Getting an Oxbridge application fully prepared

Oxbridge application
Oxbridge application

The application process to Oxford and Cambridge is extremely challenging, not only requiring candidates to have the highest exam grades, but also to excel in how they also come across. So with this in mind, it is imperative the application is made and carried out to the highest standard it can be. Thankfully, with the right preparation and support, applying to Oxford or Cambridge should be a straightforward and rewarding process. It should also be a process to which the application is successful – and accepted.

The best preparation for any Oxbridge Application is simply to be inquisitive and engage with your studies. The worst thing you can do is have lots of prepared things to say. Or if you have lots of things in there that are a false representation of who you really are as a person. You need to come across as you. You also need to be as honest as you can also.

This is a process as to where it is about the academics

The most obvious difference between admissions at Oxbridge and other universities is the emphasis on academics. Not all successful applicants to Oxford and Cambridge will have straight A*s under their belts. Overall though, when it comes to it, a fair few do. While other universities may decide to offer you a place based on other skills, extracurricular interests and experience you have, it’s your academic performance and ambitions that really interest Oxford and Cambridge admissions tutors.

Your personal statement will be used in a different type of way overall

The personal statement is an important part of any university application. Whether applying to Oxbridge or anywhere else, it’s a great opportunity to highlight your academic potential. It is also a great way to also demonstrate that you’ve read widely around your subject (particularly important for Oxbridge candidates). But while it might be used by other universities as a means to decide whether or not to offer you a place. Oxbridge admissions tutors have all that additional information about you. They will use this to help them in turn make their decision. Your test scores, interview performance, submitted coursework – making it less of a priority.

It is key you go for a course you really do wish to pursue

Choose a subject you’re truly passionate about. Investigate the courses at both Oxford and Cambridge so you know how they differ and the specifics of each. Each university offers different subjects and combinations of subjects. For example, Cambridge offers a broad Natural Sciences course which is great for those who like Science but are unsure exactly what to study, while at Oxford you would need to choose between Chemistry and Physics. You may be able to combine a second subject with History, Philosophy or Classics, for example — with the advantage that an unusual course should be less over-subscribed.

You will also need to consider in detail what college you wish to go for

Oxford and Cambridge are two of only a few collegiate universities in the UK. There are 39 colleges at Oxford and 31 colleges at Cambridge, each of which offer different courses, are in different locations, and have different cultures. Your UCAS form will give you the option to specify which college you would like to attend. Alternatively, if you don’t have a specific college in mind, you can submit an open application. It can be placed in any college that offers the course you’re applying for. Though submitting an open application is perfectly fine, it’s a good idea for you to visit each of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges on their open days if you can.

You should also research the admissions stats, the tutors that will be teaching your chosen course, and the number of students on the same course as you. All of these factors will help you to decide which course and college are the best match for you. This will have a massive say on what experience you have in and for the future also as a student at an Oxbridge university too. Take time to really take all of this in to deeper consideration.

It is key you also have some very very good academic references

As part of your UCAS application (see the next stage), you’ll need to include a referee who can provide a reference for you. Only one reference is required on the UCAS Undergraduate application. If possible, they should be someone who knows you academically and can talk about your work ethic, interaction with other students and your suitability for higher education or a future career, such as a teacher or advisor. Remember that your referee will need some time to complete your reference, and this must be completed before the 15th October deadline, so it’s important to leave plenty of time for this stage of your application. You need to be as organised as you can. This will make no end of a difference as to the overall end outcome off of the back of your overall application and where this is able to take you in the future too.

Just remember – there are going to also be admissions tests

Most Oxford and Cambridge undergraduate courses require applicants to take an admissions test as part of the application process. The test(s) can take place before, after or at your interview. They are designed to test how you can apply your existing knowledge to unfamiliar problems. A great test score proves you can think creatively, logically and critically, and holds considerable weight in telling the university you deserve a place. Preparing for Oxbridge’s admission tests, including practising past papers and studying their mark schemes, is therefore key to success.

it will help if you also have some essay writing skills too

Oxbridge degrees in most subjects (less so in maths and some sciences), are largely essay-based. You will be expected to write 1 or 2 essays a week. You will need to discuss them with subject experts in tutorial sessions of one or two students. It is for this reason that demonstrating essay writing ability is central to your Oxbridge application. Also, it is a key tenet of the admissions procedure. Oxbridge not only require personal statements, but frequently assess your interpretative, comprehension and essay writing skills. This is all done through admissions tests and submitted work. Say you are applying for Economics, either as part of Oxford’s tripartite Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) course or Cambridge’s straight Economics degree – you will be required to complete the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) for Oxford and the Economics Admissions Assessment (ECAA) for Cambridge, both of which feature a large essay writing section.

To practise your essay writing skills, why not take part in an essay competition? For example, a number of Oxford and Cambridge colleges host their own essay competitions. This is for students in Year 12. The Financial Times and Royal Society of Economics run an essay prize for the Young Economist of Year. Also, the BBC offers short story competitions for young adults. These provide a great opportunity to delve deep into a topic of interest outside of school. They also help to develop research skills and you can mention them in personal statements. This can be a really great way to demonstrate your academic ability.


This can seem the most daunting part of the process, but it’s also the most exciting! It’s your chance to demonstrate your love for your subject and why you should be studying it at Oxford or Cambridge. The Oxbridge interview is one of the first times most students will have experienced a formal interview. It is key for you to have some input with and from someone familiar with the overall interview set-up. It is key they also understand how daunting it can be. Preparing with a tutor will give you the confidence you need to be successful on the day. They can help you prepare with mock interviews, top tips for answering questions and sage advice.


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