Applying to Oxford with ‘bad’ a levels?

(41 Posts)
claptrapwrap Mon 15-Oct-18 06:49:08

DS has his heart set on Oxford to study history, so much so he’s taken a gap year for the chance. He’s applied to Balliol.

He went to a bad local comprehensive where he was consistantly top of the class. For his GCSEs he got 7A* and 6As.

At A level he studied History, Geography and English Literature, gaining only AAA. We are immensely proud, but this doesn’t seem Oxford standard reading threads here and on student room.

Shall I prepare him for the big fat no?

OP’s posts: |
SaltyMyDear Mon 15-Oct-18 06:52:32

Check out oxford contextual offers. His GCSEs will be high enough if he comes from one of the schools on their list.

Also depends on the postcode you live in. And whether his A levels come from a school on their list.

I wouldn’t prepare him for bad news yet.

SaltyMyDear Mon 15-Oct-18 06:53:29

BehemothPullsThePeasantsPlough Mon 15-Oct-18 06:54:08

If he can get a contextual offer then it’s all about how much his love of the subject shines at interview.

NeaterBonita Mon 15-Oct-18 07:48:46

I think the contextual data, such as his school and postcode means he is much more likely to receive an interview if he does reasonably well in admission test.
His grades are great , well done to him. I don’t think many can be 100% sure of an offer, he’s still in with a good chance.

goodbyestranger Mon 15-Oct-18 07:49:23

No reason at all to talk about a big fat no. Regardless of context, he's met their standard offer. The critical thing for him will be the HAT, not any lack of A* at A level.

Did he do the thirteen GCSEs in one sitting?

goodbyestranger Mon 15-Oct-18 07:53:29

It's not about love of a subject, it's about intellectual ability. You can love a subject as much as you like, but on its own that won't get you an offer. Also, I'd quarrel with the idea that you have to love a subject to get an offer in that subject, you just have to find it interesting enough to want to study it for three or four years, whichever applies.


goodbyestranger Mon 15-Oct-18 07:56:09

Salty his GCSEs are completely fine even if he came from a high achieving grammar or indie, let alone a poor performing comp. It's the lack of A* at A2 - presumably especially in History - that seems to worry OP.

claptrapwrap Mon 15-Oct-18 08:03:30

Yes it is his a levels that we’re worried about. He sat all 13 GCSEs at the same time.

He’s using his gap year working in a museum.

OP’s posts: |
goodbyestranger Mon 15-Oct-18 08:08:56

Then they're super impressive. Well done him. I really wouldn't worry about the AAA but he needs a good HAT, unless he's flagged.

BehemothPullsThePeasantsPlough Mon 15-Oct-18 08:10:20

Yes it sounds a bit X factor to talk about love of a subject, but what I mean is enthusiasm and understanding at a relatively deep level for a teenager. Museum work is good but I’d also advise him to read, read and read some more - which will stand him in good stead wherever he ends up.

Needmoresleep Mon 15-Oct-18 09:10:48

Its only one line on the UCAS form.

ifonly4 Mon 15-Oct-18 10:55:33

I'd speak to Oxford. We actually looked around the colleges as day trippers and got talking to a member of staff. He said they weren't just looking for AAA plus, they where looking for more. As the chat progressed they're also interested in strong extra curricular relating to the course, also do if have any unusual hobby that makes you stand out, got involved in charity, any special achievement or perhaps strongly into a sport or music which you'd want to get engrossed in at Oxford?

Only AAA are fantastic results by the way! If not, Oxford, they'll be plenty of unis out there interested in him. Referring back to his GCSE results, I acutally know someone whose highest GCSE grades were B, she ended up with a first class honours degree. Took her first job and within a hear was head hunted!

goodbyestranger Mon 15-Oct-18 11:06:20

There's not a great deal of point speaking to Oxford because the application is in. All they'll say is that no-one is guaranteed a place etc etc.

Love the idea of telling a history tutor that your aim is to get engrossed in footie and that that's your usp smile

RedHelenB Mon 15-Oct-18 11:40:54

I think he'll be fine and stand as much chance as anyone.

Moominmammacat Mon 15-Oct-18 12:06:46

I know plenty of people who have got into Oxford with AAA recently.

HingleMcCringleberry Mon 15-Oct-18 13:10:42

ifonly4 - I do not wish to gainsay you, but I have to say that advice you received was very unusual. Most times that this crops up, the advice on extra-curriculars that are not related to your choice of degree is that they make not a jot of difference. (I speak only of Oxbridge in this regard - although I put nothing in about extra-curriculars in my PS and got offers from other unis, so it didn't appear to hamper me. Again - it's only an anecdote, I can't pretend to speak for the attitude of other universities.)

To goodbyestranger's point, in conversation with my tutor at our end of degree lunch, he guffawed at the idea that interviewers care about an applicant's interest in music, or sport, or any signs of having a rich and varied personal life outside academia. It's your ability to engage with the material that is going to earn you points at interview (and indeed at UCAS application stage I guess).

Hollybollybingbong Mon 15-Oct-18 13:31:07

Dd's friend got into Oxford this year with either A*AB or AAB, I remember the B but bit the test. DD is applying to Cambridge for English and the ELAT is essential, they offer a link to previous papers. Get DS to find relevant past papers and practice, practice practice!
Best of luck.

mateysmum Mon 15-Oct-18 13:46:19

AAA is a standard offer for History at Oxford.

So please don't deter your DS. His results look fine for an application.

However..... it is not the whole story. The HAT test and submitted work is just as important as it tests different thinking skills and will determine who gets an interview. Once at interview, his reading around his subject outside of the A level curriculum and ability to answer questions appropriately are key. So during his year off he should be reading lots and hopefully has put relevant info on this in his personal statement.

wurzelburga Mon 15-Oct-18 14:36:39

Standard offer for history is AAA, so he meets that.

With those grades he is going to get unconditional offers from other top Universities - Durham, UCL, St Andrew’s etc so he would be silly not to try for Oxford if that is where he wants to go.

He should be working hard at past history aptitude tests, ideally with an experienced tutor. If that is not possible there are a number of model answers available on the Oxford admissions sites. History is massively over subscribed with students predicted three As or more so the HAT score is what will make his application stand out.

Has he entered any history essay competition? eg Julia Wood. Not sure if it is open to gap years but a good performance would help.

My DC have always said it is easier to get an offer in U6 on the back of predicted grades. Most gap year applicants usually have an A* in the subject they wish to study. But if your DS is applying from a school which does not normally have students getting As at A level, that will help his application. So too will any other code, BME etc. What kind of reference will he get from his school?

As with all Oxbridge applicants it is always sensible to be realistic. Applications outnumber offers. But nobody ever got an offer without applying. I know DC who had their hearts set on Oxbridge and ended up elsewhere. They have all done well in the end. So will your DS.

LoniceraJaponica Mon 15-Oct-18 14:38:08

DD's boyfriend got an AAA offer from Oxford, with much less stellar GCSEs. In fact he only achieved one A*. The rest were As and Bs.

However, his submitted work, HAT test and interviews went extremely well.

In the end he got ABB and ended up elsewhere through clearing.

goodbyestranger Mon 15-Oct-18 15:20:24

wurzel I'm not sure Durham and UCL for History are in the bag without knowing for sure where the school is on the spectrum of attainment. Those two don't dish out offers for History at AAA just like that, since their standard offer is higher.

BubblesBuddy Mon 15-Oct-18 17:27:56

Not wishing to deter him, but the latest stats from Oxford say that 90% of those admitted on all courses had A*AA at A level or above. So don’t be disappointed if it’s a no. I’ve no doubt that scoring highly in the HAT and getting an interview and shining could tip the balance. Hope it goes well.

RedHelenB Mon 15-Oct-18 17:39:54

But the offer is AAA for History and he's met that so I can't see h8m being at a disadvantage.

Tropicalfish Mon 15-Oct-18 19:26:38

Presumably he has already applied. The closing date was today.

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