Boosting your chances of a place at a top university?
13 Feb 2011 Guest Column on www.mikebakereducation.co.uk
Read more. Sounds unglamorous, but it’s true. Simply put, time spent reading will dramatically increase your chances of getting a place at Oxford or Cambridge.
At the recent UCAS Higher Education conference Paul Teulon, Head of Student Recruitment at Oxford University said that when he speaks in schools to prospective Sixth Form applicants he asks them to search in their bag for what they are reading outside of class. “Class text books don’t count – reading something beyond the confines of the syllabus is what is important”. He calls this the “just because” test; students need to be reading “just because” they are. But he warns, “if the book’s not in your bag the chances are you’re not reading it.”
Many prospective History students will read E.H. Carr’s “What is History”, and Economists will typically mention that they have read “Freakonomics” by Levitt and Dubner. Would-be Law students are well advised to read Nick McBride’s excellent “Letters to a Law student”. These are all great books to start with but finding more obscure books from footnotes is recommended.
An Oxford English student is likely to read up to five novels a week, so getting used to reading as a habit is an essential way to prepare. So how do you go about finding these books? Oxford have suggested reading lists for all subjects:
Oxford uses a complex selection process including the use of contextual data. Students need to understand how universities are likely to ‘sift’ their applications. The range of selection factors include percentage of A*grades gained at GCSE, predicted A Level or IB grades, performance in admissions tests (only for particular but a growing number of subjects), the school academic reference and the quality of the students personal statement. In this competitive year for admissions, being called to interview at Oxford or Cambridge is an achievement in its own right. And if you’ve done your reading, who knows you might just show your intellectual edge.
Wendy Heydorn, Assistant Director of Higher Education & Careers, Sevenoaks School