University Admissions in a Pandemic
The annual admissions cycle is a well-known process here at Oxford Tutors, and we are proud to support our students when making successful university applications, particularly to Oxford and Cambridge. However, these are uncertain and unprecedented times, and the current global pandemic will certainly see changes and disruptions to the well-oiled machine that is the university application process.
While many universities are putting plans in place for their current students – in the form of virtual lectures and seminars, social distancing in labs, and ‘bubbles’ for Oxford tutorials and Cambridge supervisions – what can we expect to see for those applying in 2020/21?
Virtual Open Days
Open Days are a great way to see a university in person, meet the tutors and students, and see where you could potentially be living and studying for 3 or more years. How do you make those decisions when you can’t visit?
With the need to go online, universities are producing vast amounts of content; filming sample lectures, setting up video chat rooms, getting creative with how they present themselves. Students who under normal circumstances would not be able to travel to open days are getting far more than they ever had, and we hope that this continues in proceeding years in some form.
Register your interest for these events via the university websites and keep an eye on social media streams to get the most out these offerings. For Oxford that’s @OxOutreach, and Cambridge is @Cambridge_Uni on Twitter.
Oxford and Cambridge’s Virtual Open Days will take place between 1st and 3rd of July 2020.
Socially distanced admissions tests
For most applicants, taking the admissions tests this year will be the first formal assessment undertaken with social distancing measures in place.
Cambridge Admissions Assessment Testing – who administer the majority of pre-interview assessments for Oxford and Cambridge, as well as national tests like the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), STEP Mathematics, and Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) – are busy making arrangements to keep all candidates safe and within regulations. All updates are being posted here: www.admissionstesting.org. Follow them on Twitter for tips and updates: @admissionstests.
Pearson Vue – who run the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) – have opened some of their test centres and are currently asking all test candidates to wear face masks, as well as observing the regulations of the country in which they’re based. If you will be taking the LNAT our advice is to:
Book early! Test centres can take less candidates due to social distancing so slots will book up fast.
As per our normal advice, complete some practice tests under assessment conditions. This now means you should do this with a mask on that covers your nose and face. The LNAT is a 2¼ hour test and you will not be allowed to remove it when in the test centre.
Our tutors are all recent graduates, or current students, at Oxford and Cambridge so have experience of admissions tests. Our mock test programme will help you prepare for these assessments.
Interviews via video call?
Every year thousands of hopeful candidates descend on Oxford and Cambridge, for a day or three of intense admissions interviews. Oxford interviews around 10,000 applicants, at Cambridge it’s 20,000. Plans are still being discussed at both institutions but given the numbers, and the distances some candidates will be travelling, it is likely that in-person interviews will look a lot different in December 2020.
Our prediction is that many students will only be interviewed by video call, particularly those students overseas. Oxford Tutors are well versed in preparing students for interview – 75% of our 2019/20 programme achieved an offer – and our tutors’ experience of online teaching means that we are well placed to prepare students for realistic interviews in whichever format they are offered.
— Sophie Hurden, Admissions Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tutoring in a time of home working
Whatever your educational stage, Oxford Tutors provides friendly advice and support, along with exceptionally talented tutors from top Oxford schools and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. From Year 3 upwards, through those all-important senior school entry years, via GCSE and A Levels, and through to Undergraduate studies, we can help you and your child realise your educational goals.
We have developed unique materials to help diagnose areas of weakness to ensure that your child’s and our combined efforts are focused on success. Our experienced team of education advisors has decades of experience of private schools’ entry requirements to help you navigate the uncertainties of choosing a school to a happy and successful outcome. We have an outstanding record of preparing candidates for Oxford and Cambridge admissions tests and interviews, pairing them one-to-one with successful past entrants and using our unique proprietary materials.
We recognise that the reasons for seeking tutoring support are many and varied, from international transfers, augmenting home teaching or reaching for those extra grades to secure the next stage of your child’s educational ambitions. Successful tutoring turns on the fit between student and tutor which is key to building a successful relationship, so we have interviewed all our tutors in person to ensure they meet the gold standard that we require.
Many factors contribute to the success of tutoring. Oxford Tutors brings these together to provide an exceptional tutoring experience whether in the real or virtual world. We may all be finding life rather static at present, but your child’s education doesn’t need to be.
— Laura, Education Consultant, email@example.com
Performance Coaching for Home Learning
How to use Key Strengths to stay motivated and on track with online learning
Performance Coaching is all about helping students to identify their Key Strengths to optimise motivation, resourcefulness, grit and well-being.
In my online sessions with students, we use the Strengths Questionnaire to identify their Natural Strengths. We then find creative ways to use each unique strength to optimise independent learning, goal setting, and self-belief. Helping students use their Key Strengths to keep them motivated and on-task is essential during this unprecedented period of online learning.
Recently, I worked with a home-schooled boy in Year 11 who came up with the most fantastic ideas. He worked with me on finding ways to utilise his top strength of ‘Perspective’, and shared that he could using ‘self-coaching’ to keep motivated, ‘avoiding engaging in unhelpful thinking filters’ to keep him on task, and ‘seeing the examiner’s perspective’ when writing answers to maximise marks. For ‘Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence’, he wrote ‘acknowledge my own everyday successes’ and ‘knowing what’s good and what’s bad work’.
Encourage your child to write down some of their Key Strengths, and get them to think about how they can use them. For example, a simple yet effective way to start the day is to focus on ‘what’s strong, rather than what’s wrong’.
— Pepita Torbrand, Performance Coach, firstname.lastname@example.org
Five Common Myths about Online Tutoring
Online tutoring is becoming more and more popular. In 2019, we delivered five times as many online tutorials as in 2018. Many parents, students and tutors, however, are still unsure about how online tutoring works and how it could help them. In this blog post, I’ll tackle five common myths about online tutoring.
“We won’t be able to develop a real connection online.”
This is the most common concern we hear about online tutoring. A great connection between student and tutor is essential for tutorials, and online is no exception.
Thanks to the professionalism of our tutors and constantly improving technology, strong tutor and student connections online are now the norm. We are proud of all the feedback we get for our tutorials, including for our online tutorials – here is what a parent recently had to say about their online experience:
“Exceptional teacher. Kind, patient and encouraging. My son’s grades were so improved after having him as a tutor – could not recommend highly enough!”
There was no need to mention their tutorials being online – with Oxford Tutors, you get the same exceptional standard every time.
“Children will be distracted being on their computer or iPad.”
Parents and tutors are often concerned that children will not be able to focus if they are using their computers – most of the time we associate laptops and iPads with being a distraction!
With online tutoring, this idea is turned on its head. Children are used to working on computers, and the interactive nature of online tutoring means that it captures their full attention. The whiteboard takes up the full screen and the technology becomes the student’s focus for the tutorial.
“Online tutorials sound too complicated!”
Thanks to our simple online system, getting connected is easy. No installations or updates are needed – any laptop or tablet with a webcam and Google Chrome installed can get online. Simply click on the link we send you to be taken to your online whiteboard, where you will find more instructions on how to get started.
We strongly recommend using a writing tablet for the best online tutorial experience. Writing tablets are readily available on online marketplaces – click here to see our favourite. The online whiteboard also works really well on an iPad with an Apple Pencil!
Finally, the team at Oxford Tutors is always on hand to provide technical support – just email email@example.com before or during your tutorial and we’ll do our best to help.
“Online tutorials are unsecure and unsafe.”
Student safety is our priority at Oxford Tutors and our online whiteboard system does not compromise in any way on student safety.
Unlike tutoring over Skype or FaceTime, no student email addresses or Skype names need to be shared. Parents and members of the Oxford Tutors office team can join and monitor tutorials at any time, from anywhere in the world. Students who struggle to work in school and other face to face environments can continue to learn from the security of their own home, opening up new opportunities for students who would otherwise be unable to learn.
“It will be inconvenient to get online and connected for tutorials.”
Online tutoring opens up many more opportunities for tutorials. School term breaks, early mornings, free periods, and more become available thanks to the option of online tutorials.
Even better, costly travel time is eliminated, which helps tutors and parents. There is no limit to the number of students who can be online per family, so all four children can be having tutorials with different tutors at once!
The Rise of Oxbridge Admissions Specialists
An increasing number of schools are employing admissions specialists to guide their students through their applications to Oxbridge and other competitive universities according to a report by the Centre for Social Justice. With competition for the top university places becoming more fierce, these specialists are being sought after to give applicants an edge by preparing them for all parts of the process, from the UCAS application up to the entrance exam and interview in the case of Oxbridge or Medicine.
For example, Brampton Manor Academy in East Ham employs a university access team consisting of five full-time Oxbridge graduates whose sole focus is supporting university applications. Their students received 51 Oxbridge offers this year, making it comparable to top independent schools. This is made even more impressive by the fact that Brampton Manor is a state comprehensive with a highly selective sixth form which has achieved their success without support from top independent schools or strong links to Oxbridge colleges like other similar schools.
The report suggests that individual Oxbridge colleges should use their access budgets to employ these admissions specialists to work at schools in the most disadvantaged areas. Each Oxford and Cambridge college is assigned certain regions of the country for which they are responsible for increasing Oxbridge access to the students from those regions. They each employ an outreach officer to oversee trips to schools in their regions to host practice interviews for potential Oxbridge candidates and to generally encourage students to apply (including myself). This effort could be extended further if disadvantaged students were given access to a more regular mentor to help guide them through their application and build a more personal relationship with.
Other research indicates that many secondary school teachers do not push their top students in the direction of Oxbridge, with 43% responding saying they “rarely or never” advised gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge. The three main reasons they cited were that they did not think such pupils would be happy there, they did not think those pupils would perform well academically there or they believed they would not get in. Having this staunch attitude towards Oxbridge results in many students not being presented with the option, which means many hear about it too late to apply or inherit their teachers’ lack of confidence and do not see it as a possibility. A dedicated admissions specialist could build these potential candidates up and give them the confidence to apply to Oxbridge if that is what they want.
If you or your students will be applying for university this October and could benefit from working with such a specialist, take a look at our Admissions page. Whether you are looking for admissions test preparation or would like advice on how to go about the whole application process, click here to book a free twenty-minute consultation over the phone to discuss what the best option may be.
— James Roper, Maths Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
At Oxford Tutors, we support a number of students applying to study at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. We are delighted to report that 2019-20 has been our most successful year yet!
Oxbridge applicants who were supported by Oxford Tutors this year were more than 4 times as likely to be offered a place at Oxford or Cambridge universities than the average.
75% of students who accessed our services for admissions test preparation, and had at least two mock interviews, achieved an offer from either Oxford or Cambridge. In fact, those students who had more than two mock interviews with us were almost twice as likely to get an offer as those who didn’t.
Students who attended our Oxbridge Interview Preparation Day, held in Oxford on the weekend before the interviews, were three times more likely to get an offer than the average.
Considering individual subjects, with Oxford Tutors’ support, students are:
nearly 7 times more likely to gain an offer for Mathematics
4 times more likely to gain an offer for Economics, Natural Sciences and English
3 times more likely to gain an offer for Law and Engineering
Oxford Tutors also works with schools to offer Oxbridge admissions preparation. Of those schools we visited in 2019, all Cambridge applicants were invited to attend an interview, and students attending were more than 50% likely to be offered a place.
We are aiming to do even better in the next admissions cycle, so if you will be applying for university this October take a look at our Admissions page! Whether you are looking for admissions test preparation or would like advice on how to go about the whole application process, click here to book a free twenty-minute consultation over the phone to discuss what the best option may be.
— Sophie Hurden, Universities Advisor, email@example.com
What kind of learner are you?
What is a Learning Style?
Let’s get something straight from the off — in tutoring, what works is the alchemy of the one-to-one relationship between the student and tutor. However, with only one person to focus on, tutors can try a variety of teaching styles and methods in order to work out the most effective way of helping the student understand a topic. This is something that an experienced and effective tutor will do intuitively.
But could prior understanding of the tutee’s learning style help here? Oxford Tutors continues to pursue the highest and most effective standards of tailored academic tutoring. These standards apply to all our tutors whether weathered professionals or those at the start of their career. With previous knowledge of a tutee’s preferred learning style, the tutor is guided to an awareness of different teaching styles and their effect on their tutees. The tutor is led therefore to a self-critical (in the positive sense) evaluation of her/his practice.
There are many different learning styles models extant, but the most popular one seems to be the VAK model due to its simplicity and ease of applicability. The VAK model uses three main sensory receivers – Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic – to determine the dominant learning style. Of course, learners use all three modalities to learn and process new information but according to this model one or two modalities are likely to dominate. The dominant style(s) defines the best way for the learner to acquire and understand new information. However, the VAK theorists acknowledge that teachers need to use all three styles in their presentations. Styles may also differ for different topics.
Someone with a dominant visual learning style remembers information better if it is presented through images, maps, graphs or diagrams.
The tutor may try any of the following methods
Use graphs, diagrams or other visual aids
Use images to support theory
Create handouts – these can be given out in advance of the next tutorial
Encourage the student to write things down – questions, answers, mind maps etc
Such learners prefer talking to others and discussing the material. They tend to focus on what is being said.
The tutor might
Give a short introduction and conclude with a summary when presenting new information
Ask lots of questions
Encourage participative interaction
Such a learner prefers the more practical approach and likes to learn through motion and touch where possible. They like to be active while learning and can be distracted when there is little or no external stimulation or movement.
The tutor might
Use game-like activities
Use coloured pens in their presentations
Keep interaction going
We are excited to begin using this research to improve the quality of our teaching. We will be trialling these ideas with our students and tutors over the coming weeks and months. Follow this link to find your learning style.
— David B Levey, Academic Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Should your child learn to code?
By 2030, an estimated 400-800 million jobs will be lost to automation. Therefore, the next few years will see a growing demand for people who can create and maintain the machines that will take over the workplace. Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in coding both in schools and in the workplace. As a result, learning to code is becoming increasingly accessible for all ages, so in this first blog I will explain why I think it is worthwhile for young people to learn to code.
Coding allows young people to develop a better understanding of how the devices around them work. Coding is the language that devices use to communicate with one another, so by learning it you learn not only how to speak to devices in this language, but also gain an understanding of how they operate and how the processes we take for granted occur. This clearer understanding allows young people to ask, “how could I make this better?”, which encourages them to take initiative and be proactive.
Today, children often start using technology from a young age, which results in them growing up with an intuitive understanding of how to manipulate devices to their needs. However, they are limited by the capability of the programs they are using. Coding lifts this restriction by giving them the tools to come up with their own programs to solve their own problems. Coming up with your own solution to a problem (where there are likely multiple correct ways to go about it) kindles creativity, which is a powerful skill to have, especially as it is often lacking from other STEM-related subjects in schools.
The process of coding is one of constant improvement. One begins with their first draft of a program, which will often fail to run the first time it is executed. To fix this, one learns how to systematically comb through the code line by line to find the problem and correct it. This is a very effective way of learning the language (making small mistakes repeatedly until you find a working solution) and it teaches persistence, as you have a clear goal which you are struggling towards and are repeatedly attempting to build a working solution.