How to Apply

Undergraduate Study

The application process for the undergraduate degree in history is as follows:

Undergraduate Application Process

All candidates for History, or any joint school including History, are required to take the History Aptitude Test in late October/early November. 

The following criteria are to be applied in the assessment of candidates for History.  In the case of candidates for the Joint Schools with History, these criteria are to be applied in assessment for the History side of each school.

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Conceptual clarity
  • Flexibility - the capacity to engage with alternative perspectives and/or new information
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Critical engagement
  • Capacity for hard work
  • Enthusiasm for History
  • Evidence of historical imagination and understanding, in particular, the ability to speculate and compare, alongside the possession of appropriate historical knowledge and the capacity to deploy it.

At various points of the Admissions process candidates will be assessed against these criteria on the basis of information derived from a variety of sources:

  • UCAS forms, including, in particular, personal statements, school reports, qualifications achieved and qualifications predicted
  • Performance at GCSE
  • Performance in the History Aptitude Test (HAT)
  • Written work submitted by candidates
  • Performance in interviews
  • Comparison, in all these areas, with other candidates

Candidates for History will be asked to send in an essay on a historical topic by 10 November. This should be a marked essay of A2 level, or equivalent, written in your own time as part of your normal school/college work. 

Please send an ordinary essay, not a structured question, nor a source-based response, nor a personal study. Your work should be accompanied by a signed certificate stating the circumstances under which the work was written. Click on this link to download the written work cover sheet. Your written work should be about 1500 words long, and not longer than 2000 words.  If these requirements cause any problems, please contact the Tutor for Admissions at your college of preference. Note that in selecting work for submission you should choose a piece which has enthused you and on which you are willing to talk. Do not worry if you have changed your mind on the topic since writing it. Tutors are impressed by candidates who remain intellectually engaged with their work.

Interviews are not intended to be confrontational although they will undoubtedly be intellectually challenging. The tutors are interested in finding out what your intellectual potential is; they do not wish to catch you out. But remember to think carefully about the questions you have been asked; your interviewers will not mind if you pause to think. Try not to go in with some pre-packaged prepared piece you are determined to deliver at all costs.

Your submitted essay is likely to form a starting point for discussion in at least one of your interviews. The tutors are not so much interested in the level of your knowledge as in your ability to think historically. They wish to test your flexibility, your conceptual skills, and the precision of your thinking. They will use a variety of methods to assess these skills, but you are likely to be asked about the definition of terms you have used; you may be asked to compare the material you have submitted with some other historical example you have studied; and you may be asked how new pieces of information presented to you affect the arguments you have made.

Some colleges may require you to read a short passage of historical writing while you are up for interview, which they will ask you to discuss as part of the interview process.

You may be asked questions about statements on your UCAS form. Tutors will be particularly interested in evidence of a historical sensitivity: e.g. relating to places you have visited or books you have read. If you are planning a gap-year you should be prepared to discuss your plans.

Tutors like to see an interest in political history backed by interest in political ideas, and in the social and economic context of politics. We welcome historians who have or may develop an interest in archaeology, literature, culture, sociology, foreign languages, the arts or religion – in short, in any aspect of historical inquiry, or in any other intellectual discipline that can enrich our historical understanding.

Please note that you will probably be interviewed at the college to which you applied, or the college to which you were allocated, if you made an open application. However, in some cases your application may be referred to another college. This can happen if a college is significantly oversubscribed for your subject that year, and the faculty will re-distribute candidates with the aim of ensuring greater parity in the number of applicants interviewed in each college. During the interview week itself, you may be offered further opportunities to have an interview at other colleges.

The Minimum Offer

In order to take up a conditional offer of a place in History or any of its joint schools, Oxford requires you to achieve three As at A2 in A-level, for places offered in the Admissions Process 2011.  You need not have taken all three A levels in the same year.  You do not need to have an A*.

Find more details on the university application pages here: 

Graduate Study

A student wishing to read for one of the graduate degrees under the auspices of the History Faculty at Oxford University must first be assessed and admitted by the Faculty Board of History. The Faculty's offer of a place includes the guarantee of a college place, although not necessarily in an applicant's preferred college.

You may wish to consult the relevant programme entries in the University's Graduate Studies Prospectus as well as the Descriptions of Available Courses before submitting your application.

Friday, 19th January 2018, noon UK time

Top Tips

Your application needs to be complete by the deadline, including at least two references, but do remember that we want the third reference as well

The application form is available from 1st September 2017 and there is nothing to be gained from applying early, as we assess all applications together after the deadline. However, we would advise not to leave submitting your application form until the last minute.


 The most useful links to guide you through the application process


For technical help with the form and upload of supporting material or queries about course content:

Please consult the FAQs before contacting us.

History-specific guidance for applicants

For all entrance requirements please consult the individual course pages

, but please also pay some attention to the following advice when preparing your application:

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  • capacity to work at a high intellectual level 
  • preparedness for your proposed programme of study 
  • ability to identify and formulate an appropriate project for individual research (not equally important for admission to all master’s programmes, but – all things being equal – excellence in this regard will always increase your competitiveness for funding
  • fit with our programme and supervisory capacity

We assess using five main criteria: previous results (sometimes interim), references, proposal (viability of topic and level of background research already done), written work (research and writing skills), and overall preparedness for the course.



This should show your academic potential and convince us that you have the right intellectual qualities, academic knowledge and skills. Do spend a lot of time on this, as it will be the centrepiece of your application.

Depth and structure of this explanation will naturally differ with the nature of the programme for which you are applying. A proposal for a DPhil should be more detailed, but not necessarily longer:

  • give your proposal a preliminary dissertation title
  • give an account of your current state of scholarship and the central issues/problems. You may want to explain why you are dissatisfied with existing scholarship: is it limited, dated or unconvincing? What kind of contribution will your work make?
  • Sources: An indication of the kinds of sources you expect to use, where these can be found, how they will contribute to your research, what if any technical skills you will need to work with them (e.g. language, quantitative, use of specialist software), and whether you already have those skills or will need to acquire them.
  • Method:  Thinking about your approach to dealing with sources and constructing your thesis. Some of the following considerations may apply. At what level is your inquiry: micro or local, regional or national, comparative or transnational? Will you be using qualitative or quantitative techniques? Samples or case studies? Will your research draw on a body of theory? Does your approach draw on the agenda or methods of related disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, or literary studies?
  • don’t worry if your angle changes between applying and starting the course, as long as we don’t have to find you a new supervisor

Be as precise and concrete as you can – though be assured that assessors will bear in mind that what you are submitting is a proposal for research yet to be undertaken.

For master’s applicants: an indication as to which Option Papers you would like to take would be helpful.

You should not try to recruit your own supervisor: the faculty appoints supervisors on the basis of our assessment of their fit with your research interests and their spare teaching capacity; but you should check that your interests match our expertise. 

All applicants offered places as research students will be told the name of the supervisor assigned to them. Students who have accepted offers and fulfilled all conditions and who wish to undertake some preliminary work specifically in relation to their intended dissertations – in the form of background reading, preliminary research or training – may wish to make advance contact with supervisors (most supervisors’ e-mail addresses can be obtained through Note however that supervisors may not be able to respond quickly to such enquiries, either because of pressure of teaching commitments during term, or because they are absent on research trips during the vacation. Students are encouraged to let supervisors know the exact date of their arrival in Oxford, when that is clearly established, and to make contact indicating their availability for a meeting promptly after their arrival (again on the understanding that supervisors may not be free to arrange a meeting until the start of term).

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Find more details on the university application pages here: 

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