Map Oxbridge Applications, 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR

Below we have detailed the latest statistics to help you make an informed choice about your application.

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from Oxbridge applicants is ‘what are my chances of a successful application?’ Naturally, there is some variation between university and course success rates and the grade requirements for each subject.


University Course Shortlisting Rate 20/21, if known Success Rate 2019/20 Success Rate 2020/21 Approx no. applicants Approx no. places Pre-Interview Admissions Test At-Interview Admissions Test Written Work Typically Required Notable Trends – 2019-2021
Oxford Ancient and Modern History 72% 29% 20% 100 20 HAT None Yes Increasing Competition
Oxford Archaeology & Anthropology 76% 26% 27% 100 30 None None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Biochemistry 49% 16% 17% 700 100 None None No Stable Competition
Oxford Biological Sciences 50% 20% 19% 750 150 None None No Stable Competition
Oxford Biomedical Sciences 27% 12% 11% 450 50 BMAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Chemistry 83% 35% 30% 800 240 TBC None No Stable Competition
Oxford Classical Arch and Ancient History 93% 25% 37% 80 30 None None Yes Decreasing Competition
Oxford Classics 92% 46% 45% 275 125 CAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Classics and English 97% 35% 46% 35 15 ELAT and CAT None Yes Sample size too small
Oxford Classics and Modern Languages 80% 33% 35% 20 8 CAT and MLAT None Yes Sample size too small
Oxford Computer Science 19% 8% 6% 700 50 MAT None No Increasing Competition
Oxford Computer Science with Philosophy 24% 11% 10% 175 15 MAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Earth Sciences 85% 35% 30% 140 40 None None No Increasing Competition
Oxford Economics and Management 25% 7% 6% 1,500 100 TSA None No Stable Competition
Oxford Engineering Science 38% 20% 18% 1,200 200 PAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford English and Modern Languages 75% 24% 26% 120 30 ELAT and MLAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford English Language and Literature 68% 25% 29% 900 250 ELAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford European and Middle Eastern Langauges 87% 35% 36% 40 15 OLAT and MLAT None Yes Sample size too small
Oxford Experimental Psychology 32% 17% 15% 500 75 TSA None No Stable Competition
Oxford Fine Art 29% 14% 16% 200 30 None None Yes (portfolio) Stable Competition
Oxford Geography 62% 20% 23% 450 100 TSA None No Stable Competition
Oxford History 69% 23% 27% 1,100 300 HAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford History and Economics 36% 11% 10% 160 16 HAT and TSA None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford History and English 45% 15% 12% 115 15 HAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford History and Modern Languages 83% 20% 24% 115 30 HAT and MLAT None Yes Decreasing Competition
Oxford History and Politics 42% 11% 13% 400 50 HAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford History of Art 42% 14% 15% 120 20 None None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Human Sciences 52% 21% 18% 220 40 TSA None No Stable Competition
Oxford Law (Jurisprudence) 40% 14% 15% 1,600 250 LNAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Law with LSE 35% 11% 11% 275 30 LNAT Oral test in the relevant European language at the time of interview. No Stable Competition
Oxford Materials Science 75% 27% 35% 150 50 PAT None No Decreasing Competition
Oxford Mathematics 31% 13% 11% 1,800 200 MAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Mathematics and Computer Science 23% 10% 9% 500 50 MAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Mathematics and Philosophy 47% 12% 18% 120 20 MAT None No Decreasing Competition
Oxford Mathematics and Statistics 15% 6% 6% 220 10 MAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Medicine 24% 10% 10% 1,800 175 BMAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Modern Languages 93% 44% 44% 400 175 MLAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Modern Languages and Linguistics 90% 45% 40% 75 30 MLAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Music 93% 45% 50% 180 90 None 5-minute video recording of a musical performance Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Oriental Studies 83% 27% 34% 80 30 OLAT (for certain options) None Yes Decreasing Competition
Oxford Philosophy and Modern Languages 88% 35% 33% 65 20 MLAT None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Philosophy and Theology 39% 23% 21% 140 30 Philosophy Test None Yes Stable Competition
Oxford Physics 28% 14% 12% 1,650 200 PAT None No Stable Competition
Oxford Physics and Philosophy 19% 11% 8% 150 20 PAT None No Increasing Competition
Oxford Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 33% 12% 12% 2,250 275 TSA None No Stable Competition
Oxford Psychology, Philosophy, and Linguistics 31% 15% 15% 260 40 TSA None No Stable Competition
Oxford Religion and Oriental Studies 44% 57% 22% 10 2 OLAT None Yes Sample size too small
Oxford Theology and Religion 68% 50% 47% 130 60 None None Yes Stable Competition



University Course Shortlisting Rate 20/21, if known Success Rate 2019/20 Success Rate 2020/21 Approx no. applicants Approx no. places Pre-Interview Admissions Test At-Interview Admissions Test Written Work Typically Required Notable Trends – 2019-2021
Cambridge Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic High 67% 53% 55 30 None College-dependent Yes Increasing Competition
Cambridge Archaeology High 58% 50% 60 25 None Archaeology Admissions Assessment Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge Architecture Medium 14% 11% 600 60 None Architecture Admissions Assessment Yes (portfolio) Increasing Competition
Cambridge Asian and Middle Eastern Studies High 54% 35% 130 45 None College-dependent Yes Increasing Competition
Cambridge Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (via Engineering) Medium 12% 13% 140 15 ENGAA College-dependent No Stable Competition
Cambridge Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (via Natural Sciences) Medium 12% 14% 210 25 NSAA College-dependent No Stable Competition
Cambridge Classics (3 years) High 57% 48% 130 65 None Translation exercise (60 minutes) Yes Decreasing Competition
Cambridge Classics (4 years) High 56% 51% 70 30 None Language aptitude interview (20 minutes) Yes Increasing Competition
Cambridge Computer Science Medium 10% 8% 1,600 130 TMUA College-dependent No Increasing Competition
Cambridge Economics Medium 14% 11% 1,500 150 TMUA College-dependent No Increasing Competition
Cambridge Education High 33% 24% 180 40 None College-dependent Yes Rapidly Increasing Competition
Cambridge Engineering Medium 16% 14% 2,500 330 ENGAA College-dependent No Increasing Competition
Cambridge English High 33% 26% 750 200 None College-dependent Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge Geography High 35% 24% 425 100 None College-dependent Yes Rapidly Increasing Competition
Cambridge History High 35% 32% 600 200 HAA College-dependent Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge History and Modern Languages High 37% 32% 80 30 None Discursive response in English (if ab initio) or Foreign Language (if studied at A level) Language Aptitude Test (20 minutes) Yes Decreasing Competition
Cambridge History and Politics High 26% 23% 300 60 None College-dependent Yes Rapidly Increasing Competition
Cambridge History of Art High 27% 33% 100 30 None Structured comparison of images (60 minutes) Yes Decreasing Competition
Cambridge HSPS Medium 20% 14% 1,400 200 None College-dependent Yes Increasing Competition
Cambridge Land Economy Medium 21% 18% 420 70 None College-dependent No Rapidly Increasing Competition
Cambridge Law Medium 18% 14% 1,800 250 LNAT None No Increasing Competition
Cambridge Linguistics High 47% 36% 125 50 None College-dependent Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge Mathematics Medium 34% 33% 1,600 240 (see note) None College-dependent No Stable Competition
Cambridge Medicine Medium 17% 14% 2,000 280 BMAT None No Increasing Competition
Cambridge Modern & Medieval Languages High 51% 46% 350 150 None Discursive response in Foreign Language (40 minutes)
and English (20 minutes)
Yes Decreasing Competition
Cambridge Music High 56% 40% 150 70 None College-dependent Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge Natural Sciences High 25% 22% 2,800 600 NSAA College-dependent No Stable Competition
Cambridge Philosophy High 26% 21% 250 60 None Cambridge Philosophy Test Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Medium 20% 12% 800 100 None College-dependent No Rapidly Increasing Competition
Cambridge Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion High 42% 42% 125 50 None Comprehension questions on a pre-recorded sample lecture (60 minutes) Yes Stable Competition
Cambridge Veterinary Medicine Medium 22% 19% 420 80 NSAA None No Stable Competition


Want to find out what your chances are of getting into Oxford or Cambridge? Every year we survey hundreds of people who applied the previous year, giving you crucial statistical insight into the probability of gaining a place. 

We have gathered information on all elements of the Oxford and Cambridge application processes, from which schools students came from, to whether they were asked about their personal statements at interview, and what further help they would like if they were to apply again. 

The most interesting information is found in this report…


Email us for more info


2014 Annual Survey


There are a number of advantages to taking a gap year, which often come across during interviews. Gap year applicants may be more comfortable speaking to superiors in a one-to-one situation, having taken a break from the hierarchy of school or college. Gap years can help students develop a broader outlook and become more flexible in their approach to new ideas or questions thrown at them.

However, whilst it is perfectly valid to go travelling or work for a charity during a gap year, this is unlikely to have much of an effect on your application to Oxford or Cambridge, since the admissions tutors would only be interested in experiences that are relevant to your subject. If you are considering a gap year, it is worth doing something relevant to your subject in the summer after you finish school which you can then mention in your personal statement and/or interview.

What do the Universities really think of gap years?

As in other areas of the Oxbridge admissions, there is no standard policy and the answer is down to individual tutors at different colleges making subjective choices. There are, however, some guidelines which can help.

With some of the ‘hard’, technical subjects (Maths, Physics, Medicine etc.) there is sometimes a fear among tutors that as a result of a year away from studying, students may lose the precision and the skills they have honed in their sixth form studies.

For Maths, the official line from Cambridge University is “If you’re applying for Mathematics, most Colleges have a preference for immediate entry.” Oxford takes a similar stance, stating “applications for deferred entry are discouraged, unless the plans for the gap year have a substantial mathematical component.”

For Physics, Oxford’s faculty states that if you are thinking about taking a gap year, you should ‘discuss your plans with the tutors at your chosen college.’ They go on to state that some sponsorship schemes offering a year’s work experience in a physics-related field ‘are excellent.’ Two good websites to look at include ‘The Year in Industry’ – which has contacts with a number of companies who might be able to assist with suitable ‘science based’ schemes for a gap year. You should also check out the Institute of Physics.  

For Engineering, some Cambridge colleges actively encourage a gap year (check the prospectus for further details).

If you are considering Languages, taking a gap year can be a great decision if you spend it abroad, to improve your language skills and appreciation of a foreign culture. (And by culture, we don’t mean lying on the beach soaking up the atmosphere… as relaxing as that can be).


Deferred Entry

Advantages: If you are unsuccessful in securing a deferred place, you then have the option of reapplying post A-level or equivalent the following year and still taking a gap year.

Disadvantages: By applying for a deferred place, you are asking the tutors to save you a place without knowing the standard of next year’s applicants. So if you are applying in 2018 for entry in 2020, you have to convince the tutors that you’re not only amongst the top candidates they are interviewing this year, but also that you will be one of the best applicants next year, which is a gamble for the tutors.

Post A-level (or equivalent)

Advantages: the main advantage of applying post A-level (or equivalent) is that you will be applying with achieved rather than predicted grades. This is a big incentive for universities as they can make unconditional offers and will not have the uncertainty of you not achieving the required grades.

Disadvantages:  if you are unsuccessful, you would only be able to reapply if you then took two gap years – not a particularly engaging prospect for a university. Also, you need to think carefully as to whether your grades will definitely meet the criteria. When it comes to applying you will be doing so with your ‘real grades.’ 

Travelling tips

If you do decide to take a gap year, here are our suggestions for making the most of your year out of study: 

Plan:  Make sure you spend some time planning your gap year so you strike the right balance between work and play. Remember, if you’re applying to Oxbridge after university you will need to be in the country until at least December for the applications process. It may well be worth spending a good chunk of this time preparing. Since many of your competitors will still be at school studying for their A-levels, this will give you an advantage.

Research: It’s no good planning a round the world trip if you don’t have the funds to pay for it. Once you’ve planned what you would like to do, research the cost and the time frame. You can’t do a ski season in Vermont if you need to be in Cambridge for interviews during December. If you are undecided as to what you want to do, speak to people – whether older friends, teachers or travel advisors – to see what they suggest.

Be logical: Is it worth sacrificing a place at one of the top ten universities in the world for a year of hedonism? Be prepared to dedicate at least the first third of your gap year to university applications, and this includes summer activities. Brainstorm how you could utilise your free time to make your application stand out. Do things you could write about in your personal statement and talk confidently about at interview: you might decide to attend a summer course, do work experience or even find a part-time job which ties in with your subject. 

pound coinsMany people are under the impression that it is more expensive to study at Oxford or Cambridge. This is emphatically not the case.

Government changes to student finance in recent years have caused some people to rethink their higher education options, reluctant to graduate in debt. A certain amount of student loan debt is unavoidable, but both Oxford and Cambridge are determined that no one should be put off from applying because of financial considerations and they have taken action accordingly.

Furthermore, the collegiate system, which does not cost Home and EU students extra, not only means extra funding opportunities, but also cheaper living costs with college accommodation. Of course, rents vary, but crucially, you don’t have to pay during the vacations, only for the eight-week terms when you are in residence.

Maintenance Bursaries from the Universities

The Oxford Opportunity Bursary (OOB) and the Cambridge Bursary have been developed to help students who are already in receipt of a government maintenance grant, meet their remaining living costs. The bursaries are means tested and awarded on a sliding scale, i.e. the lower your household’s residual income the more money you will receive. These figures are re-assessed each year of your degree, so if your financial situation does not change you will continue to receive the same level of support, but if your needs change this will be reflected in the amount of bursary you receive.

If you qualify for the maximum government maintenance grant, then you will receive the maximum bursary available, and this combined amount is intended to cover all of your living costs. It should therefore not be necessary to take out a student maintenance loan in addition to the statutory student loan covering tuition fees.

The OOB provides an additional start-up fund designed to cover the initial costs of university, e.g. specialist books and equipment, a computer, or items necessary for living away from home for the first time. Whilst the Cambridge Bursary does not provide this initial boost for poorer students, the cut off point to qualify for a bursary, in terms of residual income, is higher than the OOB, so more students receive support.

For the OOB, both you and each of your sponsors (i.e. both parents if both contribute to your household income) must consent to have your financial details shared with the University by signing the relevant part of your application for student support that you make to your Local Authority each year. For the Cambridge Bursary, your College provides you with a form when you arrive in Cambridge.

College Funding

The colleges at Oxford and Cambridge tend to look after their students very well. Although the type of support and amount of funding varies from college to college, often depending upon how relatively rich or poor they are, the following is typical of what most colleges offer:

  • Hardship Funds – for students in financial need. These may be in the form of short-term loans, grants or bursaries.
  • Scholarships, Exhibitions and College Prizes – awarded for excellent academic achievement.
  • Study Grants – to cover accommodation for students staying at university outside of term-time to continue studying.
  • Travel Grants – to cover costs of a trip related to academic work.
  • Book and Equipment Grants – to cover the cost of purchasing essential items for your degree.
  • Job Opportunities – both Oxford and Cambridge discourage part time jobs during term-time, but there are a few approved ways to earn money whilst studying, e.g. in a college library or bar. There is a huge range of full time opportunities during vacations, from retail jobs, through to assisting on summer schools, and research work. Many students enjoy being able to stay in town whilst earning money and preparing for the term ahead.

University access

Oxford and Cambridge aim to offer places to the best students with the highest level of academic potential in their chosen subject.  Both Oxford and Cambridge universities put a huge amount of time, effort and resources into attracting the top students from all sorts of different backgrounds, and are determined that no student should be deterred from applying due to financial or social considerations.  Theoretically, no-one is at a disadvantage – apart from those who don’t apply.

What are the first steps?

The first step for students thinking about applying to Oxford or Cambridge is to attend one of the nationwide Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, held in March every year by the universities. Open to all students, these events offer a huge range of information and the opportunity to speak to current students and discuss their experiences. 

In addition to this, both universities run a number of schemes and initiatives throughout the year to attract the best students regardless of background, and to ensure that each and every student is considered individually when they apply.

Merton College Oxford UniversityOxford

  • UNIQ: summer school gives year 12 students from state schools the chance to live the Oxford student life for a whole week – to form their own opinions and decide whether it’s right for them. (UNIQ replaces the summer school previously organised through the Sutton Trust.  Our very own previous Managing Director, Rachel, attended a Sutton Trust Summer School at Cambridge when she applied).
  • Target Schools is a student-run organisation hosting a number of schemes to encourage applications from all backgrounds.  For example, a student-shadowing scheme enabling pupils to come to Oxford for a day, shadow an undergraduate and attend workshops on interview techniques, essay writing, and possibly even mock-tutorials.
  • Oxford, like Cambridge, is committed to accessibility for disabled applicants and students. The Disability Office can be contacted on [email protected]
  • The Oxford FE Access Initiative runs a series of events across schools and FE colleges, including interview workshops, Oxford visits, talks for students from alternative educational backgrounds and staff presentations and workshops. 

Cambridge universityCambridge

  • Cambridge Special Access Scheme (CSAS) is a system designed to provide the Colleges and admissions tutors with the information required to fairly assess each candidate.  Students with particular social, personal or educational disruption or disadvantage are encouraged to apply through the CSAS (form available online), as well as those whose family or school does not have a history of sending students to university or to Oxbridge.  Laying out your personal experience and information to the tutors allows them the opportunity to place your achievements into a wider context, ensuring that they make the fairest evaluation of you alongside your fellow applicants.  The applicant’s school needs to recommend them for the Scheme.
  • Cambridge Student Union runs GEEMA (Group to Encourage Ethnic Minority Applications) and the Target campaigns, both of which are encouraging under-represented groups to apply. Target gives state sector sixth forms the opportunity to have a talk from a Cambridge student about the application process.
  • The Cambridge University Access Initiative has the aim of widening participation, raising student’s aspirations and promoting Higher Education through visits, talks and teacher programmes.
  • The CUSU Shadowing Scheme gives students from schools without a history of Cambridge success the opportunity to shadow an undergraduate in their prospective subject. All accommodation and food is free, and travel often reimbursed depending on an assessment of need.
  • The Sutton Trust Summer School is the counterpart to Oxford’s UNIQ; these are free, subject-specific summer schools that take place over the summer, and give students a mini-Oxbridge environment to become more familiar with life at the university.
  • Experience Cambridge is a scheme for students who have unsuccessfully applied for  a place at the Sutton Trust Summer School, due to applying for an oversubscribed subject. This online course allows students to work on a three week, first-year level academic project designed by Cambridge Fellows.
  • Challenge Days are open to state-maintained school students in the UK in Year 10. These days give students an insight into studying at Cambridge, by providing mini-lectures in a chosen subject area, lunch at a Cambridge college, and a group debate.

Our Access and Scholarship Schemes

Each year, for students applying to Oxford or Cambridge Universities, we run a free Access and Scholarship Scheme. The Schemes provide personalised guidance over the course of a year, including one-to-one time with one of our best subject mentors and attendance on our intensive courses.

Read more about our Schemes here.

Empire-StateLast year, over 4,200 UK students chose US universities for their undergraduate studies. With over 4,500 universities to choose from, and a whole new vocabulary to learn, the admissions process can be daunting. With a basic understanding of a few of the terms and processes, however, and a good selection of reference materials, both students and advisors can overcome the challenges of navigating the US university admissions system.



US universities, like those in the UK, accept applications during the fall, September-January.  Also like the UK, many use a common application, helpfully named The Common Application.  All parts of the application are filed electronically, but schools may choose to send paper copies of letters of recommendation and exam results.  The student will need two letters of academic reference, and one main school reference discussing the student’s contributions to the school, both in and out of the classroom.  The student is asked to write one personal essay, but should be aware that many universities using the Common App require additional supplementary statements.  Students can link to their chosen universities through the Common App and find all admissions requirements through those links.  If a university is not listed on the Common App, the student will find the application on the university’s website.

Admissions Requirements

Most US universities require admissions tests. A student can choose between the SAT or the ACT, but should check with the university website to see if either is preferred.  In addition, the most selective of US universities often require the student to submit SAT Subject Test scores.  Most students sit for the SAT or ACT twice, so it is important to start the testing process early.  Students in their AS year should sit the exam in either January, May or June, with the idea of re-sitting it in their A Level year in October, November or December.  Registration is all online, and there is no late registration.  Students may register and get more information on and  There are no minimum scores required for admission, but a university’s website will give you an idea of the range of scores they will consider.  The SAT/ACT score accounts for about half of what a university considers in evaluating applicants; the other half comes from the student’s academic record, activities and interests, and the school’s recommendation.  As admission is rarely subject-based, there are no course requirements for admissions, although applicants would be expected to have some academic background for specialist courses.

Choosing a university

American-StreetWith so many to choose from, it’s important that students start the process by thinking about what type of a university they want by considering location, size, academic offerings and cost.  The best place to begin is on The College Board’s Big Future website.  Here, the student will be able to research universities, majors and scholarships.  It really is a one-stop-shop!  Another great resource is The Fulbright Commission, a US-government funded organisation to promote US education around the world. Their website provides a wealth of helpful information.

Funding a US education

Make no mistake; it’s expensive to study at US universities. The vast majority are residential in nature, and a student has to consider not only the tuition and fees but the room and board.  Tuition and fees can vary significantly from university to university, as there are no standard government-set fees as in the UK.  Private universities are generally the most expensive, with state-funded universities often less so.  However, as private universities often have more financial aid available, the price for the student can sometime be even less than at a state institution. 

The best source of financial aid is always the university’s financial aid office.  Few give merit aid; most give need-based aid, but sometimes not to international students, so this should be researched early on.  In addition to Big Future, students can get information about aid and scholarships from Finaid-The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid.


Ideally, students interested in applying to the US will begin the testing process in the spring of their penultimate year in school, with re-sits in the autumn of their last year.  Application deadlines vary, but the majority fall in November-January.  Students will receive a response to their applications in mid-late March, with April 1 being the reply day for Ivy League universities.  Students have until May 1 to make their decisions, and must notify their university of choice that they will be attending by that date.  Students who are also applying to UK universities and waiting for exam results in August should accept their US offer, and then if they decide to take their UK choice, simply notify the US university to say that their plans have changed.

So, whether it is for the flexibility of academic programs at a wide range of academic institutions or the chance to experience American university life, or simply the desire to gain a more international view of the world, there are many good reasons for students to want to study in the US.  Granted, the process is more complicated than that of UCAS, but the rewards can be great, and between The College Board and The Fulbright Commission, there is a lot of help to guide you through it!

Eileen Penman is an American-born graduate of the University of San Diego. Chair of the Guidance Committee of the European Council of International Schools (1995-2006) and member of the TOEFL Board, the SAT Advisory Board, the Advanced Placement Advisory Board, she is an expert educational consultant and adviser. Here, she shares with us essential tips and guidelines for supporting students applying to the US. More on Eileen Penman…

Magazine buttonLast year, Oxbridge Applications launched its first ever Schools’ Magazine, packed full of university admissions news, resources and titbits for you and your students.

Our second issue will be released over the summer, ready for the September term and early admissions chaos. Until then, you can download the previous issue here.

For more Schools Materials, check out our Schools Pack


Download the magazine



Request a free schools pack





Our consultant and Premier Tutor Olivia writes in the Huffington Post, exploring the rise in international applications and how this is affecting applicants, as well how much of an impact a degree from Oxford or Cambridge still has worldwide.

UCAS stats released 2016

‘University Applications Soar’

Huffington Post Piece


 Where Next?



Your complimentary “So you want to go to Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana…” 

If you’re looking for resources and advice before making your application to Oxford or Cambridge, then you’ve come to the right place! We have been industry-leading experts in applying to Oxbridge since 1999, amassing quite a catalogue of info, tips, and tricks to help you get into the best position possible to get that elusive Oxbridge offer you’ve been dreaming of.

We’ve condensed the stuff that most people want to know into our free E-book “So you Want to Go to Oxbridge? Tell me About a Banana…”. Packed full of over a decade’s research and up-to-date advice on how to prepare, Tell me about a banana draws on the experiences of thousands of successful Oxbridge graduates and how they would approach the application process if they had to do it all over again.

Download your copy here.





Deciding between Oxford and Cambridge

clare college, cambridge

The process of applying to Oxford and Cambridge takes a good deal of energy, time and commitment. Our advice is simple – you need to apply for the course and university at which you would love to study. You need to be 100% motivated to study that course at that university.

At interview, Admissions Tutors want to see applicants who have a genuine love for the subject, and who have the potential to thrive studying it when they get there. This passion needs to be reflected in the personal statement – and as you’ll be spending three, potentially more years of your life studying it – you do genuinely need to like the subject!

Remember that courses at Oxford and Cambridge are often different in structure and topics covered, if not in duration. Some courses are only found at Oxford or Cambridge. For example, Human Sciences at Oxford and HSPS (Human, Social and Political Science) at Cambridge.

Things To Think About…

Your school examination grades

salle de classe, salle d'examenIt is also worth considering the grades you might need to attain to gain a place. Nearly all Cambridge courses now require at least one A* and applicants for Science, Maths and Engineering at Oxford may be given offers requiring at least one A* at A level.

This follows moves by Cambridge, Warwick and Imperial to introduce the new A* grade into their offers. Applicants for Mathematics and joint honours including Mathematics may be given an offer requiring two A*s at A level.

As you know, to get an A* in your A levels, you need to get an A overall for the full A level (including your AS marks) and score over 90% for the A2 year. You can only get an A* for a full A level and not for an AS level or a particular module. If you have any concerns about how this will affect you, or if you are worried about getting the A* you need for Oxford or Cambridge, speak to your teacher or get in touch with us to see how we can help you.

“Ask an Oxford graduate as to whether they think they went to the best university…and they’ll say yes. Ask a Cambridge graduate, and they’ll tell you the same.”

Module marks

Cambridge asks applicants to submit details of the individual module marks, whether certified or not. Applicants fill out a separate SAQ form once they have submitted their UCAS form. Oxford University does not ask for this breakdown, so if your UMS scores aren’t looking too good, this might be something to help you make a choice.

Admissions Tests

The two universities also use the various Admissions Tests slightly differently. Oxford uses the results of Admissions Tests to short-list applicants for interview, and therefore tends to interview fewer candidates than Cambridge.

Cambridge on the other hand, tends to interview most applicants, even if their Admissions Test score is not as strong as they would typically expect from a successful applicant.

Geography, location and feel…

The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, Oxfordshire, EnglandAsk an Oxford graduate as to whether they think they went to the best university…and they’ll say yes. Ask a Cambridge graduate, and they’ll tell you the same (and we should know – we’ve spoken to thousands!).

The two cities have their differences. We certainly advise visiting the two places to work out where you think you’ll suit. Do you prefer the tranquillity of Cambridge or the bustle of Oxford? Does the location affect you? Ask yourself will it be difficult to travel home for the holidays?

Given you will be spending the next three, or potentially more years of your life there, you need to feel excited by the place. After spending a summer school in Cambridge, one applicant that we supported decided that it simply was not the city for her. Another however, fell head over heals in love…she’s now graduated and is planning to stay in Cambridge to do a PhD.

Really have a think about what you are looking for from a university – academically and socially. Which do you like the feel of? Where can you see yourself? Although family, friends, teachers and us can help you to decide, the ultimate choice is yours!

So How Did Our Oxbridge-Graduate Tutors Decide?


We sent a quick survey round to our tutors to find out how they chose. Here are some of the replies:

Jenni, English Graduate of Cambridge.

I chose Cambridge because the course seemed more flexible and modern. You weren’t required to do Old English and there was scope to write about film, opera, international and very contemporary literature. I was also very into close analysis of texts, so liked the Practical Criticism as a basis of the course – this turned out to be my best paper! The Cambridge course was stronger on foreign languages, which I loved studying. I knew the drama at Cambridge was better (more than 40 plays a term) and I’m now training to be an actor. I also didn’t want to stay at home in Oxford!

Bertie, Classics Graduate of Oxford.

In contrast to most people, I didn’t have any difficulty deciding on Oxford. The Classics course at Oxford is so different from the Tripos that I never really considered the latter. I never felt in any great rush to get through my time at university, and it felt natural to choose the option which would enable me to study more material in greater depth. Obviously, it didn’t hurt that I have always found Oxford more aesthetically pleasing and knew that the city was a bit more lively.

A few others…

  • ‘The course was better suited to me, given the greater focus on historicism and actual text itself, rather than getting too bogged down in critical debates. Also, the city is lovely!’ Oxford
  • ‘I had family links with Cambridge and it seemed like a nicer town.’ Cambridge
  • ‘Oxford’s closer proximity to London was a factor as well as its slightly more urban feel. I also think Oxford has a reputation as the better institution for the arts, although I think this is more a product of tradition than indicative of any bias towards Humanities.’ Oxford
  • ‘Smaller, quieter town. My heroes had gone there. It had a better reputation for the arts.’ Cambridge
  • ‘I always had an ambition to go to Cambridge! I never really considered Oxford, as my mind was set on Cambridge. I visited the university a few times and loved it.’ Cambridge
  • ‘The honest answer is that I went with the statistics; I didn’t think I would get into Maths at Cambridge! Both would have been incredible in their own ways I’m sure. I have heard that Oxford’s music scene puts Cambridge’s to shame though.’ Oxford
  • ‘I lived in Oxford – didn’t want mum dropping in for tea!’ Cambridge
  • ‘Better clinical teaching at Oxford than at Cambridge. Preferred the look of Oxford as a town as it seemed more fun than Cambridge and much more lively.’ Oxford
  • ‘It wasn’t really a choice between Oxford or Cambridge. I heard about the Natural Sciences course at an outreach event and was sold by the structure of the course. The opportunity so study a combination of Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology before becoming more specialised seemed perfect for me.’ Cambridge
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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, 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR

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