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What do Admissions Tutors Look For?


Selecting Applicants

What Exactly Are Tutors Looking For?

A tutor's-eye view of admissions interviews
(not Computer Science specific)
In three words: ability, potential and commitment.

Our courses are very mathematical, so we are very much looking for students with a proven flair for mathematics. We are particularly looking for students who achieve top grades. As a general rule, we recommend that you take as much advanced maths as your school allows. (See specific guidance on Further Maths A-Level.)

We are not looking for candidates with any specific knowledge about computers.

We do look for an interest in computing and a curiosity about the way computers and computer programs work that will support you through your three or four years of study.

Most people nowadays have the chance to work with computers at home or school, and we expect you to have taken these opportunities and to be able to talk enthusiastically about your experiences.

If you are applying for the joint course with Philosophy, the Philosophy interviews are often orientated by your interest (e.g. what you have said on the personal statement). You will also need to demonstrate a critical and analytical approach to abstract questions, the ability to defend a viewpoint by reasoned argument, and a desire to delve deeper into the way we think about things. For further information see the Faculty of Philosophy website

How Is It Done?

When selecting applicants we use everything we know about you.
That includes:

  • your performance across a range of subjects at GCSE (or equivalent),
  • your AS-level results if applicable,
  • your personal statement on the UCAS form,
  • the confidential reference (and estimated grades for future exams) on the UCAS form,
  • your performance in the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT),
  • your performance in the interviews at your college of first choice and at a second college.

We are trying to reach a consistent picture of your ability, so we are always willing to ignore one or more factors in which you have performed badly, provided we can convince ourselves that other factors give a fairer impression of what you can do. That means, for example, that a mediocre MAT score or a disastrous interview won't rule out your application.

Everyone who applies to do a Computer Science undergraduate degree (including joint courses) sits the MAT. Once results are in, we decide who to invite for interview. In Computer Science we normally interview about a fifth of those who apply.

What Grades Do I Need? (Standard Conditional Offers) & subject choice

Please refer to the separate page on standard conditional offers and subject choice.

Extra- and Super-Curricular Activities

Tutors make the admissions decisions based on your academic abilities and potential alone: extra-curricular activities do not form part of the selection criteria in any subject. We aren't looking for any specific computing knowledge, but we are looking for people with a genuine interest in the subject. So we do want to hear about your computing- and maths-related experiences. Your super-curricular activities (subject-related undertakings that could be anything from summer schools to competitions, background reading to programming experience) can help us build an overall picture about you. We don't have a checklist of things we want you to have completed: we'd rather hear about what you've chosen to do, and what excited you about it. It doesn't have to be earth-shatteringly original. Some examples are provided to get you started.

The guidance pages on writing a UCAS personal statement discusses this in more detail.

Formal Admissions Criteria

The principles outlined in the Formal Admissions Criteria are explored in more detail on these admissions pages, but it is included here for completeness.