Oxbridge/RG admissions tutors - number of GCSEs?

(34 Posts)
senoritafullofshite Thu 16-Mar-17 15:20:49


My child's school (a decent comp) limits pupils to 10/11 GCSEs unless they begin Latin / 3rd MFL at the start of Y8, out of hours. In practice this means a lot of very able children (university town: top sets in the comp have a similar ability range to some of the top-rated day schools in the country) end up limited to 10/11 GCSEs. Theyr're likely to get 9s in at least the 3 or 4 subjects most relevant to their future degrees but might drop a couple of grades in their weakest subjects.

How are these children likely (in reality, not according to policy) to be affected? One local admissions tutor says off the record that candidates with 10/11 GCSEs don't stand a chance - how widespread is this?

I have a particular interest in Maths, NatSci, Engineering, CompSci though I'd be interested to know for other subjects too.

How is the 10 exam limit really going to impact these children? What are the realistic chances that the UCAS form just goes in the bin without even being read?

Would sitting the FSMQ in addition be any mitigation?

Thanks :-)

OP’s posts: |
Gannet123 Thu 16-Mar-17 15:55:03

I am a Law Admissions Tutor at a RG university. The number of GCSEs is irrelevant and barely paid attention to at my university. Plenty of strong applications come through with 8 or 9 GCSEs. Individual departments and courses may have particular policies, but the idea that 'only ' doing 10 GCSEs is going to disadvantage applicants seems very odd to me, unless I've misunderstood something. 10 GCSEs seem more than enough to me. Quite apart from anything else, a rule like that would massively disadvantage people from underfunded schools - a category that is likely to increase in the future, meaning that only courses that are hugely oversubscribed would survive with such a rule.

UsedToBeAPaxmanFan Thu 16-Mar-17 16:02:21

Not am admissions tutor but my ds has a place at an RG university and lots of his friends also have places at Oxbridge or RG. Unis.

At the school DS and his friends attend, all students do 9 GCSES unless they are top sets for maths in which case they do Maths GCSE a year early and then do FSMQ in Year 11. Some pupils do art or music after school which gives them an additional GCSE.

My ds has 9 GCSEs plus FSMQ, as do most of his friends. A couple of his good friends are at Oxford, others at Bristol, Bath, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham etc. It has never been suggested that "only" having 9 GCSES is a problem. It is more important to have good grades in the subjects they've studied. Loads of schools offer 9 GCSES as standard so it's not an issue as far as I can see.

goodbyestranger Thu 16-Mar-17 16:14:45

How completely absurd for your local admissions tutor to say that applicants with ten or eleven GCSEs 'don't stand a chance'. Applicants with that number have been the vast majority of those getting offers at Oxford and Cambridge for years and years, even when GCSEs were 'easy' (note inverted commas please!). Having twelve or thirteen has been unusual rather than the norm, so now that the exams are tougher and as more and more secondary schools in both sectors reduce the curriculum offer, ten will be ample.

CleanMess Thu 16-Mar-17 16:20:01

One local admissions tutor says off the record that candidates with 10/11 GCSEs don't stand a chance - how widespread is this?

Really! That's shocking advice and very, very wrong. I'm curious as to what background this admissions tutor has and who he works for.

titchy Thu 16-Mar-17 16:21:02

One local admissions tutor says off the record that candidates with 10/11 GCSEs don't stand a chance -

You have misunderstood that. 10 or 11 is the normal number that bright kids take, whether they're set 1 in a comprehensive, in a grammar or a super selective private.

To suggest they need more is bollocks. As is your assertion they'll be getting mainly grade 9s.

titchy Thu 16-Mar-17 16:21:23

In fact your username is most apt.


Ta1kinPeace Thu 16-Mar-17 16:34:08

ALL Schools are now bringing the number of GCSE's back to sensible levels from the insanity of 14 or 15 a few years ago.
DD did 13
DS did 11
the current year 11 at their old comp are doing max 10

Top private selective schools often only do 8 or 9
(because private schools do not have to have exams for each timetable slot)

MarvinKMooney Thu 16-Mar-17 16:45:05

I work in university admissions for Computer Science (RG). Aside from checking that there are GCSEs (or equivalent quals) in English, Maths and Science, we don't even look at the number of GCSEs an applicant holds. We're interested in the A levels (or equivalent). Very odd advice you've been given there.

MarvinKMooney Thu 16-Mar-17 16:46:19

BTW, UCAS applications never just go in the bin without being read - we read every single one!

Leeds2 Thu 16-Mar-17 16:47:54

My DD is in first year of uni, with 11 GCSEs. She had 4 offers from RG unis (withdrew from her fifth application before an offer was/n't made.

Fwiw, I attended a lecture given at her school by the Bristol Uni admissions lady. She explained that applicants were given a mark out of 100 for their GCSE grades, with 10 marks for an A*, 9 for an A etc. They looked only at the top 10 grades. So a student with 10 A*s would get a higher score than one with 9 A*s and 5 As. (There were other things taken into account, obviously, but that is how she explained how they looked at GCSE grades).

AtiaoftheJulii Thu 16-Mar-17 16:57:14

^What titchy said.

eddiemairswife Thu 16-Mar-17 17:12:12

4 grandchildren at or graduates from RG universities. 11GCSEs each mostly A* or A.

DaisyBlameless Thu 16-Mar-17 17:16:29

I work at a highly regarded independent school. Kids do 9/10 GCSEs and we send lots to Oxbridge and other top ten unis.

The person you spoke to is a plonker.

senoritafullofshite Thu 16-Mar-17 17:50:40

Thanks for the input folks.

Ta1kinPeace, that puts it slightly more in perspective and explains the school's policy a little more. They are cutting back compared to children who went through a couple of years ago. Thanks for the higher level view.

And Daisy too - thanks, appreciate the different point of view and that there is a valid alternative to the 'number of GCSEs' inflation we've seen in recent years.

(titchy, I'm not suggesting it'll be 'mainly 9s'. My point is purely that they're genuinely very able and should be good candidates.)

The comment is genuine if secondhand. Relayed by an academic friend so I don't know all the context - whether it was off the cuff/considered, and whether this refers to a cohort where it was normal to take 13-14 GCSEs / do 100% coursework. The relevant course is shockingly difficult, btw.

And 'in the bin' is my own wording so apologies for that colloquialism giving offence.

OP’s posts: |
Nomoreworkathome Thu 16-Mar-17 17:51:54

Utter bollox.
DD had 9 and interviewed for Cambridge and sitting on offer for UCL.
Cant believe you have described these kids as being 'limited to 10/11 GCSE's. hmm

senoritafullofshite Thu 16-Mar-17 17:56:29

And yes, Gannet123 - it would vastly disadvantage children at underfunded schools - my child's among them. Which is why I'm asking the question - to find out if my children's friends are actually being limited or if people are getting het up about nothing.

The general opinion seems clear - thank you.

OP’s posts: |
MarvinKMooney Thu 16-Mar-17 17:59:38

And 'in the bin' is my own wording so apologies for that colloquialism giving offence.

None taken . Just wanted to reassure you that we don't discard applications that easily. smile

SallyGinnamon Thu 16-Mar-17 18:06:15

I wouldn't worry.

DD's much lauded school only does 9 GCSEs and I'm sure get plenty into Oxbridge.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 16-Mar-17 18:23:14

I have a particular interest in Maths, NatSci, Engineering, CompSci though I'd be interested to know for other subjects too

....*Would sitting the FSMQ in addition be any mitigation?*

As my DD is yr 13 I'm already out of date, but I'd have thought that the advantage of doing extra maths at the GCSE stage is that these pupils will hit the ground running with their A level maths/FM - therefore likely to have better predicted grades (which may be more important with the ditching of AS) and better actual results. And for these subjects, for the highest ranked courses, that's the most crucial factor.

user7214743615 Thu 16-Mar-17 18:46:02

One local admissions tutor says off the record that candidates with 10/11 GCSEs don't stand a chance - how widespread is this?

This is utter garbage and always has been. Plenty of students go to Oxbridge with less than 10 GCSEs - strong grades in GCSEs plus pretests are what is required.

FSMQ is also utterly irrelevant.

user7214743615 Thu 16-Mar-17 18:48:43

BTW predicted grades are unlikely to be the key factor for Oxbridge, which uses pretests (except for Cambridge maths).

Predicted grades are important for RG but most of the subjects named above are undersubscribed at many RG, so pretty easy to get into without absolutely stellar grades. For example, AAB would get you into quite a few RG maths courses in the top 6-20 grouping. It's ludicrous to even think that such courses would be sorting based on numbers of GCSEs and numbers of 8s/9s.

titchy Thu 16-Mar-17 18:53:15

As the new grade 9 is higher than the current A star, to guess the percentages you'd need to look at the percentages getting A stars now, and probably divide by three or four to guess the number of 9s.

It has NEVER been necessary to take more than 10. Ever. Even for the most competitive courses.

Iamastonished Mon 20-Mar-17 17:47:39

Please can I hijack this thread?

DD has expressed an interest in applying to Oxford. She has 2 Bs, 3As and 5 A*s at GCSE, and is currently working at As and Bs in her A levels in year 12.

What are her chances of a successful application?

ErrolTheDragon Mon 20-Mar-17 18:04:22

The require grades and competitiveness vary with subject. There's a lot of info here https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/entrance-requirements?wssl=1

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