The Student Room Group

Help! - Oxford Admissions Process and Applying w/ Achieved Grades

Hello all,

I'm an intl student who applied this year to Cambridge for Law (2022 entry). Sadly, yesterday I was rejected after being pooled. I am taking a gap year and reapplying to Oxbridge and was thinking of switching to Oxford this year instead. There are two main reasons why I chose Cambridge over Oxford last year:
1. My GCE (we still do the old CIE GCE exams) results are 6A* 2A (2A* achieved by sitting them and 4A* 2A were CAGs from 2020)
2. I was unable to sit the LNAT in October 2021 as I was giving my CIE AS-Level exams in O/N 2021 (in my country, we use the old A-Level system where AS grades are 50% of your final A-Level grade)

However, as I will now be applying with achieved A-Level grades, I am hoping for either 3A* 1A (A in Math, A*s in Eng Lit, Law and Econ) or 4A*. I have already achieved 4As in my AS results so I'm halfway on track to 4A*s, God willing.

In view of these circumstances, I have a few questions that perhaps someone familiar with Oxford could help me with (I'm well-researched w/ Cambridge but not Oxford):

1. I know Oxford view GCSEs much more than Cambridge, and my 6A* 2As are not very impressive w/ Oxford applicants who often have > 8A* (although I could not take more than 8 because of school restrictions and my referee will make this clear). However, given I will have achieved A-Level grades (not TAGs, my country has declared we will sit all our A-Level exams), will that make the value of these CAG GCSEs less important? Is it possible that my A level results can outdo my relatively mediocre GCSEs?

2. How different is the Cambridge application experience from an Oxford one? I know the LNAT is before the application (and I assume is taken into account when handing out interview offers) and that the interviews are done by 2 colleges rather than one. What else is different?

3. Does Oxford do 'compulsory pooling'? I believe they do not, is this true? If they do not, would having 3-4 achieved A*s at A levels not benefit me at all in any way (as it would in Cambridge w/ compulsory pooling)?

My main concern is that my GCSEs might hold me back from getting an interview and therefore I shouldn't risk Oxford, instead Cambridge seems the 'safer' option since at least I would be guaranteed compulsory pooling (and even if not, with less importance on GCSEs and more on A-Levels I'd be safer there).

Any advice is genuinely very greatly appreciated.
(edited 2 years ago)
@Oxford Mum @Reality Check sincerely apologise if I'm pestering or unnecessarily tagging you, but I do consider you two to be authorities on Oxford (and Oxbridge!) and your advice helped me last year applying to Cambridge. Could you possibly pls shed some light?
Original post by _Alevelstudent_
@Oxford Mum @Reality Check sincerely apologise if I'm pestering or unnecessarily tagging you, but I do consider you two to be authorities on Oxford (and Oxbridge!) and your advice helped me last year applying to Cambridge. Could you possibly pls shed some light?

You flatter me - and I'm sure there are people far more knowledgable than I on this, but I'll endeavour to answer when I have a minute later :smile:
Reply 3
hey I am also same situation and I am also going to reapply to Cambridge after taking gap year so if can need any help you can ask me
Hi there @_Alevelstudent_

Sorry I haven't replied earlier, but I have been very busy lately.

Whenever someone messages me and says they want to read law at Oxbridge, I let out a little sigh. Law is a massively oversubscribed subject at both universities and many go for Oxbridge law because they believe it is a "prestigious" (hate that word) degree. Ditto with PPE and medicine. Therefore, you will already have a larger mountain to climb than, say, a modern languages applicant (one of the ten easiest subjects statistically to get into Oxford for).

Unlike any of the other subjects, you can't "read your way in" for law (although extra reading/research is required). You mention grades as if this were the most important part of the application process, but this is very much the starting point. The average number of 8/9s or A* (GCSE) for an Oxford law applicant has is 5.2. The average number of 8/9s for a successful applicant is 8 or 9. You still do not know what your A level results will be, but you only need AAA for Oxford law. I am not sure if AAA will make up for the GCSE results, as I just provide encouragement, not applications advice.

Yes, for Cambridge law you will need A*AA if you have an offer. I know of someone who had unastounding GCSE marks (certainly not as good as yours) who obtained a Cambridge law offer, but was rejected as they only achieved AAA at A level. They ended up at Oxford with a completely different subject.

The LNAT is used at Oxford to whittle down the applicants, so if you get an interview you already have a 1 in 3 chance of getting in. There is no pool (as at Cambridge) because the hard choices of who to interview will have already been made. If you impress at interview but your preferred college is full, you may be sent to another college. I don't know if you are automatically interviewed at two colleges (as they are for medicine).

However, it appears that more people are interviewed by Cambridge. It would be hard for Oxford to assess you if you don't get an interview in the first place. Therefore, if you are worried about your GCSE marks, have the requisite A*AA in the bag and are keen to have your day in front of the interviewers, Cambridge may seem like your best bet. If you reapply to Cambridge, you will need to choose a different college.

Now here comes the challenge. Even if you have the grades, and pass the admissions test, you will need to impress at interview. This is very hard to gauge. I have been told by an Oxford law student that the interview is more about logic than anything else. You may be put in a fictitious situation and need to reason your way to a solution. This, to me, requires a lot of natural talent. You cannot learn to be nit picking, questioning every point or think up good moves on the spot (like a chess player). You may be following one line of argument, and the interviewer may say something that means you may have to change your line of questioning. You may be presented with a piece of writing and have to make points and back it up with evidence from the text.

I always thought that Karen from outnumbered would make a great lawyer

If you get rejected from Oxbridge law, it's not because you are no good at reasoning, it's just that the other student did it that little bit better. That is why I think law is the riskiest subject to apply for.

I'm not saying don't apply again, I am just say be aware of the risks.

Please find attached a copy of my Oxford Demystified

There is a great chapter on reapplying, written by successful applicants. They spill the beans on how they researched, aced the admissions tests, and handy coping hints for interviews.

Also here is the Cambridge Demystified chapter for law

just so you can see what the benchmark is and maybe give you some tips.

Hope all this helps and keep your feet on the ground. Getting into Oxbridge law should be seen as a bonus rather than a guarantee, and you should also learn to love your other choices just in case. However, as my son says, "someone has to get in, and it might as well be me".

Quick Reply