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Ib Vs A Levels Ucas Personal Statement

Entry requirements for applicants with A Levels.

Entry requirements for most of our degree programmes are three A Levels at specified grades to be achieved in one sitting, i.e. one session of exams.

Students re-sitting or taking A Levels over more than one sitting may still be considered, but any offer made may be based on grades above those usually required. For Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, only the first sitting of subjects will be considered unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Please note that for many degree programmes we will expect you to have studied specific subjects at A Level and may also require other subjects to have been achieved at specific grades to at least GCSE.

For particularly competitive subject areas, which attract a high number of applicants with AAA at A Level (whether achieved or predicted), we will also take into account the number of A*s achieved at GCSE.

GCSE requirements

Please seek advice before committing to a particular course of study at your school or college, to ensure that it would meet the requirements of your intended programme of study at the University.

Entry requirements

You must have achieved, or be predicted to achieve, our entry requirements for the programme you have applied for, to be considered for an offer of a place. Use our degree finder to find programme entry requirements.

Degree finder

Approved subjects

We accept most, but not all, A Level subjects for entry to the University. You can check which subjects we accept in our approved subjects information. Some programmes require specific subjects for entry.

Approved subjects

Combinations of A Levels and IB subjects

We consider combinations of two A levels and one IB Higher Level (HL) subject for entry on a case-by-case basis. Applicants should outline the reasons for taking both A levels and IB HL subjects in their personal statement or ask their referee to explain this in the reference on the UCAS application.

Where grade A* is required at A level, we require grade 7 at IB HL. Where grade A is required at A level, we require grade 6 at IB HL. Depending on competition for places, where grade B is required at A level, we will require either grade 5 or grade 6 at IB HL.

GCSEs required for entry

The University requires certain subjects to be achieved to at least GCSE.

GCSE requirements

Unit grade information

Extended Project and Advanced Extension Awards

Accelerated Curriculum

We welcome the flexibility allowed by the Accelerated Curriculum, however, early presentation for examinations may not always be in the best interest of the student.

This is especially the case if it leads to the achievement of lower grades than might have otherwise been achieved if examinations were to be taken later.

The University provides its students with a broad-based education. As such it is essential that you are able to demonstrate that you will have the ability to cope with the breadth, depth and volume of study that will be expected of you in your first and subsequent years.

The University's Policy on Accelerated Curriculum

  • The University accepts and welcomes the flexibility allowed by the Accelerated Curriculum in the hope that this will better meet the needs of individual students and will lead to an improved educational experience for students.

  • The University does not wish to advantage or disadvantage students whether they are, or are not, undertaking an accelerated curriculum.
  • The University would only wish to encourage the early sitting of examinations where it is clear this is in the student’s best interests.
  • The University will give recognition to students taking early AS or A Levels, but would still expect that student to take a minimum of three A Levels in one academic year and to perform satisfactorily across all subjects.
  • Maturity is particularly important for study at the University and students may be best advised to remain in school until the end of Year 13/Upper Sixth, or consider options for gap years, rather than coming from Year 12/Lower Sixth or earlier.

The University encourages students to seek advice before committing to a particular diet of examinations to ensure that it would meet the requirements of their intended programme of University study.

We do not intend to use A Level unit grade information either in selection or in offer making.

We may, however, choose to do so in the assessment of borderline applications in certain high demand subject areas and where applicants have narrowly missed the conditions of an offer.

We welcome the use of the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and, in Mathematics, the Advanced Extension Awards (AEA) as a means of challenging students and encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

However, we recognise that not all students have equal opportunity to access them and so we do not require them for entry and they do not normally provide additional credit in the selection process of applicants for an offer of a place.

An Insider's Guide to Applying to Oxford and Cambridge

Helen Charlesworth is Head of Communications for Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at the University of Oxford. Read her guide to preparing your application to Oxford or Cambridge, and some Top Tips for applying to Oxford or Cambridge.

Oxford and Cambridge universities hold a special place in many people’s imagination. With several hundreds of years of history and countless appearances in novels, films and television programmes, the two institutions are very well known across the globe.

This can be a great advantage in attracting applicants as our reputation certainly precedes us. However, there are some disadvantages as well, as our portrayal in the media has led to some popular — but false — stereotypes about what kind of students we admit.

In truth Oxford and Cambridge Universities:

  • Seek to attract the best and brightest applicants regardless of background, which they seek out via extensive access programmes across the UK, as well as visits overseas.
  • Have highly rigorous and fair application procedures designed to allow the very best candidates to shine; and
  • Are diverse and vibrant places to live and study.

What makes Oxford and Cambridge such special universities?

The collegiate system

  • Both Oxford and Cambridge universities are made up of individual colleges, as well as different subject departments. A college will be a student’s home and their central focus of teaching for much of their time at university. Each college will have a diverse range of students — usually including both undergraduate and graduate students — studying across a range of subject areas.
  • The college system offers the benefits of belonging to a large internationally renowned institution, and also to a smaller, interdisciplinary academic college community. You will have access to your college’s facilities, such as an extensive library and IT provision, as well as the resources of the wider university.
  • Whatever you may have heard, college choice does not matter! Each college offers the same excellent standard of teaching and has the same very high academic standards. Both universities work hard to ensure that the best students are successful in gaining a place, whichever college they’ve applied to. This means that you may be interviewed by more than one college and you may receive an offer from any of them. If you would prefer not to choose a college you can make an open application.

Further details:


  • Teaching methods are very similar at both universities as students will attend lectures, classes and laboratory work as appropriate for their course. Unlike at many other universities, students at Oxford and Cambridge also benefit from highly personalised teaching time with experts in their field. The only difference is in the name: Oxford refers to these sessions as "tutorials" while Cambridge calls them "supervisions". 
  • Students are required to prepare an essay or other piece of work in advance for these sessions and then meet with their tutor to discuss the work, perhaps with one or two other students. Tutors are often world experts in their field so this time is extremely valuable to students in developing their understanding of the subject.

Is it for you?

Check the course details

  • Oxford and Cambridge universities agree that the most important decision a prospective applicant has to make is the degree they wish to study, not which university they want to apply to. So it is important to read the course details carefully for any subject you are interested in. You will be studying for several years, so it’s important to choose something that you are really passionate about.
  • Oxford and Cambridge courses tend to be traditional academic courses, with a strong emphasis on personalised teaching and formal assessment is often 100% based on examinations.

Further details:

Choosing between Oxford and Cambridge

  • It is not possible to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same admissions round, so students will have to choose one or the other. Both universities are world renowned in teaching and research in both arts and science subjects, so the decision is largely an individual one.
  • Some courses are offered at one of the universities but not the other. Check each institution’s undergraduate prospectus/website for details of courses on offer. However, it is important to be aware that courses with a similar title at the two universities may be different in content. It is therefore important for students to check the course details to see which one will suit them best.
  • Cambridge usually comes above Oxford in the Complete University Guide rankings but this is in part because of subject mix. It is down to individual choice and course content.

Entry requirements

  • Make sure you expect to achieve the required A-levels, International Baccalaureate (IB) grades or other equivalent qualifications. There may be specific subject requirements for particular courses, especially in the sciences.
  • Conditional offers for Oxford range between A*A*A and AAA (depending on the subject) at A-level or 38–40 in the IB, including core points. Certain grades may be required at Higher Level.
  • The standard A-level offer for Cambridge is A*A*A for sciences courses (excluding Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) and A*AA for arts courses or 40–41 in the IB, including core points, with 776 at Higher Level.

How to apply

  • All students must apply via UCAS by 6pm, UK time, on 15 October. Cambridge also asks all applicants to complete an online Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) or Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA) after submission of their UCAS application to ensure consistent information about all applicants. There may be different deadlines for students wishing to be interviewed overseas. Oxford does not require students to complete any extra forms.
  • You may also need to take a written test as part of your application, or perhaps submit some written work. If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited to the relevant university for interview.

Further details:

Assessing applications


  • The Extenuating Circumstances Form, which has replaced the Cambridge Special Access Scheme, gives teachers the opportunity to provide contextual information about applicants so they can be fairly assessed. In addition, Cambridge admissions tutors are provided with publicly-available school performance data to help them contextualise educational achievement when considering applications.
  • Oxford encourages teachers to include details of any special circumstances or other relevant information in the main UCAS application. Oxford also uses publicly-available information to indicate those applicants who may have experienced educational or socio-economic disadvantages. Where applicants demonstrate the necessary academic aptitude for Oxford, they are likely to be considered for interview and seen in addition to students identified through the normal shortlisting process.

Further details:


  • Many A-level applicants are predicted to achieve top grades and many also have excellent references. It’s therefore not possible for Oxford or Cambridge to select the best students based on their UCAS applications alone. Each university has a slightly different approach to differentiating between applicants.
  • Oxford asks applicants for most of its courses to take a test as part of their application. Tutors then shortlist applicants based on students’ applications and performance in the test. Where applications are around three per place, over 90% of applicants are shortlisted. For the most competitive degrees, this may fall to 30% to allow those who most closely meet the selection criteria to have multiple interviews. AS-level grades and Uniform Mark Scheme (UMS) scores are not a key element in shortlisting.
  • Cambridge makes less use of pre-interview tests and interviews around 80% of their undergraduate applicants. AS-level grades and UMS scores are considered, alongside all the other information available to selectors, both in deciding which applicants will be invited to interview and which will be offered a place. Only applicants for medicine and veterinary medicine are required to take a test before interview.

Tests before interview

  • All students applying for the standard medicine course (A100) at either university must register to take the BMAT as part of their application, as must candidates for the graduate entry medicine course (A101) at Oxford.
  • All students applying for the veterinary medicine course (D100) at Cambridge or biomedical sciences at Oxford (BC98) must also register to take the BMAT as part of their application.
  • Oxford requires applicants to take written tests before interview in most other subjects. Please note that separate registration is required in many cases. These tests are usually taken in your school or college.

Tests at interview

  • Both universities require some applicants to take tests during the interview period.

Further details:

Written work

  • Both universities require some applicants to submit samples of written work as part of their application. At Oxford the deadline for the submission of this work is 10 November. Applicants to Cambridge will be advised by their college when it needs to be submitted.

Further details:


  • The purpose and structure of these interviews is very similar at both universities. Essentially they are rather like a mini tutorial or supervision, where the tutors will give students a small passage to read or perhaps set a small problem and then ask the student to discuss it.
  • Contrary to many popular myths about such interviews, there are no tricks or mind games involved. The interview is for tutors to get a sense of how the student reacts to new situations and how they process the information available. It is not a matter of how quickly — or even whether — the student arrives at the right answer. There may not even be a right answer. The tutors just want to get an insight in to how the student thinks.

Further details:

Top tips for applying to Oxford or Cambridge


  1. Choose a course you are really passionate about.
  2. Read widely around your chosen subject. It’s not enough just to do well at school or college. Tutors have often devoted their life to their subject, so of course they want to teach students who share their enthusiasm.
  3. Practice talking about your subject: not just with your teachers and fellow students, but with other friends and family members. Talking to non-experts is an excellent exercise as it gets you thinking in new ways and helps you to find new ways of expressing the concepts and issues involved.


  1. Stretch the truth on your application form. Tutors may ask you about anything you include in your application, so make sure it’s all correct.
  2. Spend time worrying about which college to apply to. There are far more productive ways to spend your time.
  3. Lose heart! The application process is very competitive, and sadly there just are not enough places for all the people who apply. However, the only way to guarantee you will not be successful is to not try at all. Why not go for it?

Next page: Your UCAS Application – Last-Minute Tips for Success

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