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Have I ruined my chances at Oxford?

whimsicalwhimswhimsicalwhims 661 replies22 threads Member
So AP scores came out today, and I feel like I mucked up my chances- I was planning on reading English Language and Literature. My actual SAT score is within range, but for American students, the required scores for any course are either 3 5s on relevant AP subjects or 700+ on relevant SAT subject tests. That’s where I messed up. I got a 5 on the AP English Language and Composition test, but 4s on my other two humanities related tests, AP Art History and AP US History, which I was hoping would fulfill the 3 5s requirement. I also got a 3 in AP Chemistry, but I’ve been told Oxford only looks at the subjects relating to the course, so am not sure how much of a detriment that would be. However, for the SAT Subject Tests, I got 700+ for US History and English Literature, so I am technically fulfilling the requirement, w/ an AP that has a score of 5, and two subject tests with scores above 700. I’m just very confused where this will put me now, considering I just barely fulfill the requirement. Next year, I’ll be taking AP English Literature, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP US Government and Politics or AP European History (depends on whether my school offers it), and AP Calc and AP Bio, which again aren’t very relevant. I feel like I’ll be predicted 5s for the humanities related subjects at least, I’m a good English/History student, I just became injured this year and didn’t really have time to study properly. So, where do I stand? Do I have no chance? Have I lowered my chances considerably? Or, will everything depend on my ELAT performance (which I feel I’ll do pretty well on, it’s similar to the AP Lang exam). Thanks in advance, extremely sorry for the word vomit, I really didn’t think I’d get these scores.
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Replies to: Have I ruined my chances at Oxford?

  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43281 replies471 threads Senior Member
    Submit the 5 and the SAT subject tests. List AP Lit and AP Euro. Your acceptance (if...) will be related to your scores on these two. You must do everything to guarantee two 5s.
    Therefore drop AP bio and take another (honors?) Science. This way on may I'll be able to concentrate better on your important tests.
    You may want to have an AP foreign language.
    Don't report your AP art history and APUSH scores.
    Learn more (much more) about ELAT. It is to AP English language what physical science is to AP physics.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8024 replies85 threads Senior Member
    The requirements are a hurdle, so technically just passing it is all you need.

    Obviously, it doesn't look great to not have all 5s in essay-based classes (in this case, it's the essay part that's key), and I would assume that if you got an offer it would be conditional on a 5 in Lang + something else (you don't get to double count both AP + subject test in the same subject). The ELAT and your submitted written work will be critical to getting an interview.

    Imo your bigger obstacle is that your devotion to English Lit seems fairly recent- in your other posts you talk about other areas you might go into, including STEM and Econ. The English students that I know at Oxford grew up eating, sleeping and breathing literature. I'm assuming that you have looked at what you take each year of the course (https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/course-structure), but also take a look at the list of books that they recommend you read *before* you arrive (https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate-admissions/english-reading-list). You will write at least 1 essay every week in first term, but by the end of the year it will be 2-3 essays/week. They aren't long (typically just ~3 pages), but you are expected to include at least three pieces of literature in your analysis of the topic, so you have to read the books before you can write the essay. Be sure that you *love* reading and writing essays!
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2192 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Please don't give misleading information @MYOS1634. You must certify on the UCAS form that you are not omitting any exam results: http://help.ucas.com/contract12/index.html

    OP, your position is worse but not impossible. You will need a better test result than you would have done otherwise in order to get an interview. You would also be unlikely to get an unconditional offer. Will your referee say you are their best student in the last 10 years?
    edited July 2018
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43281 replies471 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    @Twoin18 : just reporting what I know directly - countless kids have reported relevant AP/SAT results and not ALL tests attempted. (In particular because if your course is English they may not find aphug, ap bio, apes, ap CS, ap art history, etc. all that relevant -and from being on that side once, I can say that extraneous information that slows the process or dilutes the application's key points is quite unwelcome. Top applicants tend to have lots of UK-irrelevant APs, some of which are clearly meant for US college admissions. It's annoying. A clean app is much better. The issue is in determining relevant/irrelevant and senior AP tests are very important unlike in the US.) Same thing for European students under a non UK/IB curriculum - they report relevant results/scores and the head teacher reports a predicted average. The reference and personal statement are of course essential. This is because the understanding of "qualifications" is not the same, ie., they're seen as being of lesser value on their own and less focused/intense. Students in an English-patterned system are not allowed to report only 2 A-levels when they sit three (each worth many hours, and many modules, over two years) but if you take 10 APs, six of which are totally irrelevant to the course, or taking a regular continental exam that may have ten or twelve or more subjects with various hours or 'weighs' the situation's different. UCAS is also not interested in DNB or lower secondary school results the way they are in IGCSE'S/GCSE results. At Oxbridge those are just "foot in the door/make the very first cut" criteria anyway, especially for Americans, the exams or interviews matter most of all.
    Basically, I'm not reporting misinformation based on what I know.

    Regarding the above: you can email each university and ask whether they need to know the score for every AP exam you took, or only those relevant to your course. Btw some universities are also interested in Dual Enrollment/PSEO/running start classes and the grade you got. So it may be worth it to ask also if they want every DE grade, none, or ONLY those relevant to the course.
    That being said, not from an admission point view, but from a learning point of view, the 4s show a lack of mastery and study skills that needs to be remediated quickly. Your apparent lack of understanding of the ELAT's difficulty (which may have been a shortcut) is also a bit worrisome - while it doesn't require a specific reading list it does assume you've been preparing using past papers, the marking schemes, etc.

    Where else are you applying? (Both UCAS and in the states)?
    edited July 2018
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8024 replies85 threads Senior Member
    countless kids have reported relevant AP/SAT results and not ALL tests attempted.
    left out any information, including any qualifications you have completed, qualifications with an unsuccessful grade or qualifications for which you are still awaiting results

    (emphasis added)

    @MYOS1634, UCAS is explicit that you have to report *all* 'qualifications'- and APs are qualifications. I am surprised to hear that you know 'countless' applicants who have left off unflattering scores. I don't know of any place that says 'this only applies to UK applicants' or 'US students are exempt from this rule', and have heard directly from Oxford people that they want to see *all* test scores.

    Would an applicant leaving out results get caught? like any form of cheating, probably not- but I wouldn't recommend it, on many levels.
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  • whimsicalwhimswhimsicalwhims 661 replies22 threads Member
    @MYOS1634 Thank you for the advice! The assumption about ELAT was formed from a cursory glance, I’m planning on beginning preparation from now onwards. I do agree the 4s are not great, but, at least for US History, I took the course and subject test in the summer (hence the 700+), and the AP test almost 9 months after, with no prep due to an injury. Also, I don’t have to list all my AP scores? I was under the impression, based on the UCAS contract, that I do. The other colleges I was planning on applying to were King’s College London for English and Linguistics (for which I meet the requirements and should be able to get an unconditional, possibly a conditional if they don’t consider AP Lang and the SAT subject test in English Literature to be two different courses), UCL for comparative literature (where I’ll almost definitely get a conditional as you need 3 5s and 2 4s on AP tests and SAT subject tests are not accepted), and University of Edinburgh (where, again, I’ll hopefully get an unconditional if they consider AP Lang and SAT English Literature to be two different courses).

    @collegemom3717 I agree that this has put me in a more precarious position, but would the predicted scores of 5s help even that out? I am fairly confident that I’ll do well on the ELAT. As for my interest in English, I agree that it would seem recent when looking through my previous posts, but the thing is, I never thought I’d be able to major in English, due to some family conflict. That has eased, and I’ve always considered English my favorite subject and the course I’d major in bar no family issues, hence the seemingly recent and sudden interest.

    @Twoin18 I am not afraid to get an unconditional, I think I’ll be able to score 5s on the required tests, w/ enough preparation! I don’t think my referee will list me as the best student she’s had in the past 10 years, but I do think it’ll be good, she was my AP English Language teacher and likes me a lot. So, will it mostly depend on my ELAT performance to get an interview offer? Or am I out of the running/have considerably lower chances?
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43281 replies471 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Seriously, ALL kids I've worked with have done this, not for cheating but because I asked and the depts were very clear they had no interest whatsoever in lower level exams, lower grade tests, or irrelevant subjects. Only senior year subjects must be taken scrupulously and all results submitted exactly as announced.
    (There aren't even enough possible lots in UCAS to list everything for some school systems that have many subjects 2h or even 1h, 1h30 a week.)
    No exception in over twenty years.
    I absolutely know it's different for UK-patterned and IB applicants.
    I guess it's just like when US colleges list requirements such as 4 years of English but don't apply it to UK applicants knowing they took 3 ALevels only.

    @whimsicalwhims : rules for reference writing are different than those for US colleges. Make sure to provide your referee with links to consult. After a short paragraph describing your school and course of study there, the focus should be on proofs of your preparation for the course. The referee is also encouraged to synthesize comments from relevant colleagues and your work in their course.
    edited July 2018
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8024 replies85 threads Senior Member
    lower level exams, lower grade tests, or irrelevant subjects.

    APs are qualifying exams, not 'lower level exams, lower grade tests'. You could argue that Chem is irrelevant for English, but is History? who gets to decide?
    (There aren't even enough possible lots in UCAS to list everything for some school systems that have many subjects 2h or even 1h, 1h30 a week.)

    But that's not what we are talking about: we are talking about AP exams, that if the scores had been high enough the OP was expecting to use as qualifications for admission.

    Advising the OP not to send whatever AP/SAT scores s/he doesn't like as long as they aren't senior year (which is of course irrelevant as you don't have those scores when you apply) flies in the face of the UCAS declaration.

    Your long history of being a super-well informed poster on the UK uni system has me well-conditioned to accept that you are speaking from experience & know what you are talking about- but is also contradicted by the (admittedly small) number of direct conversations I have had with tutors at Oxford.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2192 replies21 threads Senior Member
    "I don’t think my referee will list me as the best student she’s had in the past 10 years, but I do think it’ll be good, she was my AP English Language teacher and likes me a lot."

    Are you the best in your year? What will your teacher say about how you compare to other students? Simply "liking you" is not enough and you really don't want to be described as "quite good" (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/chart-shows-what-british-people-say-what-they-really-mean-and-what-others-understand-a6730046.html). Remember that in 2017 Oxford made 71 offers to students from the US (11.8% of the 603 applicants). See https://public.tableau.com/views/UniversityofOxford-AdmissionsStatistics-NationalityandDomicile/NationalityandDomicile

    That's about 1 offer of a place per state on average. Granted there are far fewer applicants than to top US colleges. But realistically, unless you are the best student in your high school (or almost top and everyone above you would be expected to get into a top 10 US college), your chances are not very good. From a UK perspective, APs are easy exams, so you should get almost all 5s, just like top UK students do with their GCSEs.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43281 replies471 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Sorry, you're right, this didn't apply to op specifically indeed. I should have referred you to Oxford directly. Email Oxford and ask whether they need to know the score for every AP exam you took, or only those relevant to your course, and ask whether they recommend Dual Enrollment courses to strengthen your preparation.

    In case this is relevant, for the SAT or ACT you can't "superscore" but you should list each time you took the test along the month/year you took it, hopefully tracing your progress.

    And yes twoin 18 is absolutely correct: AP's are easy exams from a UK point of view and especially from an Oxbridge point of view.

    Here are examples of the expectations for British-patterned system pupils:

    Familizarize yourself with these because that's what Oxford would consider your basic preparation.

    If you're not the best in years or at least by far in your grade, then your odds aren't good. Whether the teacher likes you is irrelevant. They're looking for true scholars. You must be able to read and analyze several books each week. And you'll have one essay per week your first year (which will be discussed with your tutor in tutorial.)
    You must live and breathe your subject.
    As an example, this is what high school students admitted to read English at King's College in Cambridge are supposed to read over the summer BEFORE the term starts.

    Primary texts
    Beckett, Samuel, Collected Shorter Plays (London: Faber & Faber, 1984)
    The Bible (authorized version): Genesis, Exodus, Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Revelation *
    Coetzee, J. M., Life and Times of Michael K
    Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
    Dickens, Charles, Bleak House; or Eliot, George, Middlemarch; or, Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre *
    Eliot, T. S., Selected Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1954; repr. 1961, 2002 printing available in paperback)
    Homer, Odyssey, e.g. in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics editions *
    Homer, Iliad, e.g. in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics editions *
    Joyce, James, Ulysses
    Milton, Paradise Lost, e.g. ed. Alastair Fowler (London: Longman, 1971)
    Morrison, Toni, Beloved
    Ovid, Metamorphoses, many translations, including Mary M Innes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955)*
    Shakespeare, as many of the plays as possible as well as the Sonnets*
    Virgil, Aeneid, e.g. in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics editions *
    Vonnegut, Kurt, Slaughter House-Five
    Woolf, Virginia, To the Lighthouse
    Wordsworth, William, The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams and Stephen Gill (New York: Norton, 1979)

    Secondary texts
    Robert Alter, and Frank Kermode, eds, The Literary Guide to the Bible (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1987)
    Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953)
    Mieke Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, 2nd edn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997)
    Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, 3rd edn (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)
    Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edn (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991)
    John Lennard, The Poetry Handbook: A Guide to Reading Poetry for Pleasure and Practical Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
    Frank Lentricchia, and Thomas McLaughlin, eds, Critical Terms for Literary Study, 2nd edn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995)

    (It's Cambridge, not Oxford, but it gives you a pretty good idea of the expectations at both.)

    Also, have you noticed some colleges want papers?
    (Side note: Have you picked a college? Do you understand the "college" system?)

    I would strongly recommend you drop AP Biology, taking an honors science class instead, so as to focus on the task ahead. Even US universities won't ding you for having an honors science instead of AP Bio if you take the other AP's you listed (that's plenty). And applying to Oxford isn't an app you throw together in a month or two, most students prepare for about 18 months, some for longer. (I'm not exagerating. Many applicants would consider Year 12's/Grade 11's first term the latest they could start working on this, knowing that at some independent schools pupils started in Year 11 or even before when they started positioning themselves by taking English GCSE's "early". Some students start working through a list of major works not just in literature but also theory and literary criticism.)
    edited July 2018
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  • whimsicalwhimswhimsicalwhims 661 replies22 threads Member
    @MYOS1634 Wow, thank you for that incredibly detailed response! I’ll be sure to explain to my referee the differences between recs for US universities and UK universities, and will email Oxford directly about whether or not I need to send all my AP scores.

    I’d already read some of the books listed, namely Homer, Dickens (only Tale of Two Cities), Joyce, Toni Morrison, some works of Shakespeare (not his poetry though), Vonnegut, and Woolf, and some world literature- Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, and Jhumpa Lahiri and am a rather fast reader, especially when I’m interested; I think I read about 100-150 pages an hour. Additionally, I’ve read quite a lot of American literature- Salinger, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Capote, Thoreau, quite a few books from the Beat Generation, and many recent works including those by David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, and Margaret Atwood; plays by Tennessee Williams, and Moliere, as well as poetry by William Blake, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickinson. Based on this, I was planning on going through the A-Level curriculum and reading the works and reading some theory/criticisms, as well as reading some more poetry and plays that were relevant. I was also going to read a few passages in the Canterbury Tales and the Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table- I have a copy of the latter in what seems to be Middle English- and read some other recommended works that are older, particularly of the Victorian times (which is where I seem to fall behind a bit)- Tennyson, Thackeray, and Eliot. I was going to read Dickens, but he is the one author I never can get through, A Tale of Two Cities was a struggle and that was one of his shorter works, so I am unsure as to whether I should, considering I am reading other pieces of the Victorian era. I definitely do want to go through some of the secondary texts listed, they seem like they would help with the theory side of things, and am going to start doing past papers for the ELAT.

    I have picked some colleges I was considering applying to, I may be wrong, but I heard you list three on the UCAS application? If so, I was planning on putting my first choice as New, followed by Worcester, and finally Pembroke. I heard that college choice doesn’t really affect admission so I just chose the ones that offered my course and appealed to me community wise and aesthetically.

    Again, thanks so much for the info, it’s incredibly helpful! :)
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  • HazeGreyHazeGrey 267 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @whimsicalwhims My son just finished his first year at Worcester and loves it there. If memory serves, you can only apply to one specific Oxford college or open. I don't remember him coming up with three college "preferences".
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8024 replies85 threads Senior Member
    You choose one college (or open) to apply to; you can choose up to 5 courses/universities to apply to.
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  • whimsicalwhimswhimsicalwhims 661 replies22 threads Member
    @collegemom3717 @HazeGrey Worcester really is beautiful and the community seems great! I must’ve hear wrong then, being able to choose only one college makes more sense.
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