Is Oxford harder to get into than Cambridge?

Watch this thread
crashcody
Badges: 14
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#1
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#1
I hear lots of discussion about GCSEs, and how if they aren’t near perfect your chances go down. Also, looking at admission statistics, Oxford courses seem to be way more competitive. Why is this?
0
reply
_Alevelstudent_
Badges: 10
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#2
Report 1 month ago
#2
1) Cambridge has higher A level requirements - they can afford to give out more offers and possibly have more students miss them as compared to Oxford who give out offers which are very likely to be achieved by someone who is realistically looking @ applying to Oxbridge.

2) Oxford seems to have more of an intl pull in that more ppl have heard of it (imo) and therefore I feel - and this is entirely a personal opinion - that Oxford also gets a lot of poor-quality applications and applications from intl students who arent well versed with the Oxbridge application process (don't know what Oxbridge is looking for). Again, that's not to say that Oxford has poor quality applicants (quite the opposite) but that apart from the excellent candidates, Oxford also probably takes the bulk of the "lets just give it a shot" type of applications which are obviously factored into their total applications & therefore result in a lower acceptance rate.
2
reply
crashcody
Badges: 14
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#3
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#3
(Original post by _Alevelstudent_)
1) Cambridge has higher A level requirements - they can afford to give out more offers and possibly have more students miss them as compared to Oxford who give out offers which are very likely to be achieved by someone who is realistically looking @ applying to Oxbridge.

2) Oxford seems to have more of an intl pull in that more ppl have heard of it (imo) and therefore I feel - and this is entirely a personal opinion - that Oxford also gets a lot of poor-quality applications and applications from intl students who arent well versed with the Oxbridge application process (don't know what Oxbridge is looking for). Again, that's not to say that Oxford has poor quality applicants (quite the opposite) but that apart from the excellent candidates, Oxford also probably takes the bulk of the "lets just give it a shot" type of applications which are obviously factored into their total applications & therefore result in a lower acceptance rate.
This is interesting! So do you think that for ‘serious’ applicants the odds are relatively similar? Is the theory about Oxford putting more emphasis on GCSEs fact or broscience?
0
reply
_Alevelstudent_
Badges: 10
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#4
Report 1 month ago
#4
(Original post by crashcody)
This is interesting! So do you think that for ‘serious’ applicants the odds are relatively similar? Is the theory about Oxford putting more emphasis on GCSEs fact or broscience?
For serious applicants, yes I would say the odds are similar although there are certainly subtle differences in the admissions process:

1. Oxford do genuinely place more emphasis on GCSEs over Cambridge - no broscience here. It is a part of their pre-interview selection process since it is (for most candidates) the last actual exam sat before their A levels. If you have good GCSEs and a good A level score predicted, you're equally well placed at both. However, if you have poor GCSEs (I mean average/above average not straight Cs) then you can still have a shot at Oxford but Cambridge may be easier given they place comparatively less emphasis on GCSEs.

2. Cambridge generally interview more applicants than Oxford. If you're eager to get a chance to show off your skills face-to-face (i.e., you think you aren't very strong on paper with grades/PS/admissions tests) then Cambridge is probably better in terms of odds. Then again, this does mean that because more people are getting a chance to come to interview, you have a stronger competition @ interview stage since someone who you might have beaten on paper with better grades/test scores might actually make up for their weaknesses in interview and thus become a real competitor.

Again, these are very minute differences. In the grand scheme of things, both unis consider GCSEs but don't use them as a deal-breaker, both unis interview candidates they believe would have a good shot, just that Oxford is slightly stricter pre-interview and thus, post-interview they have less candidates to consider and competition becomes slightly reduced since you're likely only up against 3 other candidates max whereas w Cambridge it might be 5-6, and so the cut-throat competition may come AFTER the interview.

I don't know if you're asking for yourself or just in general, but I think the courses and unis themselves are different enough that stats should not play too much of a role in your decision making process. The admissions staff are pretty well trained in both unis to pick out the best candidates and bring them to interview, and then make the decisions from there on out.
Last edited by _Alevelstudent_; 1 month ago
1
reply
RichE
Badges: 15
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#5
Report 1 month ago
#5
(Original post by crashcody)
This is interesting! So do you think that for ‘serious’ applicants the odds are relatively similar? Is the theory about Oxford putting more emphasis on GCSEs fact or broscience?
What subject are you interested in?
0
reply
skylark2
Badges: 18
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#6
Report 1 month ago
#6
(Original post by crashcody)
I hear lots of discussion about GCSEs, and how if they aren’t near perfect your chances go down. Also, looking at admission statistics, Oxford courses seem to be way more competitive. Why is this?
If you look at the average A level achievement for people who end up at Oxford and Cambridge, they're near-identical - i.e. neither is more competitive.

There are a couple of courses at Oxford where GCSEs are used as a filter for getting an interview. But mostly the reason that if your GCSEs aren't perfect your chances go down isn't because Oxford are mean and cruel and use it to randomly discard brilliant candidates, it's because they take about 3300 people per year and a whole lot more than the top 3300 people in the country (well, and 3300-ish at Cambridge, and people who decide to go to neither) have near-perfect GCSEs. If you're not in the top 10,000 or so students at age 16, you're probably not in the top 10,000 or so students at age 18 either. For instance, in 2021 about 3300 students took 8 or more GCSEs and got straight grade 9s. I'd suspect that a lot more than double that got straight 9s except for one or two subjects which were 8, but I can't find statistics for that.

One other reason that Oxford may get more applicants is that their standard offer is AAA. That feels a lot more achieveable then Cambridge's offers involving multiple A*s, even if it's just that the filter is being applied in different places (e.g. entry tests, interview performance...)
0
reply
crashcody
Badges: 14
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#7
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#7
(Original post by RichE)
What subject are you interested in?
Mathematics
0
reply
RichE
Badges: 15
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#8
Report 1 month ago
#8
(Original post by crashcody)
Mathematics
Oxford maths barely cares about GCSEs. The two unis’ application processes are very different for maths. Look into those.
0
reply
crashcody
Badges: 14
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#9
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#9
(Original post by _Alevelstudent_)
For serious applicants, yes I would say the odds are similar although there are certainly subtle differences in the admissions process:

1. Oxford do genuinely place more emphasis on GCSEs over Cambridge - no broscience here. It is a part of their pre-interview selection process since it is (for most candidates) the last actual exam sat before their A levels. If you have good GCSEs and a good A level score predicted, you're equally well placed at both. However, if you have poor GCSEs (I mean average/above average not straight Cs) then you can still have a shot at Oxford but Cambridge may be easier given they place comparatively less emphasis on GCSEs.

2. Cambridge generally interview more applicants than Oxford. If you're eager to get a chance to show off your skills face-to-face (i.e., you think you aren't very strong on paper with grades/PS/admissions tests) then Cambridge is probably better in terms of odds. Then again, this does mean that because more people are getting a chance to come to interview, you have a stronger competition @ interview stage since someone who you might have beaten on paper with better grades/test scores might actually make up for their weaknesses in interview and thus become a real competitor.

Again, these are very minute differences. In the grand scheme of things, both unis consider GCSEs but don't use them as a deal-breaker, both unis interview candidates they believe would have a good shot, just that Oxford is slightly stricter pre-interview and thus, post-interview they have less candidates to consider and competition becomes slightly reduced since you're likely only up against 3 other candidates max whereas w Cambridge it might be 5-6, and so the cut-throat competition may come AFTER the interview.

I don't know if you're asking for yourself or just in general, but I think the courses and unis themselves are different enough that stats should not play too much of a role in your decision making process. The admissions staff are pretty well trained in both unis to pick out the best candidates and bring them to interview, and then make the decisions from there on out.
Do you think they use GCSEs as a straight up filter or just bonus information on predictions?

(Original post by skylark2)
If you look at the average A level achievement for people who end up at Oxford and Cambridge, they're near-identical - i.e. neither is more competitive.

There are a couple of courses at Oxford where GCSEs are used as a filter for getting an interview. But mostly the reason that if your GCSEs aren't perfect your chances go down isn't because Oxford are mean and cruel and use it to randomly discard brilliant candidates, it's because they take about 3300 people per year and a whole lot more than the top 3300 people in the country (well, and 3300-ish at Cambridge, and people who decide to go to neither) have near-perfect GCSEs. If you're not in the top 10,000 or so students at age 16, you're probably not in the top 10,000 or so students at age 18 either. For instance, in 2021 about 3300 students took 8 or more GCSEs and got straight grade 9s. I'd suspect that a lot more than double that got straight 9s except for one or two subjects which were 8, but I can't find statistics for that.

One other reason that Oxford may get more applicants is that their standard offer is AAA. That feels a lot more achieveable then Cambridge's offers involving multiple A*s, even if it's just that the filter is being applied in different places (e.g. entry tests, interview performance...)
Ye haha that makes sense. I didn’t have TSR standard GCSEs (mainly 7s with a couple 9s), but will hopefully have 4A* when I apply. I’m applying for Maths, which I imagine is quite popular. I’m assuming my GCSES would probably bring me down in this respect?
Last edited by crashcody; 1 month ago
0
reply
crashcody
Badges: 14
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#10
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#10
(Original post by RichE)
Oxford maths barely cares about GCSEs. The two unis’ application processes are very different for maths. Look into those.
Nice : D
0
reply
RichE
Badges: 15
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#11
Report 1 month ago
#11
(Original post by crashcody)
Nice : D
Look in the FAQs here
https://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/study-her...tus#admissions
0
reply
artful_lounger
Badges: 21
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#12
Report 1 month ago
#12
(Original post by crashcody)
I hear lots of discussion about GCSEs, and how if they aren’t near perfect your chances go down. Also, looking at admission statistics, Oxford courses seem to be way more competitive. Why is this?
That is only for medicine at Oxford that you really need a perfect set of GCSEs to be considered competitive. As above, it varies considerably between subjects at Oxford, and while on the whole they are somewhat more focused on GCSEs (and very much so for medicine) there are quite a few subjects that don't put that much emphasis on GCSEs there, such as maths (also physics or CS I believe).
1
reply
wolves2003
Badges: 13
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#13
Report 1 month ago
#13
(Original post by crashcody)
Mathematics
i think the general consensus is for maths its harder to get an offer from oxford than cambridge (or at least, a lower percentage are given out, as cambridge can afford to give out more due to more people being more likely to miss their grades), but the offer from oxford is much easier to meet.

For oxford you need to do well in the MAT, which is sat in november (which will then be used among other factors to decide if you should be interviewed or not, and used after interviews as part of your whole application when deciding who to give offers to). Oxford's typical offer is A* in maths & further maths and an A in a third subject. No STEP needed.

On the other hand, cambridge has no pre interview test, but if you get an offer from them, you will have to do well in STEP, which is generally considered harder than the MAT, and is sat around the same time as your A-Levels.
Last edited by wolves2003; 1 month ago
1
reply
Son of the Sea
Badges: 20
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#14
Report 1 month ago
#14
No appreciable difference between the two.
0
reply
wolves2003
Badges: 13
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#15
Report 1 month ago
#15
(Original post by Son of the Sea)
No appreciable difference between the two.
To be honest for maths I think there is quite a big difference between the two
0
reply
crashcody
Badges: 14
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#16
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#16
(Original post by wolves2003)
i think the general consensus is for maths its harder to get an offer from oxford than cambridge (or at least, a lower percentage are given out, as cambridge can afford to give out more due to more people being more likely to miss their grades), but the offer from oxford is much easier to meet.

For oxford you need to do well in the MAT, which is sat in november (which will then be used among other factors to decide if you should be interviewed or not, and used after interviews as part of your whole application when deciding who to give offers to). Oxford's typical offer is A* in maths & further maths and an A in a third subject. No STEP needed.

On the other hand, cambridge has no pre interview test, but if you get an offer from them, you will have to do well in STEP, which is generally considered harder than the MAT, and is sat around the same time as your A-Levels.
I will be applying after completing my a-levels, so I’m hoping I would have time to study for the MAT/STEP, as I would probably apply to Imperial/Warwick too which both want MAT. I have visited the Oxford maths building and I think it’s REALLY cool, so perhaps I should check out Cambridge before making my decision
1
reply
Picnicl
Badges: 13
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#17
Report 1 month ago
#17
In 2021, St Andrews had the lowest acceptance rate of all UK universities. By comparison, applicants to Oxford and Cambridge are filtered by the sixth form colleges themselves telling a student what the student is regularly capable of achieving in study plus likely to achieve in A-levels and what kind of environment might best suit them and how Oxbridge is probably not - or is - potentially a good fit as a result.

Oxford gives fewer offers than Cambridge (understandable as Oxford interviews more than Cambridge so Oxford filters out more people before the offers stage than Cambridge do) but this is entirely balanced by the fact that a higher percentage (compared to Cambridge) of people made offers by Oxford are later accepted by Oxford.
It also stands to reason that, because Cambridge will have more applicants to choose from when the results are in, and because Cambridge have less experience of being personally assured of natural flair at interview than Oxford's larger number of interviews allow it, Cambridge can afford to be, and need to be, more obsessed about the actual achieved A Level grades than Oxford are. So the average A-level score of Cambridge entrants tends to be just a little higher than Oxford entrants.
Last edited by Picnicl; 1 month ago
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Year 12s - where are you at with making decisions about university?

I’ve chosen my course and my university (25)
27.47%
I’ve chosen my course and shortlisted some universities (31)
34.07%
I’ve chosen my course, but not any universities (8)
8.79%
I’ve chosen my university, but not my course (3)
3.3%
I’ve shortlisted some universities, but not my course (5)
5.49%
I’m starting to consider my university options (13)
14.29%
I haven’t started thinking about university yet (4)
4.4%
I’m not planning on going to university (2)
2.2%

Watched Threads

View All