Do Oxbridge like to see a MFL at GCSE?

(15 Posts)
kitnkaboodle Mon 01-Feb-16 09:37:28

My son, Y9, is choosing options now. He's possible 'Oxbridge material' in Maths/Science/Tech as long as he keeps on the straight and narrow. His school are advising all top sets/kids with their eyes on university to take French as a GCSE option. DS does fine in French, is top set, but doesn't like it. With all the other subjects he's going to be doing, I can see him possibly getting 'only' a B in it (or new equivalent). For A levels he'll almost certainly be doing Maths and Sciences - currently has vague ambitions to be an engineer.

Does anyone know if Oxbridge actually care what subjects kids have at GCSE level, or whether they are only interested in their GCSE grades, or if, in fact, they don't look at GCSEs at all and are only interested in your predicted A level grades?

I took Oxbridge entrance over 30 years ago, and I know that then they required you to have a Science O-level. I didn't have one, but I had Geography, and that was allowed to count.

I've posted this in Secondary Education as well - thanks!

OP’s posts: |
bojorojo Mon 01-Feb-16 11:06:09

It is my understanding that Oxbridge are very much looking at GCSEs and there is now plenty of information on the web about how they need to when some young people take all their exams at the end of year 13. They do not, I believe, state they want to see a MFL at GCSE but if lots and lots of excellent candidates do have this, I would not risk it. At our school, it was expected that Oxbridge candidates had a MFL. However, it is also good advice to do about 10 GCSEs - no more. Oxbridge like quality not quantity. He does not need A* in every subject either (at least 5-6 though) and a good spread of subjects is important.

If he wants to be an Engineer then Oxbridge is not necessarily the best place to go. The Oxford course is very wide ranging and not split down into discrete disciplines; Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical etc like the other universities. Imperial is probably top, and other universities are possibly better for Engineering if he wants a particular field of engineering. Lots of Oxbridge engineers never become engineers - they go into the City!

mummymeister Tue 02-Feb-16 07:33:30

kit - an awful lot has changed in 30 years. my friend got into oxford with a C in English and now they don't seem to take anyone who has anything other than a* and a in ALL subjects that they take. this will be especially true going forward as the AS levels are no longer there to give an indication and places like Oxbridge will have to look back at the GCSE results.

plus you do need a mfl for the EBACC which will become more important too I think.

I might be accused of having a cynical and jaundiced view because my DC didn't get an offer despite getting 4 A's at AS, but if you aren't a foreign student, living in the south east or privately educated then forget it. there are much better unis out there. I wont be encouraging any of my other kids to apply because we don't fit into these categories.

it just felt like one of my DC's choices was wasted as they got a couple of B's in what I would call non essential subjects yet that showed on the application.

hefzi Tue 02-Feb-16 22:40:11

It's "relatively" recent the requirements universities had for a B in MFL has been dropped, so I think better to be safe than sorry, in all honesty.

And mummy I know your DC had a disappointing experience, but statistically, you have a better chance of gaining a place at Oxbridge coming from a state school - the percentage of places that privately educated applicants are offered is actually significantly lower than the number of privately educated people who apply. If it was a benefit, this statistic would be reversed. Hard as it is, Oxbridge is basically very much a lottery - the ATs are gambling on who they are going to take in a year's time, and students are gambling one of their options on being one of the ones that wins the application lottery. At least it's no longer like the UCCA days, when you had to rank your choices, and if you had Oxbridge on there, you were quite likely not to receive an offer from London/Durham/Bristol etc, on the grounds that an unconditional offer from Oxford/conditional from Cambridge would likely trump anything that they offered you, and thus didn't want to "waste" a place on someone...

thelonggame Wed 10-Feb-16 20:24:26

I have no experience of Cambridge, but Oxford don't have specific requirements at GCSE.
Have a look at both their websites, there is a lot of information available. It's even worth phoning up their admissions offices, they will be happy to discuss it with you. All the admissions depts are approachable and will answer questions.
If your DS is looking at sciences, as others have said Imperial is a better choice. My DD rejected Oxford for Imperial for Biology, and a friend the same for Chemistry.

EmpressofBlandings Sun 14-Feb-16 08:39:40

Hefzi, your statement that proportionally more state school than private school students get into Oxbridge is, I'm afraid, wrong. I wish it wasn't, but it is. At both Oxford and Cambridge, the split overall is roughly 50/50. As 7% of children in the UK are privately educated, that means a private school student is about 7 times more likely to get a place. I know because it's a slight (!!!!) hobbyhorse of mine and, as a Cambridge grad, I've written regularly to the VC and the Master of my old college about it, hypothecated donations, etc.

Sorry to derail, Kit. I would go along with PP saying a reasonable spread of subjects is good, but also, why not pick a college, pretty much at random, and contact the admissions officer?

disquit2 Sun 14-Feb-16 09:23:05

7% of children are educated privately, but the percentage is significantly higher amongst sixth formers and amongst those with top grades.

And then there is the issue of the child from a family with no history of higher education on full bursary at private school versus the child of an Oxbridge educated former prime minister at state school. Why should the latter be favoured over the former? Similarly what about children from top London state superselectives versus children from remote private schools (in areas where state schools have few high achievers, low Ofsted ratings). In many cases the former have had a lot more opportunities, and come from higher socio-economic backgrounds, than the latter.

If your DS is looking at sciences, as others have said Imperial is a better choice.

And your evidence is....? Do Imperial consistently outperform the Oxbridge departments in league tables (research or otherwise)? Reject Oxbridge if you wish but it's a bit silly to pretend that it's worse when it is at or near the top of every type of league table of UK universities.


Artandco Sun 14-Feb-16 09:28:20

I think a language to a level rather than just gcse is much better if possible. Most languages can be easily self taught the majority at home so it's easy to have as an additional a level as very little coursework or additional work to be done. Watch foreign films, go to the country if possible, do a few hours at home each week self taught. Then at school lessons are only a few hrs if that a week in languages

TheGoldenApplesOfTheSun Sun 14-Feb-16 09:52:34

As someone who has actually been to study at Oxbridge I wanted to counter rojojo's comment that it's "not necessarily the best place to go". The courses are wide ranging - for the first couple of years - then you narrow down on what you want to do and end up with an accredited degree in Civil, Mechanical, Electrical or whatever you like. Warwick has a similar approach, not forcing kids to choose an engineering discipline before they experience the different areas. I think it's a great way for students who aren't sure about what they would like to do to find their way. And for what it's worth, I and lot of my classmates are working as engineers - not wankers bankers! Oh, and they don't really care about languages - certainly no need to take a language and o A lev l and waste time you could have been doing science or maths if interested to study Engineering. Much more important to also have evidence of extra curricular things you can talk about doing which show your interest in what you're applying to - eg take part in robotics competitions, religiously watch 'building the biggest', home electronics projects, etc...

IrenetheQuaint Sun 14-Feb-16 09:59:27

'At both Oxford and Cambridge, the split overall is roughly 50/50. As 7% of children in the UK are privately educated, that means a private school student is about 7 times more likely to get a place.'

This doesn't add up at all - you have to do the maths on the basics of who actually applies to Oxford and Cambridge. Or, if you're working out how many sixth formers might have a chance at Oxbridge if they applied, on the basis of who gets all A*s/As in their A levels.

historystudent101 Sun 14-Feb-16 10:49:38

Felt I had to chip in because there's a lot of misinformation in this thread. Whilst I'm not a mum (shock horror), I am a cambridge student and in my experience from attending admissions talks and the like, oxbridge care much more about the profile of your grades than the actual results - so 7A*3A would be preferable to 5A*3A2B, for instance. They won't be interested in an MFL GCSE if you're applying for science subjects, so if your son's not interested in it, realistically I wouldn't bother.

bojorojo Sun 14-Feb-16 16:22:26

I did say "not necessarily"! Some people would say Imperial is better for Engineering! Some people would say that spending 2 years learning something you are not going to use instead of being well versed in what you do need, may also be less suitable for some. It just depends what you want really.

EmpressofBlandings Mon 15-Feb-16 21:59:57

Agreed, Irene. But the private schools are FAR more clued up and set up to help children think about applying to Oxbridge. And with the minuscule, and, until someone tells me differently I'm going to assume, statistically insignificant proportion of disadvantaged children on full bursaries at private schools, I will still need an awful lot of evidence and convincing before I think that the playing field isn't massively skewed in favour of the privately educated. And the responses I have had from Vice-Chancellor and Master have acknowledged that the numbers bear this out.

In my working life, I have a certain amount to do with the pupils of an inner London academy school. There are masses of very bright, engaged, sparky kids to whom it would never occur that they could go to university. If they were at a private school, at least some of them would be being pushed for Oxbridge. It breaks my heart - not the Oxbridge bit, the university bit.

BeeppityBeep Mon 15-Feb-16 22:21:00

You could always try a freedom of information request direct to the Uni. wink

HERE is an example. I'm sure the Universities must find them extremely tiresome but they reveal some interesting information.

IrenetheQuaint Mon 15-Feb-16 22:24:23

I would argue that the Oxbridge playing field is skewed in favour of private schools, grammar schools and high-achieving comprehensives in middle-class areas; which is not quite as bad as you make out, but certainly a major issue.

"In my working life, I have a certain amount to do with the pupils of an inner London academy school. There are masses of very bright, engaged, sparky kids to whom it would never occur that they could go to university."

Actually this really surprises me. There has been such a push to raise aspirations in the last 10-20 years, especially in London, and such a big increase in the % going to university, that any inner London academy which isn't vigorously encouraging its brighter pupils to go to university (even if one of the London ex-polys rather than Imperial etc) is doing a really crap job.

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