How to get into the University of Oxford for History

Oxford is recognised as one of the best universities in the world, especially for its History department and faculty. The History degree at Oxford is even ranked 1st in the UK by The Complete University Guide (2023)!

With a 25% acceptance rate, it is no wonder that the History course at Oxford is competitive. Hence, a small selection of applicants are successful in receiving an offer, and the application process is far from easy.

If you’d like to get into Oxford University for History or you’re just curious about what it takes to get into one of the richest, most rigorous, and research-focused History courses in the UK, then this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on what you need to study at Oxford.

The Profs’ History tutors have first-hand experience with the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. 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 History course at Oxford like?

Oxford offers one of the world’s most academically acclaimed History courses. The university’s prestigious and vast library resources are also renowned. The Oxford Classics and History Faculties are world-famous for their teaching and research.

History is a Humanities course. Oxford’s History course provides unparalleled scope and depth of study through its wide-ranging yet nuanced approach. It cultivates analytical rigour, thoughtful inquiry, and interdisciplinary insight by synthesising broad perspectives with meticulous source work and constant intellectual cross-pollination.

At Oxford, you can obtain eight different undergraduate History degrees, offering a range of topics. It can either be studied under the singular degree title: History, or as one of the following degree programmes:

  • History (Ancient and Modern)
  • History and Economics
  • History and English
  • History and Modern Languages
  • History and Politics
  • History of Art
  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

Take a look at the table below to get an idea of the different undergraduate courses available to you if you choose History.

History Course TypeAboutLength
HistoryBroad chronological sweep of British and European history from Roman Empire to now. Geographical range and a breadth of periods are studied with opportunity for debate and specific focuses. Research centred.3 years
History (Ancient and ModernCompares societies and methods of the Bronze Age Mediterranean and Near East, Roman Empire, Middle Ages, and Early Modern period to world history and the present day. There are over 90 subject choices within this course.3 years
History and EconomicsIntegrates these 2 courses to offer insight into how the two relate. Allows students to specialise in one course more than the other, but must take introduction to Economics module which covers macroeconomics and microeconomics.3 years
History and EnglishEvaluates how we define literature and history. Interprets culture and history through literary artefacts as historical artefacts. Requires contextual literary analyses. Allows students to specialise in one course more than the other.3 years
History and Modern LanguagesExplores language, culture, and history across the globe. Considers how a European language colours Humanities education. Encourages use of forensic literary skills to analyse historic documents. Combines political, social, and economic understanding with that of literature, film, and culture.4 years (includes year abroad)
History and PoliticsCombines understanding of both courses. Studies history of politics and sets contemporary political problems into historical perspective. Connects history with political science.3 years
History of ArtCombines a historical understanding of the origins, meaning, purpose of art, and artefacts from a wide range of cultures. Studies history of art, as well as artistic artefact’s functions, reception, and cultural context.3 years
Classical Archaeology and Ancient HistoryLarge focus on 2 classical cultures: Roman and Greek. Aims to consider the history of archaeology and art within the classical world. Analyses societies and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean through written text, art, and material remains. Investigates ancient civilisations.3 years

Oxford particularly looks for its History students to have excellent research skills and to be able to adopt an interdisciplinary approach. You will learn to develop these abilities into skills you can use for a wide array of career paths.

At Oxford, undergraduate students studying History will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA). Whilst postgraduate students will graduate with one or more of the following degree titles: Master of Arts (MA), and/or a Master of Philosophy (MPhil). If you choose to take further studies in History alongside a none Humanities subject you could obtain a Master of Studies (MSt) or a Master of Science (MSc) instead.

More information on postgraduate courses can be found here.

What are the entry requirements?

The entry requirements you need to meet to get admission to Oxford University for History are high. This is because Oxford is one of the most competitive universities to get into.

A levelAAA
Advanced HighersAA/AAB
International Baccalaureate38 – 39 depending on specific course

If you need more information regarding grade requirements, such as international qualifications, take a look here.

Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study History 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?

It is mandatory for Oxford applicants who want to study History as a stand-alone course to have studied History prior to their undergraduate studies.

If you plan on taking a joint History degree, Oxford’s expectations differ. Take a look at the subject requirements and/or recommendations listed below:

  • History (Ancient and Modern): It is recommended that students have studied History. It is helpful if students have studied Classical Language or Classical Civilisation.
  • History and Economics: It is recommended that students have studied History and Maths.
  • History and English: It is essential that students have studied English Literature or English Language and Literature. It is recommended that they have studied History.
  • History and Modern Language: It is essential that students have studied Modern Language. It is recommended that students study History.
  • History and Politics: It is recommended that students have studied History. It is helpful if students have studied Sociology, Politics, or Government and Politics.
  • History of Art: It is helpful if students have studied History of Art, Fine Art, History, English Literature, or English Language and Literature.
  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History: It is helpful for students to have studied Classical Language, Classical Civilisation, or Ancient History.

What admissions tests are there?

Applicants for a History course at Oxford might have to complete one of the following tests to meet their admission requirements. The required tests for the undergraduate degree depend on the student’s chosen course.

  • History: HAT
  • History (Ancient and Modern): HAT
  • History and Economics: HAT and TSA (only section one)
  • History and English: HAT and ELAT
  • History and Modern Language: HAT and MLAT
  • History and Politics: HAT
  • History of Art: No test required
  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History: No test required

The HAT consists of one historical source and one question which candidates must read and answer within one hour. You will be asked to offer thoughtful interpretations of the source without knowing anything about its context. Because the HAT is a test of your skills (aptitude) and not of your existing historical knowledge, you will be penalised if you include any information that’s not provided in the paper in your answer.

The TSA, ELAT, and MLAT are designed systematically. They check your knowledge and suitability for studying History with Economics, English, or Modern Languages.

The TSA requires problem-solving skills, like numerical reasoning, and critical thinking skills. The ELAT evaluates close reading, critical analysis and writing skills in English. The MLAT assesses linguistic proficiency, cultural awareness and scholarly understanding of society, culture and history. These subject tests assess your comprehension and aptitude for studying History alongside your chosen second discipline at Oxford.

Strong performance across all sections of your test will demonstrate your potential as a History scholar at Oxford and undoubtedly strengthen your Oxford University application. Here at The Profs we have expert HAT, TSA, ELAT, and MLAT tutors who can help you smash your admission tests.

The average HAT score for all History candidates tends to be around 57. Shortlisted History candidates typically get upwards of 63, and those with offers have usually scored 68 and higher.

How hard is it to get into History at Oxford?

Applying for Oxford is no simple feat. Getting into History 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.

This table draws from the number of course applicants to generate a percentage of how many of these students were interviewed, and from that number, how many were admitted:

History Course TypeInterviewedAdmitted
History (Ancient and Modern)67%23%
History and Economics36%9%
History and English44%12%
History and Modern Language85%%25%%
History and Politics38%11%
History of Art41%14%
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History90%22%

The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors can help you triple your chances of getting into Oxford to study History. 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 History 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 History at Oxford?

Tuition fees vary. The table below shows the annual course fees for Oxford’s History students:

UK StudentInternational Student

You can find out more information about what fees you will pay on Oxford’s fee status page. You can also use Oxford’s fees, funding and scholarship search to see the funding options available to you.

4 tips on how to get into History at Oxford

1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process

If you’re applying to Oxford University to study History, 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 AAA A levels in relevant subjects as a minimum.

Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your Oxford application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for History 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 History admissions test – you might also be required to take the HAT, and if so, you might also need to complete the TSA, ELAT or MLAT, depending on your chosen course. Oxford’s admissions tests are designed to be challenging, so it’s really important that you prepare for them 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 History. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and 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 History

Oxford History applicants have between a 9% and 25% chance of success, 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 historical analysis and shows that you understand historiography at university level. Demonstrate to tutors that you genuinely enjoy the subject. Perhaps choose a period within history and read widely about this chosen topic.
  • Participate in relevant competitions, clubs or challenges – If your school, or another local organisation, has a historical society or a similar extracurricular club that requires historical skills, then this is a great way to showcase your ability. Participating in debates or essay competitions 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 history skills – Have you used your historical methods skills in real-world contexts, such as in activities pertaining to archival research or critical analysis? Perhaps you’ve been on a trip with historical focus e.g. visiting European WW2 trenches or the pyramids in Egypt. Any practical examples like these will help to prove that you have a serious passion for your selected History course.

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 History degree can lead to and the specific areas you can specialise in. For example, identifying interests in academic research, archival work, or earning a PhD in History shows you are a forward-thinking candidate 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 History 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 often 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 HAT 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 History at degree level. Reach out to our experienced team today!