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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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.
To conclude, coding builds a deeper understanding of the inner workings of devices (which allows young people to be proactive and ask how they could improve them), creativity through working on open-ended problems, and persistence from repeatedly struggling towards a goal by making small mistakes until the correct answer is reached.
— James Roper, Maths and Computer Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reaching for the stars: How Performance Coaching can release your inner strengths
Performance Coaching is an evidence-based approach which uses concrete techniques to help optimise academic performance and increase confidence. It uses elements of mindfulness and positive psychology to develop a constructive inner voice and develop personal strengths to reach academic goals.
Our Performance Coach, Pepita, writes of her experience:
My greatest reward as a psychologist is helping students remove what is standing in their way of performing to their very best and helping them reach their full potential! As a coach, I see a lot of students who experience psychological barriers and frequent unhelpful thoughts that play havoc with their confidence, motivation and performance and reduce their self-belief and grades as a result. Not too long ago I Skype-coached a student who was just about to do his GCSEs who came to me with terrible anxiety that prevented him from sleeping the night before an exam, experiencing stomach pain, going shaky, feeling faint, sweating, and unable to eat breakfast, leading him, and his performance into a vicious circle.
After three online sessions where we worked on his inner coach, utilising his key strengths, visualisation, affirmative thinking and stress release techniques he sat his exams with confidence, focus and courage. This really shows the power of our mindsets and how important mindsets are. I was incredibly proud when I heard the news from his parents late Aug that their son had got all 9s and 8s in his exams! That is my true reward. Because I know that this 16-year-old boy has a new earned mindset that will improve his confidence, courage and success, not just in exams, but for life!
To learn more about Performance Coaching, please see our website here.
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.
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.
Attend a Subject Open Day
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Know Your Dates!
You don’t want to miss a deadline and have all your hard work go to waste! Keep a careful eye on the official websites and be give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
Oxford Tutors can connect you with an Oxford or Cambridge graduate mentor: an experienced expert who will guide you through the admissions process.
The 11+ Common Pre-Test refers to the set of online, multiple-choice tests set for the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB). They are taken when a pupil is in Year 6 or 7, at a computer, and are adaptive, getting harder as students show that they have mastered a topic. This two-and-a-half hour exam includes Maths, English Non-Verbal and Verbal reasoning, and is for entrance into independent schools such as St Edward’s School and Radley College.
For more information see the ISEB website here.
The 11+ Entrance Test is different for each school, so it is best to visit their individual websites to check for specific entrance requirements. Usually, they will include Maths, English, Non-Verbal and Verbal reasoning. Having sat the test, successful candidates are then invited for an interview. This is the case for schools such as St Helen and St Katharine School, Magdalen College School and Oxford High School.
Oxford Tutors is running an 11+ and ISEB Common Pre-Test Preparation Course in north Oxford during October half term. We have highly experienced teachers who are well-versed in preparing children for these exams, who can assess your child and give them individual guidance on how to improve their performance through practice and gain confidence.
If you have any questions or would like to book a place, please click here or call 01865 655660. We would be happy to help!
— Laura Nall, 11+ Specialist, email@example.com
A few 11+ taster questions to whet your appetite:
Give TWO words of FIVE or more letters that can be made out of the letters in the word SUBJUNCTIVE. You can use a letter as often as it appears in the word and may use the letters in any order (e.g. CUBES).
Here are some patterns made from tiles:
How many grey tiles are there in the 8th pattern?
There is a pattern number with 40 white tiles. Which pattern number is it?
Unlocking Student Success: the Key Ingredient
A new era in education has arrived: students of all ages are experiencing the effects of ever-increasing academic pressure. More frequent assessment, chasing ‘target’ grades, added competition for university places, and a highly competitive employment market are just a few of the demands placed upon young people.
Students must also shoulder the experience of their wider school life, and the world facing students beyond the school gate or the front door of home. It is a complex world, a difficult world and it is widely documented just how difficult students can find this living experience.
What does the added pressure mean? Quite often the answer is long-term steady disengagement with the education process, reduced performance and outcomes, and deteriorating well-being. As a result, educators are constantly looking for ways to appease these experiences by exploring ‘new’ teaching methods, offering ‘support classes’ or increasing teaching contact time. Perhaps the real solution is something more obvious and presents itself right in front of our own eyes … or behind closed eyes?
Sleep is more important than you think. While we know the all humans need sleep to keep us healthy, happy and functioning at our best, too often we get far too little of it and spend our lives compromising it. Sleep for students is especially important, as in general, they have busy days at school, run around with friends, attending ‘extra’ classes or activities, doing their homework, or keeping up with their social lives. By the end of the day, their body needs a break. Sleep allows children’s bodies to rest up in preparation for tackling the next day. It is also worth understanding that a lack of sleep does not just leave energy stores low, but even one night of poor sleep can trigger a negative hormonal response such as elevating cortisol, the stress hormone. We should perhaps view our bodies like a car; the ‘petrol tank’ is full at the beginning of the day and empty by the end of the day, so refuelling every night is essential for proper development and optimal day-to-day functioning.
A child’s brain needs sleep so that he or she can:
remember what he/she learns
pay attention and concentrate
solve problems and think of new ideas
A child’s body needs sleep so that:
his / her muscles, bones and skin can grow and develop
his / her muscles, skin and other parts can rejuvenate and heal
his / her body can stay healthy and fight sickness
Understanding Sleep Cycles
STAGE 1 & 2 You fall asleep but are not yet in a deep sleep.
STAGE 3 You are in a deep sleep. Your breathing and heart rate slow down and your body is still.
STAGE 4 Your brain is active and you dream. Your eyes move beneath your eyelids known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This sleep cycle is repeated 5 or 6 times during the night.
How can you promote a ‘sleep optimal’ routine?
Ensure that your child goes to bed at the same time every night, this helps his / her body get into a routine.
Ensure that your child follows a bedtime routine that is calming, such as taking a warm bath or reading and avoid activities that will stimulate the senses.
Limit your child’s intake of foods and drinks that contain caffeine. These include some sodas and other common drinks, like ice tea.
Do not allow your child to have a TV in his / her room. Research shows that kids who have one in their rooms sleep less. If you have a TV, turn it off when it’s time to sleep.
Don’t allow your kids to watch scary TV shows or movies close to bedtime. For obvious reasons, these types of movies can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Ensure that beds are for sleeping — not for doing homework, reading, playing games, or talking on the phone. That way, they will train their bodies to associate their bed with sleep.
Andy Dalgleish (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an experienced teacher of Geography and an accomplished sportsman.
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:
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.