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Oxford History Students and Applicants

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Got a question about Student Finance? Ask the experts this week on TSR! 14-09-2014
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    (Original post by Mook)
    I haven't been following this closely, but what is going to happen about being able to borrow books? It's all very well moving them to the Rad Cam - although even that is annoying - but being able to borrow books from the HFL was really important during my degree. One of the main perks of a History degree is that you organise your study time yourself, which is much harder to do if you can only use books in a reading room. College libraries' History provision often (in my experience) tends to be skewed towards the period specialities of the in-house tutors, so they can vary from having all of your reading list to virtually nothing.
    Apparantly you'll still be able to take books from that collection out through self service machines in the Gladstone Link, which I think is a mistake. Apart from anything, they already get suspicious when I go into the Rad Cam with a book from somewhere else, the Bod as a lending library breaks hundereds of years of tradition and the Gladstone Link is awful! Catz has one of the best history provisions of any college - part of why I applied - but it doesn't have everything by a long shot.
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    Hi there! Could I tempt anyone to come along to the small but perfectly formed Mansfield College this evening, Wed 13/6/12, to hear our visiting fellow Dr.Matthew Grenby's lecture 'William Godwin and the Politics of Children's Literature? It is hosted by the College's '1963 Society' (History group). Students from other colleges very welcome, refreshments provided. It's in the Council Room at 8pm.

    As you prob'ly know, Godwin was an early feminist and Utilitarian, husband of Mary Wollstonecraft and father of Mary Shelley. He was also a children's author and Dr.Grenby will be focusing on this less well known aspect of Godwin's life.
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    Hey guys,

    Would an A2 student that:
    - Did pretty badly at GCSE: 2A*5As, B and C
    - Is only doing 3 A Levels (and general studies)
    - Is doing relatively weak subjects (History, Economics and Psychology)
    - Will probably get A*s in General Studies and Psychology, not History
    - Will be working abroad October-March

    Have any realistic chance of getting in?


    Also you're discussing sociology and politics here. Is that the emphasis at Oxford?
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    (Original post by Placebo101)
    Hey guys,

    Would an A2 student that:
    - Did pretty badly at GCSE: 2A*5As, B and C
    - Is only doing 3 A Levels (and general studies)
    - Is doing relatively weak subjects (History, Economics and Psychology)
    - Will probably get A*s in General Studies and Psychology, not History
    - Will be working abroad October-March

    Have any realistic chance of getting in?


    Also you're discussing sociology and politics here. Is that the emphasis at Oxford?
    They will probably care rather little about any of the stuff you mentioned. AAA is the entry requirement for history so they won't specify an A* requirement in history either.

    You have a realistic chance of getting in if your PS, HAT, and interviews go well.

    There really is no focus as such - definitely not on sociology, though you may have to do some of it in Approaches on your first year if you pick that, and what you do depends on your and your tutors' interests though some colleges may have restrictions on the papers you can do on your first year. You can take a look at the history handbook on the Oxford history faculty webpage to see what kinds of options there are.

    It's a really fun course though doesn't really seem so to me right now as I'm mid-exams, so do give it a go!
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    Hey,

    Just wanted some advice on whether or not I should apply to Oxford with my GCSE results they are:

    4A*
    4As
    3Bs

    I know they're not terrible and I was happy at the time but I see that everyone applying has like 9A*s and no Bs. Do I stand any realistic chance?

    I'm studying History, Economics, English Lit and Geography at the minute.

    Thanks
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    (Original post by Puzzzled)
    Hey,

    Just wanted some advice on whether or not I should apply to Oxford with my GCSE results they are:

    4A*
    4As
    3Bs

    I know they're not terrible and I was happy at the time but I see that everyone applying has like 9A*s and no Bs. Do I stand any realistic chance?

    I'm studying History, Economics, English Lit and Geography at the minute.

    Thanks
    Yes, apply. Performance in the HAT is the main factor for interview selection. GCSEs are a lesser consideration and are viewed in relation to your school's general performance.

    Good luck
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    Hi! I'm planning to apply for History and Economics this year. The H&E thread is a bit :tumble: so I'm posting my question here
    I was wondering how specific the history essays you do for the tutorials can be. Like, how large would the time periods be and would you be able to focus on a particular topic/theme in the period (eg economic history/political history)? It seems on the website that the papers you take tend to cover quite a lot. Thanks!
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    (Original post by blueconstellation)
    Hi! I'm planning to apply for History and Economics this year. The H&E thread is a bit :tumble: so I'm posting my question here
    I was wondering how specific the history essays you do for the tutorials can be. Like, how large would the time periods be and would you be able to focus on a particular topic/theme in the period (eg economic history/political history)? It seems on the website that the papers you take tend to cover quite a lot. Thanks!
    Please see my Visitor Message on your TSR profile for my answers to your other questions. In terms of tutorials, the essays you're asked to produce vary depending upon, mainly, the personality of the tutor. Some like very expansive essay questions in which students draw upon a rich, eclectic mixture of evidence from many time periods and countries; other, conversely, favour 'depth' questions which focus in on a narrow topic and require detailed research. On the whole, modules' essay requirements are structured logically. In the first few weeks, you write general, sweeping essays that give you a flavour of a particular period or theme; as the module progresses, you will hone in on specific events or historical figures. The advantage to this is that you get 'a little bit of everything' - as a rule, in my experience, breadth is never fully sacrificed for depth, nor vice versa. This is handy because it teaches you both styles, as it were. There is a 'time and a place' for very detailed, 'nuggety' essays just as there is for a broader focus. The essays you will produce are, on the whole, between 1,500 and 2,500 words in length, although some weeks particular tutors like to get their students to produce multiple shorter pieces of work. It is rare that you will be asked to produce substantial, 'meaty' pieces of work, though when you are you are typically given between 2 and 4 weeks to complete it. (This could be as much as a 6,000 word discursive piece which looks at an entire century thematically.)

    Tutorials are a challenge but incredibly rewarding; there's nothing quite like it as a learning experience, I tell you that!
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    (Original post by shoshin)
    Yes, apply. Performance in the HAT is the main factor for interview selection. GCSEs are a lesser consideration and are viewed in relation to your school's general performance.

    Good luck
    Shoshin has it right here: GCSEs are almost a 'non-factor' in determining someone's worthiness of an Oxford place. The key is to enjoy your A-levels/Cambridge Pre-U and read widely and eclectically. Cultivate intellectual interests and make sure you're going 'above and beyond' what is expected of you. It's important to take the initiative because at Oxford that's the expectation. Ask your teachers for additional books to read that will help 'flesh out' your knowledge of a particular area, particularly if it's one you enjoy. Many schools these days have special programmes run by the teachers or Heads of Department to help students prepare for applying for Oxbridge. These generally are a great help. If your school doesn't currently run one, there are still plenty of things you tutors can do to help. For example, try asking a teacher if they'll spend five minutes with you at the end of a lesson, in which you have to explain why an aspect of a particular subject interests you. Much of any Oxford interview consists of you justifying your own intellectual endeavours and preferences - as well as responding to material/stimuli that you won't have come across before.

    Think laterally: it's a truism that Oxbridge dons love unconventional minds.
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    Some advice with the HAT:

    a.) Sometimes 'less is more' - don't think that writing lots will be an advantage, as often it isn't;
    b.) Try to 'put your own stamp' on things. It's a mistake to simply regurgitate accepted dogma;
    c.) Detail is not your enemy: tutors like to see detailed analysis with a variety of supporting evidence. If this means you don't cover quite as much ground overall, don't worry about it;
    d.) Practise practise practise. Writing under timed conditions in any situation can be stressful and scary. If you practise writing discursively in the time slot allowed, this will do you the world of good when you sit the HAT as well as your A-level/Cambridge Pre-U examinations;
    e.) Take your time: all too often students feel that they need to blast through pre-learnt answers. This can be a red herring - originality and sensitivity of response is often favoured over immaculate 'model answers'.

    Hope this wasn't too patronising and that it's helpful.
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    (Original post by blueconstellation)
    ...I was wondering how specific the history essays you do for the tutorials can be. Like, how large would the time periods be and would you be able to focus on a particular topic/theme in the period (eg economic history/political history)?
    Sorry that you did not get a quick response here. The subject specific threads are always quieter than the chattier ones, especially during vacations.

    Although the outline papers appear to span a broad period, in practice there is no way, in seven or eight weeks, that your tutor will be able to cover everything that happened from, say, 1914 to 1945. Instead, the tutor will usually make some initial informed decisions about which topics to focus on. This is often done in discussion with the student, along the lines of : 'I thought we might start with the Russian Revolution, then Fascist Italy, maybe Latin America and the Great Depression, a couple of weeks on the Spanish Civil War, and perhaps touch upon both Film and Gender towards the end of the term. How does that sound?'

    This means that straight away there will be some questions on the exam paper that you will not really be in a position to tackle. But that's fine because you only need to answer three questions out of maybe twelve or fifteen, so your reduced set of seven or eight topics is plenty. In fact, you will prob'ly drop a couple of them from your revision plans and just swot up on five or six.

    Within each of these weekly topics, some tutors may offer a couple of choices of essay title, but in my experience you will more often have to work with what is given to you. Even then, there is frequently scope for further specialization in your essay; if the title is related to Latin America, for example, you might focus on Mexico and Venezuela to support your argument, whereas your tutorial partner may attack the question a different way and involve other countries.

    In short, don't be put off by the broad periods, because these get broken down into individual topics and you will often have some limited degree of input into the topics chosen.

    Good luck
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    Good luck
    Thank you! That was really helpful!
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    Thinking of reapplying this year after being pooled and rejected last year.
    Scratching my head as to how to improve my application, wondered what people thought of the idea of taking an EPQ during my Gap Year at local college? Useful? Any other suggestions as to how to spend my Gap Year most productively, in terms of reapplication? Historically focussed travel?
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    Thinking of reapplying this year after being pooled and rejected last year.
    Scratching my head as to how to improve my application, wondered what people thought of the idea of taking an EPQ during my Gap Year at local college? Useful? Any other suggestions as to how to spend my Gap Year most productively, in terms of reapplication? Historically focussed travel?
    If I was in your position I would do loads more reading and also try and get on a historical research project, for example here: http://www.history.ac.uk/research/current (tried to get on one this year, but was too late :frown:) Travel sounds good too, especially if you link it to reading you've done.
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    (Original post by samloveshistory)
    Thinking of reapplying this year after being pooled and rejected last year.
    Scratching my head as to how to improve my application, wondered what people thought of the idea of taking an EPQ during my Gap Year at local college? Useful? Any other suggestions as to how to spend my Gap Year most productively, in terms of reapplication? Historically focussed travel?
    Did you find out your HAT score last time?
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    (Original post by shoshin)
    Did you find out your HAT score last time?
    No I didn't. How would I go about doing that? Is it too late to find out?
    I always felt quite confident with HAT and I think, but I'm only guessing, that HAT was a reason for being pooled...
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    (Original post by samloveshistory)
    No I didn't. How would I go about doing that? Is it too late to find out?
    I always felt quite confident with HAT and I think, but I'm only guessing, that HAT was a reason for being pooled...
    No, it's not too late, but they were available from January so maybe mention in a polite email that you did not realize that it was possible to find out and that the info would now help you with your course selection etc.

    Send the email, with something like 'HAT score enquiry' as subject, to:

    schools.liaison@history.ox.ac.uk

    ..with your full name and the college you applied to. UCAS number too if you still have it, though this would only be needed if you were worried that someone might have a very similar name.

    Your HAT score would of course have been good enough to get you the interview, and from that position it is definitely possible to get an offer whatever your score was. However, given that you are looking at quite detailed tweaks for your reapplication, the HAT result would be a very good place to start because it is almost certainly weighted second only to the interview itself when the final decisions are made.

    When you say 'being pooled', I presume that you are just referring to the fact that you had an interview at a second or third college? There's no reason to read too much into this as it is very common and is done for a number of different reasons. It is not at all unknown for someone to be sent to a second college and then subsequently get an offer from their first one. So it is not 'pooling' in the Cambridge sense of being rejected and in limbo.

    Good luck and don't hesitate to post again if needed
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    (Original post by shoshin)
    Good luck and don't hesitate to post again if needed
    Thanks, I've whacked off an email. I'm currently struggling to decide between reapplying or taking my place at Durham.

    I don't know if you're a past/present history student but if you are, could you please tell me about your experience of Tutorials at Oxford? Is it all it's cracked up to be? What was the student ratio like?

    Thanks,
    Sam
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    (Original post by samloveshistory)
    ...could you please tell me about your experience of Tutorials at Oxford? Is it all it's cracked up to be? What was the student ratio like?
    Yes, I'm currently reading History here. I have had tutorials alone, or with one other student, or more rarely in a group of three. The experience is very much dependent on the tutor. I haven't yet had a tutor who hasn't written an important published work on the material under discussion; this level of individual engagement with leading experts is the Oxbridge USP of course. However, brilliant scholars don't always make the best tutors, and they are not always the most convivial company either. You already have experience of an Oxford interview and a tutorial is often quite like a slightly more relaxed version of this, but one in which you are defending the position you have taken in your weekly essay.

    This kind of learning (it can hardly be called teaching really) suits some people more than others and isn't necessarily directly related to ability; every year on TSR there are stories of successful Oxford applicants who then receive a rejection from Durham or UCL. So I feel that you are right to think hard about whether the tutorial system alone would be sufficient reason to give up your place at such a prestigious uni as Durham
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    (Original post by shoshin)
    Did you find out your HAT score last time?
    I just received an email from the liaison office. I scored 69/100, over the average for interviewees (62) and successful applicants (66). Pretty pleased with that...

    (Original post by shoshin)
    This kind of learning (it can hardly be called teaching really) suits some people more than others and isn't necessarily directly related to ability; every year on TSR there are stories of successful Oxford applicants who then receive a rejection from Durham or UCL. So I feel that you are right to think hard about whether the tutorial system alone would be sufficient reason to give up your place at such a prestigious uni as Durham
    Ok that's reassuring; I had heard anecdotes of Oxford tutorials 'not being what they used to be', but you have reassured me greatly.

    Do you know any people who were successful second time round?

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