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How does the university application process differ for international students?

Applying to prestigious UK universities such as Oxford and Cambridge can be an exciting and challenging endeavour for any student. However, for international students, the university application process involves additional considerations and unique aspects that set them apart from their UK-based counterparts. In this article, we will explore how international students' applications differ from UK-based applicants when applying to UK universities, and our experts’ key pieces of advice for applying from outside of the UK.



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Admissions Tests:


One significant difference in the application process for international students is the requirement to sit admissions tests. Universities like Oxford and Cambridge often use subject-specific tests, such as the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and the Mathematics Admission Test (MAT), to assess applicants' academic aptitude. These tests serve as a means to gauge a candidate's suitability for the rigorous academic programs at these universities.

For international students, these tests can be a vital component of their application. It is important to understand the specific test requirements and prepare accordingly. International students may need to travel to designated test centres in their home country or other specified locations to sit these exams. Adequate preparation, such as familiarising oneself with the test format and practicing past papers, is crucial to perform well. It is also very important that you organise where you are going to take your test and when; if taking tests like these is less common where you live, then you might need to enquire about special organisation.

Language Proficiency:

Another important aspect that distinguishes international students' applications is the requirement to demonstrate English language proficiency. Non-native English speakers are typically required to provide evidence of their language skills through standardized tests such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Achieving the necessary scores in these tests is essential to meet the language requirements set by UK universities.

International students should allocate sufficient time for language preparation, including improving their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Engaging in English language courses, practicing with native speakers, and utilising online resources can greatly enhance language proficiency and increase chances of success in the application process.



Interviews play a significant role in the admissions process for both UK-based and international students applying to Oxford and Cambridge. However, for international students, interviews may present additional challenges, particularly due to geographical distance (for in-person interviews) or time differences (for online interviews). This year, both interviews for Oxford and Cambridge will be held online for international applicants, so it is only time difference and securing the right equipment that comes into play this application cycle.

International students should be prepared to adapt to virtual interview formats and ensure they have access to a stable internet connection and suitable surroundings for the interview. Additionally, understanding cultural differences and conducting research on the university's interview process can help international students feel more confident and perform well during the interview. Our dedicated guide to online interviews, featuring our experts’ top tips, is a good starting resource to make sure you’re well prepared.


Overall, the university application process for international students applying to UK universities like Oxford and Cambridge entails unique considerations compared to their UK-based counterparts. Admissions tests, language proficiency requirements, and interview logistics are just a few of the factors that differentiate the application experience for international students.

To succeed in the application process, international students should dedicate time to thoroughly research the requirements of their chosen universities, adequately prepare for admissions tests, work on improving their language proficiency, and familiarise themselves with the interview process. Seeking guidance from mentors, counsellors, or online resources specific to international students can provide valuable insights and support throughout the application journey. Every year, over 40 percent of the students we work with here at Oxbridge Applications are applying from outside of the UK, so you can be sure that we have the expertise to advise on all issues relating to international applications.

Remember, while the application process may have some additional complexities for international students, it is also an opportunity to showcase your unique experiences, perspectives, and aspirations. Embrace the challenge, stay focused, and present your best self in your application. Good luck!


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