St Anne’s

 Oriental Studies


 offer made






 Grammar School

 yes (4 A*,2 A,2 B,1 C)


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

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

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

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

A levels taken in England

Details about the offer




 offer met

Decisions about the application

For arts subjects in general, Oxb seems to be the best around. Tutorial system seemed very challenging, and resources are some of the best in the world.

I knew some Arabic from a year out I’d taken, so I wanted to do a different language in yr 1. Cambridge couldn’t cater for that, so it had to be Oxford.

My interests are in Islamic Studies. This course was perfect for its breadth.

Recommended it by several friends from Oxf; reasonably cheap; very chilled out and down to earth people; chances were better given my background in the Sciences (this is of course not something you should mention to interviewers!)



Yes. I’d finished school, but I went and asked them if they’d be able to help me in any way. They let me attend General History sessions for Oxb candidates approximately twice a week for a couple of months. Gave me a broader perspective on my subject, but seemed slow at times.

(Regarding Oxbridge Application Forms)
Not really. Most people don’t fill in the personal statement bit, but I did because I needed to explain Persian plans. I don’t think it matters a great deal.

(Regarding the interview)

That’s probably the best way of getting all the skills you need to get in. It helps if you have someone to discuss what you read with, so that you can train yourself to articulate well. In the Humanities, reading’s what you’ll be doing for 4 years, so it makes sense to start training yourself up for that b4 your in. An old Oxford friend once said that Oxford don’t teach anything, you have to teach yourself everything. He was talking about essay writing and effective reading skills.

For Arabic, a teacher for basics is ideal. Knowing the alphabet is strongly advisable and not that difficult to learn. Tho’ strangely I didn’t get any language testing questions in my interview, even for Persian.

Haywood/Nahmad is a good Arabic Grammar to get your hands on. For Persian, I’ve seen AKS Lambton’s ‘Persian Grammar’, which is ok, if a little convoluted, tho’ Oxbridge use a book by someone called ‘Thackston’ instead. Again, learning the alphabet is strongly advised; more than that will show additional ‘passion’ which is always a good thing. Don’t trip yourself up tho’, by claiming to have done things you never did.

Islamic History/Studies: Look at different uni websites and see what they advise applicants to read. If possible, check up university libraries, esp if they have a good Islam section, which is rare in most places. J Schacht, I Goldziher, J Burton, WM Watt, M Rodinson, MGS Hodgson, Y Dutton, M Cook, P Crone, are all well known Orientalists. Flick through as many of their (and others’) books. THINK when you read. Don’t read passively. Praps it would be advisable to get your hands on a speed reading book–this helped me a lot.

It’s helpful to realise what they’re looking for: They want ppl who they can bounce their ideas for their latest book off. And ppl who are going to be enjoyable to teach 1-2-1. Thus you need to be enthusiastic about your subject and insightful in your criticisms.




I was asked to submit 2 pieces of written work in any subject I liked. Some friends from Oxford advised that Islamic Studies essays would show motivation, so I wrote one on Quranic Law and another on ‘the sunna of the Prophet’, and got the marked by the RS Dept of my old school.


2 interviews. Very mellow atmosphere. The St John’s tutor, Van Gelder (a man of mild manners), started off the first one at the Oriental Institute, asking questions that seemed designed to test lateral thinking and open mindedness. His question seemed to take almost two minutes to ask, so that was probably testing listening skills too.

Second Interview was with Dr Chard (the St. Annes OS tutor). Also a pleasant chap, very chilled out. He asked me some general Qs based on my Personal Statement. Seemed more interested in saying what St. Annes had to offer.

1st interveiw: What are the advantages/disadvantes of the dilution of Classical Arabic with colloquial dialects in the Arab World today? (This went on for a while). Then they asked me about the books I’d read, and what I thought of them. Specific questions about specific opinions of authors and whether or not I agreed with them and why. The generally ‘clement’ atmosphere made me feel comfortable rather than grilled, thank God! 2nd: Can’t remember any questions at all actually, apart from a comment my saying that Arabic and Persian are related to each other in my PS. They’re actually from different language families, but I intended to mean script and vocab.

Suit both times. It made me feel confident in the interview, though unnatural outside it. I had casual clothes I’d change into after the interviews.


Liked the people, though wasn’t fortunate enough to meet any geniuses. Thus I concluded you needn’t be one to get in. The library was AMAZING, very big, but musty. Apparently St Johns and St Anne’s have the two biggest libraries of all the colleges. It is one of the poorer colleges tho, so it’s smaller than some (e.g. Christ Church, St John’s) and certainly not as pleasing to look at.

Accommodation wasn’t amazing though reasonably large. However I was told that I’d been given one of the larger rooms.

There was an old desk, cupboard, and chest of drawers. Floors were thinly carpeted. Wash basin and mirror in one corner.


The only one I met was very friendly, approachable, chilled out, etc. Apparently they don’t work you too hard. Nor do they let you slack off, which seems fine for me.

Very down to earth, helpful, and other positive things generally. Perhaps a lil too party-ish. I’m more sober.

Final stage

Very happy; grateful.

Got the letter. Opened it. My heart raced for a few seconds while I was opening it. Was relieved to see the offer.

My parents live abroad and were out of reach. Sadly I couldn’t inform them personally, but they were also very pleased.

Looking back

Of course! The amount of research in made me do was phenomenal and it made me really like my subject which made less daunting the prospect of taking 4yrs of university study in it.

Start planning early. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day, success usually depends upon how hard an individual tries rather than which institution he ends up in.

If your doing it for kudos, don’t bother.