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The Official "Oxford or Cambridge?" Thread

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Original post by icing_frolick
Yeah I went yesterday. I looked at St Edmund's Hall which was really pretty, Hertford, New, Brasenose -

Catz was the only one where I actually talked to tutors and I really liked them - although the building obviously isn't as nice as other places. I didn't see Trinity - although that's one of the really so-called 'prestigious' ones isn't it? What did you get in for?

And as you mention it, did he flounder and still get in?


He got in :smile: Often when you're floundering it's because they start pushing you to your limits (which means they're interested to see just how good you are)- often people who thought they did terribly get offers while overconfident people don't get in. Don't worry, they're not expecting beautiful poetry to flow from your mouth in response to every question!

Trinity isn't too prestigious....you're thinking of the other place :wink:
Trinity, Oxford is a nice small community plonked into huge grounds and supplied with good food and, of course, good education.

It's not an academic powerhouse like Merton though :wink:
Apparently, tutors care about your academic development, but they aren't overly pushy.

I got in for French, which is a very literary course so actually most of my interviews were spent analysing poetry and novels =S Once you get into it it really is a very enjoyable experience (At least as long as your tutors are as nice and friendly as the Trinity language tutors were).

Also, you'll probably meet some awesome, like-minded people so no matter what happens, you'll have benefited from the experience.
Thanks so much for all of these - SO helpful. One last question - if you get asked a question in interview that you don't know how to answer, what do you do?!
Original post by icing_frolick
Hey sorry to interrupt but I really need help. Basically I'm really stuck between Oxford or Cambridge for studying English Literature. Just wondering if anyone's got advice about which I'm more likely to get an offer from/what it's like being there?

I love the fact that the Oxford course starts earlier, and the historical contexts bits. I also know that it's the best university for English and has the biggest English faculty and some bits of the town I think are really beautiful. Apparently you can also do bits of classical literature in your modules, any more info on this?

However I also like the look of the cambridge course. I like that you can take a module in a foreign language (I would do greek or latin) as part of the course, and the tragedy paper that you take in the third year. I also think that Cambridge as a town is much prettier overall than Oxford- however as my grades aren't all that high i've been advised to apply to a college either out of town, or with less beautiful buildings as I might have more chance of an offer.

I have 9A*'s 2A's (physics and stats) and a B (dance-woops) at GCSE, 4 A's (UMS 192 for latin, 194 for Art, 186 for history but only 184 for English :/) at AS and am predicted 4 A*'s.

ANY advice about which to go for would be sooooo helpful! Thank you!


As well as being about intelligence, grades, passion for the subject, performance at interview etc, I think getting a place at either Oxford or Cambridge involves a fair amount of luck. Therefore I would suggest applying to the one you genuinely prefer.

That said, if you are torn between them, I was told that Oxford look at GCSEs more, and Cambridge look at AS UMS (as only they ask for them). But really don't worry too much about your UMS - they are really good. I got about the same UMS as you (186 for English, which I thought would spell instant rejection) and got an offer from Cam. I did apply to Girton, which you would class as an 'out of town' college - but it's so pretty, and everyone on the freshers' groups seem really welcoming, and it's only a 15 min cycle ride away from town, which would probably be the normal commute for any other university.

I think at Oxford you only get to do classical literature in translation, unless you do joint English and Classics. But at Cam you can do the foreign lit paper and borrow modules from Classics in your third year.

I think Cambridge interview more people than Oxford, which uses the ELAT as a decider.

The pooling system (at both Ox and Cam) is supposed to insure that everyone worthy of an offer gets one, but then I'm not entirely sure this always works in practice.

So just apply where you want to and where you think you'd feel happiest :smile:
Good luck
Reply 183
Original post by icing_frolick
Hey sorry to interrupt but I really need help. Basically I'm really stuck between Oxford or Cambridge for studying English Literature. Just wondering if anyone's got advice about which I'm more likely to get an offer from/what it's like being there?

I love the fact that the Oxford course starts earlier, and the historical contexts bits. I also know that it's the best university for English and has the biggest English faculty and some bits of the town I think are really beautiful. Apparently you can also do bits of classical literature in your modules, any more info on this?

However I also like the look of the cambridge course. I like that you can take a module in a foreign language (I would do greek or latin) as part of the course, and the tragedy paper that you take in the third year. I also think that Cambridge as a town is much prettier overall than Oxford- however as my grades aren't all that high i've been advised to apply to a college either out of town, or with less beautiful buildings as I might have more chance of an offer.

I have 9A*'s 2A's (physics and stats) and a B (dance-woops) at GCSE, 4 A's (UMS 192 for latin, 194 for Art, 186 for history but only 184 for English :/) at AS and am predicted 4 A*'s.

ANY advice about which to go for would be sooooo helpful! Thank you!


Choosing college is not supposed to affect your overall chances of getting in becauses pooling evens it out.

However if you want to maximise your chances of getting in to your original college and avoid the stress of pooling you could go for an all girls college. If you dont want to go to an all girls college then look up admission stats and see which mixed colleges take as opposed to contribute to the pool-perhaps girton & homerton?
Original post by icing_frolick
Thanks so much for all of these - SO helpful. One last question - if you get asked a question in interview that you don't know how to answer, what do you do?!


First of all - if you didn't quite understand the question - tell them. Don't just try to answer what you think they asked.

If you did understand but you don't know how to answer it you should really give it a go. Take your time - don't panic and spew any old answer, have a good old think. This may even come across well because it shows you're actually reflecting on the question rather than reeling off a prepared answer.

I doubt you will be rendered completely speechless and they do prompt you :smile:

The only crazy question I had was "Date this text" and I had no idea so I talked about the rise of feminism anger against oppression and she just smiled and said, "Yes, but give me a date".

I was told later that that wasn't a conventional interview question though...she was just curious to know if the applicants were familiar with the author...
Reply 185
Original post by icing_frolick

Original post by icing_frolick
Hey everyone, sorry to interrupt but I was wondering if you could help me. Hello! Basically I'm kind of stuck between applying to Oxford or Cambridge for Eng Lit. Just wondering if anyone's got advice about which I'm more likely to get an offer from/what it's like being there?

I love the fact that the Oxford english course starts earlier, and the historical contexts bits. I also know that it's the best university for English and has the biggest English faculty and some bits of the town I think are really beautiful. Apparently you can also do bits of classical literature in your modules, any more info on this?

However I also like the look of the cambridge course. I like that you can take a module in a foreign language (I would do greek or latin) as part of the course, and the tragedy paper that you take in the third year. I also think that Cambridge as a town is much prettier overall than Oxford- however as my grades aren't all that high i've been advised to apply to a college either out of town, or with less beautiful buildings as I might have more chance of an offer.

I have 9A*'s 2A's (physics and stats) and a B (dance-woops) at GCSE, 4 A's (UMS 192 for latin, 194 for Art, 186 for history but only 184 for English :/) at A2 and am predicted 4 A*'s.

ANY advice about which to go for would be sooooo helpful! Thank you!


well, oxford place a slightly greater emphasis on gcses, so youd be pretty good there; they'd let dance go... :wink: but cambridge place a slightly greater emphasis on AS module scores, where again, youre fairly well set. you shouldnt think you need full marks in everything, if oxbridge were about that then they wouldnt interview at all! basically, go for whichever course, uni and college you prefer based on their merits, and just make sure you can shine in the interview! :smile:
Reply 186
Original post by Equality4all
I think it is to do with volunteer work, sports you play/practise, anything you do outside school which bascially represents you in a positive light. For instance, if you practise Mixed Martial Arts - if shows that you are active, determined and keen to learn more. If you do volunteer work, then it demonstrates your ability of wanting to gain experience and get ahead. Things as such, I think.


Thank u so much for ur time and effort dear. I really appreciate ur great help.
Original post by kjb2112
I'm just starting A2 and looking at Oxbridge.

In AS' I got an A (190/200) in History, an A (186/200) in English and an A in Philosophy and an A in Biology. Do Oxford see UMS grades?

GCSE's were A*AAAAAAAB, which I'm aware are not the best grades for Oxford, so would these totally put me out of the race?

Should I look at Cambridge instead, even though they don't do History/Politics which is what I want to do, so I'd have to change my choices and PS to accomodate a single honours course in History, as this is all that Cambridge offer.

I'd be grateful of any advice.
Nooooooo. Your first priority should be the course, please don't change to Cambridge if they don't do the course you want to do.

About the GCSEs, something a tutor said yesterday: "we don't compare your GCSEs to other applicants' grades, we compare them to the average grades of people at your school". And let's be honest, A*AAAAAAAB is still very good.
Reply 188
Original post by qwertyuiop1993
Do not talk about extra-curricular activities if they are not directly related to your chosen course (this is for Oxford and Cambridge mainly).

(Most people mention them in a very short paragraph/line of their Personal Statement for the benefit of other universities...)

Admissions is done primarily on an academic basis - so you could be a crazy person who never goes out but if you're good at whatever you choose to study then you'll be better off than someone who is does loads of extra stuff beyond academic work but who is mediocre academically.


Thanks for ur suggestions dear.

Also, i m planning to apply for medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge next yr for entry in 2013. You studying there? Actually i am planning to apply post-A levels so that i hav a higher chance of getting accepted as i m an overseas student for them. By nxt August, hopefully i must hav completed all 4 of my A-levels. I hav already compeleted AS phy and AS chem with A grades in both along with complete A/L Bio with grade A* all in a year by self-teaching, without being attached to a school or teaching institute. I will b sitting for AS math the coming jan. What r ur opinions? Shall i apply nxt yr or this yr?

Also, i hav done my IGCSEs in almost 2 and a half years with 5A*s and an A so my IGs r fine.

Thank u so much for helping around here. We really need assistance in such important matters of our life.
Original post by Hpenros

Original post by Hpenros
well, oxford place a slightly greater emphasis on gcses, so youd be pretty good there; they'd let dance go... :wink: but cambridge place a slightly greater emphasis on AS module scores, where again, youre fairly well set. you shouldnt think you need full marks in everything, if oxbridge were about that then they wouldnt interview at all! basically, go for whichever course, uni and college you prefer based on their merits, and just make sure you can shine in the interview! :smile:


Thanks for the advice! I think basically, apart from Cambridge being prettier in the centre, I think the only reason I'm even thinking about it is because of the option to do some element of classical literature in the course. Do you know if there's anything vaguely equivalent at Oxford? To study classical literature even in translation?
Original post by Hpenros
well, oxford place a slightly greater emphasis on gcses, so youd be pretty good there; they'd let dance go... :wink: but cambridge place a slightly greater emphasis on AS module scores, where again, youre fairly well set. you shouldnt think you need full marks in everything, if oxbridge were about that then they wouldnt interview at all! basically, go for whichever course, uni and college you prefer based on their merits, and just make sure you can shine in the interview! :smile:


Thanks for the advice! I think basically, apart from Cambridge being prettier in the centre, I think the only reason I'm even thinking about it is because of the option to do some element of classical literature in the course. Do you know if there's anything vaguely equivalent at Oxford? To study classical literature even in translation?
Reply 191
Hi guys, just a quick question...I'm starting A-levels at the moment - I'm doing Maths, Economics, History and Chemistry and my GCSEs were 9A*s and 2 As and one of those As was in Economics and the course I really want to do is Economics & Management at Oxford - but seeing as Oxford look at GCSEs more, they'd see the A in Economics (I know it's still good but I was really hoping for an A*) and it might not be what they want :s-smilie:

And also, E&M is REALLY competitive and the success rate is significantly low so I'm thinking I might not make the cut (depending on what happens in AS) so I was thinking about Cambridge but they only do Economics separately but I've heard that you need Further Maths which I don't have...so I'm a bit indecisive about which uni I should go for...

Any advice helps! :smile: Thank youu
Original post by Nesssyyy
Hi guys, just a quick question...I'm starting A-levels at the moment - I'm doing Maths, Economics, History and Chemistry and my GCSEs were 9A*s and 2 As and one of those As was in Economics and the course I really want to do is Economics & Management at Oxford - but seeing as Oxford look at GCSEs more, they'd see the A in Economics (I know it's still good but I was really hoping for an A*) and it might not be what they want :s-smilie:

And also, E&M is REALLY competitive and the success rate is significantly low so I'm thinking I might not make the cut (depending on what happens in AS) so I was thinking about Cambridge but they only do Economics separately but I've heard that you need Further Maths which I don't have...so I'm a bit indecisive about which uni I should go for...

Any advice helps! :smile: Thank youu


Where has this perceived over-emphasis of GCSEs come from? Just because Oxford don't see UMS scores does not automatically mean it is a GCSE Nazi...
Oxford uses many aptitude tests and submitted work to distinguish between AAAAA AS level candidates as well as GCSEs. In your case, you will have to sit the TSA which will cut away around 2/3 of the applicants before interview.

I don't think Oxford would be silly enough to discount an applicant with good AS grades and a TSA because of a piddling matter such as an A at GCSE.

Furthermore, I seriously doubt that GCSE economics is anything like degree level economics. Not even A level economics is a required subject because it's not very qualitative...

In short: Go for it! Don't let misconceptions hold you back.
Original post by Colmans

Original post by Colmans
Choosing college is not supposed to affect your overall chances of getting in becauses pooling evens it out.

However if you want to maximise your chances of getting in to your original college and avoid the stress of pooling you could go for an all girls college. If you dont want to go to an all girls college then look up admission stats and see which mixed colleges take as opposed to contribute to the pool-perhaps girton & homerton?


Apparently it's quite hard to get pulled out of the pool for English Literature though, because it's such a popular subject. Is that just rumour then?
Reply 194
Original post by icing_frolick
Apparently it's quite hard to get pulled out of the pool for English Literature though, because it's such a popular subject. Is that just rumour then?


Its quite hard to get fished for any subject-the average success rate for people who get pooled is 20%. It is different to Oxford where almost 1/3 end up at a pooled college. As I understand it Medicine, which is one of the most competitive, actually pool a higher % of eventually successful people because of the cap on numbers.
English, contrary to popular belief, is only averagely competitive at Cambridge.
Reply 195
Original post by chlobofro
I always thought Bristol had a few rahs? Just what I've been told..


Yeah, it's Bristol, Exeter, Durham and Newcastle which are teeming with them. The point is that 'rahs' aren't hugely bright, they're very middle class, from minor public school and very loud, to seem posher than they actually are.
Reply 196
Durham.
Reply 197
I've visited both places once, and from watching the boat race (very good source I know), I'd say Oxford edges it.
Original post by confusedllama

Original post by confusedllama
As well as being about intelligence, grades, passion for the subject, performance at interview etc, I think getting a place at either Oxford or Cambridge involves a fair amount of luck. Therefore I would suggest applying to the one you genuinely prefer.

That said, if you are torn between them, I was told that Oxford look at GCSEs more, and Cambridge look at AS UMS (as only they ask for them). But really don't worry too much about your UMS - they are really good. I got about the same UMS as you (186 for English, which I thought would spell instant rejection) and got an offer from Cam. I did apply to Girton, which you would class as an 'out of town' college - but it's so pretty, and everyone on the freshers' groups seem really welcoming, and it's only a 15 min cycle ride away from town, which would probably be the normal commute for any other university.

I think at Oxford you only get to do classical literature in translation, unless you do joint English and Classics. But at Cam you can do the foreign lit paper and borrow modules from Classics in your third year.

I think Cambridge interview more people than Oxford, which uses the ELAT as a decider.

The pooling system (at both Ox and Cam) is supposed to insure that everyone worthy of an offer gets one, but then I'm not entirely sure this always works in practice.

So just apply where you want to and where you think you'd feel happiest :smile:
Good luck


Thanks! Just wondering, are you at Girton now? Do you find you miss out on any of the 'university spirit' so-called because of being out of town?
Original post by icing_frolick
Thanks! Just wondering, are you at Girton now? Do you find you miss out on any of the 'university spirit' so-called because of being out of town?


I'm not there yet - I'll be able to tell you in October. But everyone has told me that the community in college makes up for it, and it's really not that far away. (and it has a college cat and an indoor swimming pool; and a pretty big English department as cam colleges go - it takes about 10 people every year). But no pressure :smile:

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