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    Hello. I'm an Oxford offer holder for law at New. I'm currently trying to decide between going to Oxford and studying law directly or going to Columbia or another Ivy in the US for a literature undergrad then moving onto law. I live in the Middle East, so neither is home for me.

    One of my biggest misgivings about Oxford are the final exams. It just seems really unfair to me that a handful of exams hold so much weight. I've always been in a system where grades are evenly distributed across papers and various exams. I'm worried I won't be able to adjust.

    I've self-studied and taken AP exams before and have done quite well on them, so if they're anything like that then I'll be relieved.

    I'm not an idiot, I promise. I got a 2300 on my SAT and self-studied and got 5s on AP exams in grade 11 in addition to my regular school workload. I know I'm a good test-taker. This is just very foreign to me.

    So I guess my question is, can any Americans (or people who have done AP exams before) that are current/former Oxford students let me know just how terrible final exams are? Enough of a reason to hightail it to NYC?

    (Also, if anyone has general advice on whether I should go to Oxford vs an Ivy, please let me know. I love the U.S. but three years of law is so much more convenient than a four year undergrad than two-three year grad.
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    (Original post by sebklaine)
    Hello. I'm an Oxford offer holder for law at New. I'm currently trying to decide between going to Oxford and studying law directly or going to Columbia or another Ivy in the US for a literature undergrad then moving onto law. I live in the Middle East, so neither is home for me.

    One of my biggest misgivings about Oxford are the final exams. It just seems really unfair to me that a handful of exams hold so much weight. I've always been in a system where grades are evenly distributed across papers and various exams. I'm worried I won't be able to adjust.

    I've self-studied and taken AP exams before and have done quite well on them, so if they're anything like that then I'll be relieved.

    I'm not an idiot, I promise. I got a 2300 on my SAT and self-studied and got 5s on AP exams in grade 11 in addition to my regular school workload. I know I'm a good test-taker. This is just very foreign to me.

    So I guess my question is, can any Americans (or people who have done AP exams before) that are current/former Oxford students let me know just how terrible final exams are? Enough of a reason to hightail it to NYC?

    (Also, if anyone has general advice on whether I should go to Oxford vs an Ivy, please let me know. I love the U.S. but three years of law is so much more convenient than a four year undergrad than two-three year grad.
    Former lawyer here.

    I didn't do APs; I did my country's A Levels instead, which is probably at least comparable, if not more difficult. Suffice to say, Oxford is absolutely a step up from A levels, and Law Finals was probably the most difficult exam I've ever taken. The difficulty stems from a mixture of pressure, lots and lots of content to understand and memorize, and needing stamina and mental strength to keep going for ~2 weeks. The first week, where you take 6 papers back to back Monday to Saturday, is brutal.

    That being said, as the Faculty likes to note in its handbook, it is very much a baptism of fire, and most people do just fine. Bear in mind that the vast, vast majority of people (~70%) will end up with a 2i, which is more than enough for most jobs, including being a solicitor. The real challenge comes if you want to go for a First, but even then, the % has been steadily increasing (something like 20-25% now I believe, which is high compared to other UK universities). You can read past examiners reports here: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/document-archive

    I will say that in general, UK universities tend to base degree classification on a handful of exams/ assessments, most of which are taken at the end of each academic year (eg Cambridge). The only real difference is that Oxford combines two+ years worth of content into one big exam. Cumulative assessments in the sense of a GPA-style system aren't really a thing. If you plan on coming back to the UK to do a law degree (whether a 2 year senior status or the full 3 year), you probably can't avoid this "do or die" system entirely.

    The other thing to think about is finances. 4 years at an Ivy (not to mention the high living costs of NYC!), on top of a further 2/ 3 years of law school either in the UK or the US would add up to an awful lot of money. You might be able to get financial aid for Ivies, but UK universities in general almost always never offer financial aid to undergraduate international students (with a few exceptions, like the Reach Oxford Scholarship). If you subsequently wish to go on to graduate studies (eg BCL/ LLM) , that's additional time and money as well. Remember to factor in any relevant professional legal qualification programmes too, if applicable (eg LPC).

    If you're a good test taker, the Oxford system probably favours you - it very much means that you don't have to go all out for 3 years (most people do tend to slack a little in second year as there are no exams), whereas you have to be consistently good in a US university. It also means that if you do take some time to get used to the pace and content, you won't be penalized for it because the "teething stages" don't count towards your classification. Mods is only 3 papers, which I imagine is very doable considering your history in test taking.

    You didn't mention your post-graduation plans - where are you intending to work? If it's back home in the Middle East, you need to check the relevant qualification procedures and degrees (eg my home country does not accept most US JDs). If it's the UK, assuming you went to an Ivy, you can actually just do a 1 year GDL instead.

    I honestly believe that it's up to your personal preference, horses for courses and all that. I've never been to an Ivy, and so cannot comment on what education there would be like. That said, I do think Oxford provides a superb legal education; there's a huge emphasis on really thinking from first principles and evaluating the law which you don't see as much in other law schools (barring maybe Cambridge).

    Out of curiosity, are you holding on to a deferred offer for the Ivies or did you get a likely letter? It's been a long time since I applied, but I thought RD decisions are only released around end March/ beginning April? Columbia doesn't do EA as far as I know, and ED would be binding.
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    (Original post by mishieru07)
    Former lawyer here.

    I didn't do APs; I did my country's A Levels instead, which is probably at least comparable, if not more difficult. Suffice to say, Oxford is absolutely a step up from A levels, and Law Finals was probably the most difficult exam I've ever taken. The difficulty stems from a mixture of pressure, lots and lots of content to understand and memorize, and needing stamina and mental strength to keep going for ~2 weeks. The first week, where you take 6 papers back to back Monday to Saturday, is brutal.

    That being said, as the Faculty likes to note in its handbook, it is very much a baptism of fire, and most people do just fine. Bear in mind that the vast, vast majority of people (~70%) will end up with a 2i, which is more than enough for most jobs, including being a solicitor. The real challenge comes if you want to go for a First, but even then, the % has been steadily increasing (something like 20-25% now I believe, which is high compared to other UK universities). You can read past examiners reports here: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/document-archive

    I will say that in general, UK universities tend to base degree classification on a handful of exams/ assessments, most of which are taken at the end of each academic year (eg Cambridge). The only real difference is that Oxford combines two+ years worth of content into one big exam. Cumulative assessments in the sense of a GPA-style system aren't really a thing. If you plan on coming back to the UK to do a law degree (whether a 2 year senior status or the full 3 year), you probably can't avoid this "do or die" system entirely.

    The other thing to think about is finances. 4 years at an Ivy (not to mention the high living costs of NYC!), on top of a further 2/ 3 years of law school either in the UK or the US would add up to an awful lot of money. You might be able to get financial aid for Ivies, but UK universities in general almost always never offer financial aid to undergraduate international students (with a few exceptions, like the Reach Oxford Scholarship). If you subsequently wish to go on to graduate studies (eg BCL/ LLM) , that's additional time and money as well. Remember to factor in any relevant professional legal qualification programmes too, if applicable (eg LPC).

    If you're a good test taker, the Oxford system probably favours you - it very much means that you don't have to go all out for 3 years (most people do tend to slack a little in second year as there are no exams), whereas you have to be consistently good in a US university. It also means that if you do take some time to get used to the pace and content, you won't be penalized for it because the "teething stages" don't count towards your classification. Mods is only 3 papers, which I imagine is very doable considering your history in test taking.

    You didn't mention your post-graduation plans - where are you intending to work? If it's back home in the Middle East, you need to check the relevant qualification procedures and degrees (eg my home country does not accept most US JDs). If it's the UK, assuming you went to an Ivy, you can actually just do a 1 year GDL instead.

    I honestly believe that it's up to your personal preference, horses for courses and all that. I've never been to an Ivy, and so cannot comment on what education there would be like. That said, I do think Oxford provides a superb legal education; there's a huge emphasis on really thinking from first principles and evaluating the law which you don't see as much in other law schools (barring maybe Cambridge).

    Out of curiosity, are you holding on to a deferred offer for the Ivies or did you get a likely letter? It's been a long time since I applied, but I thought RD decisions are only released around end March/ beginning April? Columbia doesn't do EA as far as I know, and ED would be binding.
    Hi there, thanks so much for replying.

    Financial aid doesn't factor into my choice— my family is able and willing to support me for whatever I decide to, regardless of how long it takes. And yes, I got a likely letter from Columbia and am expecting good news from a few Ivys in two weeks. My post-graduate plans are a bit fuzzy to be honest; I do want to become a lawyer, but I don't know where I want to live yet. However, even if it was in the ME there are companies here that work with UK or US based companies so often that a law degree from either would be useful.

    I appreciate your honesty but what you had to say about the exams is far from comforting . I know myself and I know that I would not be satisfied with anything less than a first. Would UK students have a bit of an upper hand in this case, given that they are used to such exams? I think one of my biggest worries is trying to adapt to such an unfamiliar system and waste time while other students are all ready to go. Or is everyone kind of new to the process but manages to figure it out together? I think it would be a great comfort to me to know that we're all on a level playing field.
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    why do you want to do a law degree? Where do you want to work? Study here and you study English law, not American. Who do you want to make friends with, consider who else will be at your university and what contacts you are making for the future.

    The UK has an excess of lawyers so most are not well paid - unless you get a first from Oxford or Cambridge and go into a city law firm. The first does not have to be in law as there are still people recruited who have done something else first. Those who do history get wined and dined in second year almost as much as the lawyers do, you hardly need to buy lunch.

    The exams are a strain and some people crack under the strain of the workload before they get there. The terms are short and intense, shorter than other universities. Do you pick things up quickly and can you work at a rapid pace?

    The Oxford system favours those who can cram and ********. Sounds like you can cram when you need to.
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    (Original post by sebklaine)

    I appreciate your honesty but what you had to say about the exams is far from comforting . I know myself and I know that I would not be satisfied with anything less than a first. Would UK students have a bit of an upper hand in this case, given that they are used to such exams? I think one of my biggest worries is trying to adapt to such an unfamiliar system and waste time while other students are all ready to go. Or is everyone kind of new to the process but manages to figure it out together? I think it would be a great comfort to me to know that we're all on a level playing field.
    Nobody arrives in Oxford used to the exam regime or the pace of work here. They have been selected, however, because the admissions tutors are confident that they have the ability to adapt to it. The degree is very rigorous and the assessment correspondingly so. Personally, I think the exams are way too intense but it does mean that for one glorious fortnight you know roughly everything roughly simultaneously. If you can do that successfully (and the data show that ~95% of undergraduates can), you can do anything and that will show when you are assessed by employers.
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    (Original post by sebklaine)
    Hi there, thanks so much for replying.

    Financial aid doesn't factor into my choice— my family is able and willing to support me for whatever I decide to, regardless of how long it takes. And yes, I got a likely letter from Columbia and am expecting good news from a few Ivys in two weeks. My post-graduate plans are a bit fuzzy to be honest; I do want to become a lawyer, but I don't know where I want to live yet. However, even if it was in the ME there are companies here that work with UK or US based companies so often that a law degree from either would be useful.

    I appreciate your honesty but what you had to say about the exams is far from comforting . I know myself and I know that I would not be satisfied with anything less than a first. Would UK students have a bit of an upper hand in this case, given that they are used to such exams? I think one of my biggest worries is trying to adapt to such an unfamiliar system and waste time while other students are all ready to go. Or is everyone kind of new to the process but manages to figure it out together? I think it would be a great comfort to me to know that we're all on a level playing field.
    I agree with everything astro67 says in his post. Oxford is a massive step up for everyone, including those who come from the UK (I say this as someone who comes from a Commonwealth country with a similar system). You have US/ international kids doing very well, you have UK kids not doing so well, and there's everyone else in between.

    I'm not convinced coming from a UK system would help with doing well in Law to be honest. To me, doing well is a mix of (1) knowing the content (very, very few people do Law A levels anyway so everyone's effectively starting from scratch) (2) exam technique and (3) a bit of luck. From my experience, my lawyer friends and I pretty much started from ground zero, and helped each other figure it out along the way.

    If you have good exam technique, and it sounds like you do (ie able to express your thoughts in a clear and succinct manner, able to manage time effectively in exams, able to think in a logical and coherent manner), I really don't see why you won't adapt well. Even if your exam technique isn't the strongest, that's something that can definitely be worked on. You've already shown a capacity for hard work, seeing that you were able to do APs/ SATs on top of usual school work, so the content will simply come in time.

    I would be more concerned with students who have a history of not working well under stress and pressure, but you don't strike me as one of them.

    I also second astro67's comment that employers do recognize the quality of Oxford graduates, probably due in no small part to the intensity of our courses (and exams). In particular, you learn how to absorb and process large quantities of information quickly, how to think in a structured and reasoned manner, how to manage and thrive in stressful situations. Very helpful skills, whether you go on to be a lawyer or not, and I do believe strongly in the quality of the education I received. A senior legal figure in my home country told me that Oxbridge graduates were very good at working quickly under pressure (which is probably par for the course for lawyers, sadly) - give them a research task and they'll write you an essay by the next day - and I suspect part of that is the regular grind of having to write essays and attend tutorials weekly. You get pushed hard, but you also get a lot out of it, and I think this is true of Finals.

    I'd be lying if I said I didn't find Finals god-awful (I'm not going to sugar coat the truth because that would be disingenuous), but they're absolutely doable. Everyone does start from a level playing field (at least for Law), so you aren't disadvantaged in my opinion. And on the plus side, if a First is what you're aiming for, your odds of getting one is statistically the best at Oxford (and Cambridge) I think.

    Incidentally, as bad as the present version of Law Finals is, it actually used to be even worse. One of my tutors told me that in his time, they used to do two papers a day - one morning, one afternoon, and that the 9 papers were over in a week! :P
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    Canadian undergrad studying here (at Oxford), not for law.

    Go to the States. You get proper vacations (no work during breaks), whereas over here, you're expected to continue coursework during your vacs. That means it's doubly hard to juggle internships, etc.

    Do an exchange year here if you want. But if you want more extracurriculars and life experiences in undergrad, look to the other side of the pond. NYC is nice
 
 
 
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