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    Hi all,

    I hope someone can help and apologies if there is already a thread for this.

    I completely messed up my GCSEs, only gaining 3As, 2Bs and 2Cs when I was predicted all A grades and was in the top sets for all subjects. I took 2 years out to work and I have now gone back to college, studying English Literature, History and Philosophy.

    I'm confident I have the ability to gain all As in my A-Levels and I'm part of many social groups inside and outside of college. Is it worth me re-taking or doing additional GCSEs at my time in college to stand a chance at an application for Oxford?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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    (Original post by megzylouise)
    Hi all,

    I hope someone can help and apologies if there is already a thread for this.

    I completely messed up my GCSEs, only gaining 3As, 2Bs and 2Cs when I was predicted all A grades and was in the top sets for all subjects. I took 2 years out to work and I have now gone back to college, studying English Literature, History and Philosophy.

    I'm confident I have the ability to gain all As in my A-Levels and I'm part of many social groups inside and outside of college. Is it worth me re-taking or doing additional GCSEs at my time in college to stand a chance at an application for Oxford?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Don't worry about GCSE grades, oxford rely mostly on their enterance tests and your A level results/predicted results. You will stand a chance as long as you meet their minimum A level requirements! Keep in mind that many people will be applying with grades higher than the minimum requirements :P Just crush those AS levels and you'll be good
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    No point in retaking the GCSE's. I'm sure people _have_ got in with those GCSE's before, but the chances are very slim. What course at Oxford were you hoping to do?


    (Original post by iscribbletoomuch)
    Don't worry about GCSE grades, oxford rely mostly on their enterance tests and your A level results/predicted results. You will stand a chance as long as you meet their minimum A level requirements! Keep in mind that many people will be applying with grades higher than the minimum requirements :P Just crush those AS levels and you'll be good
    Oxford rely on GCSE's more than AS Levels I'm afraid. In the process of shortlisting for interview, the admissions test, GCSE results and predicted A-Level grades are most important. Just to put into a semi-perpective, I'm applying for Maths at Oxford and for every A* at GCSE you have, this roughly equates to one point on the MAT: so GCSE's definitely mean quite a bit. If OP gets exceptionally high UMS scores at AS (above 95% across all her subjects) then its worth applying to Cambridge, maybe
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    tbh you'd be better off applying to cambridge than oxford if you have good AS results (high ums) and not so good GCSEs
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    (Original post by megzylouise)
    Hi all,

    I hope someone can help and apologies if there is already a thread for this.

    I completely messed up my GCSEs, only gaining 3As, 2Bs and 2Cs when I was predicted all A grades and was in the top sets for all subjects. I took 2 years out to work and I have now gone back to college, studying English Literature, History and Philosophy.

    I'm confident I have the ability to gain all As in my A-Levels and I'm part of many social groups inside and outside of college. Is it worth me re-taking or doing additional GCSEs at my time in college to stand a chance at an application for Oxford?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Short answer: Yes.

    Long answer: Yes, but there's no harm in giving them a call if you finish A Levels having achieved A*A*A* or something in that region in required subjects. The way that Oxford uses GCSEs for most subjects is to use them in conjunction with entrance exam scores or written work that you send in (which they presumably score for each applicant) to decide whether you get an interview, which is essential to get an offer for any course at Oxford.

    This is for most subjects, although some subjects don't require either of those (e.g. Biological Sciences, Chemistry) so at least for those GCSEs are very important. With most subjects that have entrance exams or a written work requirement, these will be given the same weighting as your GCSEs so it is possible for a somewhat average GCSE performance to be compensated for by a high score on the entrance exam/written work and vice versa.

    To be honest though, not many people get into Oxford without any A*s at GCSE -- those that do normally come from very low-performing schools. That's another thing about the way GCSEs are used at Oxford: they're contextualised so somebody who got 2 A*s from a poor school isn't disadvantaged compared to somebody who got 7 A*s at a top grammar or independent school. Oxford's general advice on GCSEs is that they like to see a large majority of A* and A grades, which you don't have unfortunately. :/

    If you really want to go to a top UK university, you'd have a better chance at Cambridge since they put much more emphasis on A Levels and appreciate an upward academic trajectory from GCSE to A Level. However, AAA won't cut it for Cambridge. Their typical humanities/arts offer is A*AA and their typical science offer is A*A*A and, realistically, they'll want to see you get a solid 90 percent UMS average across your three best (for humanities and arts) or three most relevant (for sciences) AS subjects (if your school has retained the AS) to show them that you've got the academic potential to study at Cambridge. Plus, if you'll be 21 by the time you start your course, Cambridge is likely not to care about your GCSEs as much because you'll be a mature student and the Lucy Cavendish AT has repeatedly said that they're more concerned with your most recent academic performance and, if you've just started A Levels, your GCSEs will be three years old by the time you apply. I suggest contacting them about that too, if you're interested.

    Oxford, as far as I know, gives no such consideration to mature students (seem to remember reading somewhere that you'll be treated exactly the same as a school leaver unless you're applying to their mature-only college, Harris Manchester). I'm also unsure that they'll take into account grades obtained in resits. Again, email/phone them to find out since they'll have the best advice. Your situation isn't exactly usual so I doubt the general advice on their websites fits entirely.

    Good luck and sorry for the length. :3
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    Yeah, they do care quite a lot about GCSE grades but obviously their importance will vary depending on how competitive your course is. I would say retake them regardless.
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    Thank you all so much for your responses - especially the lengthy responses(!), really appreciate them.

    I was looking at English Literature and Language at Oxford and funnily enough, I thought Cambridge would be even more difficult to get into. I've still got a while until I start applying, but this has really helped and given me a bit of perspective.

    The goal for me really is to gain high A-Level results and go to a top UK university (Oxbridge, St Andrews, Durham etc), I just feel like my GCSEs are holding me back a lot. I had a lot going on at that time and it's really frustrating that it has effected my future to this extent. Retaking may be an option for me I'm thinking!
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    (Original post by megzylouise)
    Thank you all so much for your responses - especially the lengthy responses(!), really appreciate them.

    I was looking at English Literature and Language at Oxford and funnily enough, I thought Cambridge would be even more difficult to get into. I've still got a while until I start applying, but this has really helped and given me a bit of perspective.

    The goal for me really is to gain high A-Level results and go to a top UK university (Oxbridge, St Andrews, Durham etc), I just feel like my GCSEs are holding me back a lot. I had a lot going on at that time and it's really frustrating that it has effected my future to this extent. Retaking may be an option for me I'm thinking!
    If your college has retained the AS Level, I recommend you do that -- top marks (~90 percent average across three best subjects) in AS Levels will most definitely impress Cambridge ATs. Cambridge is harder to get into in the sense that they actually ask for your UMS marks for every module you've ever sat and use that to decide whether to interview you (although Cambridge interviews like 80 percent of applicants anyway) whereas Oxford doesn't require it but does suggest you have your referee mention your UMS scores if they're particularly impressive. What this means in effect is that an A grade is an A grade at AS for Oxford (and the standard offer for English Literature is lower than Cambridge's at AAA) -- they don't know whether you got 80 percent or 100 percent unless you voluntarily disclose it. Cambridge however requires that you tell them your marks.

    When you say you had a lot going on, if it's to do with medical illness or significant family disruption (e.g. death in the family during your exams), then you should ask your college to mention that in your reference and attach any appropriate evidence because they will take extenuating circumstances like that into account. And it's only for Oxford that your GCSEs are like to be a huge impediment -- for the other top universities, impressive A Levels usually count for more.

    Good luck. The Cambridge Admissions Tutors from various colleges do regular AMA threads where you can ask them anything about admissions to their college or Cambridge generally so you may wanna keep an eye out for those in the Cambridge forum. I'm actually kinda surprised Oxford hasn't followed suit...
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    (Original post by megzylouise)
    Thank you all so much for your responses - especially the lengthy responses(!), really appreciate them.

    I was looking at English Literature and Language at Oxford and funnily enough, I thought Cambridge would be even more difficult to get into. I've still got a while until I start applying, but this has really helped and given me a bit of perspective.

    The goal for me really is to gain high A-Level results and go to a top UK university (Oxbridge, St Andrews, Durham etc), I just feel like my GCSEs are holding me back a lot. I had a lot going on at that time and it's really frustrating that it has effected my future to this extent. Retaking may be an option for me I'm thinking!
    Oxford and Cambridge do not look kindly upon people who retake.
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    (Original post by Hydeman)
    If your college has retained the AS Level, I recommend you do that -- top marks (~90 percent average across three best subjects) in AS Levels will most definitely impress Cambridge ATs. Cambridge is harder to get into in the sense that they actually ask for your UMS marks for every module you've ever sat and use that to decide whether to interview you (although Cambridge interviews like 80 percent of applicants anyway) whereas Oxford doesn't require it but does suggest you have your referee mention your UMS scores if they're particularly impressive. What this means in effect is that an A grade is an A grade at AS for Oxford (and the standard offer for English Literature is lower than Cambridge's at AAA) -- they don't know whether you got 80 percent or 100 percent unless you voluntarily disclose it. Cambridge however requires that you tell them your marks.

    When you say you had a lot going on, if it's to do with medical illness or significant family disruption (e.g. death in the family during your exams), then you should ask your college to mention that in your reference and attach any appropriate evidence because they will take extenuating circumstances like that into account. And it's only for Oxford that your GCSEs are like to be a huge impediment -- for the other top universities, impressive A Levels usually count for more.

    Good luck. The Cambridge Admissions Tutors from various colleges do regular AMA threads where you can ask them anything about admissions to their college or Cambridge generally so you may wanna keep an eye out for those in the Cambridge forum. I'm actually kinda surprised Oxford hasn't followed suit...
    Thank you so much, appreciate that greatly. Will have a look at those!
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    (Original post by megzylouise)
    Hi all,

    I hope someone can help and apologies if there is already a thread for this.

    I completely messed up my GCSEs, only gaining 3As, 2Bs and 2Cs when I was predicted all A grades and was in the top sets for all subjects. I took 2 years out to work and I have now gone back to college, studying English Literature, History and Philosophy.

    I'm confident I have the ability to gain all As in my A-Levels and I'm part of many social groups inside and outside of college. Is it worth me re-taking or doing additional GCSEs at my time in college to stand a chance at an application for Oxford?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    An aspect of this that may have been overlooked in some of the other answers is that, if I understand the sequence correctly, you took GCSEs back in 2013 so they would be much further in the past when you applied than would be the case for other candidates. There has to be a tapering of the significance of GCSE scores as they become older - If you had taken GCSEs 20 years ago and were applying now, clearly it would be pointless to be using them to judge your current suitability, whereas GCSEs taken two years before A-levels do correlate with on-course performance and are considered by all universities, including both Oxford and Cambridge. This situation must fall somewhere between the two extremes so the GCSEs shouldn't be as big a problem as they might have been two years ago.
    Spoiler:
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    Incidentally (an old hobby horse of mine), I have yet to see any evidence that they are given significantly different weight in the two admissions processes in general - where Cambridge use UMS scores [for now], Oxford tends to use an admissions test score. They use different language to describe their attitude to GCSEs but the two statements are not inconsistent with both universities taking the same approach.
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    (Original post by astro67)
    Spoiler:
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    Incidentally (an old hobby horse of mine), I have yet to see any evidence that they are given significantly different weight in the two admissions processes in general - where Cambridge use UMS scores [for now], Oxford tends to use an admissions test score. They use different language to describe their attitude to GCSEs but the two statements are not inconsistent with both universities taking the same approach.
    Cambridge do look at GCSEs but it's very much the case that they care more about the most recent examinations, which until now have been AS results. They classify people as either 'continuous high achiever' or 'upward academic trajectory' and plenty of people in the latter category do get in -- that would never happen at Oxford without significant contextual factors. I mean, there are people at Oxford who got lower GCSEs than you'd think but their stories are broadly similar: went to a bad school for GCSEs, aced the entrance exam and interview and therefore got in.

    So I do think that there is a significant difference in how GCSEs are used for both. At Cambridge somebody that has great GCSE results but maybe not so great AS results cannot get in; at Oxford, those with good GCSE results and not so good AS results can and have got in because Oxford is fairly clear in saying that they don't use the AS results formally because not all applicants cash-in their AS grades and therefore it's unfair to use that as something to discriminate between applicants further than using them as reassurance that the final predicted grades are reliable. Cambridge gets around this with the SAQ on which applicants have to declare every single exam they've ever sat regardless of whether it's cashed in or not, including the UMS marks for each module.

    You could generally say that good GCSEs are an advantage at Oxbridge but they are used very differently, I assure you.
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    The fact that Cambridge ask you to declare that absolutely terrifies me, I'm pretty sure I've got a E in PE lingering somewhere...

    I actually took my GCSEs in 2012 as well, just to give you a bit more of a picture. My school made pupils sit their GCSEs in Year 9, then retakes were for year 10 & 11. Sadly I never got to Year 11 as I had to come out of the school for personal reasons. So, by the time I apply in 2017, it would've been 5 years since I took my GCSEs! I guess there is some significance in that, along with the circumstances mentioned that - to be quite honest - I'd really rather not use as an excuse on an application, but I don't think I have much choice!

    EDIT: Having left school, meant that there were 2 GCSEs I couldn't complete as they required practical work in the final year - all were predicted As also.
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    TSR will always tell you GCSEs are the be all end all for Oxford when in reality there's no evidence other than the 'trust me, I know's from people who didn't even apply to Oxford.

    Oxford on their website said they consider the progression from GCSEs, which seems to suggest that if you've got better recent grades it's good.
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    (Original post by Little Toy Gun)
    TSR will always tell you GCSEs are the be all end all for Oxford when in reality there's no evidence other than the 'trust me, I know's from people who didn't even apply to Oxford.

    Oxford on their website said they consider the progression from GCSEs, which seems to suggest that if you've got better recent grades it's good.
    Apart from when freedom of information requests have been made that show the reality, that every student tends to have >3 A* grades. I can cite it if you want.
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    (Original post by SCalver)
    Apart from when freedom of information requests have been made that show the reality, that every student tends to have >3 A* grades. I can cite it if you want.
    And Cambridge students don't tend to have >3 A*s?
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    (Original post by Little Toy Gun)
    TSR will always tell you GCSEs are the be all end all for Oxford when in reality there's no evidence other than the 'trust me, I know's from people who didn't even apply to Oxford.

    Oxford on their website said they consider the progression from GCSEs, which seems to suggest that if you've got better recent grades it's good.
    i totally agree with you because mine GCSE are quite bad and when i spoke to Oxford they said 'GCSE are important but not essential' so if you can secure good grade in ALevel and ace the admission test than you have a fair chance
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    (Original post by Little Toy Gun)
    TSR will always tell you GCSEs are the be all end all for Oxford when in reality there's no evidence other than the 'trust me, I know's from people who didn't even apply to Oxford.

    Oxford on their website said they consider the progression from GCSEs, which seems to suggest that if you've got better recent grades it's good.
    They also say "we could not be optimistic of an applicant's chances of gaining a place at Oxford without a high percentage of A* and A grades at GCSE" [source] so it's not entirely without evidence. As plenty of people on TSR will testify, it is still possible to get in with a 'lower' set of GCSE grades but if that statement is to be believed, it does still count for something and the high average number of A*s at GCSE of successful applicant's isn't simply correlative.
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    Do you think it is a disadvantage if you simply don't have GCSEs or an equivalent?
    I am an international (EU) applicant and at the type of school I went to, we didn't have examinations after year 9 or 10. That's why I only put my grades for my finals in my UCAS form. Do you think this will be a disadvantage? I could have given my grades of Year 9 or 10 but I didn't because for UK people they don't seem that good, even though I was nearly at the top of my school.. (at Year 9)
    Should I have put them in my application? Should I subsequently add them? I would say that my Year 9 grades would be something like 9 or 10 A's (not sure) and 4 B's (no A* existing) and my Year 10 grades 5 A*, 2 A, 3 B and 2 C ( the C's are in Chemistry and PE)
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    (Original post by Plagioclase)
    They also say "we could not be optimistic of an applicant's chances of gaining a place at Oxford without a high percentage of A* and A grades at GCSE" [source] so it's not entirely without evidence. As plenty of people on TSR will testify, it is still possible to get in with a 'lower' set of GCSE grades but if that statement is to be believed, it does still count for something and the high average number of A*s at GCSE of successful applicant's isn't simply correlative.
    How many times do I need to say this: And Cambridge doesn't?

    Are you seriously suggesting that most people at Cambridge had fewer than 3A*s in GCSEs?

    This is about comparing Oxford to Cambridge, not Oxford to universities in general.
 
 
 
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