How to apply to the University of Oxford

How to apply to Oxford

This article was written by the Great British Mag editorial team on 2 November 2020

The University of Oxford is the highest-ranked university in the world and is tough to get into, so if you are thinking of applying we have researched everything you need to know.

What should I do before I begin my application to Oxford?

First you need to decide what course you want to study at the University of Oxford and then apply a year before the start date of your course by completing an online UCAS application form. You can only one choose course and each course has its own admission requirements, so familiarise yourself by researching them online before applying. 

Depending on which course you want to study, you might have to sign up to take an admissions test. This is not part of your UCAS application and must be completed separately.

The admission test will be carried out at one of Oxford Universities test centres around the world. The locations are listed on the universities website. You may also have to submit coursework from previous schooling (such as an essay) as part of the application process.

You will also need to choose which college you want to apply to, as Oxford is made up of 37 colleges. Your college is the campus where you attend classes and live. Some courses are not offered at every college, though, so double-check your college preference. You can apply to a specific college or submit an open application, which means you will be assigned to a college that has fewer applicants for your chosen course.

How do international students apply to Oxford?

International undergraduate applicants apply via UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), just like UK applicants. However, you might also have to fulfil additional requirements such as sitting a test to prove your ability to speak fluent English and you will have to secure a student visa.

What grades do I need for Oxford University?

There is no way to guarantee you will get accepted to Oxford, no matter how excellent your grades are. The university’s website, however, does list what is generally expected for an international applicant to be competitive. These qualifications are categorized by country, so be sure to take a look before you apply.

As well as securing the right grades make sure your personal statement has all the elements that an admissions tutor is looking for.

Do I need to be fluent in English to attend Oxford?

Oxford’s English language proficiency requirements are higher than most other universities in the UK. Applicants who do not speak English as their first language must submit evidence of English language proficiency.

Oxford accepts the IELTS Academic, TOEFL and Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English. For a full list check the universities website.

Oxford does not accept the IELTS General, the IELTS UKVI General or the IELTS Life Skills options. If you are applying for a course in computer science, mathematics, computer science and mathematics or mathematics and statistics, you need a minimum overall score of 7 on the IELTS Academic option. For all other courses, you need a minimum overall score of 7.5.

Language proficiency test exemptions for non-native English speakers will be considered if you studied the International Baccalaureate programme in English, studied the Singapore Integrated Programme or have been educated full-time in English during the two years before Oxford’s application deadline.

Do I need a visa to study at Oxford?

 Yes, you will need to apply for a Student Visa if your course is longer than six months. If your course is shorter than six months you will need to apply for a Short-Term Student Visa.

Why do I have to write a personal statement as part of my application?

Your personal statement is a chance for you to convince the admissions tutor to offer you a place on your chosen course and there are a number of things you should include in your personal statement and some things you should know will result in your personal statement  being unsuccessful.

You will have to write a personal statement to accompany your UCAS application, and this will be sent to all the universities you apply for. However, part of the application process to Oxford requires you to submit a personal statement that outlines specifically why you should be chosen for the course you are applying for at Oxford.

Who should write my academic reference?

A teacher or other educator who can speak about your academic abilities must write a letter for you in English. It is important that whoever writes the letter knows you well enough to comment on your academic and personal qualities, and can vouch for you.

Oxford’s website has advice for teachers who write letters of reference and explains how to submit the letters via UCAS. Friends and Family members are not allowed to write the reference.

What happens if I get invited to interview?

If tutors who read your written application think you have potential, then you will be invited to an interview. This is one of the most important parts of the application process, as it is the final step before acceptance announcements are made.

If you are overseas at the time of your interview the college considering your application might instead set up a phone or video interview.

How should I prepare for my Oxford interview?

This might not be what your nervous ears want to hear, but your interview is all about seeing how you think and respond to new ideas spontaneously, so it can be hard to prepare. Typically,  you will be interviewed by two tutors who teach the course you applied for. They will often begin by asking you general questions about your personal statement or why you applied for your course before asking questions specific to your subject.

You might be given a text, graph or situation that relates to your course and asked to comment on it. It’s okay if you’re not familiar with the topic of the question – that’s the point! One Oxford tutor says of the interview process: “We want to see someone thinking for themselves, being willing to tackle a challenging question – it’s really important for candidates to understand that ‘tackling’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘solving’: it’ll be about applying skills that you already have to a new scenario, text or problem.”

Interview prep tips from an Oxford graduate

  1. Reread your personal statement.

2. Be able to defend your positions in your personal statement – you will most likely be asked about them.

3. Don’t waste time reading up on who will interview you.

4. Review any topics from your course material that you’re most passionate about.

5. Accept that if your interviewer asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s better to say you don’t know than to make up an answer.

What are the undergraduate deadlines for applying to Oxford for 2021 entry?

Applying to Oxford is a long process, so be sure to stay on top of deadlines.

  • June 2020: UCAS application opens. Choose the course and college you want to apply for, draft your personal statement and organise your academic reference.
  • August 2020: Confirm which entrance tests you need to take and register with a test centre.
  • 15 October, 2020: UCAS application and proof that you have registered for necessary entrance tests due.
  • 4 November, 2020: Take entrance tests.
  • 10 November, 2020: Necessary coursework is due.
  • 1 – 20 December, 2020: Interviews for shortlisted applicants take place.
  • January 2021: Final admission decisions are announced.

How do postgraduate students apply to Oxford?

Postgraduate students apply directly through Oxford’s website. You first must choose which course and college you want to apply for. Unlike undergraduates, postgraduates are allowed to apply for more than one course at the same time.

The postgraduate application includes your personal information, three references, qualifications, English language proficiency test results, proposed funding arrangements, an official transcript, examples of written work and a research proposal. There is a funding and scholarship search engine on Oxford’s website. You are also able to put funding from outside sources towards the cost of your course.

The deadlines to apply for a postgraduate course vary by course, so double check before you begin your application.

Can I apply for Cambridge and Oxford in the same year?

No, you cannot apply to Oxford and Cambridge university in the same year. There is speculation that this is due to the fierce rivalry between the two world ranking institution, but the real reason is to do with the high number of applications each institution receives, and their ability to go through the applications and carry out the interviews.

So, unfortunately to will have to put a stake in the ground and choose whether its going to be Oxford or Cambridge.

 You might also want to read:

City Guide to Oxford

How to apply to Cambridge

How to write a personal statement