Admissions criteria for Classical Archaeology & Ancient History

Those responsible for admissions in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History will consider all the available information – past and predicted examination results, school reports, personal reports and interviews – with a view to assessing the individual candidate’s potential to benefit from the course provided by Oxford, and to assessing the candidate’s potential to be a good tutorial student, and to attain good results in examinations. The weight given to the different criteria will vary according to the individual background and circumstances of each candidate.

Candidates will normally be summoned for interview unless the first-choice College believes beyond reasonable doubt that they are "disqualified", ie that the candidate would find the Oxford Classical Archaeology and Ancient History course too demanding and too difficult for it to be of value to them, and that they would be extremely unlikely to gain a good degree. Candidates will not be so disqualified unless they present one or more of the following shortcomings:

  • poor results in official examinations, especially GCSE,
  • poor results predicted for A level and/or other impending examinations,
  • a negative school report,
  • written work submitted shows lack of intellectual coherence or power of analysis, or serious inaccuracy, or a poor command of expression in English
  • failure to demonstrate an interest in, and commitment to Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

The college of preference (or allocated college in the case of open applicants) will consult other colleges and will only take the decision not to invite an applicant for interview if all agree.

Assessors take note of the declared circumstances under which the written work was done, and assess it accordingly. A different standard of content and presentation is expected from a piece of highly prepared course work and from a piece written for homework with a short dead-line, or written under exam conditions. Taking these differences into account, assessors will be looking for signs of good basic knowledge, powers of analysis, powers of expression, ability to construct a coherent train of thought, and to shape an argument. The quality of English expression and of presentation may also be part of the assessment, according to the circumstances under which the work was done.

The interview is aimed primarily at assessing the candidate’s potential for independent thinking, ability to follow an argument, skill in communication, and adaptability for tutorial teaching. It is not a test of knowledge in isolation from context; nor is it a test of verbal facility or social charm. There will usually be one part of an interview devoted to archaeological material.

Interviewers will be looking for evidence of ability to respond in a thoughtful way to unpredictable questions and ideas. They will also be looking for evidence that the candidate’s interest goes beyond a mere formal submission to their academic training, and that they are able to deploy their knowledge in ways that show initiative.