How To Get Into Oxford University
How to get into Oxford University
View over Dome and Spires, to Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

How To Get Into Oxford University

Rachael Grealish June 27, 2022

The University of Oxford is one of the most famous and prestigious universities in the world, its halls have graced the likes of Professor Stephen Hawking and dozens of UK Prime Ministers, so what’s the secret to being among its alum?

All universities have a demand, which is why there’s such a rigorous process to apply, but none quite like Oxford. Each year around 24,000 people submit applications to study at Oxford, and only 3,300 of these applicants get an undergraduate place.

In 2020, the University acceptance rate was just 15.8% and only 7% of pupils from England and Wales, from the independent sector, make up 46% of the undergraduate places. So what’s the trick to getting into Oxford?

How to get into Oxford University?

Getting into Oxford University is no easy feat and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, but with these tips, you’re definitely on your way:

  • Get the grades – qualifications are key
  • Learn what the admissions are looking for – personal statement, work experience and passion
  • Follow the application process exactly – don’t be caught out with admissions exams
  • Apply well before the deadline

The process is incredibly similar to other local universities such as Oxford Brookes (which is not part of Oxford University), but Oxford University does demand a much higher level of qualifications.

How to apply for Oxford University

So, you’ve got your prospective grades, your work experience, and your personal statement. The only thing left to do is apply. The first place you want to go to is UCAS, find your course and complete the application.

This application is no different to other university ones, except most courses at Oxford require students to take an admissions test. Remember, registration for tests is not automatic and is not part of the UCAS process and students must check the details on their course on how to register and complete it.

Make sure you go over your application several times in order to avoid missing any important information and to make sure you’ve got all your details correct.

When to apply for Oxford University

Although the deadline for undergraduate applicants is 6pm (UK time) on 15 October, this includes the deadline for the completion of your academic reference too so it’s best to get submitted nice and early. UCAS applications open in May so you can start work on the form from then.

Plus, applying with plenty of time not only shows your enthusiasm to study at Oxford but also your academic reference, usually your teacher, time to complete the reference as they may have a few different students to get through.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

What qualifications do you need to go to Oxford University?

It’s naturally assumed if you want to get into one of the best universities in the world, you need to best grades. Of course, each course will have specific requirements for the applicant to aim for, but on average the grade requirements range from A*A*A to AAA, depending on the course.

Of course, the university doesn’t just take A-Levels students. Other international qualifications are accepted, with specific entry requirements:

  • International Baccalaureate – Total score of 38-40 points (depending on the course) including core points, with 6s and 7s in subjects taken at the higher level.
  • European Baccalaureate (EB) – An average of 85% or above, with scores of between 8 and 9 in subjects specified at A level or equivalent.
  • Abitur (Germany) – Overall grade of 1.1-1.3, depending on the course.
  • Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) – Grade 5 or A in three elective subjects, taken from either Category A or Category C.
  • AP (Advanced Placement) (USA) – Either four APs at grade 5; Or three APs at grade 5 plus a score of 33 or above in the ACT or 1480 or above (out of 1600) in the SAT.

But, it’s not just your A-Levels this uni wants to see. According to the Uni Guide admissions will also be interested in seeing what you got for your GCSEs. This is because students don’t actually get their A-Level results until months after offers from universities are given out, so they need to go off your predicted grades which are often based on your GCSE results. So if you’re still at that stage aiming for 8/9s in your exams is probably a good shout.

If you didn’t quite ace those GCSE grades all may not be lost though because some courses have admissions exams which could give you a boost.

If you study a BTECs, but not any A-Level you actually wouldn’t be able to study at Oxford. The uni will accept BTECs only alongside A-levels, and it depends on the course.

‘Most of these [applied general] qualifications would not be suitable for making a competitive application by themselves, though they could be considered if taken alongside A-Levels, depending on the course applied for,’ the University of Oxford’s website says.

What does Oxford University look for?

Many people might be surprised to know getting into Oxford isn’t all about getting the grades (although, that is super important). According to the university, they’re looking for a wide range of students that all have one thing in common, the university says: ‘The only things that Oxford students have in common are academic ability and intellectual curiosity.’

The admissions team want to know you have a genuine interest in the subject and a want to learn more beyond your syllabus in years 12 and 13 so wider reading is key.

Looking at the course syllabus you want to apply for, and really familiarising yourself with the essential reading and a few extras, could help for the interview process.

Getting work experience in the field you’d like to enter after university is key too, according to The Profs. The experts say having your long-term plan in mind is important for students attending Oxford and, if it’s possible to get experience in that field, it’s an absolute plus.

Photo by STEVE PARSONS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Experience in your future dream job may not always be possible – for example if the job poses safety risks or is not suitable for a student. But if there are extra-curricular activities similar to your dream job, such as computer science clubs, they’re a great way to supplement your application.

It’s then very important you put all this passion and enthusiasm into your personal statement. This is how the university builds its picture of you. You also want your personal statement to be grammatically correct, with perfect punctuation, so always get your teacher or college tutor to look over it and give you tips.

What you write in your personal statement may be what your interviewer uses when interviewing you, so it’s best to re-read what you put in there so you can be as confident as possible during the interview. But they’ll also use that time to see how you think and respond to a question or discussion, to see how you’d work on the course.

So brushing up on your communication skills and thinking of how you answer will be important here too.

Does your school affect your chances?

The University of Oxford states it is ‘committed to recruiting the best candidates from all backgrounds and all identities’ however, according to The Spectator six out of the top ten schools to receive Oxford offers are independent or private schools and only four are state schools.

It also looks like the school’s location plays into the factor. Of the top ten, half of the schools are situated in London.

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Rachael is the Senior Content Editor at Freshered. She is NCTJ qualified with an MA in journalism. Rachael has almost ten years experience as a journalist in regional, national and international press and is passionate about creating engaging content.