The summer between Year 12 and 13 is key for preparing for all areas of the Oxbridge application – but it can be difficult to know where to begin! To help, we have broken the summer up into three sections – Early, Mid and Late – to help you structure your preparation and ensure that you make the most of your free time before you’re back for your final year of school.
Reading: If you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to reading around your subject, we would highly recommend checking out your subject faculty’s website, where you will often find useful reading lists – but don’t feel like you need to read every book on the list in order to have a chance of getting in. Thoroughly reading two or three key texts which are relevant to your interests within your subject will be a much better use of your time than trying to read as many books as possible.
Admissions Tests: Now is the time to start researching any admissions tests you will have to sit as part of your application: the date you will have to sit it, what topics are covered in the specification, the format of the paper, etc. Cambridge applicants in particular should double check whether they will have to sit a test, as this can sometimes vary by college. Once you know what is required of you, you will be able to create a revision plan for topics and/or skills you will need to work on in the run up to the test.
Personal Statement: Before you start writing your statement, we would recommend that you create a list of everything you have read and any academic activities you have participated in outside of class that are relevant to your subject. This will be a great starting point for your statement and will help you narrow down what topics you would like to discuss.
Reading: At this point, you can begin to build upon the reading you did at the beginning of the summer to gain more in-depth knowledge of your topics of interest.
Admissions Tests: In this period, you can have a go at sitting a mock admissions test under timed conditions and reflect upon your performance afterwards. Where are your strengths? What do you need to work on?
Personal Statement: Using the list you put together at the start of the summer, begin working on your first draft of your statement. You should be aiming to discuss three-four areas of subject-specific interest, with a short introduction and conclusion. Don’t worry if your draft is rough at this point – sometimes the main thing is just getting pen to paper!
Reading: Your reading shouldn’t stop after you’ve decided what you’re going to include in your personal statement: you need to continue to build on what you have learnt to be impressive at interview. We would also recommend that you try chatting about your reading with a friend or family member, to help you get comfortable discussing it in preparation for your interviews.
Admissions Tests: Now that you’ve had some time to work on any areas for improvement you identified after your first mock test, try sitting another, again under test conditions. Once you’ve completed this second mock test, make sure you take note of any areas where you struggled and aim to focus on those going forward.
Personal Statement: In this period, you can start working on polishing your personal statement: make sure that the each of the topics you talk about are covered in a good amount of detail and start cutting any superfluous content. Remember, you only have 4000 characters including spaces, so you may find that details of your favourite extra-curricular activities need to be removed to make more room for academic content.