Oxford University Admissions Requirements

Oxford University is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the world. As you might imagine, this means that the entry requirements to get in can be very high. Whilst this is true, there is some nuance to this that we need to consider. Here is a run down on everything you need to know about these requirements.

They aren’t flexible.

For most students, they might think that there is some degree of flexibility with offers. They think that if they miss the mark, but have already received an offer from the university, then they will be accepted. This is not true. There are people who have missed their offer by one or two marks and have not been accepted. Or, when they have, it is because of a re-mark. If you apply to Oxford, you are applying to a top 5 world wide university. If you miss the mark, there are hundreds of other students who will want to be there just as bad, but they got the right marks. Oxford gives more offers than places, so don’t sleep on this. Universities that are lower on the league table have higher degrees of flexibility, although this is not a guarantee.

They don’t cut deals

Another harsh truth is that unlike other universities, Oxford knows how competitive and desirable it is as an institution. It is more common than people might think for universities to cut deals with students. For example, a lot of students are told that if they put a specific university as their firm (first) choice, that they will receive an unconditional offer, or a conditional offer with lower grades than they initially said. This does happen, but it is FAR more rare that people might think. And it never happens with Oxford. So students should not bank on this being a reliable strategy for success in applying to Oxford.

But they can be contextual

There has been a huge effort made by the university to try and make the institution more accessible to more people. To be clear, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in this regard, but the university is trying to understand the context in which each student is applying. So, if you are a disadvantaged, then the university might consider adjusting your offer, or during the entrance exam process, reducing the score you need to get to be considered for an interview.

Don’t be fooled by the typical offer page:

The typical offer stat for each course is doing what it says on the tin: it is showing you the typical offer. This means this is the offer they tend to give out to most students. Some might think that this means if they are on the grade boundary, that they will get in. But this is contextual- if you go to a school that gets a lot of students into top universities, it will look less impressive if you hit the minimum target. Meanwhile a student who goes to a school with very low average grades  and hits the typical offer will be seen as far more impressive.  A lot of students who are above the typical offer might be given an offer that is higher than average. There is no clever way to game this however- students just need to do the best they can. Most subjects require a minimum of 3 A Grades, but it is not uncommon for students to be asked to receive A*A*A in some subjects.

International requirements:

A similar story applies to international students. Whether you are taking the International Bacchaloreate or American AP classes, the requirements will still be equally high. You have to check these requirements on a subject by subject basis. A lot of subjects require between 39 and 42 on the IB, as a reference point

They range from subject to subject:

This goes without saying, but the requirements vary for subject to subject. The sciences tend to have higher requirements, but this is not always true.

Cambridge is worse:

Whist these requirements for Oxford seem quite steep, it is not as bad as Cambridge. Cambridge’s requirements tend to be higher , with them sometimes requiring students send in individual marks for individual papers. However, they do take more people for interview. The general rule is that Oxford weeds out more people before the interview process, whereas Cambridge does so with grades.

Going for a random subject with slightly lower grades is always worse:

Students might think that they should, tactically pick subjects with lower grades. But there are two issues with this. If a student wants to tactically pick , they should pick based on acceptance rates for the subject (although this is also a complex topic). The second reason is that if you are trying to pick the subject with the lowest possible grades, then it indicates you are trying to hit the bare minimum needed, rather than working hard to get into the course you actually want to do. This is not about it being “wrong” to work less hard or to play smart. But as a word of advice, if you are attempting to enter into a place where you will be constantly asked to work hard, then adopting the attitude of taking shortcuts now will reduce your chances and cause a big shock when you get there. For your own sake, it is better to work at it now, rather than kick the can down the road AND potentially do a subject that you don’t care for.

One final piece of hope

As part of its effort to increase diversity at the university, Oxford has set up a series of foundation year courses for students who might not have the grades to get in as it is.  These foundation courses have lower requirements (every grade tends to be knocked down by one). However, the vast majority of people cannot apply- you have to meet very specific eligibility requirements related to personal circumstances and economic conditions.

Links to where you can find the information about specific courses:

The following is a page where you can see a list of Oxford Courses and their grade requirements. Admission requirements for 2024 entry | University of Oxford

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