Physics – Before You Apply

Provided you have strong fundamentals, passion and a willingness to learn, Physics is a subject which very few do not enjoy. You will study the way that the universe works, why it is and discover the essential knowledge required for scientific progress.


When applying to Oxbridge, you will have to complete a UCAS form before the October 15th deadline. Candidates are only allowed to apply to one of Oxford or Cambridge, and they can choose to apply to a particular college, or make an open application. As part of the UCAS form, you will have to write a 4000 character personal statement, and a teacher will have to provide a reference. The institution code for Cambridge is CAM C05 and for Oxford is O33.

The UCAS code for undergraduate Physics at Oxford is F300 (3 years) and F303 (4 year). At Cambridge the UCAS code is BCF0 BA/NS for Natural Sciences.  Applicants may only apply for Oxford or Cambridge, but not both.  It is usual to stipulate a choice of college in the UCAS application, although both universities allow you to make an ‘open’ application via that university’s central admissions office which will then allocate you to a particular.  Those wishing to make and open application should enter a ‘9’ in the campus choice box on their UCAS form

Cambridge Undergraduate Course requirements:

Typical Offer: For applicants taking three or more science/mathematics subjects at A level the agreed minimum offer is three A grades (with one at A*) in three science/mathematics A levels.
For applicants taking two science/mathematics subjects at A level with one or more nonscience subject(s), the agreed minimum offer is two A grades in the A level science/mathematics subjects plus an additional A grade in one other A level subject, plus an A grade at AS level in a third science/mathematics subject.

For requirements for Scottish Highers and International Baccalaureate see the website below.

Subjects: All Colleges strongly prefer applicants to have Science A levels. Some colleges prefer applicants to have three sciences one of which is mathematics: Christ’s, Jesus, Magdalene, Newnham, St John’s, and Trinity. Magdalene also requires A level Mathematics.
Some colleges will, exceptionally, consider applicants taking fewer science subject at A level, provided this subject is Biology. In this case you will still be expected to show a very high level of scientific ability. You are likely to be disadvantaged in all Colleges when compared with those of comparable ability taking more science/mathematics A levels.

Thinking Skills Assessment: Some colleges (Emmanuel, Gonville & Caius, St. Edmund’s, St. John’s, Trinity Hall & Wofson) may require you to do an additional test as well as interview. This is designed to test your critical thinking skills, problem-solving ability, logical and spatial reasoning, including understanding argument and reasoning using everyday language. It is a 90minute test consisting of 50 questions.

Scottish Highers System:
The following qualifications are typically required.

  • An Advanced Higher (or CYS) in Biology and
  • 5 Grade A Highers. These must include a Higher in Biology and / or Maths and/or Physics

If you don’t have Maths, Biology and Physics at Advanced Higher or Higher Level you must have Intermediate 2 or standard grade (Credit) in these subjects.

Oxford Undergraduate Course requirements:

A-levels: A*AA
This should either be A*A in Physics and Mathematics (with the A* in either Physics or Mathematics) plus any other A, or A* in Further Mathematics with AA in Mathematics and Physics. Candidates are expected to have Physics and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent. The inclusion of a Maths Mechanics module would also be highly recommended. Further Mathematics can be helpful to candidates in completing this course, although not required for admission.

• Advanced Highers: AA/AAB

• IB: 38–40 including core points

All candidates must also take the Physics Aptitude Test as as part of their application. The Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) is a paper-based 2-hour, subject-specific admissions test. 

PAT Syllabus:

Part A

  • Elementary mathematics:  arithmetic, geometry including coordinate geometry, and probability.
  • Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Physics

Syllabus for Part B of the aptitude test (physics)

  • Mechanics
  • Waves and optics
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Natural world
  • Mathematics:  Questions may require the manipulation of mathematical expressions in a physical context.
  • Problem solving

For More information regarding the test  and past papers from the Oxford website:


Common questions regarding the Physics Application:

Is there a difference between Oxford and Cambridge?

Should I apply for the broad Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge or a specific subject at Oxford?

How do I know I’m clever enough for such an academic degree?

Will tutors be looking to see if I will make a good Biologist/Physicist/Scientist or are they only looking at my grades?

Do I have to be hoping for a career in Science in order to apply?

Mentors will be answering these and any other questions at Schools’ Interview Preparation Days or during Private tuition. Alternatively, read some of our blog entries from OxbridgeSciences or send us an email at and we will try to help you out as best we can.