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Am I Good Enough to Apply for Oxford Masters?

Hi! I study Theoretical Physics at one of the best London universities, and have just finished my 2nd year with a (very very) strong 2:1, having previously finished my 1st year with a pretty strong first.

I would really like to apply to Oxford for their masters course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Are my grades sufficient as just a baseline starting point? I already have good references in mind, have had physics related interning experience, and will most likely yield a good personal statement. Only thing I’m worried about is my grades; as Oxford wants a First, and ofcourse I haven’t completed my degree yet but do my grades lie in a good region?

Thank you!
Original post by andromedagirl
Hi! I study Theoretical Physics at one of the best London universities, and have just finished my 2nd year with a (very very) strong 2:1, having previously finished my 1st year with a pretty strong first.

I would really like to apply to Oxford for their masters course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Are my grades sufficient as just a baseline starting point? I already have good references in mind, have had physics related interning experience, and will most likely yield a good personal statement. Only thing I’m worried about is my grades; as Oxford wants a First, and ofcourse I haven’t completed my degree yet but do my grades lie in a good region?

Thank you!


Hi, I think you would make a strong application. A strong First and strong 2:1 averages to a First. I think even if you are averaging slightly less than 70, the department will consider the probability of the final result being a First.
If what you mean by "one of the best London uni" is Imperial, imo just stay there. Imperial is extremely strong at formal theory (string theory and QFT) and i would not choose any of the Oxbridge over it.

But if you mean UCL (btw is objectively the worst uni in London for physics), then leave ASAP.
Reply 3
Original post by Anonymous
Hi, I think you would make a strong application. A strong First and strong 2:1 averages to a First. I think even if you are averaging slightly less than 70, the department will consider the probability of the final result being a First.


I was just a little worried because I've heard Oxford typically admit students with averages over 80%! Do you have any advice for my application? Are you a student in this masters course?

Again thank you so much :smile:
(edited 1 week ago)
Reply 4
Original post by Anonymous
If what you mean by "one of the best London uni" is Imperial, imo just stay there. Imperial is extremely strong at formal theory (string theory and QFT) and i would not choose any of the Oxbridge over it.

But if you mean UCL (btw is objectively the worst uni in London for physics), then leave ASAP.


I hope to also apply to Imperial for their QFFF masters, which would literally be my dream to be accepted for. My same worry applies here because I want to have realistic expectations about the success/failure of my application, but also am just not sure where the bar *really* is and if a lot of successful candidates did have similar grades to me when they applied?! I am in total life plan mode. Do you think I make a generally good, or even okay, candidate to apply?
(edited 1 week ago)
Original post by andromedagirl
Thanks for your reply! I smiled reading this because I am, in fact, at UCL

I hope to also apply to Imperial for their QFFF masters, which would literally be my dream to be accepted for. My same worry applies here because I want to have realistic expectations about the success/failure of my application, but also am just not sure where the bar *really* is and if a lot of successful candidates did have similar grades to me when they applied?! I am in total life plan mode. Do you think I make a generally good, or even okay, candidate to apply?

It's too early to worry about. From my experience the big 3 1-year Masters (part iii, MTP and QFFF) recruit around 100 students each (maybe less at Oxford, this is because their progression requirement is very relaxed, so most places are taken by Oxford undergrads), so there's lots of places.

Ofc even when they don't say it officially, academics know a 1st class at Oxbridge is not the same as a 1st class at say UCL so you should aim for 80%+ at least, 90% to be safe (no offence, but i'm surprised they offer a theoretical physics degree when they don't even have a string theory department, quite misleading).
Reply 6
Original post by Anonymous
It's too early to worry about. From my experience the big 3 1-year Masters (part iii, MTP and QFFF) recruit around 100 students each (maybe less at Oxford, this is because their progression requirement is very relaxed, so most places are taken by Oxford undergrads), so there's lots of places.

Ofc even when they don't say it officially, academics know a 1st class at Oxbridge is not the same as a 1st class at say UCL so you should aim for 80%+ at least, 90% to be safe (no offence, but i'm surprised they offer a theoretical physics degree when they don't even have a string theory department, quite misleading).

Okay great - thank you! Were/are you at Imperial? Did you enjoy your course?!

Thank you for letting me know about grades regarding what I should aim for :smile: I am not sure how the process for masters works. Do they give conditional offers to a lot of students, knowing that not a lot will end up achieving a first? Or are their offers mainly based off the current grades the student is achieving.

I was just a little worried because I've heard Oxford typically admit students with averages over 80% from people!
(edited 1 week ago)
Original post by andromedagirl
Okay great - thank you! Were/are you at Imperial? Did you enjoy your course?!

Thank you for letting me know about grades regarding what I should aim for :smile: I am not sure how the process for masters works. Do they give conditional offers to a lot of students, knowing that not a lot will end up achieving a first? Or are their offers mainly based off the current grades the student is achieving.

Do you think my current grades make me a potential candidate they would consider then?? When I calculate my current average (without taking into consideration the difference in weightings for year 1 and 2), it comes to 1st class. When I calculate the average with the weighting, its a little under a 1st class. I got 76% in my first year and 68% in my second year.

I was just a little worried because I've heard Oxford typically admit students with averages over 80% from people!


oh sorry i didn't realise you're applying this year. In such case there's nothing you can do to improve your grades. I'd say just apply for all 3 and hope for the best.

But don't get your hopes up at Oxbridge, Imperial might be OK tho. If I were you I'd apply for plenty of insurances.
Original post by andromedagirl
Thank you for your reply! When I calculate my average (without taking into consideration the difference in weightings for year 1 and 2), it comes to a first. When I calculate the average with the weighting, its a little under a first. I got 76% in my first year and 68% in my second year.

I was just a little worried because I've heard Oxford typically admit students with averages over 80%! Do you have any advice for my application? Are you a student in this masters course?

Again thank you so much :smile:


I only have experience in social science courses that require 65 as a minimum. I know of situations where applicants were on a track to get a First, but ended up getting an offer condition of 65. I am not sure how it is for maths and physics applicants since the assessment/marking criteria might be different. I would suggest looking into any other discussion of Mathematical and Theoretical Physics on tsr and other websites like thegradcafe.

For what's it worth, here are some submitted outcomes on thegradcafe.

March 2014, 2015 (conditional offer)
Mathematics And Theoretical Physics, University Of Oxford Conditional on at least upper second class honours.


22 March 2019 (unsuccessful outcome)
Mathematical And Theoretical Physics, University Of Oxford MPhys UK uni, 74%/80% in 2nd/3rd year. Someone else from my uni rejected too with 80%/81%


23 March 2020 (offer)
Mathematical And Theoretical Physics, University Of Oxford year 1 85% year 2 92% . 1 summer project. BSc Mathematics and Physics from a Non-Oxbridge UK university. Application submitted: 11/12/2019 Last reference: 3/1/2020 Offer: 03/23/2020


I am not sure why there is such a big discrepancy between the first outcome and the second and the third. Maybe it's got something to do with how the department assessed the marks of different applicants.

Here is a thread on tsr from 2 years ago asking the same question as you did. https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6726352

One of the replies:
Those marks are solid 1st class which is a good starting point, but for something like MSc theoretical physics at Oxford its going tomatter where they are from, and possibly your class poistion as well as competition will be tough and not all 1sts carry the samevalue in an admissions meeting. Definitly worth a punt however.


At this stage, you might want to consider submitting GMAT scores to strengthen your application. Your course doesn't require GMAT scores, but it can't hurt as long as it doesn't distract from your final year of studies.

Try your best for Oxford or Cambridge, but keep some insurance options. Imperial also has an exceptional reputation in maths and physics.
Reply 9
Original post by Anonymous
oh sorry i didn't realise you're applying this year. In such case there's nothing you can do to improve your grades. I'd say just apply for all 3 and hope for the best.

But don't get your hopes up at Oxbridge, Imperial might be OK tho. If I were you I'd apply for plenty of insurances.

Did/are you also going through the masters application process? Please let me know your experience from which the information you are kindly providing me is coming from :smile: Thank you!
Original post by andromedagirl
Did/are you also going through the masters application process? Please let me know your experience from which the information you are kindly providing me is coming from :smile: Thank you!


No I did my UG and Masters ages ago (part iii). It's just something I noticed when helping at admissions, we interview people for PhD in theoretical physics, all of them have (high) 1sts, but students from certain universities routinely perform worse than others. Guess which one.
Original post by Anonymous
I only have experience in social science courses that require 65 as a minimum. I know of situations where applicants were on a track to get a First, but ended up getting an offer condition of 65. I am not sure how it is for maths and physics applicants since the assessment/marking criteria might be different. I would suggest looking into any other discussion of Mathematical and Theoretical Physics on tsr and other websites like thegradcafe.

For what's it worth, here are some submitted outcomes on thegradcafe.

March 2014, 2015 (conditional offer)


22 March 2019 (unsuccessful outcome)


23 March 2020 (offer)


I am not sure why there is such a big discrepancy between the first outcome and the second and the third. Maybe it's got something to do with how the department assessed the marks of different applicants.

Here is a thread on tsr from 2 years ago asking the same question as you did. https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6726352

One of the replies:


At this stage, you might want to consider submitting GMAT scores to strengthen your application. Your course doesn't require GMAT scores, but it can't hurt as long as it doesn't distract from your final year of studies.

Try your best for Oxford or Cambridge, but keep some insurance options. Imperial also has an exceptional reputation in maths and physics.

Hello! Thank you so much for providing such a detailed and thoroughly researched answer - I am very thankful and grateful for the time and effort you put in this for me :smile:

Thank you for also referring me to another thread with a similar query to mine! I guess what makes me afraid is that my second year grade is quite low in comparison to the other candidate; even though we had the same first year average. I had an extenuating circumstance during exams which my department is aware of during my second year, so hopefully that will add context?

Fingers crossed everything works out - but yes I do plan on 100% applying to Imperial and possibly some other masters courses as insurance. Is there a significance on sitting the GMAT? I thought maybe it was for business studies - I don't know a lot about these things sorry!
Original post by andromedagirl
Hello! Thank you so much for providing such a detailed and thoroughly researched answer - I am very thankful and grateful for the time and effort you put in this for me :smile:

Thank you for also referring me to another thread with a similar query to mine! I guess what makes me afraid is that my second year grade is quite low in comparison to the other candidate; even though we had the same first year average. I had an extenuating circumstance during exams which my department is aware of during my second year, so hopefully that will add context?

Fingers crossed everything works out - but yes I do plan on 100% applying to Imperial and possibly some other masters courses as insurance. Is there a significance on sitting the GMAT? I thought maybe it was for business studies - I don't know a lot about these things sorry!


The Gradcafe is mostly US/international applicants and they seem to include GMAT scores when they apply despite the department not requiring it. The way I see it, you will be applying without your final results, and with current marks that you are uncertain about. GMAT could be one way of improving your standing in the eyes of the department, especially as it is supposed to be standardised testing for quantitative knowledge. Additionally, depending on when you plan to apply, you could include the first term marks of your third year at UCL. These are just some ways you can strengthen your application. Yes, I think it could be very helpful if you have a reference giving additional context to your second year marks regarding any extenuating circumstance. Good luck!
Original post by andromedagirl
Hi! I study Theoretical Physics at one of the best London universities, and have just finished my 2nd year with a (very very) strong 2:1, having previously finished my 1st year with a pretty strong first.

I would really like to apply to Oxford for their masters course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Are my grades sufficient as just a baseline starting point? I already have good references in mind, have had physics related interning experience, and will most likely yield a good personal statement. Only thing I’m worried about is my grades; as Oxford wants a First, and ofcourse I haven’t completed my degree yet but do my grades lie in a good region?

Thank you!
The one thing that helped me apply was the fact that "no one thought they were good enough to get into Oxford" - so you just have to take the chance and apply! It can't get worse than a rejection - and that one you have secured without applying either way, so it can only get better to try your chance!

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