Over the past few years, more and more students are achieving As and A*s at A level. As it has become harder to identify academically outstanding students through their A level results, both Oxford and Cambridge now rely on additional testing systems when selecting candidates for interview.
From 2017 entry, all Cambridge colleges will be introducing common format written assessments, to be taken by applicants for all subjects except mathematics and music, where applicants will be tested through short tasks at interview.
Our tips for taking Oxford and Cambridge written tests
1 – Don’t spend hours preparing to take these tests; in fact, if you need to undertake an enormous amount of preparation, it is arguable that you may not be an appropriate candidate.
2 – The universities give a full description of what the tests for each course entails on their respective websites:
Oxford written tests descriptions
Cambridge written tests descriptions
3 – Past papers are available for all tests and it is vital that you practise some of these in mock exam conditions to familiarise themselves with the format of the tests and the time constraints on the test.
Access the Oxford past papers for your subject here
Access the Cambridge assessment specifications for your subject
4 – Don’t be upset if you can’t answer all the questions. The tests are devised to be stretching and it is important not to panic if you come across something unfamiliar.
What you need to know about the Oxford and Cambridge written tests
The Oxbridge exams aim to highlight the natural intelligence and academic potential of the candidate and, in doing so, widen access. Since it is often difficult to revise for the Oxbridge written tests, students have to rely on their innate intellectual ability to complete them. In theory, students whose schools have provided less preparation should not be disadvantaged.
The style of testing also differs from what many school leavers will be used to. Whereas A levels often test factual recall, the Oxbridge written exams look for analytical and critical capabilities. It should be noted, therefore, that these tests are likely to be much harder than anything students may have experienced at school. This is taken into consideration, and admissions tutors do not expect students to achieve 100%.
Testing happens at various stages during the application process. Some tests are sat in early November at school. The results of these tests can then play a part in determining whether a student is called to interview. Some tests take place at the interview in early December. The results are then used, alongside interview performance, personal statement, school references and exam grades, to decide whether a student will receive a conditional offer.
Do not let these tests put you off applying. If you are serious about wanting a place at a top university, you should be able to do well without masses of additional tuition or extra work. It is very important, however, to go online and get full details of what the tests entail and to do some practice papers if they are offered.
Find out more about specific admissions tests here:
Find out more about getting into Oxford and Cambridge in the book by Sean P. Buckley.
Getting into Oxford and Cambridge 2017 Entry
by Sean P. Buckley
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D It is often difficult to give practical advice on how to recruit
E Most graduates are not a burden on society when unemployed
2 Children in Britain spend too much time indoors playing computer games and watching television these days and, as a result, become less sociable, have less exposure to the outside world and, significantly, have less sporting talent than they perhaps should.
Children in Australia and New Zealand, for example, spend a lot of time outdoors and consequently the sporting talent of youngsters in these countries outstrips that of British children. Due to this, and because of the other advantages derived from being outdoors, the Government should discourage the use of computer games and television for youngsters.
Which of the following best summarises the conclusion of the argument above?
A Children should spend more time outdoors
B Parents need to encourage their children to engage in more sporting activities than they do currently
C Our Government should model itself on that of Australia or New Zealand
D Playing outdoors brings about many other positive changes than simply increasing sporting talent
E The Government needs to intervene to change the habits of youngsters
3 Father Christmas needs to arrange his eight reindeer in four rows of two. However, he needs to observe the following rules about the reindeer:
Blitzen must always be on the left-hand side but not in the rear row
Comet and Cupid must be in either of the first two rows, but not necessarily in the same row
Dancer must always be directly behind Donner
Prancer must always be ahead of Dasher but never on the same side, and never next to Comet or Cupid
Vixen must be as far away from Blitzen as possible and not on the same side
From left to right, which two reindeer make up the rear row?
A Prancer and Vixen
B Dasher and Vixen
C Dancer and Vixen
D Dancer and Dasher
E Vixen and Dasher
- Think You Can Think? designed to help students master the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), is published by www.oxbridgeapplications.com
Answers: B, E, B