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Are my GCSE grades good enough for Oxford?

Hi, everyone! I wanted to try and reduce a worry that I've been having for a while. I'm a Y12 student currently studying at a state school who is predicted A*, A*, A for Maths, Physics and Further Maths. I really want to apply to study Physics at Oxford.

However, my GCSE grades are not the best when considering that I previously went to a private school (because of difficult financial circumstances, I had to leave). I got 4 7s, 4 8s and 3 9s (Maths and Physics were both 8s). There were several reasons for this, like the stress of my parents' divorce and severe anxiety, but at the end of the day I did not work hard enough and got middling grades when compared against my school's averages of mostly 8s and 9s.

Luckily, I've managed to significantly improve my lifestyle ever since then - my work ethic is much better, my friendships are stronger and my mental health is probably in the best place it has ever been.

Unfortunately, I felt crushed when our admissions advisor told us that, if we didn't have straight 8s and 9s, there was no chance we would be accepted. I know that I can't provide 'context', since I did my GCSEs at a private school, so I'm wondering - is there any point in even applying?

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Reply 1
your gcses are not the priority, you’re more likely to get in with A*A*A* even with lower gcses (around 60-80% of acceptances depending on the course are A*A*A* students) most of the information is found on their website for a specific course. you just need a high grade in maths and physics in GCSE to get into the physics course (i don’t use number grades but i’m presuming you need a 7 since that’s equivalent to an A i think). they like students who show a lot of potential in their course (super curricular activities are awesome for this) so as long as you are a promising student, that’s primarily what they care about, your gcse’s will be looked at a little less especially with obvious improvement
Reply 2
Original post by brnziu
your gcses are not the priority, you’re more likely to get in with A*A*A* even with lower gcses (around 60-80% of acceptances depending on the course are A*A*A* students) most of the information is found on their website for a specific course. you just need a high grade in maths and physics in GCSE to get into the physics course (i don’t use number grades but i’m presuming you need a 7 since that’s equivalent to an A i think). they like students who show a lot of potential in their course (super curricular activities are awesome for this) so as long as you are a promising student, that’s primarily what they care about, your gcse’s will be looked at a little less especially with obvious improvement
let me just add - schools genuinely lie to you on acceptances. its really hard to get in, but still worth trying. they say DofE is sooo important, when in reality unless you can link it to your subject, its not even worth mentioning. i suggest you find a free online physics uni course and add it to your personal statement. or read physics books, listen to physics podcasts etc. all more important than still very promising gcse grades
Original post by brnziu
let me just add - schools genuinely lie to you on acceptances. its really hard to get in, but still worth trying. they say DofE is sooo important, when in reality unless you can link it to your subject, its not even worth mentioning. i suggest you find a free online physics uni course and add it to your personal statement. or read physics books, listen to physics podcasts etc. all more important than still very promising gcse grades

Thanks so much for your reply! I got 8s/A*s for Maths and Physics, so that's fine. Also, I've already started to do supercurricular activities, so I guess my worries have lessened a bit.
You can mention the difficult family circumstances in your personal statement, although you will want to get across your enthusiasm for Physics. More important is your predicted A' level grades and your PAT test score. Never too early to look at a few past PAT papers.
Original post by BetaVersion2.9
You can mention the difficult family circumstances in your personal statement, although you will want to get across your enthusiasm for Physics. More important is your predicted A' level grades and your PAT test score. Never too early to look at a few past PAT papers.

Thanks for the reply! I've looked and tried at a few PAT papers, but I've decided to start properly preparing now.
Original post by Anonymous
Hi, everyone! I wanted to try and reduce a worry that I've been having for a while. I'm a Y12 student currently studying at a state school who is predicted A*, A*, A for Maths, Physics and Further Maths. I really want to apply to study Physics at Oxford.
However, my GCSE grades are not the best when considering that I previously went to a private school (because of difficult financial circumstances, I had to leave). I got 4 7s, 4 8s and 3 9s (Maths and Physics were both 8s). There were several reasons for this, like the stress of my parents' divorce and severe anxiety, but at the end of the day I did not work hard enough and got middling grades when compared against my school's averages of mostly 8s and 9s.
Luckily, I've managed to significantly improve my lifestyle ever since then - my work ethic is much better, my friendships are stronger and my mental health is probably in the best place it has ever been.
Unfortunately, I felt crushed when our admissions advisor told us that, if we didn't have straight 8s and 9s, there was no chance we would be accepted. I know that I can't provide 'context', since I did my GCSEs at a private school, so I'm wondering - is there any point in even applying?

Hi! I think your admissions advisor is exaggerating. When I got feedback on my application it included 8s and 9s as one collective grade, and didn't seem to expect more than 5 or 6 8/9s for people to get a place. Your personal statement and then pat score are both far more important. There's also always a point in applying - especially if you do the pat - its a really amazing learning experience and regardless of whether you would get in would teach you a lot about the subject of physics. Good luck!
Original post by Anonymous
Hi! I think your admissions advisor is exaggerating. When I got feedback on my application it included 8s and 9s as one collective grade, and didn't seem to expect more than 5 or 6 8/9s for people to get a place. Your personal statement and then pat score are both far more important. There's also always a point in applying - especially if you do the pat - its a really amazing learning experience and regardless of whether you would get in would teach you a lot about the subject of physics. Good luck!

Thank you so much for responding! It feels comforting to know that not every admissions advisor is as harsh as mine. What I've gathered from these responses is that doing well in PAT (and being prepared for similarly tricky questions in the interview) is my top priority, so thanks for the advice!
Reply 8
Original post by Branson Rakes
Thanks for the reply! I've looked and tried at a few PAT papers, but I've decided to start properly preparing now.

Are you the OP? It's not for you to mention family issues in your PS. Your reference is the propoer place for this.

You could look at some MOOCs especially as you are only doig three A levels [where I teach (state school) we encourage 4 if Maths/FMaths are taken]
Original post by Muttley79
Are you the OP? It's not for you to mention family issues in your PS. Your reference is the propoer place for this.
You could look at some MOOCs especially as you are only doig three A levels [where I teach (state school) we encourage 4 if Maths/FMaths are taken]

Thanks for replying! We actually got an assembly a few days about tutor references, so I guess brnziu was wrong. I can definitely look into some MOOCS, thanks for the advice. Btw, I was going to do 4 A-Levels, but my Further Maths teacher advised against it. In retrospect, he was probably right, since my predicted grades are extremely high.
Original post by Branson Rakes
Thanks for replying! We actually got an assembly a few days about tutor references, so I guess brnziu was wrong. I can definitely look into some MOOCS, thanks for the advice. Btw, I was going to do 4 A-Levels, but my Further Maths teacher advised against it. In retrospect, he was probably right, since my predicted grades are extremely high.

Yes but you are competing against people with 4 x A* ...
Original post by Muttley79
Yes but you are competing against people with 4 x A* ...

True - unfortunately, I'm far too late into my courses to pick up a 4th, so I'll have to work as hard as I can and hope that I can compete with 4 x A* students
Original post by Branson Rakes
True - unfortunately, I'm far too late into my courses to pick up a 4th, so I'll have to work as hard as I can and hope that I can compete with 4 x A* students

A good PAT score is the key - we've started prep with our potential applicants [state school] so time to do that.
Original post by Muttley79
A good PAT score is the key - we've started prep with our potential applicants [state school] so time to do that.

Thanks for the advice - unfortunately, my school doesn't offer any assistance for admissions tests, so I'm currently looking for external tutors and doing past paper practice in my own time
Original post by Branson Rakes
Thanks for the advice - unfortunately, my school doesn't offer any assistance for admissions tests, so I'm currently looking for external tutors and doing past paper practice in my own time

Why not? We do it in our non-contacts if it can't be timetabled.

https://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/study/undergraduates/how-apply/physics-aptitude-test-pat/useful-websites-and-resources-pat

"Preparing for the PAT course: this course is run by the Department of Physics and features a mix of in-person (where possible) and online tuition, including mentoring by current students. This course is for year 12 students from state-funded schools, academies and colleges with little or no history of successful applications to the University of Oxford."
Original post by Muttley79
A good PAT score is the key - we've started prep with our potential applicants [state school] so time to do that.

Yep, with Physics the PAT score is sooo important. Get a good enough score and you're almost guaranteed to get in. All the info is on their website so you can see the scores that you need to aim at. Grind through all the PAT test past papers and if there are questions that you're stuck on then see if your physics teacher/s will give you a hand.

At the end of the day, though, do keep things in context - Oxford is great (if it suits you) but so are many of the other universities and you might find that another uni is a better fit for you. Working through the PAT past papers is great for your problem solving skills so you'll should be in a great place physics-wise regardless of whether you end up going to Oxford or not. Best of luck with everything 🙂
Original post by Muttley79
Why not? We do it in our non-contacts if it can't be timetabled.
https://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/study/undergraduates/how-apply/physics-aptitude-test-pat/useful-websites-and-resources-pat
"Preparing for the PAT course: this course is run by the Department of Physics and features a mix of in-person (where possible) and online tuition, including mentoring by current students. This course is for year 12 students from state-funded schools, academies and colleges with little or no history of successful applications to the University of Oxford."

? Sorry, I'm not exactly sure what you mean - I'd already signed up for that, but thanks for linking it to others who are in a similar predicament to me
Original post by Anonymous
Yep, with Physics the PAT score is sooo important. Get a good enough score and you're almost guaranteed to get in. All the info is on their website so you can see the scores that you need to aim at. Grind through all the PAT test past papers and if there are questions that you're stuck on then see if your physics teacher/s will give you a hand.
At the end of the day, though, do keep things in context - Oxford is great (if it suits you) but so are many of the other universities and you might find that another uni is a better fit for you. Working through the PAT past papers is great for your problem solving skills so you'll should be in a great place physics-wise regardless of whether you end up going to Oxford or not. Best of luck with everything 🙂

Thanks for replying! I guess what I've gathered from all this is that I need to grind as hard as possible to ace the PAT and the interview. Thanks for wishing me luck!
Original post by Branson Rakes
? Sorry, I'm not exactly sure what you mean - I'd already signed up for that, but thanks for linking it to others who are in a similar predicament to me

Sorry, what hae ou signed up for? Find it difficult to understand why your teachers can't help.
Original post by Muttley79
Sorry, what hae ou signed up for? Find it difficult to understand why your teachers can't help.

Sorry for taking a while to reply, school work's been horrid - I meant I'd already signed up for the Preparing for the PAT course hosted by the university (a series of online webinars). Anyhow, I asked my Physics teacher and he said that he could help me prepare using the materials, so it's all worked out well 😀

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