Oxbridge application process guide for Oxford and Cambridge University

Oxbridge Application Process: Applying To Oxbridge

Applying to Oxbridge, the collective term used for the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge can be a daunting and stressful process. The Oxbridge application process is negligibly different from other universities in the UK. 

However, many students finding difficult to navigate through the Oxbridge application process from deadlines, and admission tests, to final interviews.

Applying to Oxbridge can be a smooth and rewarding process if you start on time, and have good preparation and approach. You can increase your chances of success.

In this guide, we will break down the key steps in the Oxbridge application process and provide tips on how to make a successful application.

Oxbridge Application Deadline 2023

If you’re aspiring to study at two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Oxford or Cambridge, you need to plan. The Oxbridge application process begins a year before your course start date, and you must complete and submit an online UCAS application.

The Oxbridge application deadline for 2023 is 6 PM (UK time) on 16 October.

For instance, if you want to start your studies in September 2024, you must apply between September and October 2023. You can start working on the application form in May when the Oxbridge applications open. 

However, you will only be able to submit your application in early September.

Keep in mind, the deadline for Oxbridge applications is strict, and it closes at 6 PM (UK time) on 16th October. Your application must be complete, including your personal statement, and academic reference, and submitted before the deadline. Make sure you plan accordingly and submit your application on time to have a chance at being admitted to these prestigious universities.

Oxbridge Application Process

We are going to break down the entire Oxbridge application process in this guide. It’s critical to understand what you need to do, and what to put the most effort into. Oxbridge is highly competitive, only the best students can succeed in the application process. 

Breaking Down the Oxbridge Application Timeline: From Deadline to Decision
Oxbridge Application Timeline for the 2024 Admission Cycle

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UCAS Application for Oxbridge

When it comes to filling out your UCAS application, the process is relatively similar for most UK universities. However, one notable difference that exists between Oxford, Cambridge, and most other unis is their collegiate system

Oxbridge universities are a system of individual colleges, which means that students live, study, and socialise in smaller, more intimate communities within the larger university. You will need to choose a college in the application form. 

This can be a unique and rewarding experience for those who choose Oxbridge.

Choose your course

The first step in the process of applying to Oxbridge is to select the course you wish to study. 

Both universities, Oxford and Cambridge, offer a wide range of courses, and it’s important to choose one that aligns with your academic interests and career goals. Take the time to research different courses and their requirements, as well as the modules and opportunities available within each course.

Choose an Oxbridge college 

Once you have selected your course, you need to choose a college at Oxbridge to apply to. Each Oxbridge college has its unique character, facilities, libraries, accommodations, and traditions, so it’s essential to research and compare different colleges before making a decision. 

Consider factors such as the college’s location, accommodation, size, and reputation within your chosen field. 

We have prepared a unique and detailed guide on how to choose Oxbridge College

Write Oxbridge Personal Statement

Your personal statement is an essential part of your Oxbridge application. It’s your opportunity to showcase your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and passion for your chosen subject. 

Write your personal statement specifically to Oxbridge, highlighting why you are an ideal candidate for the course and make the most of your academic achievements. This is where Oxbridge personal statements are different from other UK university applications. 

Check out our collection of Oxbridge personal statement examples from successful students. 

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UCAS Reference letter

As part of your Oxbridge application to UCAS, you will need to provide a reference letter from a teacher or tutor. 

This reference letter should highlight your academic achievements, personal qualities, and potential for success in further studies. It’s important to choose a referee who knows you well and can provide specific examples of your abilities.

A few quick tips for securing a strong UCAS reference letter include:

  • Choose a referee who knows you well and can speak positively about your academic and personal qualities. This will probably be your tutor or teacher.
  • Inform your referee that you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge because of the early deadline. They will need time to prepare, as well. 
  • Provide your referee with a copy of your Oxbridge personal statement and details of the course and college you are applying to.

Make sure you read our detailed guide for the UCAS Reference Letter

Submit before the deadline

Keep in mind you need to apply before the Oxbridge deadline. Also, check if you need to take any admission tests for your chosen course.

Once you prepared your personal statement, and reference letter, and filled in all the necessary information, you are ready to pay the application fee of £27 and apply. 

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Oxbridge Admission Tests

Oxbridge applicants need to take an admissions test depending on the course they are interested in (some courses don’t require tests). 

The purpose of these tests is to assist admission tutors in selecting the most suitable candidates from the large pool of talented applicants. 

It is essential to register for and complete any required admissions tests to make your application more competitive.

Some courses at Oxbridge require admission tests, which are designed to assess your subject knowledge and skills and to make pre-selection for interview candidates. 

Admission test registration opens on 1 September and closes on 29 September.

A list of required admission tests for some Oxbridge courses is here:

  • Oxford ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test)
  • Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
  • Classics Admissions Test (Cat)
  • Mathematics Admissions Test (Mat)
  • Music Performance Test
  • Modern Languages Admissions Test (Mlat)
  • HAT (History Admissions Test)
  • Physics Admission Test (PAT)
  • Fine Art Practical
  • Philosophy Test (PHIL)
  • Thinking Skills Assessment Oxford (TSA Oxford)

Written Work

The next step in the Oxbridge application process is Written work. Once you have sent in your UCAS application for Oxbridge, the chosen college that assesses your application will contact you with specific guidelines on how to submit your written work. This usually happens at the end of October. 

Written work may be used to assess your writing skills, analytical abilities, and subject knowledge. It’s important to choose a piece of work that is relevant to your chosen course and showcases your best abilities.

The submission deadline for written work is the 10th of November, and it must be received by the college.

Oxbridge Interviews

Oxbridge interviews are often shrouded in mystery and deemed as the most intimidating element of the application process. However, understanding the purpose of the interview and what Admission tutors are looking for can help demystify this process and help you prepare for success.

The Oxbridge interviews are designed to assess your academic skills and potential, particularly your motivation, curiosity, and willingness for your course. It’s not about your background but about your capability to think independently about new ideas beyond your school or course.

Interviews usually happen in the first half of December. 

To be invited for an Oxbridge interview, Admission tutors shortlist the candidates they feel have the strongest potential and best meet their selection criteria. This means that if you are not invited, your Oxbridge application was unsuccessful.

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Preparing for the Oxbridge interview involves not only demonstrating your knowledge of your chosen subject but also showing your enthusiasm and curiosity for it. 

Around 45% are shortlisted for interviews.

It’s important to be prepared to discuss your wider reading, interests, and experiences that relate to your subject, as well as be ready to tackle challenging and unexpected questions.

While the Oxbridge interview process may seem daunting, understanding its purpose and what admission tutors are looking for can help you prepare and present yourself in the best possible light.


Candidates receive the decision of their application in January. 

On January 9, 2024, applicants who have been chosen for the 2024 admission cycle will receive notification regarding the outcome of their application. The decision will be made through UCAS Track. 

The college reviewing your application will contact you directly to follow up on the decision.

How To Make A Successful Oxbridge Application

Making a successful Oxbridge application requires preparation, research, and dedication. Here are some tips to help you increase your chances of success and learn how to make a successful Oxbridge application:

  • Start preparing early: The Oxbridge admission process can be lengthy and complex, so it’s important to start preparing well in advance. Research your course and college options, and start working on your personal statement, reference letter, and written work as soon as possible.
  • Tailor your application to Oxford and Cambridge: Both, Oxford University and Cambridge University are looking for candidates who are passionate, curious, and have the academic ability to succeed. Ensure that your application showcases these qualities and highlights why you are a strong candidate for your chosen course and college.
  • Show your subject knowledge and interests: Oxbridge is looking for students who are passionate and knowledgeable about their chosen subject. Highlight your subject-specific achievements, extracurricular activities, and relevant reading or research projects in your personal statement and interview.
  • Seek advice and support: Applying to Oxbridge can be a challenging process, but there is support available. Seek advice from your teachers or tutors, attend open days or events, and connect with current students or alumni to learn more about the application process.

Oxbridge Application Timeline

Oxbridge application timeline can be difficult to understand. However, here is a general timeline to help you plan your application:

  1. June – August – Research courses and colleges, start working on your personal statement and ask the referee for a letter of recommendation.
  2. September – Take a required test for your chosen course 
  3. October – Submit your UCAS application before the deadline
  4. November Prepare any written work and submit it to your chosen college before the deadline.
  5. December – Shortlisted candidates are invited for interviews. If you are invited, be ready.
  6. January – Admissions decisions are made and offers are sent out.

Final Thoughts

Applying to Oxbridge requires careful planning, research, and dedication. By following these steps and tips, you can increase your chances of making a successful Oxbridge application and securing a place at the UK’s best universities.