Applying to Read Geography at Oxford

On Saturday 22nd February I was luckily enough to attend a ‘Geography Subject Day’ at Jesus College, Oxford. The college had put together a fantastic programme that included a great mix of different information. The tutors explained some of their research as well as talking about the admissions process.

Below are some notes from the session; these are my notes and there may be errors and inaccuracies.

Geography Admission Statistics (for entry in 2014)

  • 322 applications in October 2013, 77 places available. Success rate is 24%.
  • Aim to interview approximately 3 candidates for every place (university policy).

Tools used to Evaluate Application

  • UCAS form (including academic reference)
  • Thinking Skills Assessment – this is used to deselect rather than to select. Used to get rid of approximately bottom 20%. It is not used in a systematic way after selection for interview. Though tutors have noticed a correlation between TSA score and interview performance.  (more details about the TSA can be found at http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/our-services/thinking-skills/tsa-oxford/about-tsa-oxford/) [MUST register by October 15th; taken in school]
  • Interviews for 64% of Geography applicants – used to find out how applicants think, not what they have been taught.

Personal Statements

  • Reason why the subject choice
  • Work Experience
  • Gap year information is useful if relevant to course.
  • Students put more stress into it than is necessary.
  • Extra curriculum activities are interesting but not part of the decision making process; admission is purely on academic basis.
  • All personal statements are put through plagiarism detection software – any plagiarism and candidate is not interviewed.

Academic Reference

  • In addition to usual content should give information on support reds and personal circumstances.
  • UMS scores are useful (but not required); and they are not a fundamental component.
  • Do not write to the college separately; unless there are special circumstances.

Written Work – not required for Geography; however it is in some subjects.

Interview

  • Approximately 70% of candidates invited to attend for interview (approximately 64% for Geography).
  • Interview dates are published on-line (different for each course); food and accommodation provided by first choice college.
  • Tutors are looking for:
    • Academic ability and potential (important they have not peaked at school).
    • Subject knowledge and skills – but don’t need to know everything.
    • Commitment and motivation.
    • Willingness to engage in tutorial systems – need to be able to contribute to tutorials.
    • Ability to handle new material and to relate it to existing knowledge.
  • Specifically Geography Tutors are looking for:
    • independent thinking.
    • Ability to follow an argument.
    • Comprehension.
    • Problem-solving.
    • Spirit of enquiry.

Choosing Colleges
Students should not look at application statistics when applying for colleges; candidates are selected for interview on a university level; then some reallocation of applicants to colleges takes place.
Interviews in Geography

  • 2 interviews with a pair of interviewers, each lasting 20 minutes.
  • Interactive -as in a tutorial situation.
  • Designed to see how candidates respond to new information.
  • Candidates are given an article to read 20 minutes before each interview (this is the case in Jesus collect but not necessarily  the case for every college).
  • The interview will start with questions to settle and ease candidate in; this may be a very open question e.g. ‘tell me about the place you live?’, or refer to personal statement.
  • May use very complicated diagrams to see candidates thinking process.
  • It is perfectly acceptable for candidates to stop and change mind; or to ask for clarification.
  • It is important that candidates show their thought process by thinking out loud.

Typical Offer

  • Standard A’Level ofer is A*AA, the A* can be in any subject taken.
  • IB Standard offer is 40 points.
  • Students would be crazy to do 4 A’Levels; however if they do the university reserves the right to specify which A’Levels the grades are in (e.g. may choose to discount a subject).
  • Doing 4 subjects does not mean that students can drop a grade.

Students can find more information about applying here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/courses/geography/geography.html