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Applying to Oxford and Cambridge

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are two of the most reputed universities in the U.K and are constantly ranked amongst the top universities of the world.

Hundreds of gifted students from all over the world apply to these two universities every year but only a handful of them manage to get in. This is due to their extremely selective and rigorous selection procedures which are completely different from the ones that are followed by other universities and colleges in the U.K.

Keep in mind that both these universities do not have any ‘Agents or Representatives’ in India. The only way to apply to either of these 2 universities is through the UCAS online application form.

Some of the main features of the application process for these universities are discussed below.

Choosing a University and a College

The first thing you need to understand is that you are not allowed to apply to both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in the same admissions round. This means that you will have to choose to apply to either of the two on the basis of the course reputation and personal preference.

Keep in mind that students pursuing their education from the ICSE or the CBSE board are only allowed to pursue Math, Economics, Computer Science, Engineering or Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

After you choose the university you’re going to apply to (Oxford or Cambridge), you will need to select a particular college from that university to which your application will be addressed. You can also choose to make an ‘open’ application which will be allocated to a suitable college by a computer program.

Application Forms

To apply for a course at either of the universities, you will have to use the UCAS online application form. Your application will be not be considered complete until you make the payment and submit all the required documents.

To apply to the University of Cambridge, international students will also have to submit an additional COPA (Cambridge Online Preliminary Application) as well. This additional form enables the university to get to know more about you as a student and as a person. At the University of Cambridge, you will also be required to fill in a SAQ (Supplementary Application Questionnaire) after you’ve submitted your COPA application.

The University of Oxford does not require international students to fill in any additional application forms.


The deadlines for application at the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford are completely different as compared to the deadlines for all other U.K colleges and universities.

The last date to submit the UCAS application to the University of Oxford is the 15th of October of the year before the start of the program. This means that you will have to complete and submit your application form approximately a year before your course is supposed to start as most courses begin in October.

Keep in mind that at the University of Cambridge, applicants who wish to attend the subsequent interview in India will have to submit their COPA application by the 9th of September. Also, they will be required to submit their UCAS application as early as possible within the month of September itself.

If you’re applying to the University of Cambridge but do not wish to attend the subsequent interview in India, then the last date of submitting the UCAS application form is 15th of October of the previous year.

Generally, you will be informed about the final status of your application by the end of January for both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.


One of the biggest differences between the 2 universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the rest of the universities/colleges in the U.K is the level of competitiveness that exists during the admission process.

You are aiming for 95% or more in your Class 12th. Not only that, your personal statements and reference letters need to be top draw so as to be offered an admission.


Once your application form has been submitted, you will be informed as to how and when you should submit your documents. Keep in mind that these documents play a huge role in determining the success of your application.

As far as your transcripts are concerned, both Cambridge and Oxford will require your Class 12th final results as and when they are announced. You might be asked to submit certain supplementary certificates depending on the course you have applied for.

Personal Statements and Reference Letters

While applying to the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, your personal statements and references will play a huge role in deciding the fate of your application.

As only the very best of applications are accepted, even a small mistake can make a huge difference. You should plan your personal statements well in advance and should have a clear idea about what you wish to convey.

A good personal statement is one that specifies why you wish to study at a particular university and why do you wish to pursue that particular course. It should touch upon your past experiences and how you’ve learnt from them, as well as talk about your future plans. Your personal statement should also highlight your qualities as a student and speak about why you deserve to be preferred over all the other candidates.

For your reference letters, make sure you choose the right referee who knows you well enough to talk about you as a person and as a student. It is a good idea to choose someone you share a good rapport with.

You should remind your referee about your qualities, qualifications and strengths as a student and as a person before he/she starts to write your reference.

Entrance Tests

A crucial difference between the University of Oxford/Cambridge and other U.K universities is that these 2 universities conduct and consider the marks of various entrance tests before making a decision regarding an applicant.

Depending upon the course you wish to pursue, you would be required to appear for different entrance tests.

At the University of Cambridge, students who want to join Math or Economics need to appear for the ‘STEP Mathematics Test’. For other courses, applicants will be assessed on their performance in their Class 12th exams as well as in the JEE (Advanced) exam.

Students who want to pursue Law will have to appear for the Cambridge Law Test and students who wish to pursue Medicine will have to appear for the BMAT (Bio – Medical Entrance Test). You might also be asked to appear for the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment Test) if your college/course requires it.

Just like Cambridge, the University of Oxford also requires students to appear for a variety of exams depending upon their field of study. You will be required to appear for entrance exams if you wish to pursue courses related to Law, Classics, History, Math, Literature, Languages or Physics. You might also be assessed on your performance in the JEE (Advanced) exam if you wish to pursue a course in the field of Science.

For all exams related to the University of Cambridge (except BMAT), you will not need to register yourself separately and the details regarding these exams will be conveyed to you by the University of Cambridge in due time (after you have applied to the University). The TSA exam is held separately for the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

For almost all the other exams including the Oxford – specific exams as well as the BMAT, TSA (Oxford) etc. the last date of application will be the same as the last date of applying to University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. To apply for any of these exams, you will need to get yourself registered with the British Council closest to your city before the last date. Most of these exams are held in the first week of November.


Both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford divide the selection process of students into 2 stages. The 1st stage is where students are shortlisted on the basis of their application and documents for the interview. Only the candidates that perform exceptionally well at the interview are offered an admission.

You will generally receive an E – mail from the university authorities stating whether you’ve been short listed for an interview or not in November or December. These interviews are conducted in various centers across the country.

In these interviews, applicants are generally questioned on their knowledge and understanding of the subject they wish to pursue. They might sometimes also have to appear for a written test as a part of the interview. Additionally, you will be asked questions on the basis of the information given by you in your application form.

You might be asked questions regarding your subject, your goals, your lifestyle and opinions. You might also be asked questions based on your personal statement so it is best to re – read it before going for an interview. Being relaxed as well as confident and answering questions clearly can help make a great impression on the interviewer.

Written Work

Another unique aspect of applying to either of these universities is that you will be required to submit written work related to the course you have applied for.

Applicants generally have to submit this after a few days of submitting the application. Written work helps these universities understand your analytical, reasoning, language and writing skills.

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