How to Apply for 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

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.  You need not have taken all three A levels in the same year.  You do not need to have an A*.

Written Work

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.

The Interview

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.

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