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Are these grades Oxbridge material?

(62 Posts)
DivisionBelle Tue 14-Nov-17 21:47:57

Yr 12 Ds has been encouraged by his tutor to go to an event set up to enable school students to talk to Oxford and Cambridge undergraduates, I think as part of an initiative to get more state school students to think of applying. His tutor has hinted that he should think about it.

I was a bit surprised, DS is doing well, working hard, but not the sort of high flying straight A*/9s genius that I imagine Oxbridge students to be.

He is doing 2 sciences and Maths at A level.

GCSE:
Maths:9
Triple Science: A*, A*, A
Further Maths: A
Other subjects: A*, 8, A,A,A, 6,B,B

I know these are good results. but everyone I know who has kids applying to Oxbridge this year had across the board A*s.

If he has a chance, great, we'll go for it. But he has enough on his plate not to be pursuing something that is not actually realistic. What HE wants is get good teaching in a science degree and to eventually be involved in interesting research, wherever that may be.

AgonyBeetle Tue 14-Nov-17 22:03:52

The Oxbridge admissions process is rather more nuanced than many other universities - because of the college system each set of tutors will be selecting from a relatively small pool of students, so they don't have an 'admission by numbers' formula in the way that some universities do. I assume a very mediocre set of GCSEs would filter an applicant out, but that seems like a good achievement profile overall, possibly depending a bit on what kind of school background he's from - those grades would be more impressive from a tough comprehensive in a deprived down than from a high-achieving grammar or leafy comp.

They're more interested in how applicants think, how original their ideas and how motivated they are to engage with the subject. School ref also key to sparking admissions tutor's interest, as well personal statement, with demonstrable evidence of interest in the subject carrying much more weight than G8 violin and gold DoE etc.

Oxbridge is a very distinctive setup. It suits some, others (not necessarily less able) will be happier and do better elsewhere. If his school are encouraging him to go, then he should at the very least go and have a look round and talk to staff and students - that should give him a feel for whether it's something he wants to take further.

TeenTimesTwo Tue 14-Nov-17 22:16:04

Go and have a look.

How can they succeed in attracting more from the state sector if good state pupils self select themselves out of even considering applying when it is suggested to them.

DivisionBelle Tue 14-Nov-17 22:17:14

Thanks AgonyBeetle. Food for thought.

South London Comp. Not 'leafy' by a long chalk. But it is a good school that does well by a tough intake.

DivisionBelle Tue 14-Nov-17 22:18:21

"How can they succeed in attracting more from the state sector if good state pupils self select themselves out of even considering applying when it is suggested to them"

Fair point!

itssquidstella Tue 14-Nov-17 22:24:15

They certainly wouldn't preclude an application, especially if he isn't from a school that sends swathes of kids to oxbridge and gets strings of straight A*s a year.

To be honest, though, once you've met the minimum academic requirements, Oxford and Cambridge are much more interested in how a student thinks and how passionate/independently motivated they are. A pupils with those grades who applies because it's worth a punt without really showing extra commitment is unlikely to get a look in; one who can show really engagement with their subject and evidence of reading around/beyond the subject has a much better shot.

DivisionBelle Tue 14-Nov-17 22:25:55

The self-selecting thing is an issue. I realise that some pushy parents in my circle of acquaintances, not at 'our' school, have breezily talked of Oxbridge application with 'but of course, she did get 13 A*s' as if anything else is just not good enough.

He is motivated in his subjects. Quite reserved in talking about his ideas, though, so that is part of my interest that his class tutor suggested he go.

TeenTimesTwo Tue 14-Nov-17 22:57:33

If he hadn't done so many GCSEs but instead had dropped those 2 with Bs (presumably the 6 is one of the Englishes) then the results would look way better.

Nat Scis need to be extremely good at maths and science and literate enough to present their ideas appropriately. It think he should go for it, at least explore further.

Ttbb Tue 14-Nov-17 23:01:26

It's more about how he interviews. If he wants to apply he needs to carefully research colleges and pick one that is known for prioritising intellect over academic attainment and then read up on the people who work there, read a few of their books and other note worthy books in the subject area. He will also need to see whether they have any internal exams. It is also possible that they may accept him but send him to do a bridging course first if they think that he has the potential but has been failed by his school.

DivisionBelle Tue 14-Nov-17 23:26:06

"If he hadn't done so many GCSEs but instead had dropped those 2 with Bs (presumably the 6 is one of the Englishes) then the results would look way better."

I agree with this. All the top sets did this number of GCSEs and it's ridiculous. Yes, 8 for Eng Lang and 6 for literature. He hated one of the books, which was extremely long. IMO he could have done better - he was predicted a 7 for Literature, and As for the subjects he got Bs in.

Overall, I don't think he was let down by his school - I don;t think the school was lacking - they get 1 or 2 to Oxbridge each year, out of 180, I think.

millifiori Tue 14-Nov-17 23:43:02

Yes they are. A 9 and two A*s in his core subjects and a handful of A8s and as elsewhere is absolutely fine for GCSE, especially from a comp where teaching will have had to be paced for less academically able pupils at some points.
It's fantastic that the school are focusing on developing an Oxbridge strategy. how can state school pupils increase their presence if they don't apply? I hope he is keen.

millifiori Tue 14-Nov-17 23:45:44

OP, to offer some perspective on the impact of GCSEs - my DC go to an academically selective school that gets dozens of pupils into Oxbridge each year and they only do 9-10 GCSEs max. No one does more than 10, so clearly Oxbridge don't necessarily favour 13 A*s.

ILoveDolly Tue 14-Nov-17 23:53:48

I got in, from my grotty comp, with a selection of A*,A and a B at GCSE. Also had AAC at A Level but this was accompanied by a doctor's note stating I'd managed to sit the exams whilst suffering gastroenteritis. grin
That was 20 years ago but the interviews are a significant part of the process, they recruit on personality as well as on grades.

Teddygirlonce Wed 15-Nov-17 07:36:34

When I was at school one of the girls in my year who was a definite second setter (this was a grammar school), got 9 O Levels of which a couple were As (this contrasted with the top set girls who got 10, 11 or 12 with 6 or 7 As). She got into Oxford to read English. She was one of those people who had a breadth/depth of knowledge about all sorts of things (and a curious mind) and I think that (and the fact that both of her older sibs had also gone to Oxford) was what made the difference in her application.

I would imagine that there are straight As students out there who have very broad knowledge and could 'ace' an Oxbridge interview, but equally less 'well qualified' (GCSE wise) on paper students who love their subjects with a passion and are generally better informed about all manner of current affairs/other areas of interest, who could potentially do likewise.

Getting a place at Oxford/Cambridge is more nuanced than just the sum of one's academic achievements which is why some seemingly (on paper) very, very bright students don't get in.

Teddygirlonce Wed 15-Nov-17 07:38:49

And I say this as someone who has two close family members who are Oxbridge graduates.

DivisionBelle Wed 15-Nov-17 07:48:28

I certainly feel the National Curriculum and GCSE syllabus is a very ‘teach to the test’ process rather than ‘support to explore, challenge and extend your own thinking’ kind of education. And in tne context of schools desperate to meet and exceed targets parents evenings were focussed on getting the best out of an 8 Mark question rather than breadth and depth of the subject.

I am thinking now that he has the ability and the interest, but not that sense of confidence and ownership of his ideas that very confident ‘ideas literate’ kids have.

How can I help him develop that a bit more?

DivisionBelle Wed 15-Nov-17 07:49:22

P.S develop it more, not just for a possible Oxbridge application but for general development.

Traalaa Wed 15-Nov-17 08:18:36

OP, I think a lot of the London state schools are signing up to these sorts of schemes. My DS's comp seems to select a group in year 10, then another lot in yr12. They visit a college and have a tour, etc. It's outreach from Oxford/ Cambridge colleges to try and encourage more state pupils from deprived areas to apply.

Traalaa Wed 15-Nov-17 08:26:27

Maybe the visit will help him with it all. Hopefully they'll inspire him!

TeenTimesTwo Wed 15-Nov-17 08:37:09

As you are in London, are there any exhibitions, talks (Royal Society?) lectures or whatever he could go to that would interest him and give him stuff to talk about?

As the school regularly gets a couple of kids in they must have some knowledge of the system. Would they help prepare him by giving him practice interviews?

disahsterdahling Wed 15-Nov-17 08:47:30

I think you have to look beyond grades and consider whether the workload and working style at Oxford or Cambridge would suit your ds. I applied to Cambridge and was offered a place, but I failed one of their sixth term entrance exams and so went elsewhere. I think I would have struggled there - both because I obviously wasn't that bright if I failed their exams which were designed to weed people like me out - I was just good at A level exam technique but also because of the workload and I think the tutorial system would have broken me.

So please look at your ds' abilities and the way he works. I am an 80-20 person - I can get 80% of the way on 20% of the effort but really struggle to work on something until it is 100% perfect.

I think my ds is similar to me, so I won't necessarily encourage him to apply to Oxbridge. DH is a grafter, and he went to Oxford. But he says he might have been better going somewhere else especially as he thought other unis actually did better courses for the subject he did, but he was seduced by the idea of Oxford.

It's not the be all and end all. I trained with a large city law firm to be a solicitor despite not having gone to Oxbridge - I would not have done any better if I had taken up that Cambridge place and I might have even crashed out of my course altogether and had to start again elsewhere.

Teddygirlonce Wed 15-Nov-17 08:55:06

DivisionBelle - lots of debates at the dinner table, going to lectures about their areas of interest etc...super enrichment +++

Wouldn't you say, though, that a super active and super curious and inquiring mind is inherent rather than learned?

From growing up with DSis (who is an Oxbridge graduate), I would say that she was always so much more than 'just' clever on paper. She used to be up reading until midnight when she was still at primary school, she wrote a musical (lyrics and made up the tunes too) in her early teens (despite not playing an instrument or being able to read music). She chose do to extra subjects out of school to stand her in good stead to get in to do the subject she wanted to study...We weren't encouraged to be like that by our parents - she just naturally was!!

Orangeplastic Wed 15-Nov-17 08:57:46

We went to an event run by Cambridge about Admissions - they said straight A's at GCSE demonstrated a student was a great generalist but they wanted a great specialist! So they were a lot more interested in the A levels - in the progression made from GCSE level. His science results are strong - if that is the case for A level, he should consider it. He'll need to demonstrate his interest in his subject beyond A levels.

bingolittle Wed 15-Nov-17 09:19:42

I certainly wouldn't rule out Oxbridge with those GCSEs from that type of school. If he'd been to a school where he was spoon-fed, they might be tougher on the grades. But they actively want to encourage applications from a broader range of schools.

They will care a lot about how much he loves his subject.

FinallyHere Wed 15-Nov-17 10:13:57

One way if thinking about the people they are looking for, is whether they want to talk, discuss things with them. So a love of the subject is important, but also having something original to say on the subject goes a long way, too. Especially if he sees himself ultimately in research, it would be a pity to not investigate the possibilities.

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