Why are Oxford and Cambridge so special?

Oxford and Cambridge are two of the best universities in the world. They have a slightly different admissions process than the other universities, with an earlier deadline, some extra work and an interview. If you're thinking of applying to Oxbridge, it is because you are achieving the very best grades and you and your teachers believe you would flourish in that highly academic environment. At KSA, we know exactly how to prepare you for the rigorous process of applying to Oxford or Cambridge.

You can only apply to one course at either Oxford or Cambridge in each admissions cycle; you cannot apply for both. Look carefully at the courses available in your chosen subject at each university, and choose the one that fits you best. Courses which have a similar title might vary significantly in content, so it’s important to look into the details of each course so as to choose the one that fits you best.

Oxford and Cambridge both have a collegiate system. When you apply to Oxbridge you don’t just apply to the university as a whole, but to a specific college. It is also possible to make an ‘open’ application, if you want to be randomly allocated to a college.

It’s important to remember that the UCAS closing date for applications to Oxbridge is earlier than the general deadline. For example, for candidates applying in the year 2013/14 the deadline is 15th October 2013 (whereas the general deadline is 15th January 2014)

Successful applicants to Oxford should expect to received conditional offers of AAA – A*A*A*, depending on the subject. Cambridge generally makes offers of A*AA.

As with any other university, certain courses will have particular A-Level subject requirements and admissions tests. Check the prospectuses to get more information on this.

Some courses at Oxbridge require you to submit work or sit a test before making an offer of an interview

Choosing a college

There are many factors to consider when deciding which college to apply to:

• Does the college do your subject?

• Facilities – sports fields, orchestra, drama studios, chapel, on the river?

• Location – do you want to be in the centre of things? Or would you prefer a less tourist-y college?

• Academics – is there a specific fellow you would want to be taught by?

• General feel – go and visit and see what you think!

• Cambridge has two all-female colleges for girls who would prefer to live in a single sex environment.

• Don’t be too influenced by reputation – the colleges are more similar than different and you will have a great experience wherever you apply.

I'm thinking of applying to Oxbridge. What can I do to enhance my application?

• Reading around your subject is key. It’s important for any course at any university, but particularly for Oxbridge interviews. The interviewer wants to see that you’re passionate about your course, and that you’ve used your initiative to go beyond the set texts on the syllabus.

Oxford University provides a suggested reading list for each subject: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/courses/suggested_reading.html

Subject specific reading lists, from King’s College, Cambridge: http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/offerholders/reading-lists/index.html

• Think carefully about the subject you choose, and demonstrate a passion for it; an applicant whose main desire is to study at Oxbridge but doesn’t have any discernible interest in their subject is unlikely to be successful. The interviewer will have devoted years to studying their subject, and they want to see somebody who shares their enthusiasm.

• Think about work experience or extra-curricular activities that you could do to make yourself stand out from the crowd. There is a lot of competition for places, so whilst academic achievement is essential, it is not likely to be sufficient alone.

Interviews for Oxbridge

Applying to Oxbridge involves having an interview. The interview may last one day, but it could also consist of a stay of several days (during which time bed and board would be provided, and there would be evening activities). There would usually be at least two interviews, and the interviews will function as a mock tutorial delivered by the people who would be tutoring you for the next 3 years.

You may also have to do a test as part of the interview. This could either be something you’ve been asked to prepare beforehand, or an entrance test that you must sit whilst there.

After interview, some candidates may not be offered a place at the college to which they applied, but are instead placed in a ‘pool’. Colleges who haven’t filled all their places will look through the ‘pooled’ students, and make offers. Some colleges are more over-subscribed than others, but the pooling system ensures that highly qualified students who apply to over-subscribed colleges don’t lose out on places.

You can find out more here: