All of the essay prizes are judged by senior academics from the University of Oxford. The judges will choose their favourite essay from each subject category and an overall ‘best essay’ across seven subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law.
    • For STEM related subjects you could try National Science & Engineering
    • Oxford runs an increasing access programme with lots of opportunities here. The digital resource hub and online events will be particularly useful – have a look.
    • Cambridge’s access programmes can be found here.

Different Oxford and Cambridge colleges and other universities have a whole array of subject specific competitions you can enter, do some research and find one suitable for you. There is also lots more information on the school Careers and HE page on Firefly. Make sure you check deadlines carefully, obviously competitions with deadlines later in the summer will give you more time to work on them.

Subject Specific Reading

It is recommended for subject specific reading you visit the relevant university admissions pages for your course. You are not expected to have read any books in particular but admissions tutors will want to see some evidence that you have read widely beyond the classroom. Most importantly they want to know what you have learnt from your reading – how has it interested and helped you? What are your opinions on what you have read? How might you discuss it at interview?

Some universities’ pages are better than others for suggestions so make sure you look around. These Cambridge pages are particularly good (you do not have to be applying to Cambridge to use them – they are relevant for all courses).

Have a look around different university pages. And ask your teachers for recommendations too – we are here to help.

Help from Teachers

Teachers at School can also be an invaluable source for giving you subject specific directed reading and courses/activities. If you have not already been in touch with the teacher(s) relevant for your subject please make sure you do so. They are all happy and willing to help. They/we will also conduct practice interviews with you in the Autumn Term for those of you who are successful in getting to the interview stage. They can also help you with online course choices or any essay competitions you want to enter – it is always recommended to get a subject teacher to read any essay you might like to submit to a competition to give you help and give feedback.

Writing your personal statement

This is your chance to show admissions tutors your commitment to your course through your academic learning and all of your extra work, research and reading outside of the classroom. Everyone applying will have the appropriate grade predictions – you need to use your personal statement to make yourself stand out. Use all of your wider reading/activities/competitions/work experience etc. Most importantly you need to show not just that you have done these things but what you have gained and learnt from them. Tutors want to know that you are willing and keen to learn, not someone who thinks they know it all already. Once you have written your first draft please make sure you give copies to both Mrs Phillips and your relevant subject teachers for their input and advice – this is really important. First drafts must be completed in the summer term of Lower Sixth Form. You will then work on them further over the summer holidays. Further advice on personal statements are here on the Universities and Careers Page on Firefly though this is not Oxbridge specific.

One major difference with Oxbridge applications is that tutors are not very interested in your extracurricular activities that are not subject related or done at a high level. You should include these, but just a few lines at most. They will be interested if you are a prefect/Head Boy/Girl or hold some other position of responsibility so make sure you include those. Anything done at a high level such as music exam grades 6 and above, scholarship of any kind or sport played at first team or county level should also be included.

A good personal statement, just like a good essay, needs to be well planned. Start by making a list under the following categories for each paragraph before you start writing:

  1. Why you have chosen the course?
  2. How your academic studies at school support your course choice? If you are applying for a subject you don’t currently study you should use the relevant kills you have learnt in other subjects. Eg critical source evaluation and argument from history, data analysis from science.
  3. Wider reading/work experience/courses/competitions etc beyond the classroom that show your commitment and passion for your subject. (With only a couple of sentences on extra-curricular activities non-subject related.)

And finally … top tips:

  • Research thoroughly
  • Read widely and find ways to make your application stand out – start this early
  • Prepare well for assessment tests and interviews
  • Ask for teacher help and input

Good luck!

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