An overview of the University of Oxford

The University of Oxford – If you are thinking of studying in England, then why not aim high and apply to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford? Oxford has been ranked the No 1 research university in England for decades, and the most recent rankings demonstrate that little has changed, with the Guardian placing it at No 2 in the UK in 2024, QS stating that, globally, it stands at No 3, and the Times Higher Education (2024) and Sunday Times ranking Oxford Ist and 2nd respectively. The university can be traced back to 1096 and is organized along collegiate lines. At present, there are 39 Oxford colleges, which deal with admissions, accommodation, board, and running small tutorial groups. Each college is a microcosm of the university, and  provides students with entertainment, a social life, a community where they will immediately make friends, and multi-discipline library facilities. Departments, in contrast, are responsible for designed the curriculum, running lectures and seminars, research, and examinations. Members of departments are spread across the colleges and live together with undergraduates and postgraduates.

How to get into Oxford - What you should consider before applying

  • You must check whether the course you are interested in studying is taught at Oxford – for example, Oxford does not offer courses in architecture, natural sciences or veterinary medicine, so do not assume that you will automatically find the course you are looking for. Check!
  • If you do have a clear idea of what you want to study, you must read through the course content, since it may not fit your interests. For example, Oxford’s highly-respected English Literature course starts from 650AD, so if you are intending to focus on the Victorian period, you may be better advised to choose another English university.
  • Oxbridge has a global reputation for excellence, which undoubtedly opens doors and increases your earning power and career prospects. Status is, however, not the best reason for applying to Oxford. After all, you will need to commit to three years of intensive study and a competitive environment which can be stressful. Not every student responds in the same way to heavy workloads, the realisation that others are as brilliant as they are and the demands of coursework, research and essay writing. If challenges bring out the best in you, then Oxford may provide you with the motivation to excel; if not, then England has many outstanding universities, with high research output and global rankings, where you could perhaps feel more at home.
  • Cost. Oxford is a fairly expensive city and, while scholarships are available, for visa purposes you must be able to show that you can afford to pay the tuition fees which, in May 2024, ranged from £28,950-£44,240 a year, and cover the cost of accommodation, food, travel, books and daily expenses. Scholarships are highly competitive and awarded in specific fields, so do not assume that you will automatically be awarded a scholarship.
  • Note that you cannot apply to Oxford and Cambridge in the same cycle.

Getting into the University of Oxford – what is the acceptance rate?

The University of Oxford has the lowest offer rate of all the English universities in the prestigious Russell Group. In June 2024 the acceptance rate stood at 17.5 per cent  overall, and 16 per cent for international students. This is a general statistic, and the following table illustrates how this differs from one course to the next:


Number of applicants per course Course
16.9 Economics and Management
16.1 Computer Science
11 Medicine
10.6 Mathematics and computer science
10.1 Biomedical sciences
9.2 PPE
9.2 History and politics
9.1 Mathematics
8.0 Physics
8.0 Law

How to get into University of Oxford - The entrance examinations

You will apply to the University of Oxford through the central admissions system, UCAS.

Not every university in England requires candidates to sit entrance exams as part of their application. Oxford uses entrance examination results to differentiate between the thousands of applicants who are predicted to get outstanding secondary school results, and you will need to take them seriously and prepare well in advance.

Once you have decided on the course you wish to apply for, check its requirements. Some courses will ask you to send in samples of writing, others will have language requirements – for example, Classics students must know Greek or Latin. Get in touch with Elab if you want advice, guidance, and information.

Although you will sit the exams before Christmas, and will therefore not have covered the entire subject curriculum at school by that point in the year, the exams will be based on all the curriculum subjects, without making allowances for this fact. You must be prepared to read up on your subject independently. Your school or test center will register you for the relevant entrance examination and this has to be done by 6 pm on 15 October. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you have been automatically enrolled because you submitted your application to Oxford University through UCAS. You will be provided with a candidate entry number on enrolling, so hold onto it, since you will need it to take the exam.


The following entrance examinations are subject related:









In addition:

  • If you are applying to study Art you will have to submit a portfolio
  • Philosophy and Theology applicants will sit a Philosophy Test
  • Fine Art applicants will be given a practical task to complete. You will need to choose one of two options. There is no written test involved.
  • If you intend to study Music, you will need to produce a five-minute video  of a performance (which you will send to by providing a link to Google Drive, along with  a scan of the sheet music and the written work sheet you will receive).Do not send the video itself, just the link.
  • Applicants to Experimental Psychology, Geography, Human Sciences, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and PPL will have take the Thinking Skills Assessment. The TSA is made up of two sections, 90 minutes of multiple-choice questions and a 30 minute writing task, where you can choose between four essay topics.
  • Students applying for Economics and Managementand History and Economics ONLY sit Part 1 of the TSA.

You can get past papers from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, who administer the entrance exams. Working your way through as many papers as possible is the best way of preparing to sit the entrance exams. The tests are free and must be taken by 3 November. If you need to send in any written work, this must arrive at Oxford by 10 November.

How to get into the University of Oxford - Excel at the interview

Interviews normally take place in October, and you will receive an offer or a rejection in January. It has been estimated that Oxford interviews three people for a single place.

You may well only be given a week’s notice before the date of the interview, so make sure that you are available and not on holiday. Check on the website when your department invites applicants for interviews and block it off in your planner or organizer.

Do not worry about what to wear, and don’t assume you have to be formally dressed. The interviewer will usually opt for casual clothes. Sportswear is, however, not a great choice, and neither is standing out from the crowd by embracing an extreme haircut or outlandish garments. It will not work!

Be prepared to spend two or even three days at Oxford. You will be provided with accommodation and food while you are there.

Applications to the University of Oxford are either “open” or to a specific college. Open applications are those where Oxford allocates you to a specific college.

When it comes to the interview, you will meet the lecturers, professors or tutors who teach the subject for which you have applied, and if they feel that you should meet staff from another college, which potentially has more vacancies, you could well have to do a number of interviews.

The interviewer may refer to your Personal Statement to ease you into the conversation, so make sure you look through it the evening before and know what you wrote.

Be enthusiastic, argue your corner, show why you deserve a place on this particular course, what you know and how you intend to expand your knowledge. The interviewer is more interested in seeing how you think than testing your knowledge, so if you are given a passage to read or faced with a contentious statement, respond to it honestly and clearly. There are no right answers since you are being assessed in relation to your abilities, strong critical-thinking skills, and curiosity. Make sure that you have gone beyond the standard curriculum in your reading, and are aware of controversies, new findings and developments in your area. Broad knowledge and niche interests both impress interviewers.

Music applicants are provided with a short piece of music or a text about music the night before the interview so that they have time to prepare. They may also be required to do a keyboard sight-reading test unless they have already achieved Grade V.


Requirements for applying to the University of Oxford

  • IELTS of 7+ or TOEFL 100+
  • Outstanding marks over a sustained period of time in secondary school
  • Impressive Make sure you talk to your referee in good time and explain why you are applying to study in England, and specifically to Oxford. Show them your Personal Statement  and discuss your future plans  so they have a well-rounded picture of you, your academic and personal achievements. You will have to name your reference in your application form, and only then will they be contacted with a request for the reference by Oxford. There are deadlines for submitting references, so do not allow this process to drag on for a long time.

Getting into a college at Oxford University – how to choose

Short of reading about every one of the 30+ colleges of the University of Oxford, you could look at the following tool:

This useful search tool allows you to put in your preferences -what kind of meals you want, location, type of atmosphere, size, age etc and it will provide you with a short list of those colleges which meet all your requirements.

How much will it cost to study at the University of Oxford? - Costs

You should budget: approximately £28,000-£44,000 for tuition fees per year, as well as:

  • living expenses
  • food and accommodation are heavily subsidised by the college, so you will pay in the region of £4,000 a year
  • visa fees
  • fieldwork and travel.

Which courses at Oxford University are highly rated?

All the courses taught at Oxford University are in the national top ten.

Globally, Oxford is ranked No. 1 in: English Literature and language, Geography, History, and Modern Languages.

I want to get into the University of Oxford – what is the first step?

As you have no doubt gathered, it is important to start preparing your application to the University of Oxford well in advance. Unlike most other universities in England, Oxford does not accept UCAS forms in January but has a submission deadline of 15 October. In addition, you need to register for the entrance exam, if you have to sit one, and  take it by early November. Do not underestimate the amount of  preparation time you will need to spend working through old papers  for the entrance test and covering curriculum material in advance.

In addition, there is the all-important Personal Statement to write, references to organise and  interview preparation to work through.

Elab offers an Oxbridge program that will help you with the whole process, from choosing a course to submitting your application. Eighty-five percent of Elab’s applicants have been offered an interview and we have mentors currently studying across Oxford University who will be able to give you an insider’s view of the university, its colleges and how to get into Oxford.

We provide workshops and personalized one-to-one tuition, and have a dedicated, successful, and experienced team of consultants who will work with you and maximize your chances of being offered a place at one of the world’s great universities – the University of Oxford.

  • Introduction
  • Diagnostics
  • Personal Profile Map
  • Research
  • University Report
  • Final application choices
  • Application process plan
  • Mentor Program
  • Exam and Interview prep
  • Document completion
  • Application portal setup
  • Submission
  • Acceptance
  • Pre-departure procedures
  • Finances
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