How do I get into Oxford or Cambridge?

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

Everyone knows that a coveted Oxbridge acceptance letter only comes with hard work and high grades. Is there anything else that helps? The tutors at Canis Major offer some unusual yet crucial advice.


Alice would never have visited Wonderland if she hadn’t been curious about what was lurking down the rabbit hole. Curiosity is a sign of intelligence which interviewers at Oxbridge will spot. No one expects you to know everything about your subject, but an interested mind shines with potential—exactly what a professor wants to see!

Ask yourself: am I curious about my subject? Do I often ask questions about the world around me? Do I love to learn new things? If the answer to all of this is ‘yes’ then you’re already doing well.


Autodidactisism means ‘self-education’ or, ‘the act of pursuing learning on your own’. Demonstrating an interest in your subject outside of school is crucial for making a good impression.

Firstly, this shows that you care about your subject enough to do more than the bare minimum. Yes, you scored highly in your school exams, but can you go above and beyond to enrich your understanding?

Secondly, autodidactisism is good practice for university where you will largely be left to study and write papers on your own. Admissions tutors are far more likely to say yes to someone who is already behaving like an undergraduate, and who they feel will cope with the pressures of an Oxbridge degree.

Ask yourself: what do I know about my subject that I wasn’t taught in school? Our tutors are frequently called upon to enrich a student who is already excelling: top students approach us for the kind of high-level knowledge that most don’t receive till they have already turned up at university

Daring to be Different

The Greek philosopher ‘Socrates’ infuriated people by questioning basic assumptions about the world. If someone told him something was beautiful, he would ask ‘why’? He could then have an interesting conversation about where the idea of beauty came from in the first place.

Sadly, students at school rarely have the opportunity to be critical of an idea or a text they are studying. At Oxford and Cambridge, on the other hand, independent thinking is expected. This gap between school and university is something many students struggle to bridge.

Ask yourself: was there ever a time when I disagreed with something I was taught or had more questions to ask about it? Think about why that was and see if you can defend a new position. Find Shakespeare boring? Interesting! Why? Can you support your point of view? What does this tell us about Shakespeare’s role in the modern world?


Above all, remember to be yourself! It is the things that make you unique that will lead you to excel. The phrase ‘outstanding’ means someone who stands out from the crowd—and it’s those sorts of people whom Oxbridge will be overjoyed to find.

About Canis Major

Canis Major is an elite group of tutors, handpicked for their experience and expertise, who tutor students of all ages and have worked with clients from around the world. All Canis Major tutors have a first class undergraduate degree from a Russell Group university, a postgraduate degree from either Oxford or Cambridge, a 4.5 star rating or above from former students, and at least two years of private tuition experience. Online or in person, students receive the best support available from some of Britain’s brightest minds.

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