How Hard Is It To Get Into Oxford Or Cambridge?

how hard is it to get into oxford
how hard is it to get into oxford

Gaining admission to the University of Oxford, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world, is a dream cherished by countless aspiring scholars. However, the question that lingers in the minds of prospective applicants is, “How hard is it to get into Oxford?”

Renowned for its illustrious history, rigorous academic standards, and a tradition of academic excellence dating back centuries, Oxford is often perceived as the pinnacle of intellectual achievement. Nothing less can be said about Cambridge. But can students get into these schools?

In this article, we will discuss the intricacies of the Oxford admissions process, exploring the factors that contribute to its renowned reputation for academic selectivity. We will also offer insights for those who aspire to embark on the remarkable journey of studying at this venerable institution.

How Hard Is It To Get Into Oxford Or Cambridge?

Gaining admission to the University of Oxford or Cambridge is characterized by fierce competition, with the level of challenge contingent on factors such as the particular program, course selection, and one’s academic history. Oxford University, in particular, is celebrated for its demanding academic criteria and is acknowledged for enrolling students with exceptional talent and unwavering motivation from across the globe.

What Is The University Of Oxford Acceptance Rate?

In 2021, Oxford University reported an acceptance rate of 13.5%, based on UCAS data. Out of a total of 24,645 applications received, the university extended offers of admission to 3,330 students.

However, with the assistance of The Profs’ highly knowledgeable Oxbridge consultants, this acceptance rate significantly increased to 55%.

This means that individuals seeking admission to Oxford through our guidance are more than three times as likely to secure an offer. To enhance your prospects of gaining admission, please reach out to our team for support and advice.

Read also: Can You Use The Same Personal Statement Twice For UCAS In The UK?

What is the University of Cambridge’s acceptance rate?

The admission rate at the University of Cambridge fluctuates depending on the particular course and educational level. Nevertheless, it typically maintains its competitiveness, with an average acceptance rate of approximately 20-25% for undergraduate programs as of May 18, 2023.

International Qualifications For Oxford/Cambridge Univerisity

Oxford University, much like other renowned institutions in the United Kingdom, embraces students from around the world and acknowledges a range of international qualifications for admissions. Below are some frequently encountered international credentials that Oxford University may consider:

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Oxford respects the IB Diploma Program and frequently views it as being on par with A-levels. Competitive applicants normally have 38 to 40 points, with some courses having higher standards.

A-levels and AS-levels:

The required educational background for admission to Oxford is A-levels. A-level exams can be taken at reputable testing facilities around the world by international students. Oxford usually demands excellent marks in pertinent A-level areas.

Cambridge International A-levels

These are widely accepted and considered equivalent to standard A-levels.

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams

Oxford may recognize AP exam results, but requirements vary by course. Competitive applicants usually score 5 or higher on relevant AP exams.

European Baccalaureate (EB)

For students from European Union (EU) member countries, the EB is often accepted for admission to Oxford.

Other Qualifications That Are Acceptable

  1. French Baccalaureate: This qualification is accepted by Oxford, and competitive applicants typically achieve a mention Bien or higher.
  2. German Abitur: The German Abitur is recognized by Oxford, and strong results are expected.
  3. SAT and ACT: Some Oxford programs may consider SAT or ACT scores as part of the application, but they are usually not the primary basis for admission decisions.
  4. Other National Qualifications: Oxford considers other national qualifications from various countries, such as the Indian CBSE, ICSE, or ISC exams, and the Australian ATAR, among others.
  5. English Language Proficiency: If English is not your first language, you will likely need to demonstrate English language proficiency through tests like IELTS, TOEFL, or Cambridge C1 Advanced.

It’s vital to remember that entrance standards might vary greatly depending on the course and can alter annually. For the most up-to-date information, it is imperative to verify the exact entry requirements for the program you are interested in on the official Oxford University website or contact the university’s admissions office. Oxford is a highly sought-after school, so it’s imperative to have solid academic credentials and craft an effective application.

Read also: How to Get a Degree Without Going to University

What are the Oxford entry requirements?

Depending on the course you’re applying to study and the nation you’re applying from, Oxford has different entry criteria. The UK credentials and some of the most popular international credentials accepted by Oxford are included in the table below, along with the entry requirements for each.

Check Oxford’s handbook for overseas students if your qualifications aren’t listed in this table or if you need further details on English language requirements and other entrance requirements. You can also contact the Profs’ Oxbridge admissions team to receive individualized assistance from one of our specialists on foreign applications.

QualificationEntry requirements
A LevelsRange from A*A*A-AAA, depending on the course.
International Baccalaureate (IB)Total score of 38-40 points (depending on the course) including core points, with 6s and 7s in subjects taken at the higher level.
European Baccalaureate (EB)An average of 85% or above, with scores of between 8 and 9 in subjects specified at A level or equivalent.
Abitur (Germany)Overall grade of 1.1-1.3, depending on the course.
Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)Grade 5 or A in three elective subjects, taken from either Category A or Category C.
AP (Advanced Placement) (USA)Either four APs at grade 5;
Or three APs at grade 5 plus a score of 33 or above in the ACT or 1480 or above (out of 1600) in the SAT.
Other international qualificationsCheck the full list of international qualifications accepted by Oxford.

Note that Oxford’s entry requirements differ depending on your A-level tutors can help you boost your grades.

Are you an international student? Check out Oxford’s information page on all qualifications and grades that qualify you for Oxford’s minimum entry requirements.

Does Oxford give contextual offers?

Although Oxford University does not routinely make contextual offers, it does take contextual information into account when evaluating applicants to make sure that it is giving opportunities to those with the greatest potential, independent of background.

In the last five years, the percentage of students at Oxford who are from socioeconomically underprivileged areas has increased from 8.2% to 15.9%. Here is further information about how Oxford makes use of contextual data.

Have extenuating circumstances or a socioeconomic background that prevents you from meeting the entry requirements? Or do you believe this might be involved somehow? See our earlier article on what to do if you don’t meet Oxford’s entry requirements for information on what qualifies applicants for contextual consideration and how Oxford manages this.

What Do I Do If I Don’t Meet Oxford’s Entry Requirements?

Even if you don’t meet Oxford’s entry requirements, you shouldn’t automatically abandon your application.

A) You can improve your marks with the aid of our knowledgeable A-level instructors.

B) You still have time to enhance your student profile.

C) There are numerous additional ways to distinguish yourself and make up for your shortcomings.

What do you need to get into Oxford?

To be eligible for Oxford University admission, you must have exceptional academic credentials. For any applicant to accept an offer of a place to study at Oxford, they must fulfill the entry requirements. Oxford accepts a wide range of UK and equivalent international credentials, depending on where you attended high school.

Generally, here are the expected academic qualifications needed:

International Baccalaureate

  • A total score of 38, 39, or 40 points (depending on the course), including core points, with 6s and 7s in subjects taken at the Higher level.

European Baccalaureate

  • An average of 85% or above, with scores between 8 and 9 in subjects specified at A-level or equivalent.

International A-levels

  • Recognized as equivalent to UK GCE A-levels on a grade-for-grade basis
  • Grade requirements differ per course.

For example, at Oxford, there are different grade standards for every course. For courses like classical archaeology and ancient history, classics, and European and Middle Eastern languages, for instance, you require AAA (at A-levels or equivalent). In contrast, courses like philosophy, psychology, linguistics, psychology (experimental), and physics require an A*AA (at A-levels or equivalent).

Read also: Is Maths A Level Hard: How Hard is A Level Maths Compared to GCSE Maths?

Course Specific Requirements

You might also need to pass particular entrance exams to enroll in some courses. For courses like mathematics and computer science, mathematics and statistics, and mathematics and philosophy, for instance, the MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test) is necessary.

While courses like English Language and Literature, Classics and English, English and Modern Languages, and History and English, the ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test) is required.

For History, History (Ancient and Modern), History and Economics, History and English, History and Modern Languages, and History and Politics, the HAT (History Aptitude Test) is required.

The Process of Getting Into Oxford – How to Apply, Step by Step

Here is a step-by-step process of getting into Oxford:

The Oxford Admissions Tests

Not all Oxford courses, nevertheless, need you to take an admissions test. For instance, you can enroll in “Archaeology and Anthropology” without taking one). Always do your research and study for the test. Use the test pages mentioned here to practice finding the right ones for your subject.

Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, more often known as CAAT, administers all of Oxford University’s exams. Remember that enrolling on the CAAT site is NOT sufficient to register for the tests; you must complete a few additional steps.

> Read more about Oxford Admission Tests here

Getting UCAS Support

Young individuals who are applying to undergraduate (and graduate) programs can get assistance from the independent charity UCAS. They offer guidance and knowledge as well as assistance with the application procedure for universities. The charity processed almost 2.79 million applications in 2019! The majority of the students they helped get into Oxford University.

Their website offers advice for your Oxford interview or audition as well as opportunities to meet other students who have been accepted or are vying for admission. An application for UCAS should be submitted one year prior to the start of your program. Ongoing through May.

Written Work

You will be required to submit a sample of your writing for several Oxford courses. This exercise’s objective is to showcase your logical thinking, analytical ability, language use, and writing abilities—always in relation to the subject you have chosen, of course. Your written work will probably be brought up during your interview, so carry a copy of it with you at all times (and double-check that you understand all you stated!).

The Interview

The admission test and the interview stand out as the most significant aspects to prepare for when considering applications to Oxford University programs. Typically, you will engage in interviews with two tutors who will evaluate your academic potential and your aptitude for studying, thinking, and learning in a manner aligned with Oxford’s small-class and tutorial-based approach.

During these interviews, tutors primarily seek two qualities: enthusiasm and self-motivation. Your personal background, appearance, or manners hold no significance; only your capacity to engage with novel ideas and exhibit independent thinking matters.

While many individuals experience considerable stress when thinking about these interviews, it’s valuable to view them as opportunities to gain deeper insights into the college, your prospective tutors, and fellow potential students. It’s common to undergo multiple interviews or to be interviewed by multiple college

The Offer

Oxford University will provide you with an offer to begin your program if you perform well in your interview. Early in the morning, decisions are made public via UCAS Track, and you’ll hear directly from the college after that. By emailing the college that reviewed your application, you can also ask for feedback on admissions decisions.

Read also: What Happens If You Fail Your GCSEs Twice?

What are the admission tests I should take for admission to Oxford University? 

When researching the admission process for Oxford University, a crucial aspect to focus on is the admissions tests. Oxford University offers several courses that necessitate candidates to undergo admissions tests, which play a pivotal role in identifying the most suitable applicants for the institution.

To enhance the competitiveness of your application, it is imperative to register for and complete the required admissions tests for your chosen course. After the registration process is finalized, it is advisable to establish an effective study routine to ensure thorough preparation for the examination.

The administration of Oxford University admissions tests is conducted by the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT). Detailed information on the application procedure can be found on the official university website.

Some of the admissions tests issued for courses offered by Oxford University include- 

  • National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) 
  • History Aptitude Test (HAT) 
  • English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) 
  • Classics Admissions Test (CAT) 
  • Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) 
  • Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) 
  • Philosophy Test (for admission only to philosophy and theology courses) 


What are the typical academic requirements for admission to Oxford?

Answer: Oxford generally expects applicants to have a strong academic record with top grades in their high school or previous university studies. Specific requirements vary by course.

Are entrance examinations required for all courses at Oxford?

Answer: No, not all courses require entrance examinations, but many do. It depends on the course you are applying for. Some courses may require subject-specific tests in addition to academic qualifications.

How important is the personal statement in the Oxford application process?

Answer: The personal statement is an essential part of your application and is used to assess your suitability for the course. It should demonstrate your passion for the subject and relevant experiences.

What is the acceptance rate at Oxford?

Answer: Oxford does not typically publish an official acceptance rate. Admission to Oxford is highly competitive, and the focus is on selecting the most qualified candidates for each course.

What can I do to improve my chances of getting into Oxford?

Answer: To enhance your chances, focus on achieving top grades, prepare thoroughly for any required entrance exams, write a compelling personal statement, obtain strong letters of recommendation, and, if applicable, perform well in interviews. Tailor your application to the specific course and department you are applying to.



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