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June 2018

10 Top Tips for Applying to Oxbridge

By | Oxbridge | No Comments
Top tips Oxbridge Oxford Cambridge Admissions UCAS Interview Personal Statement

1

Choose your Course 

Choose a subject you’re truly passionate about. Investigate the courses at both Oxford and Cambridge so you know how they differ and the specifics of each. Each university offers different subjects and combinations of subjects. For example, Cambridge offers a broad Natural Sciences course which is great for those who like Science but are unsure exactly what to study, while at Oxford you would need to choose between Chemistry and Physics. You may be able to combine a second subject with History, Philosophy or Classics, for example — with the advantage that an unusual course should be less over-subscribed.

2

Check the Entrance Requirements

Find out what grades you’ll need for your chosen course. If you don’t have the required predicted grades at A level/IB, it’s unlikely you’ll be considered for interview. 

3

Attend a Subject Open Day 

Look on the university websites for Subject Open Days at Oxford or Cambridge and sign up! These are invaluable as they give you an idea of what it would be like to study your subject at university, as well as something to talk about in your Personal Statement or at interview.

4

Visit a few Colleges 

You can also attend College Open Days at both Oxford and Cambridge. These give an insight into what to expect at different colleges in terms of location, accommodation, catering and the feel of the college. If you can’t visit, take a look at their website, request an alternative prospectus (which is written by the students) as these can provide useful insight. For a real inside view of what it could be like to study there – take a look at Vlogs from students past and present, some examples are Joe Binder and Jake Wright

5

Make yourself attractive  

Start brainstorming! Think of all the open days, courses and events you’ve attended; think of all the books you’ve read, all the interesting articles you’ve perused and write them all down. If you’re lacking in areas, now is the time to do something about that. Look for local events near you, look at Oxbridge reading lists and browse the internet for interesting content and ideas; TED talks are a great place to start.  

6

Write your Personal Statement

Your Personal Statement should be at least two thirds academic — why you’re passionate about your subject and how you show it — and no more than one third about yourself and your extra-curricular activities and interests. Don’t be too modest; you need to show off about yourself and your achievements. Think hard about why you have chosen the course and subject and make sure to communicate this. Remember that anything written in your Personal Statement may be asked about at interview so don’t write about books you haven’t read, but do write about those you have read and talks you have attended.

7

Complete your UCAS Application 

Your UCAS application needs to be submitted in early October. It includes your Personal Statement and an academic reference from your school.  You may apply to either Cambridge or Oxford (not both), and then to up to four other choices in the UK (only three for Medicine). Think carefully about your insurance choices — make sure you have at least one course with slightly lower entrance requirements than what you’re predicted. Oxbridge is by no means a sure thing so having back-up universities that you would actually like to attend is very important. Visit the universities if you can and investigate your chosen courses carefully.

8

Prepare for your Admissions Test

There are different Admissions Tests depending on which course and university you’re applying to. Some are more content-based such as the UKCAT or BMAT for Medicine, and others are more thinking-based such as the TSA for many courses at Oxford and Cambridge. Make sure you are well-prepared: work through past papers and consult a subject specialist if you need help.

9

Interview Practice

Preparing for the interview is extremely important as it’s a vital part of the Oxbridge application process. If you have the required grades and a good Personal Statement, then it is generally your interview that seals the deal. The interview follows a tutorial-style format whereby tutors/fellows from the college you’re being interviewed at will talk to you about your subject. You need to be knowledgeable and articulate and your passion needs to come through. It is extremely beneficial to have had some interview practice before you face the real thing. 

10

Know Your Dates! 

You don’t want to miss a deadline and have all your hard work go to waste! See our timeline of important dates below — and constantly check the official websites in case anything changes. 
Oxbridge Oxford Cambridge timetable application admissions test interview

Applying to university in the US: The SAT

By | US Universities | No Comments
us university SAT admissions usa

First, some useful vocabulary …

College: Equivalent to University in the UK.
GPA: Grade Point Average (The GPA is calculated by taking the number of grade points a student earned in a given period of time of middle school through college).
SAT: Scholastic Aptitude Test- used by colleges as a predictor of first-year GPA at college.
ACT: American College Testing Program- an alternative to the SAT.

 

What is the SAT?

The SAT is one of two standardised college admissions tests used by US colleges/universities. The other is the ACT which is also used by US colleges. The SAT is run by the college board who also run the AP (advanced placements), taken by students in US high school instead of A-Levels. It was thought in the early 1900s that the SAT was a good predictor of grades achieved in the first year of university and therefore was a popular tool used by colleges.
The SAT measures key skills such as reading comprehension, computational ability, and clarity of expression. Your SAT score must be submitted alongside your College application and can account for up to 50% of the admission decision. While some exceptions remain, such as liberal arts colleges that may de-prioritise the SAT or the maths sections within it, the SAT score remains the single most pivotal factor in most applications for American colleges.

 

What are the SAT requirements by colleges?

All US colleges running four-year courses accept the SAT and most will require either the SAT or the ACT. Increasingly however colleges are becoming more flexible with policies so do ensure you check requirements with the college you’re applying to. Any international students looking to apply to the US will need to sit the SAT or ACT.

 

What does the SAT consist of?

There are 10 sections in the SAT:
  • An essay
  • Two reading sections
  • Two maths sections
  • One writing section
  • One experimental section
  • One 20-minute reading section
  • One 20-minute maths section
  • One 10-minute writing section
Sections 1-5 are each 20 minutes long and sections 2-5 are presented in a random order.
The test is mostly multiple choice, apart from the essay at the start and 10 grid-in questions in one of the 25-minute math sections.

 

How is the SAT scored?

The maximum possible score that can be obtained on the SAT is 1600. This number is then converted into a scaled score through equating. It is slightly unclear how this process works however it means that a score of 650 in maths on one test will always correspond to a 650 in maths on another test even if one test contains easier questions.
The average SAT score year on year is around 1500 however what counts as a good score will really depend on the college you’re applying to. For example, the 75thpercentile for Ivy League universities lies at 1560-1600. That said, if you are aiming for Ivy League, your application alongside your SAT will need to be really strong.

 

How can you prepare for the SAT?

You most certainly should prepare for the SAT, if only to get the feel of the test. There are many ways to prepare for the SAT. These include preparation books, private courses and having a private tutor. A few questions answered correctly or incorrectly can mean the difference between obtaining that sought-after place at college or not.
Part of the role as a tutor is not only to prepare a student in terms of familiarity with strategies, exam content and study skills but to give them the capacity to feel confident, prepared and grounded which both lowers stress and improves functionality. Confidence and a knowledge of the style of question asked have as much to do with boosting one’s scores as critical reading skills and advanced algebra skills. Hence a good tutor will not only teach the exam but will also teach the student how to feel both prepared and at ease.
A good tutor knows, not only the skills assessed, but also the strategies involved in applying those skills. A basic example is that the penultimate problem in most math sections is the hardest (a crafty tactic to trick students into spending too much time on it). In actual fact, finishing the equally-weighted final problem can be a more prudent strategy. A good tutor also identifies where and how a student will move forward most efficiently. Each Student needs a unique plan of how to approach the exam. A good tutor will teach differently for each student.

 

How many times should you take the test?

This will depend on the College’s admissions process. Some colleges will take a student’s best score and some an average of all tests taken. In both cases it will be beneficial to take the test many times. Some colleges split scores where they compile the student’s best scores in each section of the exam, regardless of date taken. Some colleges weight each section differently as well. It may also be beneficial for international students to ask the college whether they have any particular approach towards these student’s test scores that may differ from the way they assess native student’s scores. Preparation and familiarity are the best way to be successful, and so taking the exam a few times may well be the best course of action.

 

What sort of student excels in the SAT?

Students who do well are those who are consistent in preparing over a long period of time. Also, students who are willing to apply test strategies that are effective even when they contrast what is learned in school; students willing to work on weaknesses as well as strengths; and finally, students responding to challenges with increased efforts and determination rather than believing that they have plateaued.
Mitch Artman is an experienced Princeton-trained SAT tutor (mitch.artman@oxfordtutors.com)
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