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Apply to Oxbridge Computer Science: A Complete Guide



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Table of Contents

Apply to Oxbridge Computer Science: A Complete Guide

Apply to Oxbridge Computer Sciences - A Complete Guide
Table of Contents

I. Common Knowledge to Oxbridge Computer Science Admissions

1. Choose Either Oxford or Cambridge

You can only apply to only one course of either Oxford or Cambridge in a same academic year, rather than applying to both the two universities.

2. Apply Through the UCAS

II. Timeline for Oxbridge Computer Science Courses

Timeline for 2025 Entry


Preparing for the Application

Choosing Your Course

  • Oxford Computer Science
  • Oxford Computer Science and Philosophy
  • Oxford Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Cambridge Computer Science

Writing Your Oxbridge Computer Science Personal Statement

Preparing Your Academic Reference

Choosing Your College

Registration for TMUA Exam Begins
Cambridge Computer Science applicants
UCAS Application Opens
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UE International Education Ltd.
UCAS Registration Center Code: 42757
MAT Exam Registration Deadline
Oxford Computer Science-related courses applicants
TMUA Exam Registration Deadline
Cambridge Computer Science applicants
UCAS Application Submission Deadline

For all applicants to Oxbridge computer science courses

16 or 17
Cambridge TMUA Exam Day

Cambridge Computer Science applicants

Oxford MAT Exam Day

Oxford Computer Science-related courses applicants

Deadline for Submitting My Cambridge Application and Transcripts

Students applying for Cambridge

Receive interview invitations
first three weeks
Oxbridge Interview


Release of Oxford University Admission Offers
Release of Cambridge University Admission Offers
Deadline for Meeting Conditional Offer Requirements
Official Commencement of the Academic Year

III. How to Choose an Oxbridge Computer Science Course?

There are three computer science-related courses in Oxford:

CoursesUCAS code
Computer ScienceG400

Mathematics and Computer Science


Computer Science and Philosophy


Cambridge computer science course:

CoursesUCAS code
Computer ScienceG400

IV. What Are the Oxbridge Computer Science Admission Requirements?

1. General Admission Requirements

The general admission requirements for Oxbridge computer science courses are outlined in the table below:

Oxford Computer Science
Cambridge Computer Science
Language Proficiency:
  • IELTS: 7.5 (with a minimum of 7.0 in each component)
  • TOEFL: 110 (Listening 22, Speaking 25, Reading 24, Writing 24)
  • Cambridge English (C1 Advanced): 191 (minimum 185 per component)
  • Cambridge English (C2 Proficiency): 191 (minimum 185 per component)
  • English Language GCSE: Grade B/6, plus Merit in the separate Speaking endorsement
  • IELTS: 7.5 (with 7.0 or above in each element)
  • TOEFL: 110 (with a minimum of 25 in each element)
  • Cambridge English (C2 Proficiency): 200 (with a minimum of 185 in each element)
  • Cambridge English (C1 Advanced): 193 (with a minimum of 185 in each element, alongside other evidence of competence in English)
(including at least an A in Mathematics, with the A* in Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Computer Science)
IB Scores:
39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 must be in HL Mathematics)41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
Requirements vary and are based on conditional offers
Requirements vary and are based on conditional offers
High School Exam (e.g., Gaokao):
Not accepted.Ranked in the top 0.1% of college entrance examination candidates in their province.
University Entrance Exam:

2. Cambridge's Official Statement on Reference Criteria for Admission

Expectations of the Cambridge Computer Science Department

Typical Computer Science entrants
(A Level and IB)
For 2017, 2018 and 2019 entries, the majority of entrants from an A Level background achieved at least grades A*A*A* (81% of entrants). All took Mathematics, 96% took Further Mathematics, 85% took Physics, and 59% took Computing.
For the same period, the majority of IB entrants achieved at least 43 points overall.
This information is intended to give you a sense of the academic standard of our typical A Level entrants. We welcome applicants from a range of qualification backgrounds.

The conclusion of the above data is as follows:

81% of students studying A Level achieved A*A*A* or above. What’s more, the percentage of students taking respective courses is 100% for Mathematics, 96% for Further Mathematics, 85% for Physics, and 59% for Computing. Meanwhile, the majority of IB students scored at least 43 points (HL 777) or above.

Therefore, it is recommended and important to look at the statistics and information provided by the Univerisity of Cambridge rather than relying on general admission requirements.

3. Oxford's Official Statement on Reference Criteria for Admission

Expectations of the Oxford Computer Science Department

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.

Three keywords are very important: ability, potential, and commitment. In conclusion, the admissions officer specifically mentioned that the computer science course involves a lot of mathematics, and they expect students to achieve excellent results in mathematics without any requirements for students’ knowledge reserve in computer science. However, the Oxford computer science course needs students who are interested in computers and programming and who are full of curiosity. For students applying for computer science and philosophy, there are specific requirements for students’ critical thinking abilities.

4. What is the significance of extracurricular activities in applying for a Computer Science program?

Oxford University's expression in terms of extracurricular 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.

The information above can be summarized as follows:

Oxford does not regard extracurricular activities and competition results as essential references for admission like American universities but pays more attention to students’ academic ability and potential. So, experience related to computing and mathematics is what admissions officers value most.

Which is easier to apply for, computer science at Oxford or Cambridge? Let’s analyze the admission statistics from previous years.

V. Application Process and Required Materials

The application process of applying to Oxbridge computer science is not complicated. There are some important details you need to know and materials to prepare before applying.

1. Materials Required for UCAS Application

When applying to Oxford or Cambridge through UCAS, you must confirm or submit the following information:

  • The specific course and its UCAS code at either Oxford or Cambridge.
  • Choose a particular college or open application.
  • Your personal information, including your email address.
  • Your educational history and your academic achievements to date.
  • Your Oxbridge computer science personal statement.
  • Your academic reference.

2. Differences between the Application Processes for Oxford, Cambridge, and Other UK Universities

The application process of applying to Oxford and Cambridge through UCAS is similar to other universities in the UK, with the exception of certain courses and circumstances. However, there are a few important points to know:

  • Early Application Deadline: The application deadline for Oxford and Cambridge is October 15th, earlier than most other universities.
  • Selection of College or Open Application: Unlike many other universities, applicants to Oxford and Cambridge must choose a particular college or opt for an open application.
  • Single Course Application: Unless under extremely rare circumstances, Oxford and Cambridge allow applicants to apply for only one course.
  • Transcript Requirement: Cambridge University may request transcripts from some applicants covering their secondary school academic records.

3. Official Undergraduate Application Process for the University of Cambridge

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4. Official Undergraduate Application Process for the University of Oxford

Part 1: What Oxford is Like

Play Video

 Part 2: How to Apply

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Part 3: Preparing

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5. Language Proficiency and High School Grades

Language proficiency does not need to meet the admissions requirements before the UCAS application deadline of October 15, 2024, but only the admissions requirements of the relevant courses before August 31, 2025.

What’s more, predicted high school grades need to be submitted before October 15th. This score is one of the critical factors for Oxbridge admissions reference.

6. Open Application (Choosing a College)

It can be difficult for you to choose a college from the pool of 30 colleges at both Oxford and Cambridge. If you are not that confident or do not care which college to apply to, you can choose an open application on UCAS.

  • After the application deadline, students who choose an open application will be randomly assigned to a college via a computer program.
  • The random allocation aims to balance the number of applicants across various colleges and courses.
  • Once assigned to a college, the application process proceeds like other students.
  • For students who meet all the application requirements, the likelihood of being admitted is the same whether they choose a specific college or opt for an open application.

Click the link below to view our blogs about Oxbridge colleges and how to choose a college in Oxbridge.

7. Personal Statements

As a part of the UCAS application process, every student is required to submit an application essay, also known as a personal statement (PS). The Oxbridge computer science personal statement serves as a tool for universities to better understand students’ interests in the subject and course. It also allows students to better understand their academic interests and motivations.

Typically, the personal statement should encompass the following aspects:

  • Explain the reasons for wanting to study the relevant course at the university.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication to the chosen course.
  • Express specific interests within the relevant field of study.
  • Articulate how one is committed to researching the subjects of interest.

Click on the link below for more guidance on composing an Oxbridge computer science personal statement and official suggestions from Oxford, Cambridge, and UCAS.

8. Academic References

Academic references (academic references at Oxford and school/college references at Cambridge) provide universities with a better understanding of a student’s abilities and potential. Admissions officers use these references to assess whether a student’s academic capabilities are suited for the chosen course and if they can adapt to the university’s learning environment.

As a crucial component of the UCAS application, universities typically prefer academic references submitted by school teachers or individuals who can provide authoritative insights into a student’s academic background.

Please note that academic references must also be submitted before the application deadline on October 15th.

9. Transcripts

To find out if you need to submit the transcript when applying to the University of Cambridge, you should check the official Cambridge guidelines in the section “Completing My Cambridge Application“.

VI. What Preparation is Needed for Applying to Oxbridge Computer Science?

1. Do I need to study A Level Computer Science or have a programming foundation to apply for Oxbridge computer science courses?

For admissions requirements of Oxford and Cambridge, A level computer science is optional; statistics from Cambridge also show that only about 59% of the students studied the course. Therefore, students can still apply for and successfully get admitted to computer science courses at Oxford and Cambridge without learning A level computer science.

Not studying A level computer science does not mean lacking a programming foundation. With the popularity of computer-related courses in primary and secondary schools, most students applying for computer science have mastered one or more programming languages. On the other hand, more and more students now have participated in global computer competitions and won various awards.

From the information and statistics above, mathematics and mindset are the most important, not programming fundamentals. It’s not fair and necessary to test specific programming languages in Oxbridge’s written exams and interviews.

However, this does not mean that learning programming languages is unnecessary or unimportant. Generally, high school students start learning programming from a specific programming language and gradually touch upon algorithms, data structures, operating systems, networking, and other computer science knowledge. Programming foundations are still the basis for studying computer science courses.

2. Preparing for Oxford MAT

MAT is required for students applying for computer science, mathematics and computer science, and computer science and philosophy at Oxford.

On the other hand, preparing for the MAT exam for 3-6 months is recommended, and the specific preparation time should also consider the student’s academic situation, holiday activity arrangements, etc. But the sooner you start preparing, the better.

Please refer to UE’s blogs for comprehensive understanding and preparation suggestions for Oxford MAT exams.

3. Preparing for Cambridge TMUA and CSAT

TMUA is required for students applying for computer science at Cambridge, which is a mathematics test. Many other universities in the UK require TMUA for mathe-related courses except for Cambridge.

Preparing for the TMUA exam for 2-4 months is recommended, and the specific preparation time should also consider the student’s academic workload, holiday activity arrangements, etc. But the sooner you start preparing, the better.

Moreover, some colleges at the University of Cambridge require students to take the CSAT (Computer Science Aptitudes Test) during the interview period. Last year, 5 colleges explicitly required the CSAT exam: Gonville & Caius, Peterhouse, Queens’, Robinson, and Trinity College. Whether the CSAT exam is required this year can be confirmed by checking the official websites of each college.

The CSAT score is one of the important criteria used by the aforementioned colleges to offer admissions for the Computer Science major. This exam mainly assesses the student’s level of mathematical thinking, logical reasoning abilities, and the application of mathematical knowledge to solve problems similar to computer algorithms. Since the reform of the question types in 2019, the format has become very similar to the Cambridge STEP mathematics exam, but with a slightly higher overall difficulty. The time allowed for the CSAT is very limited, and it is rare for students to complete all questions within the allocated time.

Please refer to UE’s blogs for a comprehensive understanding and suggestions for preparation for the Oxford TMUA exams.

4. Should I prepare for the Cambridge STEP in advance?

Although applicants to Oxford and Cambridge’s computer science courses are not required to submit STEP scores, they often also apply to Imperial College, which includes STEP scores in its general admission requirements. Therefore, students and parents often ask whether they should prepare for the Cambridge STEP exam in advance. The concerns mainly focus on two points:

  • STEP is challenging to learn, and they are afraid they will be unable to understand it and waste time.
  • It will be in vain if they learn it but are not admitted to Oxbridge or Imperial College.

Here are few points that Professor Xie Tao frequently shares in his seminars for students and parents:

  1. Students who prepare for STEP in advance find it easier to prepare for the MAT or TMUA and tend to achieve higher scores. On the other hand, in the months before the application deadline, students often have limited time for preparation, and the time saved can be used to improve the quality of application materials.
  2. Students who have studied STEP for over six months may have an advantage during the interview stage. The interview questions at Oxford and Cambridge are significantly more challenging than those in MAT and TMUA, often approaching or surpassing the difficulty level of STEP questions.
  3. Students taking the STEP exam start thinking more dynamically than those who have only studied regular A-level mathematics or AP Calculus courses. During the interview process, the interviewer can easily detect those with unique thinking styles. Therefore, appearing for STEP not only helps in exams but also gives them the urge to stand out in the crowd.
  4. Preparing for the STEP exam benefits students by giving them a new way of learning. It may not be seen in MAT or TMUA but is quite prominent during the interview. Students with a foundation in STEP tend to excel in interviews by better following the interviewer’s guidance and engaging in interactive discussions, thus earning higher interview scores.
  5. Students who start preparing for STEP after receiving conditional offers in January have a relatively low success rate in achieving the required STEP grades. Cambridge’s mathematics courses offer around 500 places each year, but only about 250 students meet the requirements. Most of those who do not meet the requirements typically fall short due to their STEP grades.
  6. Studying STEP also pays off because once you get to university, you’ll find that higher-level mathematics courses are not as challenging.

The above points are consistent with UE students’ Imperial College admissions case: most cases require a STEP grade 2, and very few require grade 1; some students receive offers without STEP score requirements, but such cases are sporadic, often because the students themselves have a high overall quality or have already achieved STEP scores that meet admission requirements.

Please refer to the blog for comprehensive understanding and preparation suggestions for Cambridge STEP exams.

5. Interview Preparation

It is advisable to start a mock interview before receiving the invitation. Conduct at least six mock interviews covering various possible question types, scenarios, and topics, which will help improve your on-the-spot response speed and achieve the best interview results.

Check our blog about Oxbridge interview preparation.

6. Academic Research Projects

More and more students have been participating in university academic research projects in recent years. Experience engaging in academic research and excellent academic achievements can significantly enhance your personal statement and boost your competitiveness when applying to Oxbridge computer science courses.

Online research project topics are continuously updated. For more details, please refer to the following page.

7. Extracurricular Reading

While preparing for exams and personal statement can take up a significant amount of time, it is still advisable for you to engage in extracurricular reading. Typically, you are encouraged to read two deeply and broadly read more than ten books related to your chosen field. Extracurricular reading can enrich the material for writing your Oxbridge computer science personal statement, making it more appealing.

8.Oxford and Cambridge Summer Schools

Many summer schools have unique selling points, but not all are worth it, especially regarding teaching staff. Therefore, it is recommended for students to attend summer school with reasonable fees because the purpose is to enhance and get a taste of learning methods at Oxbridge.

You can refer to our blog about the summer school of Brasenose College from Oxford.

9. Oxford and Cambridge Open Days

Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities have open days for students to learn about and visit their preferred universities and colleges in advance.

For Oxford University, 2024 undergraduate Open Days will be held on 26 and 27 June and 20 September. And for Cambridge University, currently published undergraduate Open Days will take place on Thursday 4 July and Friday 5 July 2024.

For more about the open days and other related events, please check the official websites of Oxford and Cambridge for detailed information.

Please refer to the following resources for more information on applying to maths courses at Oxford and Cambridge.

Attached: Recommended Readings for Oxbridge Computer Science Courses

Oxford and Cambridge officially recommend a list of readings for students applying for computer science, most of which are concentrated in mathematics, functional programming, basic algorithms, etc. Below is a list of some of the books for your reference.

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