Oxford will look at your GCSEs but if you avoid the popular colleges, have a strong personal statement and predicted grades, have an excellent admissions test score and more importantly a bit of luck, you will have a good shot.
My experience was with Cambridge but you will realise what is the most important thing when it comes to Oxbridge applications:
I applied for 2024 entry for Computer Science at Cambridge (Gonville and Caius College - it's in between Trinity and King's and in the town centre, Imperial, Durham ,Edinburgh and Manchester.
9s in Maths, English Language, Physics, Chemistry, Biology (triple science), Spanish, Computer Science, Latin.
8s in Religious Studies and English Literature.
On the whole I was happy with my GCSE grades but obviously there is room for improvement so it could perhaps have been my GCSE grades that got me the rejection but I don't think it was, which you will see later on(I knew I wasn't gonna get a 9 in English Lit but RS I was disappointed with because I was getting 9s all the way throughout the year and was two marks off the boundary in the actual thing).
A levels: Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Computer Science, EPQ and predicted 5 A*s.
I think that I wrote a strong personal statement, though there were things I missed out that I shouldn't have (like Kangaroo certificates etc.), but it still got me into the most competitive Computer Science course in the country (Imperial - 5% acceptance rate) so I don't think it was my personal statement that meant that I got rejected.
Admissions test - TMUA
On the day of my admissions test, there were like 7 other admissions tests taking place in the same room and the start and end timings were presented in a tabular format at the front of the room. My seat was at the back of the room and at the start of the test, for the first paper, I looked at the wrong row, which meant that the actual end time was 15 minutes before the end timing that I saw. I was working through the paper extremely quickly and saw that I had barely used any of my time so when it came to the questions in the middle, I began to work through it more slowly so that I wouldn't make any careless mistakes. I finished the paper in what I thought was good time - I had 17 minutes left before what I thought was the end time (two minutes before the actual end time), at which point I thought I should slowly start to shade in the lozenges on my answer sheet. Two minutes later, I got told to put my pencil down and I was in complete shock and I was panicking. I only managed to shade 9 out of 20 lozenges on my answer sheet for the first paper and it was at that point I knew that I wasn't going to get in. There was another paper as well, but that is the one that I always perform poorly on (which is unusual because people usually perform better on the second paper) and so I knew that I was going to be rejected. I sat there contemplating at the start of the second paper for 20 minutes as to whether there was any point in me writing anything on the paper since I knew that I was going to be rejected but I worked through it because you never know.
Conclusions to take from my experience:
1) Grades don't mean everything - Someone might have top top grades but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't mean anything as there will be several hundreds, if not thousands of people, applying for the same course with the same grades as you or better grades than you. It helps to some extent obviously but by no means is it the be all and end all.
2) Smash your admissions test - Now I had decent grades and my personal statement wasn't so bad that it meant that I got rejected. It was definitely the admissions test so if you are set on going to Oxford, SMASH YOUR ADMISSIONS TEST AND IT WILL MAKE UP FOR MEDIUM GCSE RESULTS.
3) Oxford isn't the be all and end all. Life doesn't just stop there. It's good to have aspirations that you want to go to Oxford but you also have 4 other options on your UCAS form that you can fill with other excellent institutions. The Oxford environment isn't for everyone and the people who get selected to go there quickly realise how work-intensive it is. If you think getting in is the hard bit, I agree but by no means is it a cakewalk once you get in.
4) Make sure you look at the right timing for your admissions test 😂😂 and make sure you start preparing in advance for your test and for your interview.
Now, obviously I'm disappointed that I didn't get into Cambridge and that I met my fate of rejection because it would have been nice to have gotten all 5 offers (I have offers from Edinburgh, Manchester and Imperial, Cambridge rejection so just waiting on Durham now) but I think Imperial is the better fit anyway for me so I would have chosen Imperial anyway.
Good luck, my friend! I hope you get there!