Oxford is recognised as one of the best universities in the world, especially for its Department of Physics. Oxford places 2nd in the UK for Physical Science degrees according to Times Higher Education, and it places 3rd in the UK for Physics according to The Complete University Guide (2023).
It is no wonder why the Physics course at Oxford is competitive. The acceptance rate is just 11%. Hence, a small selection of applicants are successful in receiving an offer, and the application process is far from simple.
If you’re pursuing studying at Oxford University, or you’re just curious about what it takes to get into one of the most prestigious and academically rigorous Physics courses in the UK, then this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on what you need to do to get into Oxford.
The Profs’ Physics tutors have first-hand experience with the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage.
Most Physics degrees include Mathematics, especially Oxford’s. So, if you’re worried about your Maths grades being up to par, please contact our excellent Maths tutors who can help you. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are over three times more likely to receive an offer from Oxford University. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.
What is the Physics course at Oxford like?
Oxford is ranked 3rd in the UK for Physics by The Complete University Guide (2023). Their undergraduate Physics course is academically acclaimed as Oxford has a string of physicist alumni who have won Nobel prizes. Oxford has one of the largest Physics departments in the UK; their ISABELLE particle accelerator and Clarendon Laboratory are world-renowned.
Physics is a Physical Science course. The Physics course at Oxford offers an outstanding and diverse research programme with six departments: Astrophysics, Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Atomic and Laser Physics, Condensed Matter Physics (including Biophysics), Particle Physics and Theoretical Physics. Oxford’s Physics course is concerned with fundamental concepts such as optics and relativity and has a strong focus on Mathematics.
At Oxford, undergraduate courses in Physics can be attained through two different 3-year degrees:
Physics: This course focuses on the universe from the smallest to the largest scale, seeking to unravel complexities and understand how everything works. There is a strong emphasis on Mathematics, as well as Core and Mainstream Physics. There is also an exploration of Experimental Physics, utilising Oxford’s practical laboratories. If you embark on a fourth year (MPhys), you will select a major option and complete a project for this.
Physics and Philosophy: This course requires clear and precise thinking as it aims to unravel the complexities of the universe with foundational questions. There is a focus on the critical articulation of ideas and understanding, hence students are expected to write essays and complete problem sets. This course combines the most rigorous and fundamental subjects in Science and Arts.
Please note: All applicants applying for the standard BA Physics course must apply for the four-year MPhys version of it. The fourth-year MPhys course option brings you to the cusp of current research and guides you to specialise within an area of Physics. You can decide whether to complete the BA or MPhys version of the course during your second year. Have a look at the course page for further information.
Oxford particularly looks for its Physics students to have strong mathematical and analytical abilities. You will develop these abilities into skills you can use for careers such as being a physicist, engineer, or data scientist.
At Oxford, students studying Physics will graduate with one or more of the following degree titles depending on the course: a Bachelor of Science (BA), a Master of Physics (MPhys), a Master of Science (MSc), or a Master of Studies (MSt).
What are the entry requirements?
The specific entry requirements to study Physics at the University of Oxford are high as Oxford is one of the most competitive universities to get into.
If you need more information regarding grade requirements, such as European Baccalaureate and international qualifications, take a look here.
Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study Physics at Oxford? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.
What subjects are recommended?
There are a few subjects that are required for admission, or advised.
Physics and Mathematics are closely related. Hence, Oxford deems it mandatory for its Physics applicants to have studied both Physics and Maths. These STEM subjects are as far as specific subject requirements go, however, it is also highly recommended that applicants have taken Maths Mechanics modules. Oxford also says that it is helpful for students to have studied Further Maths.
What admissions tests are there?
Applicants for Physics at Oxford must complete the PAT test.
The PAT test aims to check your maths and physics knowledge and suitability for studying Physics. It is structured into multiple-choice questions and short essay responses to test the student by evaluating their ability to analyse complex concepts and apply theoretical reasoning. You can prepare for it by practising problem-solving techniques, evaluating scientific arguments, and articulating clear explanations of physical principles.
Strong performance across all sections of your test will demonstrate your potential as a Physics scholar at Oxford.
Your performance in the test will greatly affect whether you are shortlisted. If you achieve 60 or higher you will be in a very competitive position. Check out our guide on how best to prepare for the test, and remember we have experienced PAT tutors if you feel you need some help preparing.
How hard is it to get into Physics at Oxford?
Applying for Oxford is no simple feat. Getting into Physics is particularly competitive and challenging. If you’re thinking about applying to Oxford, take a look at the table below to get a clear understanding of the competition:
|Physics course type
|Physics and Philosophy
The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors can help you triple your chances of getting into Oxford to study Physics. Thanks to our network of experienced tutors, many of whom are Oxbridge graduates and ex-admissions officers themselves, we have the very latest and best knowledge on what Oxford is looking for in top Physics applicants. Get in touch with us today to chat with a member of our team about how we can help with your application to Oxford.
What are the fees for Physics at Oxford?
The table below shows the annual course fees for Oxford’s Physics students:
4 tips on how to get into Physics at Oxford
1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process
When applying to study Physics as an undergraduate degree at Oxford, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.
Your grades – preparation for your Oxford application really starts from the moment you start studying for your A levels (or equivalent). Excellent grades are essential in order to be considered for a place at Oxford, so you should be aiming for A*AA in your A levels (or equivalent) as a minimum.
Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your Oxford application is completing your UCAS application online, which includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for Physics at Oxford and prove that you are interested and committed to the subject areas. Find out how to write a stand-out personal statement in this helpful guide.
The Physics Admissions Test – you are also required to take the PAT test when applying for Physics at Oxford. This admissions test is designed to be challenging, so it’s really important that you prepare for it just as you would for any other exam.
The interview – if your UCAS application and test scores are impressive enough, you may be invited to an interview at Oxford. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for Physics. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests. There is often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively.
Here at The Profs, we have excellent interview tutors, experienced in Oxbridge admissions.
Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.
2. Show evidence of your love for Physics
Only around 11% of Oxford’s Physics applicants are successful, so it’s important that you do everything you can to make your application stand out from the crowd. Your academic ability might get you on the shortlist, but it’s not what secures your place. Oxford particularly looks for applicants who have a true interest in the subject as well as exceptional abilities and dedication. There are many ways you can show this, such as:
Conduct wider reading, beyond your school syllabus – Self-learning demonstrates a desire to learn higher-level theoretical physics and shows that you understand mathematical concepts at university level. Demonstrate to tutors that you genuinely enjoy the subject. Perhaps choose a specific area within physics, such as condensed matter physics or high energy physics, and read widely about your chosen topic.
Participate in relevant competitions, clubs or challenges – If your school, or another local organisation, has a physics society or a similar extracurricular club that requires experimental skills, this is a great way to showcase your ability. Participating in debates, problem-solving competitions or coding projects can also be a great way to show that your interests expand beyond the topics covered in the school curriculum.
Showcasing practical applications of your writing, analytical, or mathematical skills – Have you used your problem-solving skills in real-world contexts, such as in engineering design, data analysis or programming? Have you ever built circuits or robotic systems? Any examples of practical work like this will help to prove that you have a serious passion for physics.
Constructing models or simulations of physical systems – This also demonstrates your potential for the highly quantitative work expected at Oxford. Participation in physics research programmes or internships will provide hands-on experience that establishes your suitability for advanced study and future career as a physicist.
3. Have a 5-year plan
Another factor that can set you aside from other applicants is having a 5-year plan. This doesn’t have to be a plan that you necessarily stick to – in fact, it is expected that your interests and ambitions change as your knowledge and experience grow. Having a plan is simply a great way of demonstrating to Oxford that you are committed to the subject and that you are motivated to succeed at your degree, and thus would be a valuable Oxford student.
The first step to having a plan is to develop an understanding of the industries a Physics degree can lead to and the specific areas you can specialise in. For example, identifying an interest in Engineering, becoming a data scientist or technology executive, or earning a PhD in Physics shows you are a forward-thinking candidate who is serious about your career. Relating your areas of study, activities and personal passions back to potential careers is essential to presenting a targeted, future-focused candidate profile in just a few sentences.
4. Seek help from an expert Oxbridge admissions tutor
If you want to apply to Oxford it’s important to be aware of how competitive the Physics course is.
Your application requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer. Shortlisted candidates can often fall at the last hurdle of admissions. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist Oxford and Cambridge preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional Oxford admissions tutor to help you through the process.
The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, tailor their application to Oxford’s admissions criteria, prepare for the PAT exam, and excel in their admissions interview.
95% of students who work with The Profs get into their first or second choice university. At The Profs, you’ll gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of the skills and knowledge needed to study Physics at degree level. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.