Oxford and Cambridge (known collectively as Oxbridge) are two of the best and most competitive universities in the world, so it’s no wonder thousands of students consider applying every year. However, it can be hard to find free and reliable information and advice that you can use to help you decide whether you should apply to Oxbridge or not.
At The Profs, our experts have worked with hundreds of Oxbridge applicants and have an Oxbridge acceptance rate of 55% – more than three times higher than the national average. Using their many years of experience working with these students, we’ve put together this quick guide based on six questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether you should apply to Oxbridge.
1. Do you have the right grades?
One of the most important things to consider when you’re thinking of applying for Oxbridge is whether you have the right grades. The entry requirements for both Oxford and Cambridge are extremely high, typically ranging from AAA-A*A*A, and applicants very rarely receive an offer with grades any lower than the minimum requirements. In fact, for many courses, the average grades of accepted applicants are higher than the minimum entry requirements – read our guide to choosing a university course for more information on this.
The table below shows the minimum entry requirements for both Oxford and Cambridge in terms of A levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), and other common international qualifications.
|Range from A*A*A-AAA, depending on the course.
|Typically range from A*A*A-A*AA, depending on the course.
|International Baccalaureate (IB)
|Total score of 38-40 points (depending on the course) including core points, with 6s and 7s in subjects taken at the higher level.
|Typically range from 40-42, with 776 in higher level subjects.
|European Baccalaureate (EB)
|An average of 85% or above, with scores of between 8 and 9 in subjects specified at A level or equivalent.
|85% overall, with scores of 9 or more in relevant subjects.
|Overall grade of 1.1-1.3, depending on the course.
|Overall score of between 1.0 and 1.2, with 14 or 15 in individual subjects.
|Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)
|Grade 5 or A in three elective subjects, taken from either Category A or Category C.
|Core subjects: Grades 5 in all subjects and grades of 5* in one or two relevant subjects.
Elective subjects: 5*5*5-5*55 depending on the course.
|AP (Advanced Placement) (USA)
|Either four APs at grade 5;
Or three APs at grade 5 plus a score of 33 or above in the ACT or 1480 or above (out of 1600) in the SAT.
|Five or more AP scores at grade 5, high passing marks on your school qualification (e.g. the relevant US High School Diploma), and a high score on the SAT (I) Reasoning Test or ACT.
|Other international qualifications
|Check the full list of international qualifications accepted by Oxford.
|Check the full list of the international qualifications accepted by Cambridge.
2. Have you researched available courses?
Both Oxford and Cambridge offer a range of courses at undergraduate level. Many of these are subjects that you may have studied at school level, such as Mathematics, English, History, and more. However, many programmes offered at degree level are not subjects you will have studied directly in your A levels (or equivalent), so it’s important to do your research into what they involve so that you can choose the right course for you.
You should also note that you can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge, not both universities, so you should research what is available at each. There are some courses that are only available at one or other universities; for example, Cambridge offers Architecture while Oxford does not, while Oxford offers Fine Art while Cambridge does not. This may help you to decide which university is the best option for you out of the two – find out more about the differences between Oxford and Cambridge and how to decide between them in our helpful YouTube video.
3. Do you understand the Oxbridge application process?
The Oxbridge application process is different from the regular process of applying to university in multiple ways. Firstly, the deadline for applying is the 15th October, which is more than three months earlier than the general UCAS deadline. This means that you will need to work on your application a lot earlier than if you were applying for other non-Oxbridge universities.
Secondly, the process of applying for Oxbridge involves additional stages not often included in other university applications, including:
- Admissions tests – for most courses, you will be required to sit an admissions test. Each programme has a different admissions test – for some, you’ll need to register beforehand, while for others, you’ll be automatically registered by the university. Whatever test you are required to take, it is incredibly important to prepare effectively, as the score you achieve will form a major part of your application.
- Interviews – most courses require you to attend an interview with the relevant department as the last stage of the admissions process. This interview is usually a traditional panel-style interview, however, what you are asked and how it is structured can vary depending on the course you are applying for. Once again, it is very important to prepare for this interview, as it will likely be the only chance you will get to meet your department and make an impression on them face to face.
Our guide to the Oxbridge application process explains each of these stages in more detail. Oxford’s admissions timeline is another helpful resource, as it helps you map out these stages into key dates and deadlines.
4. Have you expanded your knowledge beyond the school curriculum?
In order to stand a realistic chance of getting into Oxbridge, you’ll need to show a knowledge and passion for your chosen subject that goes beyond the school curriculum. In many cases, this is obvious, such as if you’re applying for a course you cannot study at A level (or equivalent) such as Medicine. However, it is equally important to go beyond school-level study for any course, even if you have studied the subject at A level (or equivalent). For instance, if you’re applying for English Literature, you’ll need to show that you have read a wide range of literature beyond the books covered in your coursework and exams.
It’s also important to stay up to date with the news around your chosen subject, as this really demonstrates that you understand the wider context. For example, if you are applying for Geography, you should be able to discuss any recent major geographical events, such as physical catastrophes like earthquakes and volcanic activity, updates in international organisations like NATO, and significant news to do with climate change. You are likely to be asked about recent news in your interview for many subjects, so it’s important that you can showcase your knowledge and ideally give an opinion on what you’re asked about.
5. Do you enjoy being challenged academically?
Oxford and Cambridge are known for their rigorous, intensely academic courses. If you enjoy being challenged academically, these courses will be a great fit for you as they will push the boundaries of your knowledge and offer constant academic stimulation.
Looking at your current grade attainment and academic track record is also a good indication of how you respond to academic challenges. Do you consistently meet deadlines? Do you push yourself to exceed your target grades? Do you take it upon yourself to revise as well as learn new content that expands your knowledge? If you answer yes to these questions, it is likely that you are a good candidate for Oxbridge.
6. Do you have a true passion for your subject?
Studying any course at Oxbridge is an intense commitment, so it is important to have a true passion for the subject you choose. This will not only make it easier to write a genuine application that stands out, but also excel on the course itself. Think about how you have pursued your subject area outside of the classroom – for example, have you entered any competitions or challenges such as essay prizes or the UK Maths Challenge? Do you often go down rabbit holes of reading books and watching videos about particular topics? And importantly, do you stay up to date with the latest news in your chosen subject area? These are all great indicators that you are passionate about the course and will be great additions to your personal statement.
To speak with an expert about whether you are right for Oxbridge and work with a tutor on your university application, reach out to our team today. More than 95% of students who work with us get into their first or second choice university, with 55% of our Oxbridge applicants receiving an offer (more than three times the average rate!). Our expert Oxbridge tutors know just how to help you succeed.
What percentage of people who apply to Oxbridge get in?
The average acceptance rate of Cambridge is 15.7%, while the acceptance rate of Oxford is just 13.5%. This means that on average, just 14.6% of Oxbridge applicants are successful in receiving an offer.
Is it worth reapplying to Oxbridge?
Being rejected from Oxford or Cambridge doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not right for Oxbridge – it can just mean that you were unlucky this time. We know from speaking to admissions officers that they regularly have to cut people that they would have liked to offer a place to, simply because the competition was too great. You’ve now done the Oxbridge admissions process once and, with the help of feedback on your application, you’ll know what to expect and how to maximise your chances of success the second time around. For that reason, it can be worth reapplying to Oxbridge. To learn more about your options, read our guide on what to do if you do not get into Oxford or Cambridge.
Is getting into Oxbridge hard?
Oxford and Cambridge are two of the hardest universities to get into in the UK. The average acceptance rate of Cambridge is 15.7%, while the acceptance rate of Oxford is just 13.5%. This means that on average, just 14.6% of Oxbridge applicants are successful in receiving an offer. Additionally, the entry requirements for courses at Oxbridge start from AAA and can be as high as A*A*A at A level for the most competitive programmes, so applicants need top grades to be considered. If you are successful in getting through the initial screening process, you will need to sit an admissions test and attend an interview with your chosen university, both of which can be extremely challenging.
When should I start preparing for Oxbridge?
Based on our experience working with students who successfully got into Oxford or Cambridge, we recommend that you start preparing for Oxbridge in the first two terms of year 12 (or the equivalent school year when you are 16-17 years old). This should give you plenty of time to really understand the admissions process, formulate an effective preparation plan, and factor in revision for any upcoming school exams as well as your admissions test and interview.
That’s not to say that it is too late to start preparing if you are already in your final term or summer holiday of year 12 and haven’t yet begun. There will still be many useful things you can do to prepare and more intensive support available. However, if it is an option, thinking and planning ahead is always recommended to give yourself the best chance of success.