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Monthly Breakdown of your Oxbridge Application Journey 

The months running up to your Oxbridge application can be difficult to plan - the October deadlines feel like a very long way away, and deciding what to focus on an when can feel like to many things to consider at once. That’s where we come in! In this article we’re going to take you through a recommended timeline of the months from the start of the calendar year until the time when you should be submitting your application, giving you an idea of where you might be best placed focusing your attention for each month of the year.

Of course every person is different, and we don’t think that this is the only correct way to apportion your time, but we think it’s a pretty good guide to be getting started with (even if we do say so ourselves!) Below we have outlined the main aspects of the application, which months you should spend focusing on said aspect, and how your focus might want to shift within that aspect as time goes on.


Included in this article:

  1. UCAS Application - January to October

  2. Admissions Test Preparation - January to October

  3. Academic Studies - January to December

  4. Interview Preparation - January to December



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UCAS Application - January to October

January to March
Happy new year! Hopefully you’re feeling refreshed after the Christmas break and raring to go with the start of the new calendar year. Your application deadlines are all as far away as they are going to be, and so you’ve got both the daunting and exciting prospect of everything being open to you!

At this point, you should mostly be thinking about what subjects and courses you’re wanting to apply for. This could involve researching different universities, looking into different courses, and reading further into the subjects you like the most at school or ones outside of your school curriculum that you might be interested in studying at a university level.

Think critically about what subjects straddle things that you are good at but also things that you enjoy, since you’re going to want to enjoy spending hours learning about and working with your chosen subject, both in the application process and at university itself.


April to June
In this period, you should be relatively clear on what subject/course you want to apply for and at which university/universities (i.e. do you want to apply for Oxford or Cambridge, and which other universities will make up the rest of your five choices).

This period should be spent widening your reading and other materials that will serve as content for your UCAS application. You should be consuming these materials in an active way, always thinking about how you can link the things you’re learning to your future academic studies.


June to August
During this stage you should be drafting and redrafting your personal statement well ahead of the October deadline. We recommend giving your personal statement to as many different people as possible to read over and give their comments on - this ensures that it makes sense to those who aren’t aware of your personal interests and experience, therefore meaning it will make sense to admissions tutors!


September and October
This time should just be for finishing touches and final redrafts of the personal statement ahead of the deadline in mid-October. This is also when the UCAS application form opens for you to register and begin filling it in. We recommend registering and filling in your form as early as possible so that you have plenty of time to work through it. Other than the personal statement, the form is relatively simple from your end, but make sure to give yourself time to check and double check so that the information is as accurate as possible.

Bear in mind that if you’re planning to apply in the 2024/25 academic year, the single personal statement will have been replaced with a series of six long-response questions as part of the UCAS application form. Although our monthly timetable still holds true if you’re preparing to write answers to these questions, so head to our blog article outlining the new system so you’re up to date with what will be expected of you!

Admissions Test Preparation - January to October

January to June

Once you’ve chosen the subject you want to apply for, it’s time to investigate whether your chosen university or college has an admissions test for said subject. Most courses at Oxford and Cambridge have some kind of pre-application or pre-interview admissions test, so make sure you know what you’re going to need to sit to get into the course you want to. Whilst preparing for the admissions test might take a back seat to things like your academic studies and personal statement prep until the summer holidays, we still recommend being aware of the kind of questions you’re going to be answering so that you can keep them in the back of your mind, and make sure that you’re excelling at these kind of questions as part of your regular studies. 


June to August 

Once the summer holiday period is upon you and you’re certain of the course you’re applying to and admissions test you’ll be taking, we recommend starting up with revision targeted directly at the admissions test itself. Since the ideas and knowledge tested might not be exactly the same as your subjects at school, we recommend heading to the university or test provider website and looking at past papers to get a feel of the kind of information required. 



September is usually registration time for admissions tests, so by this point make sure that you know when the registration period starts and ends, and on what date you’re going to be sitting the test. Investigate testing centres and, if your school is not running a test centre, make sure that you have identified the closest local centre. Keep the date of the test free well in advance, since you will have to do it on that specific date! Continue revising for the test, working through past papers in timed conditions at regular intervals to test your progress and monitor which areas you need to improve in most. 



Most of the pre-admissions tests are held in October, so most of this month will be spent fine-tuning your exam technique and keeping on top of the knowledge you need just to keep yourself topped up. Good luck!

This year has brought the news that there is going to be a change of provider for most Oxford and Cambridge admission tests, some of which come into effect this year (2023) and others next year (2024). It’s important that you consider what effect these changes might have on the admissions test you’ll be sitting so you’re preparing correctly. Check out our article rounding up all the changes to Oxford and Cambridge applications coming into effect  (and follow us on social media for updates) to stay on top of the situation.

Academic Studies - January to December 

Naturally, keeping on top of your studies is going to be important throughout the application process and after the point at which you have (hopefully) received an offer. However, the focus of your academic studies might want to shift slightly with different periods. 


January to June 

Ensure that during the academic year you’re keeping on top of all of your school subjects (not just the ones you’re considering applying for at university) so that you’re giving yourself the best chance of meeting your offers in your final exams next year. This can be easier said than done when you’re spending lots of time on other aspects of your application alongside your schoolwork, but we cannot stress enough that no amount of preparation throughout the rest of the application process will make up for bad exam results (not including extenuating circumstances, that is!) 


July to December 

In the second half of the year, once you get to the summer holidays in the year of your application, it is best to focus on extending your academic knowledge beyond just the foundations that you have been building through your school studies. This doesn’t mean we are recommending not paying attention in school! Quite the contrary; since you will have been paying attention in school so well over the previous six months, this period can be spent looking at concepts perhaps slightly above or extended from that which you’ve been looking at in school. This will be useful for your knowledge in general, but also crucially will help you in interviews and admissions tests, since it’s going to give you some high level concepts that show off your knowledge and abilities to admissions tutors. 


Interview Preparation - January to December

January to August
Up until the start of the academic year in which you’re applying, we recommend working generally on your skills of analysis and critical thinking skills as well as how you communicate these ideas. These are all crucial abilities that will help you come up with interesting ideas and put them across to admissions tutors in an interview. There’s not a strict need to replicate and practice the interview format year (unless you want to get ahead of the game!) but do make sure that you’re working on these skills in a meaningful way so that you can just alter them to fit the interview format in the last months of your preparation.


September to December
From September until your interview at some point in December (first two weeks of December for Oxford, slightly later for Cambridge) we recommend that you undertake as much targeted interview practice and mock interviews as possible! Be careful not to prepare canned responses (tutors can always sniff these out), but practice different questions with as many different people as possible so that you’re well prepared to deal with whatever your interviewers are going to ask you.



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