We are very fortunate that being situated at the heart of Oxford, and as Oxford’s oldest tutorial college, a large number of our tutors have a strong connection with either Oxford and Cambridge: many of them are, or have been academics, at one or both Universities.
The admissions process for Oxford and Cambridge (and increasingly for other highly competitive universities which rely on aptitude and admissions tests) focuses on gauging a candidate’s aptitude to study the chosen subject (or subjects) at a university level. Although knowledge and core competencies are naturally assessed as part of the aptitude testing, the required curricula are deliberately kept very modest; any reasonable candidate should already have encountered the majority of the required material, or have no difficulties in mastering the remainder of it. (The exception to this is Physics, Natural Sciences and Engineering, where students will need to get to grips with mechanics. Please see the bridging course section of the University Preparation Programmes page.) The most crucial assessment of any aptitude test is that of mindset: is the applicant thinking like a(n) Historian, Geographer, Economist, Mathematician ... etc? Additional qualities, for example those of subject engagement or ‘teachability’, will be considered at interview, however an applicant’s mindset remains the pre-eminent consideration for admissions’ tutors.
The aptitude tests have been designed to be ‘uncoachable’ in order to give every student an equal chance. Therefore there is no magic formula that can ensure that a candidate is successful – our aim is to maximise applicants’ chances by ensuring they are prepared, particularly in their mindset, for the academic trial that awaits them.
Our approach, across all our programmes, is to focus on helping our students develop their subject mindset and way of thinking. This involves:
- Ensuring the students are confident in their own knowledge of the core curricula and techniques;Helping students to start developing the required mental approach to the subject;
- Encouraging students to begin applying their new approach to their existing subject knowledge; and
- Helping students to gain confidence in their abilities, to use the combination of their knowledge and mindset to identify and solve the problems with which they are faced.
We help the applicant prepare mentally for tests that either have no easy questions to answer, or the answers to which are not simply right or wrong. Aptitude tests are designed to try to evaluate and quantify the potential academic talent of a student, in relation to other students who may display more obvious knowledge or skills more easily taught.
Does the approach work?
Because of the fierce competition and the high quality of applicants, there is no certain path to success for university preparation. However our systematic approach offers students, in the opinion of our subject experts, the very best preparation for each subject and subject. For students who have the raw talent, we have found such programmes to be highly effective - in English Literature, for example, five out of the last six students who have gone through an Advanced Programme have gained a place at Oxford or Cambridge.