Application

 Oxford

 St John’s

 English Language and Literature

 2005

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (10 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained Merit)

I was worried that my offer might stipulate a grade for my AEA english but it didn’t so the fact that I was taking it provided a slightly impressive boost to my application without loading on any extra pressure when it was time to sit it.

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA

yes

yes

yes

 offer met

Decisions about the application

academic snobbishness – thought it would be the best. also thought there would be more people that I’d have stuff in common with

Oxford seemed like a better city. Cambridge’s architecture was more pompous and grand whilst Oxford feels more livable-in and has more lively stuff going on.

English is very opened ended in terms of eventual career. Oxford one of best places for eng in world.

High proportion of state schoolers (although within this proportion the vast majority went to grammar schools, not comps). Offers central accomodation for all 3 years -an absolutely huge advantage.

Preparation

yes

The english teachers tried asking me a few general questions like ‘why do you want to study eng?’, none of which came up in interview. Much more useful is to practise discussing your essays and work you’re covering in school with them.

Revise the 2 essays you submitted and the texts they’re based on thoroughly, that’s by far the best use of your time. Also revise other stuff you’ve covered at school cos they ask about that more than about general reading. Don’t bother preparing answers to general questions like ‘why do you want to come to oxford?’, they don’t ask any of that kind of stuff. its strictly academic.

Interview

no

yes

I didn’t realise what an important part of the application process the 2 essays were. I followed the instructions and gave them 2 that I’d done for school, but I would recommend to other people extensive tweaking, or getting your teachers to set you an essay especially which you try your best at, cos its a huge part of the process. as you write it try to think of what questions it might lead to and revise these areas. Above all make sure you know the texts they’re based on really well.

no

The interviews were very mixed. The first 2 at st johns were average, and they weren’t sure about me so the next day they sent me on for a further 2 elsewhere, one of which went excellently and the other of which (which took place immediately after at 7 in the evening) I was utterly exhausted for so I went really hyper and giddy. But I think they must have realised and made allowances for me! Out of the people who got made offers quite a few had been sent for further interviews elsewhere so if this happens to you certainly don’t worry cos it means they’re strongly considering you!

As has been already mentioned, in the first interview in Prof Kelly’s room you spend a lot of time trying not to be swallowed up by the sofa – its quite disconcerting! From extensive practice in tutorials I would advise just sinking back into it rather than perching on the edge, as the perching position makes you feel more vulnerable whilst sinking gives the impression of being at ease! They might have changed now but during my interviews the tutors divided into two teams – Prof Kelly and Dr Pitcher were one, Dr Larrington and Dr Brice were the other. In both interviews one will stay scarily quiet for a while and write while the other questions you. With Pitcher it can be hard to get a word in edgeways, but keep trying and don’t be scared to interupt him cos I think that’s what he’s looking for. In Kelly and Pitcher’s interview they didn’t ask much about the poem at all, whilst in Larrington and Brice’s they went on and on about it, so I would save the one you feel more confident about for their’s.

The questions were quite focused on the pieces of work I’d done, so in Pitcher and Kelly’s it was on a piece of Hamlet coursework. they questioned specific arguments or critic’s quotes I’d used, but they also moved on from that to talk about the play more generally. Kelly asked me briefly about one of the authors I’d mentioned in my personal statement, and we talked about one of the poems we’d been given a bit. In the 2nd interview I talked about a chaucer essay with dr larrington (who is the middle eng tutor) and they talked about the poem for a long time. Then they asked what else I was studying at school and I said a few things which I was prepared to talk about, but they weren’t interested in any of them so I had to go further and further back in time and had to end up talking about Enduring Love, which I hadn’t thought about for almost a year. So be prepared to discuss a wide range of stuff on your eng course! There are no general / non academic questions.

A weird black and white tunic top / dress thing over black trousers – well at least it was meant to be, but I forgot them and had to wear jeans for my first interview! I don’t think they noticed and even if they had I don’t think it would have really mattered. No-one was wearing a full-on suit. Equally no-one (except me, accidentally) wore jeans either.

Impressions

All of St Johns’ rooms for first years are pretty decent and well equipped.

fine, nothing special but perfectly edible

haha, they’re real characters! In the interviews their quite aggressive questioning and propensity to point out when you’re just talking rubbish can be quite disconcerting. With Larrington and Brice be prepared to admit when you’re wrong and consider their line of argument. With Pitcher and Kelly don’t be cowed. Quite often they design their line of questioning not to trip you up but to lead you to considering stuff differently, so try to follow their lead. You might not come away from interviews with particularly warm impressions of them – I certainly didn’t – but in the long term their eccentricities really grow on you and they’re excellent teachers who know their stuff.

Looking back

Revise your essays and school work, act confidently and assertively in the interviews but be adaptable – follow the tutors’ arguments rather than automatically arguing against them. Engage with the more talkative tutors rather than shrinking back into your shell – they like a bit of enthusiasm / confrontation. On your first night it is worth spending the time preparing the poetry pieces – socialise after the interviews, while you’re waiting to see if you’ll have any more. I think the tutors are very pro state-school and into giving less obviously oxford people a chance, so if you’re not sure whether to apply or not just go for it! Be warned though, if you get in it is a huge amount of work and stress, so be sure that’s what you want. Good luck!