How to get into Oxbridge: A level results

Share article posted on July 05, 2017

All Souls College Oxford A Level Results

Being accepted into either Oxford or Cambridge University is one of the highest accolades you can achieve in education. Your cherished place will show you’ve got the heart and mind to succeed at the highest level as well as the excellent A-level grades that opened the door. But getting inside isn’t easy. Navigating safely through applications, admissions tests and interviews are all part of your university preparation, and all rely on getting the A-level results that prove your outstanding abilities.

Setting up for success with good A-level results

Making a choice between Oxford or Cambridge University largely comes down to your own preference. Academically speaking, there is little to choose between them in terms of teaching and research. The real difference comes down to the courses and the content and which will suit you best. So once your mind is set to one university or the other, and you’re looking likely to get the necessary A-level qualifications to be a part of this elite education system, what is the process and how do you prepare?

Oxbridge admissions tests

Studying for your A-levels is only part of the process for Oxbridge entry and this is where the key part of your journey begins: the preparation of your application with several key areas to give particular attention to. Once your written application is submitted, further down the line, it’s likely you’ll take an Oxbridge admissions test.

Oxbridge uses the tests as a way to select only the strongest candidates for the most competitive courses. Each university will have information on what your admissions test will cover, including which subject needs which test. Researching this information and knowing which test you’ll be asked to complete will give you a greater understanding of what will be expected of you and how to manage your test timing. The keyword here is research - give yourself as much time as possible to explore the different kinds of academic skills which are required for each test.

Once you’re up to speed with what’s required, you need to practise. You’ll already have looked at what particulars your admissions test requires, so now’s the time to be competent in exactly what will be required of you in each test.  Often you will be asked to apply rudimentary knowledge in new and challenging ways, and the key skills are being able to work quickly and accurately to arrive at an answer.

To help you with this, there are websites that allow you to access past papers for admissions tests and the Oxford and Cambridge websites should also either provide sample tests or past papers, or direct you to where these are available. These are a valuable resource that will allow you practise the content of your own test. If very few test papers are available, make sure you hold back at least one paper so that you can do a full unseen mock test under timed test conditions.  This will give you a good understanding of the type of questions you’ll be faced with as well as which areas you need to work .

Some admissions tests are made up of multiple choice questions as well as essays, so perfecting your writing skills is another key preparation stage. Practising the basic elements of planning, structure and adding relevant content, as well as introductions and conclusions will greatly add to your finished essay.

This critical part of your application will play a crucial role in your success. And with competition for places so fierce for both universities, it’s beyond important that - while you can’t specifically revise for it - you can painstakingly prepare for it.

The interview process

Once your application and admissions test have been received and scrutinised, both universities invite only around 75% of successful applicants for an interview. Like any other interview, this can be a nerve-wracking experience when you can feel at your most vulnerable and under pressure.

But what’s important to remember is that your interviewers are there to try to uncover the full extent of your ability rather than find fault. The process is really for them to find how you go about tackling the kind of challenging questions that arise on the course you want to do and to ascertain whether you’d be suited to the Oxford or Cambridge teaching environment. During the process, it also gives them the chance to find out if candidates are listening carefully to what they’re being asked and to find out how people think and explore ideas. There won’t be any trick questions as such, and you are not so much required produce the 'right' answer as to demonstrate your problem-solving capabilities - your interviewers are much more interested in the journey than the destination, and if they gave everyone questions that were quick and easy to answer they would not get any idea of what you might be capable of in the future. So that you are not stressed on the day, the next logical step for you is to practise in an Oxbridge-style mock interview. 

Talking and thinking

By putting yourself through this mock interview experience, you’ll learn valuable techniques on how to listen, react and respond to your questions in a calm and collected manner. Being flustered and nervous will only heap more pressure on you, although interviewers are well aware that nerves can sometimes get the better of people, so will fully understand your situation.

It goes without saying that you should already have a background knowledge of the subject you want to study through general research and reading, and it is important to demonstrate intellectual curiosity by having read beyond the bounds of the A-level syllabus.    In the more general interviews, the interviewers will ask you questions and get you to talk more about things you’ve told them in your personal statement or any academic achievements or interests you have in the subject.

Talking with other students or teachers - or even with family or friends - is an ideal way to practise the topics you want to speak about, especially if they are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of your subject. Talking to them will help your confidence and get you thinking about alternative ways to get your points across.

Knowing what to expect

However, there’s no excuse for being under-prepared and a mock interview with someone who is familiar with the Oxford or Cambridge interviewing style will certainly get you used to this verbally rigorous process. With Westminster Tutors in London, you’re able to increase your knowledge across these vital areas and take advantage of our university preparation on admissions tests and mock interviews to ensure you’re fully prepared.

Westminster Tutors was set up specifically to help students prepare for being accepted into Oxford or Cambridge universities, with students coming to us to strengthen their applications and get the best possible results in their A level exams. Around a third of our tutors are either Oxford or Cambridge graduates, so they’re ideally placed to pass on their knowledge and give you insights on what to expect during the process and how to make your preparations as strong as possible.

Sessions can range from just one hour to a regular one-to-one tutorial session looking at specific areas that you wish to focus on. From mock interview practice and admissions test preparations, Westminster Tutors can provide the vital preparation you need to secure your place at Oxbridge. Call one of our qualified advisors today on 020 7584 1288 or submit an enquiry.