Do Bad AP Scores In Irrelevant Subjects Affect Admissions Chances To Oxbridge?

Hey guys, I am trying to decide on which AP classes I should take, and I was wondering if I may please get some advice.

So, I understand that UCAS requires American students to submit every single AP test they have ever taken to every college he or she is applying to, regardless of the score. However, if I am applying to competitive schools like Oxbridge, and the admissions committees see that I got a 3,4, or even a 2 on a few of my exams that are not relevant to the course I am applying to study, would it still hurt my chances of admissions despite getting 5s on relevant AP courses?

Any help is deeply appreciated!

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From another thread you say that you want to major in Classics + a FL. Classics at Oxbridge means that you will finish fully fluent in Latin, Ancient Greek or both. Because (aside from Latin and English) there are no specifically relevant courses, all of your APs will be considered as indicative of your academic ability. Both unis also require the CAT exam. You can get more info & check out past papers here:

So, here’s my question: why do you think that you want to go to Oxford or Cambridge, besides the fact that they are famous names? I don’t like to rain on student’s parades, but you have quite a lot of threads asking ‘is this hard?’ and ‘how do I make up for poor grades?’. I don’t know why your grades weren’t strong in grades 9 & 10 (you might just have not had the self-discipline at that age), but I am having trouble reconciling your other posts with somebody who is likely to thrive in the pressure cooker that is Oxbridge.

There are other UK unis that offer Classics, are less pressured and will happily take you with 3 subject tests or APs. I says this kindly, but: Oxbridge seems unlikely to be a natural home for you.

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I think you’ll need strong scores in languages/lit/history type subjects but could get away with weaker performance in STEM.

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I appreciate the honesty. What about Oxbridge is so stressful? Would you say schools such as King’s, UCL, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews are as stressful as Oxbridge also?

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No. They are certainly challenging, and have very smart, very strong students.

But Oxbridge has a level of intensity unlike anything else in the US or the UK. The workload is enormous and the pace is unrelenting. Oxbridge Classics students typically have up to 8-10 lectures / week and 2 tutorials / supervisions. The rest of the time you are doing your own work: intensive Latin/Greek study and typically 2 research papers (aka essays) that you write every week (and defend in that week’s tutorial/supervision). And, you will note that they reference ‘vacations’ - that is not a synonym for ‘holiday’. It’s when you ‘vacate’ your rooms and go home to do all the work that didn’t get done during term and study for the exams you take as soon as you come back.

Frankly, unless your reasons for your grade 9 & 10 marks are linked to some situation-specific circumstance that is completely resolved, or it was simple immaturity, and you are now a self-motivated, self-disciplined student I think the UK is going to be a challenge for you, as it requires those characteristics.

And, although UK unis aren’t really into GPA, some of them have set minimums- and your current GPA would need to come up quite a bit for the places you list above. IMO you are likely to need to lower your sights a little further.

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Getting 2’s and 3’s can mean many things- but none of them suggest that Oxford is the right place for you (for undergrad). It could mean a lousy teacher- no fault of yours. It could mean poor study habits. It could mean that you learned some of the material but not all. It could mean that you learned most of the material but are not a strong writer or didn’t do well on the actual calculations.

None of these reasons bode well for Oxford. Your classmates will have thrived in rigorous environments and likely did well in everything. So whether or not a 3 in AP Bio will keep you out-- you’ll be at university with students who excel at everything. The pace of work is just relentless- there will never be a moment during term when you don’t have something you are working on, should be working on, or need to start because it’s due ASAP. It’s not like at a US university where the “shopping period” at the beginning of the semester is a chance to get your sea legs.

Where do you live? So many great colleges in the world!

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It’s not just the level of the work, although it is hard - much harder than anything you will have done before - it’s the intensity. Oxford terms are just 8 weeks, and they cram more in than you would get in 10 or 12 weeks at an excellent university elsewhere. I don’t think a poor score in say Chem or Calc would disqualify you per se, but if it’s part of a pattern of lower grades than the typical Oxbridge applicant it is going to be noticed.

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