Oxbridge applications: five things you might not know
Top entry requirements, tricky interview questions… both universities are famously tough to get into, but how does the applications process compare between Oxford, Cambridge and other universities?
Here are five things about the Oxbridge process that might catch you off guard.
Don’t forget that you can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge – not both. Our guide on deciding between the two should help figure out the best option for you.
1. It’s all about academics at OxbridgeThe most obvious difference between admissions at Oxbridge and other universities is the emphasis on academics. Not all successful applicants to Oxford and Cambridge will have straight A*s under their belts, but let’s face it – a fair few do!
Oxford and Cambridge admission tutors are mainly interested in your academic performance and ambitions, whereas other universities may offer you a place based on your experience, extracurricular activities and other skills.
Did you know...? For Oxford, the typical conditional offer ranges between A*A*A and AAA (depending on the subject), while most offers from Cambridge are A*AA.
2. Oxbridge assessments go beyond your grades and Ucas formUniversities will usually use your predicted grades and information from your Ucas form (including your personal statement) to decide whether to offer you a place. However, Oxford and Cambridge assess you on additional information as most apply with top grades.
Read our full guide to entry requirements to learn more.
Cambridge UniversityApplicants are required to submit a My Cambridge Application (MyCApp) questionnaire as well as the Ucas form, in order to provide a complete picture of themselves as an applicant – we go into more detail below.
Cambridge applicants will also take subject-specific tests, either before or during their interview. Bmat and Ucat exams are sat prior to interviews.
What is a MyCApp?
Cambridge applicants are expected to fill in a MyCApp after submiting their Ucas form. The questionnaire asks for extra information, including:
- education and qualification history
- personal details
- topics covered as part of your AS/A-level (or equivalent) courses
- registration numbers for admissions assessments (if applicable)
The Cambridge University website has more information on MyCApps.
Oxford UniversityOxford doesn't have a questionnaire, but it does require applicants for most courses to take a test as part of the application process.
Did you know...? Both universities ask some applicants to submit examples of written coursework as part of the application.
- Read more: which admissions tests do I need to take?
3. Your personal statement is used a little differentlyThe personal statement is an important part of any university application – it’s a great opportunity to highlight your academic potential and demonstrate that you’ve read widely around your subject.
But it's less of a priority for Oxbridge admissions tutors, as they have all that additional information about you (like test scores, interview performance and submitted coursework) to make their decision.
Did you know...? Your personal statement is likely to be used as a guide to what to ask you at interview, so make sure you’re able to talk confidently about anything you include.
4. Oxbridge interviews test your self-motivation and enthusiasm for the subjectA lot of the teaching at Oxford or Cambridge takes place in small classes ('tutorials' at Oxford and 'supervisions' at Cambridge). In your interview, you'll be assessed on your ability to think independently and engage with new ideas.
Interviews are less common at other universities and can range from the Oxbridge-style ‘exam out loud’ to more of an informal discussion about your suitability for the course.
Did you know...? All Oxford interviews and most (but not all) Cambridge interviews for 2024 applicants will be held online.
5. You're applying to a college, tooOxford and Cambridge are two of a handful of universities to have a collegiate structure (Durham and York are other examples). Your college is where you’ll live, socialise and do most of your studying.
The most important thing to know is that the college you apply for won’t affect your chance of getting a place.
Here's what to consider when you're trying to choose a college:
- check that it offers the course you want to study
- consider the size, how old or new it is and where it's based
- visit on an open day and simply go with your instinct
If you can’t decide, you can make an open application where a computer program will allocate you a college. Once allocated, your application is treated exactly like any other.
Did you know...? According to the universities’ websites, about one in five successful Oxford applicants and 25% of Cambridge applicants end up at a different college to the one they originally applied for – so don’t stress over your decision too much!