Welsh student looking to apply for Oxbridge Watch

j240519
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Hello,
I have just begun my first year of sixth form in year 12, but am in a bit of a dilemma regarding my options.

In my GCSEs I achieved 11 A*s and 2 As, and would like to study French & German at either Oxford or Cambridge. Therefore, I have chosen to study French, German, History and Geography for A Level.

However, the system in Wales differs to that of England. It is compulsory for sixth form students to study the Welsh Baccalaureate, which is a coursework based subject aimed at developing skills. For example, we have just begun preparing for a 'community challenge' which will involve 30 hours of voluntary work outside of class hours and quite a lot of planning!

I'm unsure if I will be able to cope with four A Levels and Welsh Bacc, hence the dilemma! My options are:
1. I think I could convince the school to allow me to drop Welsh Bacc to focus on my A Levels. However, I am confused about the English equivalent - I have read about something called an EPQ which looks quite similar to Welsh Bacc. If this qualification is widely taken by English students, would it be worth carrying on with Welsh Bacc?
2. I could carry on with my current subjects and drop one at AS. In Wales an AS is also a standalone qualification, so I would at least be awarded with something after a year's hard work!
3. Focus on facilitating activities and drop a subject or Welsh Bacc. As a prospective language student, perhaps it would be wiser to further develop my knowledge of the language? I took part in something called the 'UK Linguistics Olympiad' in year 8 and am considering taking this up again - would it be valuable to my application?

I am not sure if I am worrying over nothing, but I need to make my mind up soon. I am struggling to commit to Welsh Bacc at the moment if I know I might drop it in the near future! I honestly don't know at the moment how much work my subjects will entail, and whilst I am willing to do whatever it takes to secure an Oxbridge place, I don't want to spend every minute of my life doing school work!

If you wouldn't mind telling me what you took in sixth form, including extra curricular 'facilitators' and 'non A Level' courses, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks
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Sinnoh
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The EPQ is not taken by the majority of students and is usually not an advantage in applications. I am going to be applying to Cambridge very soon - I am only taking A-levels at the moment, apart from preparing for the NSAA.
You do not need 4 A-levels for either university, nor do you need irrelevant extra-curricular activities. Dedication and enthusiasm for the chosen course is the most important factor.
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ConicalFlask
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Welsh student at Oxford here! Although Welsh bacc may be compulsory at your sixth form, it is not a Welsh requirement and so I wouldn't imagine it being too difficult to convince your school to let you drop it. You also don't need 4 a levels to get in to Oxford or Cambridge, and obviously doing better in 3 A levels is more useful than doing 4 and struggling to meet the entry requirements. The EPQ may not be a necessary advantage to your UCAS profile, but it does allow you to look in a subject you enjoy in a lot of detail, so can be a good thing to talk about it a personal statement to show your enthusiasm for the subject. (It's also not too much work for something that I found very enjoyable!)
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j240519
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(Original post by Sinnoh)
The EPQ is not taken by the majority of students and is usually not an advantage in applications. I am going to be applying to Cambridge very soon - I am only taking A-levels at the moment, apart from preparing for the NSAA.
You do not need 4 A-levels for either university, nor do you need irrelevant extra-curricular activities. Dedication and enthusiasm for the chosen course is the most important factor.
Thanks for the reply. Do they look at anything else apart from the three A Levels?
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j240519
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(Original post by ConicalFlask)
Welsh student at Oxford here! Although Welsh bacc may be compulsory at your sixth form, it is not a Welsh requirement and so I wouldn't imagine it being too difficult to convince your school to let you drop it. You also don't need 4 a levels to get in to Oxford or Cambridge, and obviously doing better in 3 A levels is more useful than doing 4 and struggling to meet the entry requirements. The EPQ may not be a necessary advantage to your UCAS profile, but it does allow you to look in a subject you enjoy in a lot of detail, so can be a good thing to talk about it a personal statement to show your enthusiasm for the subject. (It's also not too much work for something that I found very enjoyable!)
Thanks for the reply. How did you do an EPQ then if you are a Welsh student? Is it something I could do in my free time?
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Sinnoh
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(Original post by jacktns)
Thanks for the reply. Do they look at anything else apart from the three A Levels?
They will look at your whole UCAS application - past grades, current subjects, personal statement, references (which includes predicted grades). If you were taking an EPQ, it would probably be mentioned in both your personal statement and your reference. You'd talk about the other stuff you personally chose to do, related to your chosen course, in your personal statement. That includes your participation in the linguistics olympiad (I'd personally recommend you do it again, this will be your last chance before the Oxbridge deadline, most likely).
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Doones
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(Original post by jacktns)
In my GCSEs I achieved 11 A*s and 2 As, and would like to study French & German at either Oxford or Cambridge. Therefore, I have chosen to study French, German, History and Geography for A Level.
Very few Oxbridge applicants do 4 A-levels these days unless they are doing Maths & FM.

I strongly recommend you drop either History or Geography.
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ConicalFlask
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(Original post by jacktns)
Thanks for the reply. How did you do an EPQ then if you are a Welsh student? Is it something I could do in my free time?

My sixth form offered it as an extra qualification alongside AS or A level work - it's definitely not just an English thing. I'm not sure how you'd do it as an independent student, but I assume it is possible.
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OxFossil
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Welsh Oxford graduate here! ConicalFlask is spot on.

3 A Levels is all you need for Oxford - four will not significantly improve your chances

The University website makes it clear that the Welsh Bacc is only useful as general background learning.

"The University recognises that Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate will provide an applicant with the opportunity to develop research and academic skills relevant for study at Oxford, particularly through the independent research project. Candidates are encouraged to draw upon relevant Welsh Baccalaureate experience when writing the personal statement. However, the Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced level Core Certificate will not form the basis of any offers."

This is essentially the same attitude as it takes to the EPQ - as a good way of expanding your understanding of the subject, which may help you in writing a good PS and in your interview, but in itself, it won't count for much in decisions about offers.

The key to a successful Oxford application is to get three great A Level grades (and/or predictions), and to prepare well for the MLAT (without a high score in this, you will not be shortlisted). Showing comitment and curiosity in applying your subject learning is not at all the same as accumulating paper qualifications.
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OxFossil
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Sorry - missed this bit

(Original post by jacktns)
....If you wouldn't mind telling me what you took in sixth form, including extra curricular 'facilitators' and 'non A Level' courses, it would be much appreciated...
My (Welsh) daughter did Biology at Oxford and took 3 A Levels, an EPQ on a conservation topic, a couple of years of volunteer work on a local wildlife project, and various bits of subject related reading (which did come up in her interview).
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j240519
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
Very few Oxbridge applicants do 4 A-levels these days unless they are doing Maths & FM.

I strongly recommend you drop either History or Geography.
Okay thanks for the advice.
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j240519
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(Original post by OxFossil)
Sorry - missed this bit



My (Welsh) daughter did Biology at Oxford and took 3 A Levels, an EPQ on a conservation topic, a couple of years of volunteer work on a local wildlife project, and various bits of subject related reading (which did come up in her interview).
Right, thank you.
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j240519
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(Original post by ConicalFlask)
My sixth form offered it as an extra qualification alongside AS or A level work - it's definitely not just an English thing. I'm not sure how you'd do it as an independent student, but I assume it is possible.
Thanks, I'll ask in school.
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