# Oxbridge Applications

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coldfish
In my opinion a lot of what "the gobby applicants" and "ridiculous little sixth formers" say is more valuable than the bile that so consistently comes from your fingertips on this forum.

Yes, people do post on here who don't have a clue, but the majority of replies to questions are made by people in pretty good positions to answer them. The success rate of the applicants on these boards must compare favourably with that of those who attend workshops by Cambridge Applications, largely (I imagine) because it's roughly the same self-selected group. This site is an awful lot more useful than "a cock flavoured lollipop", and an awful lot more fun too.

And that's saying something.

haha, whatever does it for you...

Anyway, I was wondering how long til you threw your student-union worshipping, Access-scheme loving two cents into the mix. Surprised it took this long, actually. I expect better next time. C- for you, mister.
Lusus Naturae
Perhaps they can't tell you anything more, but, as far as I can tell, they do offer face-to-face interview practice, which is something TSR cannot do. Regardless of any economic or ethical points, there is a huge difference between theory and practice. I could explain the rules of tennis, the technique behind all the shots, the strategies to employ during the game; however, will somebody on TSR then be able to go out and play tennis to a high level? You may argue that the example of a physical sport is a poor comparison, but how about an academic example? I could say to somebody that they can differentiate a function by considering the gradient of a function $f(x)$ between $x$ and $x + \delta x$ and tell them to let $\delta x \rightarrow 0$, but does this mean that they could sit a high-pressure, timed exam and differentiate an example, say $x \cos x$ in under two minutes? The ability to perform well in a pressure situation, such as a university interview, is gained through experience of those pressure situations, not by reading TSR.

After reading the recommended books on TSR, doing practice questions and asking any questions they needed answered in the Maths forum, I would say that they would certainly be able to differentiate that in under 2 minutes, whether under pressure or not.
Niccolo
Anyway, I was wondering how long til you threw your student-union worshipping, Access-scheme loving two cents into the mix. Surprised it took this long, actually. I expect better next time. C- for you, mister.

I didn't realise I had a reputation for being student-union worshipping or access-scheme loving. I guess you learn things every day.
But how useful is face-to-face interview practice anyway?
I believe that it has its uses. I'll take the risk of impaling myself and use History as an example. A History interview will involve communicating and discussing historical ideas under pressure. Does being in a pressure situation affect the way that somebody performs? Most people would say that it does, drawing on their own experiences. If one is used to discussing history in an informal manner, or perhaps completely unfamiliar with the idea of discussing history, then discussing history in an interview will be an unusual experience. If we are familiar with a situation, and have been in that situation before, then we will be able to overcome possible hurdles more quickly than if we had never met that hurdle before. To practise and get feedback allows one to develop and refine the skills needed to succeed in a verbal discussion, and not only the specific discussion of history, but the generic discussion that will occur in any interview. There is no doubt that historical ability and potential plays a large part, but it does not constitute the whole part. An interview provides an impression of an individual. The way that somebody walks, sits, speaks and comes across helps form that impression.

I'm sure we can both imagine two complete opposites: Person A, dressed in a smart suit, enters the room, gives the interviewer a hearty handshake and a confident smile. They sit in their seat with excellent posture, look eager, interested, willing to listen and learn, and answer in a confident, warm, voice with careful pronunciation: "I think that the collapse of the Weimar Republic was an inevitable event in the course of German History; it was linked, in the minds of the German people, to the humiliating defeat during the first World War". Person B, dressed in a dirty hoodie and tracksuit bottoms, comes in, seemingly ignores the offered handshake, and slumps into their chair. They look completely disinterested in what the interviewer has to say, and replies with their hand covering their mouth, muffling their words: "Yeah well, I fink dat, you know, the Weimar Republic was, err, bound to 'appen, cos, the people f'ought dat, um, it was part of the 'umiliating defea' durin' World War One, and deh trea'ies the defea' brough' wiv it, you know what I mean?" Has their historical interpretation or reasoning differed? Whose was better? Yet on what has been given, who would be more likely to be offered a place? The purpose of my example is to show that, however much we would all wish the interview to be a pure gauge of academic ability and potential, that wish is, due to the way we subconsciously judge people and due to the prejudices we hold, a wish that is unreachable.

Advice, practice, and feedback help develop a candidate who projects themselves well, and is able to show others the full extent of their capabilities; I believe that face-to-face practice with feedback can help future interviews go more successfully. (Forget Oxbridge - why can't this apply to all interviews and even to other pressure situations?)

Why do you think, FTB, that schools set mock exams? It is the application of the same principle.

Alive
After reading the recommended books on TSR, doing practice questions and asking any questions they needed answered in the Maths forum, I would say that they would certainly be able to differentiate that in under 2 minutes, whether under pressure or not.

You misunderstood my point; I am sorry if it was not clear. I was trying to illustrate the difference between theory and practice by analogy, not refer to preparation for such a question in an exam (hence the tennis analogy as well). In your example they do practice questions - they do not just learn the background theory. Do you think they would they be able to do it if they had never worked through a question themselves?
In response to your suggestion that TSR is enough to prepare for a question like that in an interivew, look at my first paragraph.
Lusus Naturae

In response to your suggestion that TSR is enough to prepare for a question like that in an interivew, look at my first paragraph.

I can only speak for Maths, but if you are talking about face-to-face interviews, I would say that these are actually easier than you would think (as you might feel you screwed something very easy up, whereas the interviewer can see that you have done something difficult in a clever way), and that at most schools and colleges there would be a few teachers willing to help students with interview preparation.

So a combination of TSR + your school/college = good preparation. Or something like that.
My mum wanted me to use them, but I backed out because the organisation looked a bit shady and I thought it would be more likely to hinder than help me, and I'd rather get in on my own merit. Of course, I think practice interviews can be helpful, but they needn't be with Oxbridge Applications who'll charge the earth.

And Niccolo, stop using ad hominems or I'll be forced to resort to ad baculums.
i'd agree that most people who have posted here probably have not had experience of oxbridge applications. they charge extortionate amounts, are not at all value for their money but they are not completely useless. their statistics are probably misleading as well since people who have done research are more likely to be successful anyway.
i had a mock interview day with them and i don't think it particularly benefited me, and they don't give any hidden secrets nor do they claim to. however, my school did not provide any mock interviews, preparation or anything of the sort, i had no idea what to expect of an oxbridge interview and so in that respect it gave me a little more confidence, and the feedback is helpful. i'd still recommend getting a mock interview from somewhere, but probably not from oxbridge applications.
yes they are a shifty company, and they play on students' fears, but that's most businesses, they're no different from any other company and i think niccolo has come in for harsh stick for pretty much just saying that, but i spose it's hard to understand what people are saying on a forum
Some teddy hall graduate called me in the vein hope to persuade me. She talked on an on without a stop for about 15 minutes. I said I´d call her back if I´m interested. Got a letter and 2 emails now. How desperate are they?
I think Niccolo came in for harsh stick mainly because he says things in such an unpleasant manner, rather than because of what he said.
My school offered it to people who were interested, and I found it really useful as a confidence exercise, and also an idea of what an interview could be like, as well as some usefule (though also some useless pointers).
I say if your school will pay for it, go for it as it can help make you less nervous and expell the rumours surrounding Oxbridge interviews. However, it's not worth the cost of the weekends, and the way it targets your parents is awful.
elin89
My school offered it to people who were interested, and I found it really useful as a confidence exercise, and also an idea of what an interview could be like, as well as some usefule (though also some useless pointers).
I say if your school will pay for it, go for it as it can help make you less nervous and expell the rumours surrounding Oxbridge interviews. However, it's not worth the cost of the weekends, and the way it targets your parents is awful.

To be honest, I don't really see anything wrong with it. Personally, I would have hated it had my parents paid for me to go to one of these events--the fact they had spent money on it would have been too much pressure on me. And those who think otherwise probably have parents who can afford to give them that kind of money with no worries whatsoever. I generally think parents should have a bit more confidence in their kids' abilities to research the whole process themselves, arrange mock interviews with their teachers, etc etc. My parents weren't that confident I would get in, but left it to me to decide to prepare in my own way. They knew I'd try my best and that I was well-rounded enough to come across OK in the interview. I think more parents need to have faith in their children and maybe also research the process a bit themselves-- they'd soon find out that you don't need to go to one of these events to get into Oxbridge, so they should spend their money otherwise. Any parents who (can't remember who said it, but someone did on here) all of a sudden learns that their child only has a 25% chance of getting into Oxbridge and starts getting stressed really needs to get their priorities straight, in my opinion.
Absolutely. Some of my friends who helped out at open days come back with horror stories of parents asking how they can "make sure" their blessed offspring get an offer. Oh, the dread of the twin-set and pearls brigade.
I have to say I don't get the ranting. Yes, targetting parents is slightly strange, but they are the people who end up paying. It's like targetting children's toys at parents. Maybe a bit weird, but sort of understandable.

But the main thing I don't get is the passion against them. They provide a service some people find useful for a rather large fee. Is it too expensive? Probably. But then I think private schools are too expensive. Yes, a lot of the information they give is available elsewhere, but the personal service isn't (at least, not for free), which is where the real benefit is. Also, bringing all the information together in one place, just the relevant bits for that person's application, saves a lot of hassle searching and finding it all yourself.

I can understand why people think it's not worth the money, especially with the conference things. But that doesn't stop it being useful for some people - everyone I know who's used the personal service bits (mentoring, application form drafting, etc.) found it helpful.

So why are people so passionately against it? All it is is a service that they charge a fee for, like a private school, outside tuition, private healthcare, etc.
Drogue
So why are people so passionately against it? All it is is a service that they charge a fee for, like a private school, outside tuition, private healthcare, etc.

Well, I think what people resent is how the company essentially advertises itself as a legal way of "buying" your child a place - provided you can afford it. That's probably a gross exaggeration, but I think a lot of people (particularly those who haven't used / wouldn't use / couldn't afford to use their services) are nevertheless secretly worried that it might actually work that way. That's why they're so quick to lash out against the company, and in a sense that's not entirely unjustified, because if it were possible to "buy" a place, it would completely defeat the universities' admissions policy based solely on "academic merit". So all that passion is directed against the idea of some people gaining an unfair advantage, regardless of whether there's any definite proof that they really do gain an unfair advantage.
Ironically, Oxbridge Applications actually benefit from causing a bit of outrage every now and again, and they might even deliberately provoke it. In a way, they live by mystifying themselves just as much as they live by mystifying the Oxbridge application process. If nobody thought of them as slightly dodgy, they'd be nowhere near as successful...
hobnob
Well, I think what people resent is how the company essentially advertises itself as a legal way of "buying" your child a place - provided you can afford it. That's probably a gross exaggeration, but I think a lot of people (particularly those who haven't used / wouldn't use / couldn't afford to use their services) are nevertheless secretly worried that it might actually work that way. That's why they're so quick to lash out against the company, and in a sense that's not entirely unjustified, because if it were possible to "buy" a place, it would completely defeat the universities' admissions policy based solely on "academic merit".

I see what you mean, though I have to admit I've never seen marketing that suggests you can "buy" a place. I realise they use scare tactics, like "X many people with straight As didn't get an offer last year", but while it's a scare tactic, it's still true. The general idea - if you have straight As, you're not guaranteed a place, but we can help prepare you to maximise your chances - is pretty much exactly what they do.

I'm still shocked at quite the strength of people's negative feelings.

hobnob
Ironically, Oxbridge Applications actually benefit from causing a bit of outrage every now and again, and they might even deliberately provoke it. In a way, they live by mystifying themselves just as much as they live by mystifying the Oxbridge application process. If nobody thought of them as slightly dodgy, they'd be nowhere near as successful...

I disagree here. Target 10,000, run by Oxbridge Applications, is involved with far more applicants than OA are directly. If anything, they're demystifying applications for the masses. They possibly would benefit from the mystique, but I reckon they'd benefit more if there weren't the outrage, and people just saw them as a service they can use or not.
Drogue
I see what you mean, though I have to admit I've never seen marketing that suggests you can "buy" a place. I realise they use scare tactics, like "X many people with straight As didn't get an offer last year", but while it's a scare tactic, it's still true. The general idea - if you have straight As, you're not guaranteed a place, but we can help prepare you to maximise your chances - is pretty much exactly what they do.

Well, it depends on how you look at the maximising of chances bit, really: Oxbridge applications not only employ scare statistics of how many applicants with straight As are rejected each year, they also cite statistics claiming that the success rate of "their" applicants is significantly higher. Those statistics may well be true, and there may be a number of reasons why they are true, but if Oxbridge Applications combine them like that, they're implying that the services they provide make a crucial difference in a significant number of cases. So they're effectively telling parents that whether their child gets an offer or a rejection potentially hinges on their decision to pay (or not to pay) a sum of money for one of those weekend seminars.

I'm still shocked at quite the strength of people's negative feelings.

So am I. But then again, I'm an international, so my own parents were never targeted by them...

I disagree here. Target 10,000, run by Oxbridge Applications, is involved with far more applicants than OA are directly. If anything, they're demystifying applications for the masses.

Obviously Target 10,000 is another matter, but if the main intention of Oxbridge Applications is to demystify applications for the masses, why did they write that little pre-packaged press release about wacky Oxbridge interview questions last year that was so eagerly snatched up by the papers?

They possibly would benefit from the mystique, but I reckon they'd benefit more if there weren't the outrage, and people just saw them as a service they can use or not.

But as it is, their service has an air of privilege and "exclusiveness" about it, which makes some people resent it, of course, but probably makes others value it all the more.
hobnob
Well, it depends on how you look at the maximising of chances bit, really: Oxbridge applications not only employ scare statistics of how many applicants with straight As are rejected each year, they also cite statistics claiming that the success rate of "their" applicants is significantly higher. Those statistics may well be true, and there may be a number of reasons why they are true, but if Oxbridge Applications combine them like that, they're implying that the services they provide make a crucial difference in a significant number of cases. So they're effectively telling parents that whether their child gets an offer or a rejection potentially hinges on their decision to pay (or not to pay) a sum of money for one of those weekend seminars.
While I wouldn't put the last bit quite like that, isn't that what every company does - they explain the issue and tell you how they can help solve it? They're not saying it solely hinges on that (the figures show it doesn't) but that it will help. It's like saying your less likely to die in a car accident if you spend money having an airbag installed, or reinforcing your doors. It's not perfect at all, but it might help.

I tutor applicants (for free), and I'd like to think it makes some difference. Maybe everyone I've tutored would have got offers regardless, I don't know, but I like to think I've helped. One of the big issues that applicants often have is confidence. Many applicants don't say things for fear that it might be stupid, or get nervous and thus close up a little. One thing I've found is that having interview practice, being given feedback and tips on how to improve, makes people more confident. Indeed, I personally found I was much more confident in my second interview than I was in my first, as I'd realised it wasn't anything to be afraid of. Even if mentoring and other OA services don't make the applicant better, it makes them more confident, and thus they tend to give a better performance. One of the key things I've always been told, for interviews, is to think out loud. Show the tutor how you think and how you approach the answer. If you're too nervous, that's very hard to do. And it's very hard to give an offer to an applicant who doesn't show you how they think, who's afraid to offer their thoughts for fear they might be silly.

Basically what I'm (badly) trying to say is that you're right, that's exactly what they're trying to say - it might make the difference. I firmly believe interview practice, feedback, advice and tutoring helps applicants to some degree. In many, probably most cases, it won't make the difference between getting an offer or not. But in some, borderline, cases, it may well do. So either you argue OA is entirely ineffective, helps no-one, and thus is a waste of money (though I think the figures suggest otherwise), or you accept that in some cases, it does make the difference. In which case it's a useful service that they charge for. And yes, it has moral issues, but then having private medical treatment may well increase your chances of recovering from an illness, or spending more on a car may increase it's safety and thus your chances of surviving a crash. These seem far more morally dubious, matters of life and death where money can make the difference, than university entrance.

Moreover, money cannot buy you entrance. Indeed, I tend to think OA are a good thing, morally, as I'm sure there are many able candidates rejected each year because their interview goes badly, not through a lack of intelligence, but through a lack of confidence, or simply being unused to interviews and not doing simple things (like thinking out loud). I'm all for anything that helps applicants bring out the best in themselves. That's why I tutor students from state schools, because the more people who have some experience, the better admissions tutors are able to decide between candidates at their best, rather than just those who happen to be more confident, talkative, or interview-friendly.
£850 is a lot. I could not afford it. But someone at school did. Anecdotally, he found the weekend helpful. He gets very, VERY nervous before interviews. He had 7 intensive interviews conducted by strangers. It helped his confidence a lot. But that was about it. That's £120 an interview.

It's a lotta dosh.

What we need is TSR members who are now at Oxbridge to get together and provide a similar service for the price of a pint and a pizza. That WOULD be good value.
Yeah I think going for programmes by such companies is a bit morally dubious... lots of my friends (typically the oxbridge obsessed type) have gone/are going for it and say it has been very useful but i refuse to on moral grounds.
Indolentbee
What we need is TSR members who are now at Oxbridge to get together and provide a similar service for the price of a pint and a pizza. That WOULD be good value.

Why on earth would we do that? I'd do it for £50 an hour. I have to eat after all and it is still cheaper.

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