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The annual admissions cycle is a well-known process here at Oxford & Cambridge Tutors, and we are proud to support our students when making successful university applications, particularly to Oxford and Cambridge. However, these are uncertain and unprecedented times, and the current global pandemic will certainly see changes and disruptions to the well-oiled machine that is the university application process.

While many universities are putting plans in place for their current students – in the form of virtual lectures and seminars, social distancing in labs, and ‘bubbles’ for Oxford tutorials and Cambridge supervisions – what can we expect to see for those applying in 2020/21?

Virtual Open Days

Open Days are a great way to see a university in person, meet the tutors and students, and see where you could potentially be living and studying for 3 or more years. How do you make those decisions when you can’t visit?

With the need to go online, universities are producing vast amounts of content; filming sample lectures, setting up video chat rooms, getting creative with how they present themselves. Students who under normal circumstances would not be able to travel to open days are getting far more than they ever had, and we hope that this continues in proceeding years in some form.

Register your interest for these events via the university websites and keep an eye on social media streams to get the most out these offerings. For Oxford that’s @OxOutreach, and Cambridge is @Cambridge_Union Twitter.

Oxford and Cambridge’s Virtual Open Days will take place between 1stand 3rdof July 2020.

Socially distanced admissions tests

For most applicants, taking the admissions tests this year will be the first formal assessment undertaken with social distancing measures in place.

Cambridge Admissions Assessment Testing – who administer the majority of pre-interview assessments for Oxford and Cambridge, as well as national tests like the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), STEP Mathematics, and Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) – are busy making arrangements to keep all candidates safe and within regulations. All updates are being posted here: Follow them on Twitter for tips and updates: @admissionstests.

Pearson Vue – who run the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) – have opened some of their test centres and are currently asking all test candidates to wear face masks, as well as observing the regulations of the country in which they’re based. If you will be taking the LNAT our advice is to:

  • Book early! Test centres can take less candidates due to social distancing so slots will book up fast.
  • As per our normal advice, complete some practice tests under assessment conditions. This now means you should do this with a mask on that covers your nose and face. The LNAT is a 2¼ hour test and you will not be allowed to remove it when in the test centre.

Our tutors are all recent graduates, or current students, at Oxford and Cambridge so have experience of admissions tests. Our mock test programme will help you prepare for these assessments.

Interviews via video call?

Every year thousands of hopeful candidates descend on Oxford and Cambridge, for a day or three of intense admissions interviews. Oxford interviews around 10,000 applicants, at Cambridge it’s 20,000. Plans are still being discussed at both institutions but given the numbers, and the distances some candidates will be travelling, it is likely that in-person interviews will look a lot different in December 2020.

Our prediction is that many students will only be interviewed by video call, particularly those students overseas. Oxford Tutors are well versed in preparing students for interview – 75% of our 2019/20 programme achieved an offer – and our tutors’ experience of online teaching means that we are well placed to prepare students for realistic interviews in whichever format they are offered.

— Sophie Hurden, Admissions Specialist,

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