1 How do I apply?
You apply through UCAS by 15th October. You can apply to one College or you can submit an "open" application. You will not be asked to submit any samples of school or college written work and there will be no written tests before shortlisting for interview.
2 Should I choose a College myself or should I go for an open application?
The majority of candidates prefer to choose a College, often as a result of having an informal meeting with a tutor. We encourage such meetings, which help you to get the "feel" of a College. Many Colleges hold Open Days for this purpose. Meetings can also be arranged through the Tutor for Admissions at the College you would like to visit. However, if you have no preference as to College, you are welcome to submit an open application. For open applications, a computer programme distributes candidates between Colleges after taking into account all the preferences that have been expressed. Very occasionally, if one College receives too many applications to handle then some of their first preference candidates may be reallocated to other Colleges.
Whether or not you decide on a first preference College, you will also be assigned a second College. This will determine which two colleges will interview you. The important thing to remember is that the system that the Department of Biochemistry operates, explained in section 5, is designed to ensure that your chances of being accepted for Oxford are equal whatever College you or the computer have chosen.
3 What is the interview about?
The object of the interview is to discover your potential, taking into account your background and the stage you have reached, rather than to grill you on what you have covered so far at school. Interviewers will try to conduct the interview on your ground rather than on theirs. For example, they will often start with something you do know about and then ask questions which take that point a bit further. If you do not know the answer to a question because you have not covered the relevant topic, you should not be afraid to say so. However, you may well be asked to speculate about unfamiliar areas in the light of your existing knowledge. A booklet entitled ‘Interviews at Oxford’ is available from our Admissions Office.
4 How are offers made?
Most offers will be dependent on you attaining specific grades in your A-levels (or other qualifications), called a ‘conditional offer’. If an applicant has already completed all their exams (post qualification application) then they can receive an ‘unconditional offer’. Each application is considered carefully, and Colleges adjust their conditions according to individual circumstances. Offers will take into account your general educational background, what your school has to say about you and how you are likely to perform at A-level, any special factors that could be important in your particular case, and how you get on at interview. After your A-level results, a College can also reduce its conditions, so that if, for example, you miss a particular grade by one point it may still decide to admit you.
In addition to these ‘designated’ offers, we also operate an ‘Open’ offer system. A further limited number of candidates will receive a special conditional offer from a ‘pool’ comprising about half the Colleges. If you accept one of these ‘Open’ offers, you are guaranteed a place at Oxford providing you meet the conditions. However, the particular College you will attend will not be decided until after the A level results are known in August.
5 Will my chances of being accepted be affected by the Colleges on my preference list?
No. Biochemistry operates a system which is designed to ensure that the best candidates are admitted irrespective of the preferences on the application form. It works like this:-
Information from the UCAS forms – general educational background, GCSE results, obtained and predicted AS and A2 results, school report and your personal statement – is reviewed by a small group of experienced Tutors in the Department who grade all candidates, giving an initial rank order. This information is then shared between Tutors from all Colleges. Tutors then identify any candidates who they feel would not be suitable for the course we offer here. The candidates in this second group are discussed by all Tutors, and they are not shortlisted for interview only if everyone is in agreement. All other candidates (last year about 85%) are invited for interview in Oxford.
UK and European candidates are expected to attend for interview in Oxford if invited. Other overseas candidates can choose to attend (and are encouraged to do so) but can also be interviewed by Skype or telephone, in a very few cases interviewed locally, or assessed without interview. If you come to Oxford, you will be interviewed by Tutors from two different Colleges. You will stay at your first preference College (chosen by you or our computer), who will inform you of the time and place of all your interviews. Typically, interviews in your first preference College will be the first day of the interview period (normally Monday), while your interview with a second college will normally be the following day. You should be prepared to stay in Oxford until after the time of your final interview.
All candidates are graded on their interviews by both Colleges, and these two grades are combined with the initial UCAS grade from the Department to give an overall grade for each candidate and thus a final rank order. After this final grading, Tutors meet again to discuss all the candidates and decide which candidates should receive offers. A candidate may get an offer from their first preference College, the other College that interviewed them, or indeed from any other College. Because all candidates are centrally ranked and decision are subsequently made together by all College Tutors, we can be as confident as possible that the best candidates receive offers regardless of which Colleges they have been interviewed by.
After the interviews, each College writes formal letters offering places to its successful applicants, stating the conditions of the offer. We aim to get those letters to candidates on 11th January at the earliest.