Oxbridge Interviews: What’s the Difference Between Cambridge and Oxford?
The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have a very impressive reputation and often in conversation about the application process they are joined together, including references to “Oxbridge interviews”.
However, there are actually some important differences between the two! As applicants cannot apply to both universities, we highlight some of the main differences to work out personal preferences and discover which will be the best for your child’s learning development.
Whichever choice is made, from this information, you will also have the building bricks for the Oxbridge interviews and show the thought and preparation that your child will have put into your application.
Don’t forget there are even further ways to distinguish students’ experiences at either university due to the collegiate system. The colleges will be the ones who handle the application and hold the Oxbridge interviews themselves.
Later on, once offers are received, colleges will be one of the main hubs of university life, providing food, accommodation, many tutorials and also social space.
There are two quick differences to mention for Oxbridge interviews and applications in terms of the collegiate system. The first is the way in which “pooling” occurs.
This won’t apply to every Oxbridge candidate but is still worth bearing in mind. Essentially, it changes the length of time which you are required to stay at Oxford or Cambridge during the time of Oxbridge interviews.
The ‘winter pool’ system used by Cambridge
Applicants to Cambridge will be invited to attend their interview by the college handling your application. They attend on that day and then return home.
For some, that may be it until results are released about a month later.
However, for others, a couple of weeks later they may then be notified that they have been entered into the ‘winter pool‘ (also referred to as the ‘inter-college pool’). If this is the case, then it could mean a few things…
It might mean that the person who has entered the ‘winter pool’ will be called back to Cambridge for an additional interview at a different college to that which handled their application.
This additional interview would be in January. Or, it might mean that the person who has been entered into the ‘winter pool’ will be given an offer to study at a different college to that which handled their application, without a further interview.
Finally, they might just be notified of entrance into the ‘winter pool’, and then the outcome of their application will eventually be handled by the original college of application – successful or unsuccessful.
The pooling system used by Oxford
Oxford operates a different system for re-allocating candidates to a college different to their original choice.
Rather than “pooling” at a later date, when applicants arrive in Oxford for their interviews at the beginning of December, they will stay for a few days.
During those few days, after their interview with their college of application, they may receive a notification while they are still in Oxford that they have been invited to interview at a different college. This means that they might be last minute, therefore, all applicants who are in Oxford should be keeping an eye out for an unexpected extra interview (or few extras) as this is a perfectly possible event.
However, don’t try to read too much into it as colleges very often will call for extra interviews for different reasons.
The number of interviews you have therefore doesn’t indicate whether or not you have been successful, or whether you will end up in your original college. It simply means if you do have an interview at a second college, that there is a chance you will be accepted by that college rather than your original choice. Sometimes, even after a second interview at a different college, you may just hear from your original one only.
One last point on the differences between Oxford and Cambridge is that Cambridge is currently the only one of the two with an all-girls college. This is just a fact which you can bear in mind to suit your own preferences!
Course content and structure
There are some very small naming differences between Oxford and Cambridge teaching (the former using the term “tutorials” and the latter using the term “supervisions”), but this isn’t that important.
What is more useful for Oxbridge interviews is knowing the difference between the course of application at one university compared to the other.
Does it focus on a particular set of modules or topics which you would prefer?
Are there areas of study which are set out differently?
If your child is asked to justify their decision, and they can explain that they feel the course where they are applying better suits their academic interest, then they will come across much stronger in Oxbridge interviews.
If you would like to practise this sort of questions or run over your answers, don’t forget UniAdmissions run Interview Programmes for specific subjects which can help.
The last difference we will go through is to do with the application process itself. Before Oxbridge interviews, candidates are asked to submit a number of materials in support of their application. For both Oxford and Cambridge, your child will have to fill out their UCAS form and complete their personal statement as usual.
There are then different aptitude tests for each university. Applicants should check the requirements for their course (Oxford here and Cambridge here) for specific details. Cambridge also asks applicants to complete a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) which is made up of eight sections and will be requested by email. Make sure to check the deadline for this very carefully, and also to make sure that all the information your child writes is consistent with the rest of their application, as this is the main purpose of the SAQ.
If you have any questions or want further information about the above, do get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help.
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