Qualities an Oxbridge student needs

What qualities an Oxbridge student needs

Will I have to recite Shakespeare by heart? Do they expect me to be the next Charles Dickens? Are they going to speak in Medieval English?

This is just a snapshot of the myriad of thoughts I had leading up to my interview to study English at Cambridge. These questions sound ridiculous in retrospect but at the time, I didn’t know what to expect nor what was expected of me. The application process to Oxford and Cambridge Universities can be daunting. The myths and legends surrounding the entry process – especially the interview – certainly don’t help.


I can gladly say that none of those initial questions I asked myself about my Cambridge interview were true. So, if I wasn’t expected to recite Shakespeare by heart, be the next Charles Dickens or be fluent in Medieval English, what was I expected to do and be?

As a successful applicant and graduate of the University of Cambridge, here are three key qualities an Oxbridge student needs, and how the tutors at Tavistock Tutors can help you develop them.

  1. Passion for your subject

This is essential. Those considering your application will be experts in their field and will want to see a genuine and demonstrated interest in what you are applying to study. It’s important that this goes beyond your set curriculum at school. Tutors at Tavistock Tutors can help you explore your chosen subject further by crafting suggested reading lists,  and advise you on how to effectively articulate your passion in your personal statement.

  1. Agile thinking

A key trait that you will need, especially for the interview, is the ability to think well on the spot. It’s important that you demonstrate a depth of thought, clarity of thought as well as flexibility when responding to new challenges interviewers may present to you. This comes through practice – tutors at Tavistock Tutors can facilitate mock interviews with you, where you’ll have the chance to respond to the kind of questions that you may encounter.

  1. Knowledge of your subject

Whilst passion is a solid foundation and the driving force of your application, this needs to be supported by hard work, and demonstrable excellence in your subject. If you discuss various texts or scholars in your personal statement, make sure you are being an active, rather than passive reader: formulate opinions and arguments based on what you’re reading, and then be prepared to justify your thoughts. Oxford and Cambridge also have admissions tests, so practicing technique for these is another way that the tutors at Tavistock Tutors can help you.

Lastly, let the intellectual challenge of the application process motivate and inspire you to delve deeper into your chosen subject, rather than intimidate you. You’ll need that motivation to keep you going in the three or plus years of your degree, no matter where you end up studying!

What do you think are the other qualities an Oxbridge student needs? Let us know in the comments below – or if you need any advice!

Oxbridge preparation tutor at Tavistock Tutors.

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