Application

 Oxford

 Brasenose

 English Language and Literature

 2008

 pooled, offer made (Jesus)

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 home

 N/A

 Independent – selective

School with strong Oxbridge record – average of about 25-30 per year accepted.

 yes (4 A*,2 A,3 B)

A-levels

(A at AS (270 UMS))

(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 Distinction; gained Distinction)

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

yes

N/A

I have also applied to Durham, Bristol and Nottingham but I will be withdrawing.

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I have always been particularly strong at English. I’m not one of those people who breezes through exams and consistently gets top marks, but I knew Oxbridge rewarded those who were passionate about a particular subject. The more I investigated, the more I understood it to suit my interests and my needs.

I can’t remember, actually. I went to the Oxford open day, liked it, and decided on that basis to forego the Cambridge open day. The rest is history.

Natural aptitude and personal interest.

I originally applied to Brasenose because it was central, medium sized and traditional. I was also interviewed at St Catz, St Hilda’s and Jesus, the latter of which happens to be central, medium sized and traditional. I’m happy.

Preparation

yes

At school I had an ‘Oxbridge lesson’ once a week during the term of application. This was basically an extended English lesson with the other applicants at my school, lasting about half an hour. I wouldn’t describe it as coaching, rather a weekly discussion about broader topics relating to English that were not covered by the A Level syllabus. As a post A Level applicant, this time round I wasn’t given any extra help or tuition.

Read whatever gets YOU going. Don’t try and tick boxes – I read four Jane Austen novels for the sake of it, but I don’t think I could sustain a conversation about them for longer than ten minutes. If you read what genuinely interests you, you’ll be able to talk about it at interview much more easily. Of course, read widely, but not at the expense of enjoyment.

Interview

yes

I had done the ELAT before, and a practice paper, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the structure.

yes

I submitted A2 Coursework on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

yes

At Brasenose, I had a passage to examine for half an hour before each interview. Discussing this would constitute the first half of the interview and personal reading the other half. I found the interviewers friendly an engaging – they prompted discussion, agreed with me in some instances and encouraged me to reconsider my viewpoints in others.

Why do Shakespeare’s Tragedies interest you, as opposed to his other plays?
Why do you think the rounding of characters in Measure for Measure is weaker than in Shakespeare’s tragedies?
Discuss the theme of ‘evil’ as it is manifested in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear.
Attribute one of the following types of evil to each play: Metaphysical evil, Natural evil, Human evil.
Contrast the idea of time in Macbeth and Hamlet.

What does Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ lack that is present in his other works?
Why are the natives in ‘Heart of Darkness’ voiceless?
Is Conrad rascist, as Achebe has argued?
Are there any glimmers of hope in Conrad’s bleak portrayal for the human condition?
What is your perception of the dynamic between nature and humanity in Conrad’s fiction?

Discuss the theme of fate in Thomas Hardy’s novels. (I showed them my fortune cookie and told them I was inclined to side with Hardy. I got it in my first night in Oxford, and it read ‘Congratulations! You are on your way’)
In what way is character linked to fate?
How does Hardy portray woman, specifically, Tess from ‘Tess of the D’Uberville’s’?
How does Hardy portray the dynamic between women in his novels?
To what extent is Tess a victim?

Discuss the authorial voice in Thackeray’s ‘Vanity Fair’
What is your opinion of Becky in Thackeray’s ‘Vanity Fair’?
How does Thackeray communicate his own feelings to his readers? Does he do this effectively?

I wore an open shirt, smartish trousers and some brown shoes. I knew I didn’t want to wear a suit, but I erred on the smart side of smart casual. None of my interviewers dressed smartly, and nor did the majority of the other applicants.

Impressions

I liked Brasenose, Jesus and St Catz. Brasenose and Jesus because of their lovely buildings, and St Catz because it had a generally upbeat and friendly atmosphere. I didn’t like St Hilda’s because it lacked any of the above.

My room at Brasenose was relatively small, in close proximity to the JCR. It was well heated, so I wasn’t complaining. The girl in the room next to me had much more space, and a few arm chairs etc – I suppose due to the age of the buildings the rooms really can vary in size.

Not bad, lots of choice. Nothing exceptional, but I could easily eat it for three years.

Awesome – we had a pre-interview meeting for English applicants where they welcomed us, told us what to expect in interviews and what was expected of us in interviews, and dispelled a few myths. During the interviews they were great, didn’t try to unsettle me or make me feel nervous.

Helpful, friendly.

Final stage

I wasn’t nervous, but the wait it immensely frustrating.

I hugged my parents!

Looking back

Yes

Oxbridge isn’t the end of the world. The whole application process can become a bit of a stressful bubble, so do try and keep things in perspective. Make sure you prepare yourself well enough to know you could go into an interview and do yourself justice, because that’s all that matters.