Key Stages Of The Oxbridge Admissions Process

Words by Keven Amfo

25 June 2020


Quintessentially’s Education experts detail important deadlines and processes to better your chances for admission to the UK’s most celebrated universities.

The Oxbridge application process is academically rigorous

Applying to Oxbridge is not for everyone. Stringent entry requirements (most Oxford candidates will have straight A*s and A’s under their belt), coupled with an even tougher application process, mean dedication and proper preparation are a must for success.

Deciding between Oxford and Cambridge

Both Oxford and Cambridge are reputable academic universities. Highly esteemed, with a collegiate structure and small classes (called ‘Tutorials’ at Oxford and ‘Supervisions’ at Cambridge), the style of education is quite similar. The atmosphere, however, is quite different. Cambridge is a small, laidback city; while Oxford is livelier and much busier. Additionally, the two offer different courses—e.g., PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) is only offered at Oxford, and Natural Sciences is only offered at Cambridge—so students should consider choice first and university second.

Choosing an Oxbridge College

Q Education recommends students apply to specific colleges—however, open applications can also be submitted. When picking a college, students should consider whether it teaches the subject they wish to study, the size, how old or new the college is, and where it is based. Q Education recommends that students do not choose their college based on prior year acceptance rates, as this can significantly skew results year on year. Make sure to pick the college that offers that most suitable course and feels the best fit, rather than basing choices on often inaccurate statistical enhancement.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Applications—Personal Statement

Oxbridge personal statements should have a distinct academic focus, whereby students have the chance to show their academic interests and ambitions along with the wider reading they have done around their subject. This is an excellent opportunity to express who you are while highlighting your academic potential and demonstrating that you understand—and are prepared for—your chosen subject. The utter importance of this piece of the application means it should be planned early, beginning in Year 12.

Oxbridge Admissions Tests

Admissions tests allow universities to assess necessary skills, such as comprehension and thinking skills, alongside levels of knowledge and understanding that are relevant to your specific course. Remember, they are not designed to catch you out, but they are instead looking at your ability to problem solve, think critically and creatively and to test students above and beyond their typical classroom and exam base learning. Q Education’s top tip is to do as many past papers as you can from previous years so you are familiar with the new testing concept. Also make sure to register for your admission test by 15th October- students must register for this separate to UCAS and it can be easily overlooked!

Oxbridge Interviews

The final part of an Oxbridge application is passing the interview. These will vary between each course and college. Interviews at Cambridge will often take place in one college, often on a single day, but Oxford applicants will usually stay for at least a couple of days and may be interviewed more than once by different colleges. The interview process can be the most daunting stage of the application for students, however contrary to what many might tell you, the admissions staff are simply there to challenge students and see how they respond to unfamiliar situations. There may not even be a correct answer in some cases!

Key Oxbridge dates for 2020 entry:

September 4 UCAS for 2020 opens

October 15 Deadline for students applying to Oxford and Cambridge, and for courses in Medicine

October 15 Deadline to Oxbridge candidates to register for admission tests

October 30 Oxbridge admissions tests take place

December Oxbridge interviews take place

January 9 Oxbridge decisions are shared

For assistance, advice, and support through the application process, please contact Quintessentially Education.

More to explore


New Year’s Eve: fine dining with a view

See out 2022 on a high at these global gastronomic hotspots

Read more

A glittering evening at The Fayre of St James’s 2022

An insider’s look at Quintessentially Foundation’s star-studded fundraiser in aid of The Firefly Project.

Read more

Hong Kong’s best hotel spas

Expect premium treatments, world-class hospitality and stellar views at these six wellness hotspots.

Read more

Sign up

Sign up to receive your monthly digest/dose of Noted.

Contact us