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    I want to do organic chemistry at Oxford, but I just don't think my grades are good enough?

    First year: 78% (do they even look at this?)
    Second year: 68%
    I got 80% overall in my organic chemistry modules for both years

    I'm currently on an industrial placement (but it's not organic chemistry) and I will be doing some research in my lecturer's lab for 3-4 weeks before term starts in September.

    If I get a first this year, assuming I can persuade my referees to write a good reference, do I stand a chance at all? I can't shake the feeling that I'm competing with people who get like 90% in organic and average high firsts :/
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    You'll only find out by applying. As long as you meet the entry requirements and have a good overall application package you stand a chance.
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    (Original post by AverageAF)
    I want to do organic chemistry at Oxford, but I just don't think my grades are good enough?

    First year: 78% (do they even look at this?)
    Second year: 68%
    I got 80% overall in my organic chemistry modules for both years

    I'm currently on an industrial placement (but it's not organic chemistry) and I will be doing some research in my lecturer's lab for 3-4 weeks before term starts in September.

    If I get a first this year, assuming I can persuade my referees to write a good reference, do I stand a chance at all? I can't shake the feeling that I'm competing with people who get like 90% in organic and average high firsts :/
    I'm assuming you're currently at a UK institution? If that is the case then hitting 80% averages in relevant modules is excellent, I'm not sure why you would consider this not enough. (Are people really getting 90% averages in your degree?...)

    My professor, who is close friends with those involved with post-graduate admissions for the clinical medicine school, told me that as long as I had a strong 2:i (67%+) overall, then grades wouldn't be the deciding factor. Granted my grades in relevant modules were 70-85%, and my dissertation was a strong first and highly relevant to the course. Your references can have a much bigger influence, my professor told me that he was going to write me an exceptional reference, and he recommended I apply for Oxbridge (I went for Cambridge in the end). What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't be too hung up over grades. If you are averaging a strong first, particularly in relevant subjects, then you have a fantastic chance given your references and covering letter/interview are up to standard.
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    You'll lose nothing by applying to Oxford whereas if you don't you'll never know if you could get in. Even if you don't it shows you that you were good enough to be considered.
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    (Original post by alleycat393)
    You'll only find out by applying. As long as you meet the entry requirements and have a good overall application package you stand a chance.
    (Original post by AxSirlotl)
    You'll lose nothing by applying to Oxford whereas if you don't you'll never know if you could get in. Even if you don't it shows you that you were good enough to be considered.
    That is true...
    (Original post by FCB)
    I'm assuming you're currently at a UK institution? If that is the case then hitting 80% averages in relevant modules is excellent, I'm not sure why you would consider this not enough. (Are people really getting 90% averages in your degree?...)

    My professor, who is close friends with those involved with post-graduate admissions for the clinical medicine school, told me that as long as I had a strong 2:i (67%+) overall, then grades wouldn't be the deciding factor. Granted my grades in relevant modules were 70-85%, and my dissertation was a strong first and highly relevant to the course. Your references can have a much bigger influence, my professor told me that he was going to write me an exceptional reference, and he recommended I apply for Oxbridge (I went for Cambridge in the end). What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't be too hung up over grades. If you are averaging a strong first, particularly in relevant subjects, then you have a fantastic chance given your references and covering letter/interview are up to standard.
    Yeah, I couldn't believe it myself but my university's chemistry department attracts a lot of intelligent people - I've spoken to a couple who have been at or have rejected their Oxbridge offer to come here. To be fair, said guys who achieve 90+ do chemistry every single day for hours, even if it's not exam time - that shows how much work they put in. I thought I've met dedicated people but these people are serious work horses.

    It's hard not to compare yourself when the high flyers of the year are mainly in your friendship group! The average chemist is probably averging low/mid 60s but my perception is incredibly skewed due to my overachieving friends haha
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    (Original post by AverageAF)
    That is true...


    Yeah, I couldn't believe it myself but my university's chemistry department attracts a lot of intelligent people - I've spoken to a couple who have been at or have rejected their Oxbridge offer to come here. To be fair, said guys who achieve 90+ do chemistry every single day for hours, even if it's not exam time - that shows how much work they put in. I thought I've met dedicated people but these people are serious work horses.

    It's hard not to compare yourself when the high flyers of the year are mainly in your friendship group! The average chemist is probably averging low/mid 60s but my perception is incredibly skewed due to my overachieving friends haha
    What institution are you at, if you don't mind me asking?

    It's subject specific I think. I attended QM in London, and in biology/genetics it was exceptionally rare for someone to get over 80% in a final year written exam. My friend in chemistry was averaging 80-90 for all his chemistry exams, and I think that's because if you know your stuff a chemistry exam is easier to get marks, in that sense that there is a definite correct answer (like maths). Regardless I wouldn't be upset if you're not achieving those grades, I personally believe there is much more to a post graduate application than grades, but I'm probably biased.

    Regardless, the best advice I can give anyone would be that if you like the course and you are passionate about the subject, then you should apply. You'll never know otherwise.
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    (Original post by FCB)
    What institution are you at, if you don't mind me asking?

    It's subject specific I think. I attended QM in London, and in biology/genetics it was exceptionally rare for someone to get over 80% in a final year written exam. My friend in chemistry was averaging 80-90 for all his chemistry exams, and I think that's because if you know your stuff a chemistry exam is easier to get marks, in that sense that there is a definite correct answer (like maths). Regardless I wouldn't be upset if you're not achieving those grades, I personally believe there is much more to a post graduate application than grades, but I'm probably biased.

    Regardless, the best advice I can give anyone would be that if you like the course and you are passionate about the subject, then you should apply. You'll never know otherwise.
    I'm at Imperial. I've also noticed that - having looked at my friends' work (who were biologists), I was kinda shocked when I found out that they actually had to write essays and stuff. Biology, from the work I've seen, is more factual-based learning rather than fundamental understanding, thus has a greater scope for subjectivity, thus it's harder to access the top marks. Whereas with chemistry, there's always a right or wrong answer and hence if you truly read around the subject, then it's possible to get 100% in an exam (And the top guy in the year averaged 98% in first year)...Of course, that's not to say everything in biology is subjective, but answers are not always as clear-cut compared to Physics or Chemistry I think.

    However, saying that, in our first year maths exam someone got 2%; so even within institutions a disproportionate gap in ability can still be observed

    Yeah, I think I'll apply if I get 70%+ this year. Thanks Are you going to Cambridge for a PhD then?
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    (Original post by AverageAF)
    I'm at Imperial. I've also noticed that - having looked at my friends' work (who were biologists), I was kinda shocked when I found out that they actually had to write essays and stuff. Biology, from the work I've seen, is more factual-based learning rather than fundamental understanding, thus has a greater scope for subjectivity, thus it's harder to access the top marks. Whereas with chemistry, there's always a right or wrong answer and hence if you truly read around the subject, then it's possible to get 100% in an exam (And the top guy in the year averaged 98% in first year)...Of course, that's not to say everything in biology is subjective, but answers are not always as clear-cut compared to Physics or Chemistry I think.

    However, saying that, in our first year maths exam someone got 2%; so even within institutions a disproportionate gap in ability can still be observed

    Yeah, I think I'll apply if I get 70%+ this year. Thanks Are you going to Cambridge for a PhD then?
    Well personally I would actually dispute the highlighted statement above.

    I would be inclined to say that the more factual based a subject/module, the less subjective it becomes. For example the bond angle in methane is a factual piece of information, and any question asking for that piece of information has a 'perfect answer', 109.5 degrees. There is no room for subjectiveness there really (unless my knowledge of chemistry is very poor haha). Conversely something that requires more understanding can often be argued one way or the other, as there is normally contradictory evidence/research.

    Exam format definitely plays a big part in grade differences too. I'm not sure how final year chemistry exams are, but in genetics it involved 3 long answer essays per module. In academic essays there can never be such thing as a 'perfect answer'. No matter how well you understand the research, no matter how much evidence you exhibit of outside reading, you will never achieve 100%. My personal best was in a subject that my dissertation/research project was based on. The external examiner and course supervisor flagged my exam as one of the best they'd ever seen, and commented that I demonstrated understanding of the subject that would only be expected of a PhD student. I still only received an 89%.

    I agree with you that the amount of understanding vs factual knowledge varies across biology though. Some zoology/taxonomy modules might require mainly factual learning, whereas subjects like evolutionary and quantitative genetics require far more understanding. I'm sure this is probably the case within physics and chemistry too.

    The requirements for graduate study in Oxford are a strong 2:i or 1st for most subjects are far as I know. This might depend on the degree, for reasons given above, but I wouldn't be put off applying even if you just fall short of 70% (I'm sure you won't ).

    No, I tried to skip completing a masters and applied straight for a PhD studentship at Cambridge in Cancer Genetics & Epidemiology, but after interview was unsuccessful. They gave me positive feedback though, and asked me to apply for a MPhil studentship in epidemiology with the same department, which I have done. Still waiting to hear, but my application has made it to the final stage, so it's looking promising so far.

    edit:
    Literally just received my offer haha.
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    (Original post by FCB)
    Well personally I would actually dispute the highlighted statement above.

    I would be inclined to say that the more factual based a subject/module, the less subjective it becomes. For example the bond angle in methane is a factual piece of information, and any question asking for that piece of information has a 'perfect answer', 109.5 degrees. There is no room for subjectiveness there really (unless my knowledge of chemistry is very poor haha). Conversely something that requires more understanding can often be argued one way or the other, as there is normally contradictory evidence/research.

    Exam format definitely plays a big part in grade differences too. I'm not sure how final year chemistry exams are, but in genetics it involved 3 long answer essays per module. In academic essays there can never be such thing as a 'perfect answer'. No matter how well you understand the research, no matter how much evidence you exhibit of outside reading, you will never achieve 100%. My personal best was in a subject that my dissertation/research project was based on. The external examiner and course supervisor flagged my exam as one of the best they'd ever seen, and commented that I demonstrated understanding of the subject that would only be expected of a PhD student. I still only received an 89%.

    I agree with you that the amount of understanding vs factual knowledge varies across biology though. Some zoology/taxonomy modules might require mainly factual learning, whereas subjects like evolutionary and quantitative genetics require far more understanding. I'm sure this is probably the case within physics and chemistry too.

    The requirements for graduate study in Oxford are a strong 2:i or 1st for most subjects are far as I know. This might depend on the degree, for reasons given above, but I wouldn't be put off applying even if you just fall short of 70% (I'm sure you won't ).

    No, I tried to skip completing a masters and applied straight for a PhD studentship at Cambridge in Cancer Genetics & Epidemiology, but after interview was unsuccessful. They gave me positive feedback though, and asked me to apply for a MPhil studentship in epidemiology with the same department, which I have done. Still waiting to hear, but my application has made it to the final stage, so it's looking promising so far.

    edit:
    Literally just received my offer haha.
    Sorry, poor wording on my part. I really can't be bothered to put forward an argument but let's just agree to disagree! Well done on your offer Are you on a BSc or MSci course currently then?
 
 
 
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