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Mock Oxbridge study room #oxbridge #universityapplications

This sixth form college has taken an interesting step towards study. It has recreated a mock Don’s study, complete with wood panels and rustic furnishings, apparently in order to inspire students.

With the interview process posing an exceptionally intimidating atmosphere for the majority of students, this is an interesting way of simulating the actual environment that students will have their tutorials in. But does it justify the 10k spending? Perhaps it is the prospect of the fierce intellect about to interview them, rather than the surroundings, which perpetuate most interviewee anxiety?


Physics & Philosophy application #oxforduniversity #oxbridge #universityapplications

I have just finished studying Physics and Philosophy at Brasenose College, Oxford. For those of you thinking of applying for this course, I should warn you that it’s tough, but that it definitely pays off! I wanted to study the degree course which would teach me the most about the world, how it works and what’s in it – and I reckon I made the right choice.

In terms of university and college choice: Cambridge doesn’t offer Physics and Philosophy, so that one was straightforward and I went for Balliol which has the biggest intake for the course. However, I got reassigned pre-interview to Brasenose, as it turns out all the Physics and Philosophy applicants apply to Balliol and they don’t have space for everyone. Which college you go for doesn’t affect your chances of getting in, but I loved Brasenose because it was relatively small, friendly and has a great Philosophy of Physics tutor.
The application involves a test in Physics and Maths called the Physics aptitude test (PAT) details of which can be found here http://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduates/applications/physics-aptitude-test-pat. It is worth making sure you understand all the Physics and Maths you have done up to and including AS level and practising using the sample paper on the website.
It is often said that personal statement isn’t that important for Oxford, however you should make sure it reads well, demonstrates your interest in the subject, what extra reading you have done, and has no grammatical or spelling mistakes. My personal statement was primarily a list of different books I had read – a really good place to find out what type of philosophy interests you, and to get some reading done on relevant topics is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Just Google it and browse. The bibliographies have a lot of suggestions for interesting books or articles to look at. For the Physics reading I looked at a few copies of the New Scientist, though you should be slightly sceptical about some of their claims.
I had a total of five interviews: three in Brasenose in Physics, Maths and Philosophy and two further ones in Balliol in Physics and Philosophy. The Philosophy interviews were for the most part enjoyable; I was asked questions like ‘is the mind physical?’ and ‘can one change the past?’ and each answer I gave was challenged until I ran out of arguments. It worked much like a tutorial, and I learnt quite a fair bit about a philosophy in the process. My most important piece of advice would be not to speak until you have worked out what to say. It is far better to be silent than to babble. For the Physics and Maths interviews I was asked some questions I didn’t know how to answer, the point was to see how quickly I learnt. I felt that those ones went awfully, but I got in so they can’t have been that bad!
Overall the whole process is really nerve-racking, and kind of exhausting, but it’s worth it. And you should remember that no-one finds it easy.

Oxford & Cambridge in world top 10 again #oxbridge #worlduniranking #arwu


University of Oxford were quick to tweet this ranking, and both Cambridge and Oxford were both in the top 10.

It’s certainly a very American offering, but the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) claims to have a very robust and data-driven approach.

They also have a subject breakdown, with Oxford faring strongly in maths and Cambridge doing well in all of the sciences as we may expect.

It’s worth bearing in mind however, that this research seems very focused on publication output rather than teaching.

Good Luck to all the #A-level students with their results! #A-levelresults #Oxbridge #university #examresults

The team would like to wish everyone the best today.

Preparing to read Maths at Cambridge University #maths #oxbridgemaths

Hi, I’m Harry and I’ve just finished my first year as a mathematics student (or a ‘mathmo’ as we are called here) at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. In my blog I’m going to write a few short paragraphs on why I chose maths, my college and ultimately, what the application process itself was like and how I successfully prepared for it.

At school maths had always been something I really enjoyed and found I had a ‘natural’ ability for so applying to study it at university seemed like a natural progression. My Cambridge application seemed like a daunting prospect with so many things to think about. What college do I choose? How do I prepare for my interview? Are the interviewers going to ask me some really wacky questions I’ll have no chance in hell of answering? When I got down to it these things were a lot less stressful than I had imagined.

Firstly choosing a college. It turns out that college choice really doesn’t have much bearing on whether you get in or not. A system called pooling means that the colleges talk to each other to make sure that the applicants who will get an offer do get an offer.  I suppose trinity has the strongest reputation for maths in Cambridge but ultimately it won’t matter because if they don’t have space then they will hopefully find a college that does.

Something unique to maths is the number of offers they give out to applicants. They give out double the number of offers they have to places for because you have the added hurdle of the STEP exams, the only advice I can give for this is start early (like now!) as practice really does make perfect.

The interview itself is also quite unique to maths, forget questions like ‘why cambridge’, ‘why x college’ or your interests outside of maths. The interview itself will most likely just focus on maths and how you approach problems. The key is being able to show your interviewer how you think. They want to get inside your head to see how you tick so make sure you express all your (mathematical) thoughts aloud. This helps when you have no idea what they are talking about because you can try and explain the bits you do understand. Some colleges require a test before hand which you will discuss and go over the questions in the interview itself so make sure you look at that before you apply to a certain college (do you enjoy explaining things aloud or doing them quietly in an exam setting?).

Do not stress out after the interview. You will never know how it went (well usually never). If it was easy, then you might just be a genius! If it was hard then they might have pushed you to your limit. You can just never tell. The point is to challenge you and move you out of your comfort zone.

You can, however, prepare a little for the application process by reading some books. I personally read some of the Olympiad primer books, which seemed to help me think a little more abstractly even though I’m hopeless at the maths challenge. Algebra and geometry is also rather interesting and incredibly useful for the first year if you want to have a look at some more advanced material as well as making you think a little more deeply about the subject. The best way to prepare is probably to do some STEP I questions as these are set up in a way they try and make you think in interview and you will be getting ahead for if you do get an offer.

Good luck with your applications! I shall be writing another post shortly about STEP and how to start preparing for it early.


A British Education…

Here is the great new website on a UK education for international students.

If you are interested in a UK education, this is a tremendous resource to begin with.

Contact us for any specific questions relating to Oxbridge.


Is Oxbridge too stuffy for you?

Is Oxbridge stuffy? Have your say. Recently the press has been stating that state school students think they would prefer to go to the US to study. We would be really interested in hearing your thoughts:

The Ivy league schools in the US have a great reputation and the curriculum is more broad. High profile defectors include Laura Spence, who was famously rejected by Oxford University and accepted by Harvard.

However, her case highlights the potential downside for those who are already set on their career such as medicine. With the culture of ‘grad schools’ in the US, it would involve a less focused route into medicine for example. But conversely, for those who are less sure or who would value a broad educational experience, then this sort of study would make sense.

In the US, there is also far greater emphasis on contact time and continual essays/assessments. Students will all subscribe to certain classes, and be expected to show up and have papers formally graded. At Oxbridge in particular, students will have focused tuition in the supervision/tutorial setting and the essays will be less formally marked.

And then there is the cost. Whilst UK fees are going up, they are still no match to the level of funding required at US universities. Loans to students are often quite favourable and there are a large number of scholarships and bursaries available, but the financing needed to commit to study in the US is not for the faint hearted.

For some students however, their reservations about Oxbridge relate less to the educational opportunities and more to the perception of stuffiness. This writer, as a state school student himself, would like readers to have faith in the University system we have fostered and the people you will be surrounded with. There will be people from all walks of life and plenty of people with shared interests. Whether you feel more at home debating in the Union, acting and performing on the stage or relaxing in South Parks, there will be something for everyone.

i/ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/10138610/Stuffy-and-old-fashioned-a-better-description-of-Oxbridge-critics-than-of-Oxbridge-itself.html
ii/ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/24/bright-pupils-snub-oxbridge-for-us_n_3490363.html