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How intense is it to study at Oxford?

(48 Posts)
pinkyslippers Fri 17-Mar-17 13:24:00

My DD may apply to Oxford, we know little about it , but anecdotally were told that the majority of teaching is small group not lecture based and that a number of students who go there do find it too intense.

DD is very able, sociable, happy and quite a gifted communicator but there is a but - when she is over stimulated can become anxious and can't sleep . We know someone who dropped out of Cambridge for this reason and went elsewhere.

Seems a shame not to try for something special but she needs to be happy and feel she can progress.

Are their some knowledgeable opinions or experiences on this theme?

multivac Fri 17-Mar-17 13:25:28

The answer depends very much on the subject your daughter would be studying; and the college for which she is accepted... can you share any more information?

pinkyslippers Fri 17-Mar-17 15:15:34

Yes thank you. History and MFL joint honours. Wouldn't have a clue about colleges. When i was lookibg at reviews merton (is that what it is called?) sounded nice but really advice on colleges would be good. She likes politics, dance and being in a choir

CountryCaterpillar Fri 17-Mar-17 15:24:43

My friend who studied history had less essays than me. She had one a week whereas I had 3 a fortnight. Essentially you get an essay title and a list of books to study. You spend several days reading the relevant nooks and taking notes and then a day writing the essay. You then have a tutorial often one on one or two on one. These vary so much depending on tutor but usually you read your essay to them and then you discuss the essay and surrounding topics for an hour. Rinse and repeat.

There are lectures but we were told no more than 3 a week as they get in the way of studying. The ones you go to are often a different term to the time you study the topic/write essays.

For my subject my class of degree depended entirely on 8 written exams in 4 days at the end of the course another university would certainly have been less intense!

I have no idea about mfl. I imagine that's more interactive. One friend lived abroad for a year which she found ace.

Yes it's very intense and concentrated into 8 week terms. But it's incredible chance to really study the topics you're interested in.

pinkyslippers Fri 17-Mar-17 15:32:01


YellowPrimula Fri 17-Mar-17 17:29:25

Check out Oxvlog channel on YouTube , it is lots and lots of student clogging about life at Oxford , studying , essays all sorts , pressure , tutorials

YellowPrimula Fri 17-Mar-17 17:30:22

Sorry, they are vlogging not clogging ! There is also advice on choosing colleges etc

goodbyestranger Fri 17-Mar-17 17:34:53

Merton would be the worst possible choice if she doesn't fancy intense.

sm40 Fri 17-Mar-17 18:01:35

I went there but 20 years ago. Merton was quite geeky back then but that was then! Does she have a favourite bit of history? Maybe look for a tutor that is good at that and find their college?
As for work there was a saying that you can be good of 2/3 things at Oxford; work, social or sport! Most of the historians I knew did an essay a week and left most of the work until the last day or 2 it was due in!! Again this was then and my college was not the most academic (then - it is now!).
The people that found it tough were those that were top of their school and got there and were no longer the best etc.
It was exam based and finals were stressful, but everyone did ok and if people didn't do well we blamed it on spending too much time having fun rather than it being really hard!
However this was based on 20 years ago. I got a 2:1 and I would definitely say I wasn't a brain box and I enjoyed myself!

ThermoScan Fri 17-Mar-17 18:03:34

I went to Oxford ,it is a fantastic place to study .
I did medicine which is very structured in terms of lectures ,practical sessions and often 3 essays per week for tutorials.
Friends reading non-science subjects seemed to be more in control of their own time. They would have 1 essay per week to work on and could structure their day to suit themselves,often meeting for coffee mid-morning which all seemed quite sociable to someone like me who was out of college all day.
Despite this more relaxed approach there were frequent "essay crises" so you still need to be able to manage your time well..having less structure may actually be harder .

I know people who were unhappy not with the workload but with their courses;some changed within Oxford and a few left to go elsewhere.
Exam times are pressured and everyone gets their head down and works then.
The terms are short and you are expected to study in the holidays too.You realise this when you are there and take responsibility for it.
Amongst my friends the horror stories of pressure and deadlines are all about the workplace after Oxford ;legal firms,banking,hospitals etc.
The workload at Oxford was actually fine looking back..

CountryCaterpillar Fri 17-Mar-17 18:22:58

The real fear for some doing humanities is you could end up with human contact just once a week as you're supposed to be intensely researching and studying. In retrospect by somewhere like Durham or Exeter may have suites me better with

CountryCaterpillar Fri 17-Mar-17 18:23:26

Arg posted before fully finished!!

Leeds2 Fri 17-Mar-17 19:28:57

Long time since I graduated, but back in the day the historians had their first year exams at the end of the first term. It was the only subject to do this (mine were at the end of the second term, others at the end of the third) and some of them found that very hard as it was noises to the grindstone from the off. Felt they were missing out on socialising etc. They did enjoy their first year after Christmas though!

As someone up thread has said, the first year exams don't count towards your degree classification, which is based entirely on -in my case - eight three hour exams over five days. No course work, dissertations, earlier exams counting etc. Some people found the intensity of this quite difficult to cope with.

Leeds2 Fri 17-Mar-17 19:30:35

Back in the day, Merton used to be known for its food! No idea if it still is.

Devilishpyjamas Fri 17-Mar-17 19:31:35

I'd also advise avoiding Merton if you don't want intense. As a general rule the newer or ex women's colleges tend to be less intense. At least they were in my day.

goodbyestranger Fri 17-Mar-17 21:39:24

The first year History exams are now at the very end of the summer term.

Leeds2 Fri 17-Mar-17 21:43:09

Oh! That is much more sensible, goodbye. Many apologies if I mislead anyone - I am going back 30 years!

goodbyestranger Fri 17-Mar-17 21:48:17

It's interesting that they did that though Leeds. Some subjects still do them early - Law, Classics, Theology not sure about others. But it's still the case that Oxford very unusually has a lot of subjects still examined wholly at the end of the third year - that's very, very heavy compared to almost all other unis.

CountryCaterpillar Fri 17-Mar-17 21:54:47

Yes I definitely did better in my second degree where I studied a module, half coursework half exam, sat the exam and then promptly forgot it all and concentrated on the next topic!!

onemorelindor Fri 17-Mar-17 22:11:27

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, OP. Your DD should go for it if her grades are good, she's interested in her subject and she thinks it will be a good fit for her.

I read History at Oxford and the joke at the time was that it was the least intense of all the degrees. I guess that's because we only had one essay a week and didn't really have to go to lectures. had to be self-motivated and you had to guide your own learning. You got your essay question and your reading list at your tutorial and that was it - you were left to your own devices to figure your answer out and you'd then turn up at the next tutorial ready to present and discuss it. Essay crises were par for the course and one of the reasons why people might describe the experience as intense. Finals were also quite 😬 - you didn't have coursework making up as high a proportion of your final marks so a lot rested on the exams. Not sure if that's changed.


I'd say go and visit. Peek in at the different colleges - big ones, smaller ones, old ones and new ones. Have a look at the Radcliffe Camera and the Bod, which are the main libraries for historians (not sure where the linguists hang out...)

onemorelindor Fri 17-Mar-17 22:17:39

...posted too soon dammit.

I tend to agree with a pp about Merton. And when I was there Brasenose was known for being posh.

CountryCaterpillar Fri 17-Mar-17 22:22:37

Yep when you realise to revise for finals you only really have essays you've written over the years. It's not the same as revising set topics or lecture notes or even textbooks. There is a lot more pressure.

sendsummer Fri 17-Mar-17 22:36:28

Trying gives her the choice (if successful), it doesn't commit her to going. I think the application experience is worthwhile for Oxford independently of the outcome. Even those students who are eventually disappointed by rejection usually have good memories from the social aspect of staying at a college with other interviewees and enjoying Oxford between interviews. Rather generous of Oxford University and the colleges I think. The Cambridge process is much more perfunctory and sterile.

user7214743615 Sat 18-Mar-17 08:18:03

Cambridge also have the candidates state in colleges with other interviewees and run events for candidates while they are there. Not sure why you think the process is more more sterile.

Bumpsadaisie Sat 18-Mar-17 08:31:01

I was at Cambridge but much like Oxford we historians we always regarded as having the easiest life. We didn't have a huge amount of scheduled lectures etc but we did have long reading lists and an essay to write each week.

I may be wrong but I think doing joint honours will be harder work, and mfl students have a lot of scheduled time.

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