Map Oxbridge Applications, 58 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ

One of the best things about working at Oxbridge Applications is speaking to lots of applicants every day and passing on all our research and advice. Many of the students we’ve been speaking to are finding it hard to fit in the reading they need to do for their Oxbridge application around their school work. You’re all busy people and you shouldn’t be spending every waking hour working.  What’s more, your IB, Pre-U and A-levels are really important and you just can’t afford to compromise on your final grades.  

On the other hand, knowledge of  interesting academic ideas and a body of strong, interesting examples are really important for both an impressive personal statement and a convincing performance at interview, and this really isn’t something you can neglect or rush through over the summer. So what’s the solution? Well, here at Oxbridge Applications towers we’ve pooled together our time-saving techniques and top-tips for fitting in your reading to make your Oxbridge application go that little bit easier and ensure you get the most out of it.

The first step is to plan what you are going to read for your subject:If you’re looking for inspiration, the Reading Room in our Free Online Resources has lots of recommendations, divided up according to subject. Alternatively, for some super-personalised, subject-specific reading diamonds, you can come and see one of our consultants for a Private Consultation. We’ll make sure you get a really comprehensive reading list that builds on your own knowledge and interests and introduces you to exciting new ideas.  What’s more, we’ll ensure you steer clear of the books that everyone reads, and which drive Admissions Tutors to tears when they read about them for the 15th time in an hour! If you want a couple of suggestions to get you started, give one of our consultants a call on 0207 499 2394 and they’ll give you a couple of bright ideas over the phone to get you going. 

When you’re planning what you are going to read, it’s important to give yourself a good foundation in the subject area and then read further into an area you find particularly interesting: You could maybe plan to do the basics before you finish school in July and then move onto the areas that caught your imagination in more detail over the holidays.  When trying to get a grip of the basics of the subject, try to answer the following questions:

• Who are the key players and what are their ideas?  Who is Weber?  What was Darwin getting at in The Origin of Species? Are Keynes’ ideas still relevant to our society?  What did Barthes mean when he proposed the Death of the Author?

• How has the academic approach to the subject developed over time? What is History? How do theories about our Universe come about and how are they dismissed?  Are successive movements in literature a response to, rebellion against or evolution of previous ideas? To what extent is modern Philosophy based on classical ideas?

• What are the most interesting areas and developments at this time? What is the most recent breakthrough in research?  What technology is enabling academics to perform more detailed studies in their fields?  What are the ideas being discussed at the moment?

The next step is how to find the time to read the books on your reading list: Blogs and articles feel easy to fit in – it will take you a maximum of 30 minutes to read the longest article, so you feel you get more for your time.  However, the people reading your personal statement and interviewing you will want to see that you like reading and are willing to put in the time to read a full and detailed argument – as this is what you will be doing when you get to Oxford and Cambridge. Now it’s about finding a time in your week – just an hour and a half or so – that you can dedicate to your reading.  Perhaps you could use one of your free periods at school?  Or some time on Sunday morning, before lunch and the post-lunch homework blitz start?  Never feel you have to spend longer than 90 minutes working, but do keep this time sacred.  This way you can work your way through the key texts that you need to read for your application, rather than feeling you have loads to read and trying to do it all in one go.

Another technique you could try is keeping a book with you at all times.  Just keep it in your bag and then when you’re waiting at the bus stop, sitting on the train or not doing anything in the car, you can pull out the book and read a couple of pages. You’d be surprised how much time you spend every day doing not very much and a few minutes here and there can add up to a whole book before too long! The final step is making the most of your reading. Once you’ve put all that effort in, it is key that you don’t forget anything!   One of the best ways of doing this is to use an index card or a postcard as a bookmark.  Any particularly interesting passages, quotations or ideas can be noted down (with their page number) on the postcard.  Then when it comes to interview preparation or looking for that golden quote for your personal statement, you can just pick out the relevant postcard and find what you’re looking for.  It also means that everything can be easily stored in the same place. Another idea that can really pay off is to spend 15 minutes once you’ve finished a book writing a brief summary of the contents, what you found interesting and what you’d like to know more about.  It’s really important to do this the second you’re finished whilst it’s still fresh: it will ensure you don’t forget any of your ideas before you have a chance to write them down and the added bonus is that the act of writing will cement the contents of the book in your memory.

This may all seem like pretty obvious stuff, but actually it can make a huge difference to your time and it will benefit you in your other areas of study too – just ask any successful Oxbridge graduate! If you’re hunting for any further tips as to how we can help you sail through your Oxbridge Application, please don’t hesitate to send an email to [email protected] or give us a call on 0207 499 2394.  As ever, we look forward to hearing from you.

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Our Oxbridge-graduate consultants are available between 9.00 am – 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday, with additional evening availability when requested.

Oxbridge Applications, 58 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ

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