Oxford Personal Statement Example

Applying to Oxford or Cambridge is a challenging and exciting process which requires motivation, determination and passion about your subject as well as ability and focused preparation.

There is no blue print for a successful Oxbridge applicant however the ability to think logically and laterally about your subject, to analyse challenging new ideas and be confident so that you can demonstrate your subject motivation, personality and the crucial ‘teachability’ quality are key.

Personal statement tips

How to plan and structure your statement

Take a piece of A4 paper, draw a line across it about 2.5 inches from the top. Do the same, 2.5 inches from the bottom.

Start with the bottom third and bullet-point all the extracurricular achievements you would like to include. You don’t need to hold back yet – this is just the plan!

Next, the top. Take a good 15 minutes to sit quietly and think seriously about the real reason you’re choosing your degree. Try not to feel embarrassed about clichés and trite statements yet. This is your plan, so you can make it sound sophisticated later. Really strong personal statements begin with a real sentiment, rather than something you think the admissions tutors will want to hear.

Finally, your middle section is your content. Fill it with the very best wider reading and projects that you’ve done that are relevant to the subject you want to study. This has to be the academic section, and crucially it has to demonstrate work you’ve done outside of your A-level or IB syllabus. Bullet these things and then look at how you might link them thematically

How to write your statement

Bad personal statements try to make a mini essay out of each subject they bring up in order to try to demonstrate knowledge of the text or idea.

Good personal statements bring up an idea about the course that is a reason you have engaged with it, and then uses the reading as examples to back this up.

Check your personal statement – you cannot sum up a complex academic idea in a sentence so check it doesn’t look as though you’ve tried to do this. Instead, demonstrate your interest in that idea, but referencing the reading you’ve done in it. Then expect to follow this up if you have an interview.

How to use your statement

Your personal statement should name-drop texts that you feel comfortable about. Everyone will tell you to be sure to read those texts, but also it’s vital to think of those texts as a doorway to a network of further wider reading that you’ve looked at.

Check out the bibliographies or the journals and articles referenced in the book on your personal statement, and read some of those. This way, when you go into your interview, you have a wealth of material to draw from as a foundation so that you are not caught short when trying to answer a question using an example.

The interview

Practice early and often

Interviews are an alien phenomenon to most young students. You don't want the process itself to baffle you, even if the questions do.

Know how to use examples

Bringing in examples shows your interests and wider reading but it also, more importantly, cements an argument and demonstrates your ability to draw ideas from substance.

Build up a bank of examples, to which you can confidently refer

There is no need to try to predict exactly what will come up in interview. In many cases, the most interesting candidates will apply whatever it is that they know about in a clever way to an strange question - a skill which is useful even through your Oxbridge final exams.

Compare and contrast

Yes - it sounds very GCSE, but interesting ideas are naturally born this way.

Know how to roll with the punches

Despite the myths, it is extremely rare for an admissions tutor to try to make your life difficult. They want to see what you can do and will usually try to make you feel at ease in order to demonstrate it. However, that doesn't mean that things won't get hard in the interview. Try not to be phased when things don't feel like they're going your way. Tutors will often push you further than they think you can go in order to try to draw as much out of you as possible. So even when you don't know the answer, try to enjoy it.

Understand what the interviewer is asking you to do

And if you can't, don't be afraid to ask for clarification! Better to take time to understand the question properly and then give a strong answer, than to blunder on blindly hoping for the best.

Admissions test tips

Admissions tests are very similar to interviews in that they are designed to test how you respond to difficult problems you haven’t seen before. They are about analysis rather than factual knowledge. Think about this. Avoid doing reams of unstructured preparation because good sense and planning are more important.

Ask yourself whether you should practise analysing language/pieces in the newspaper/numeracy. Practice is invaluable, particularly with exams like the LNAT or the TSA, where large sections of reading and/or multiple choice can be difficult to fit into the time.

  • BMAT essay – they are looking for structure, logic and detail. When you’re a doctor you will need these skills when writing patient notes so these are crucial abilities to demonstrate in the exam
  • PAT & MAT test – ensure you have looked forward to the whole of your A-level syllabus before the exam.
  • TSA – this tests problem solving and critical thinking. Your maths needs to be on point, so revise all your formulas. For critical thinking, read lots of newspaper articles to practice comprehension. One of the main challenges you will come up against is the timing. 50 questions in 90 minutes averages out at around 1m48 per question, so speed is of the essence. If you are better at either problem solving or critical thinking, do these questions first in case you run out of time.
  • LNAT – another test on comprehension and critical responses to articles, so again, read up on newspaper articles to ensure you are practising these techniques
  • HAT – This exam tests your responses to sources out of their context so practise looking at as many of these as you can.
  • ELAT – Be careful not to just analyse two texts. You’ll need to focus on the comparing and contrasting element: how are your chosen texts the same, how are they different?

Rachel Spedding is the executive director of www.oxbridgeapplications.com, and co-author of the bestselling ‘So You Want To Go To Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana...’

Reuse content

We hope our collection of Oxford University personal statements provides inspiration for writing your own. Please do not plagiarise them in any way, or UCAS will penalise your application. Our Personal Statement Editing & Review Services are availble if you feel you need a little extra help.

Economics Personal Statement
Examination of any quality newspaper will probably demonstrate that more of the headlines address economic problems than any other topic. The importance and relevance of economic related disciplines to the modern world have led me to want to pursue the study of the subject at a higher level...

Law Personal Statement
The subject of law fascinates me extensively. I am intrigued by developments in the law and the way that it adapts to an ever-changing society. I feel I would be suited to a law degree as I am at my best when challenged, relish the opportunity of lateral thinking and enjoy evaluating the microcosm of human relations...

History and Politics Personal Statement
History and politics have had a profound impact on my outlook. From childhood, the tangible history I found in castles, museums and family photographs appealed uniquely to my imagination. As I grew up my interest in the past introduced me to the political traditions and ideas of my community, and the study of politics became equally absorbing...

Maths and Philosophy Personal Statement
I believe that there are two ways to look at how the world develops: the first is through the progress of history and human civilisation, and the second is through the progress of knowledge and human understanding...

Mathematics and Computer Science Personal Statement
When asked why I like Mathematics, I realised that it is all down to my personality. Being a composed, explicit person, I enjoy the challenge of questions with unequivocal answers. My character’s orderly side draws me enthusiastically towards neat solutions, my creativity gives rise to my acceptance of new ideas and my positive mind results in my wish to succeed...

Computer Science Personal Statement
My three major interests and passions are Computer Science, Maths and Music, and I believe that there is a creative fusion between all these disciplines. I engage wholeheartedly in these areas both in my school courses and out of school, and hope that I will be able to continue doing so on my chosen course and in the extra-curricular opportunities at university...

Economics Personal Statement
When moving from GCSE to A Level I approached the two ‘new’ subjects I had chosen with excitement and some trepidation. I now realise taking Politics and Economics was the right choice. My experiences of A Level Economics have shown me the fundamental part it plays in our lives and I am keen to study it in more depth and be able to use my knowledge to complete individual economic based studies...

History Personal Statement
Recently, I found out that my grandma was gambled into slavery for seven years. She escaped her prison and made her way back to Hong Kong, 300 miles south. I was amazed at how courageous she was. This personal discovery led me to read Jung Chang's 'Wild Swans' which made me both proud and ashamed of my heritage...

Computer Science Personal Statement
I find it amazing to watch as the digital revolution sculpts society at a rate that has never before been seen; there is so much to still be discovered. Quantum computing is a topic that particularly interests me, stemming from my studies and keen interest in physics...

Economics/PPE Personal Statement
My aspiration to study Economics at both Advanced and degree level has stemmed from my lasting interest in current affairs and world development. These issues require an application of Economics in real-life situations and can be related to many diverse subjects such as politics, philosophy and psychology...

English Literature Personal Statement
When I saw Gatz, John Collin's eight hour interpretation of The Great Gatsby, I noticed that Fitzgerald changes the colour of Daisy's hair every time he describes it. It is "like a dash of blue paint", "yellowy" like her daughters and then "dark, shining"...

Biology Personal Statement
From a childhood fascination with prehistoric life to the creation of my science revision YouTube channel (MrBioTom1), my enthusiasm for biology continues to be a major focus and joy in my life. As a child of six reading books about dinosaurs and birds I found comparing their anatomy intriguing and was fascinated to learn that dinosaurs evolved into the birds we see today...

Geology/Earth Sciences Personal Statement
A visit to a collection of minerals and gemstones while holidaying in the Lake District in 2006 opened my eyes to the fascinating subject of geology. Seeing naturally dull rock split open to reveal a myriad of vibrant crystals posed many questions: where had this discovery been made and, more intriguingly, how had it formed? My wish to find out more about these mineral forms and the rocks that had sheltered their intricate beauty started my interest in geology...

Geography Personal Statement
In a dynamic world, the study of geography is increasingly important. The diversity of the subject and the interaction between the physical environment and human population is becoming even more evident with climate change and globalisation influencing our everyday lives...

German and Italian Personal Statement
Foreign languages have always been an integral part of my life as from a young age I have been exposed to other countries and cultures through frequent family holidays to France and Germany. I have always been interested in the logic behind languages...

Psychology Personal Statement
“If she’s smart she will study Medicine.” This is an unwritten rule in my culture - all Nigerian parents want their children to become doctors. What becomes of the aspiring psychologist in the family? I met a junior doctor, at an educational conference, who wanted to specialise in psychiatry...

History & Economics Personal Statement
Is one of the useful lessons of the Great Depression that the European periphery cannot restore its competitiveness whilst fixed to an overvalued currency without inducing a debt deflation trap? A study of economics and history can help illuminate such contemporary challenges...

History Personal Statement
Visits to the national museums of Knightsbridge and the Smithsonian ignited my interest in history. My desire to study history was nurtured following visits to the Normandy beaches which prompted me to research the Second World War and its origins...

Archaeology and Anthropology Personal Statement
Archaeology & Anthropology personal statement For as long as I can remember, I have been skilled and deeply interested in areas of both the sciences and humanities, particularly in human evolution, history and geography...

History Personal Statement
Until I began my A-levels last September, I had never been to school or followed a formal syllabus. My parents homeschooled me. They guided, encouraged, and fed my interests with books, documentaries and discussions...

Maths Personal Statement
The idea of proof has always held a real fascination for me. The process of starting from a simple set of axioms and deriving almost any mathematical truth (putting Godel to one side) is what truly separates Mathematics from any other subject...

Natural/Biological Sciences Personal Statement
Experiencing first-hand life as a human in the natural world, I have the authority to confirm that regardless of previous knowledge, unexplained phenomena still exist. As a scientist, I adore observing the unknown, analysing the known and making decisions accordingly...

Mechanical Engineering Personal Statement
From a very young age, I had aspirations of becoming an engineer, because I wanted to build machines that did not require direct human energy inputs to operate. I achieved this for the first time a few weeks later, designing a vehicle that carried it's energy stored in rubber-bands; it wasn't a roaring success, but the fact that it wasn't perfect only increased my desire to learn more about engineering...

Politics and Economics Personal Statement
Deficits, wars and scandal: this seems to be the current interpretation of Politics today. The global media appear to enjoy taking a destructive stance to economic and political policy. Have we lost our sense of balance and composure? It is this debate that I found both embracing as well as frustrating, with editorials and columns devoted to the more sensational negative news stories...

Medicine Personal Statement
"The aim of Medicine is not to know the disease, but to relieve the suffering it causes." This quotation from Miguel Angel Garcia sums up why Medicine is my career choice. A close relative of mine fought cancer for two years...

English Personal Statement
What I enjoy above all else in a piece of literature is the feeling that it has brought about change, either in me or in some wider context. Literature which offers the opportunity for an adapted way of living or thinking, however slight, is I think a thing to be kept and treasured in our intellects...

History Personal Statement
My decision to study History was never a difficult one. Having always been captivated by the past and its relationship to the present, study at Advanced Level has served only to strengthen my interest...

Economics Personal Statement
Having been born in the UK, with parents from Delhi and Kenya, I feel my background has given me an internationally diverse outlook. In my travels, I have met with both the affluence of Europe and the poverty existing in India...

English Literature and Creative Writing Personal Statement
I once aspired to be a visual artist, a photographer or painter. However, I later discovered the unique ability of poetry and the written word to maintain its power and resonance in a world saturated with images and messages...

PPE Personal Statement
Lester Brown recently stated: Socialism failed because it couldn't tell the economic truth; capitalism may fail because it couldn't tell the ecological truth. My 6th form study of Economics has led me to question the ecological and social price of free market capitalism with its underlying aim for continual economic growth...

Computer Science Personal Statement
Advances in Computer and Information Technology over the past few decades have brought about revolution in science, medicine, education, business, and entertainment. I wish to be part of the future revolution and that is why I want to study Computer Science...

English Literature Personal Statement
I believe that to read English is to read the human being itself: after all, we are all writers. Even in the very act of choosing our words - thinking them, speaking them, physically writing them down - we create something meaningful...

Philosophy, Politics & Economics Personal Statement
I am very interested in the upcoming election and how the different parties' attitudes to business and welfare will affect the vote and the eventual success of the country. I wish to study a course that will provide me with a thorough insight into the political and economic impact of our national decisions...

Psychology Personal Statement
To what extent should we humans accept things the way they are? When should we seek deep meanings and what are the circumstances that convert simple unambiguous certainties into complex facts? These and many other questions have aroused in me a keen interest in Psychology...

Mechanical Engineering Personal Statement
I grew up as a boy who loves robots and motorbikes very much. Thus, I love things that move especially those that are related to engines. I started to be really passionate about mechanical engineering when I learned about the control system when I was in high school...

Human Sciences Personal Statement
Perhaps what makes me different from other University applicants is that I have ambition to understand multidimensional human life. It is not the appeal of a top qualification or the zesty student lifestyle that attracts me to this course; but it is the long-term knowledge and answers to interdisciplinary human problems, and the enigmas that I will commit a lifetime investigating with perhaps no solution, that inspires me to apply...

Medicine Personal Statement
Growing up in a developing country during a war, I have been through a lot. Having spent most of my childhood in hospital, being treated for severe injuries. I have come to realize how incredibly complex and vulnerable the human body is...

Chemistry Personal Statement
Chemistry is in my opinion the most important of the sciences today. As a science of matter and its properties, Chemistry can be applied to almost any situation from forensics through medicine to environmental sustainability...

Engineering Personal Statement
Physics is that branch of science without which science is just like a beautiful lamp with no light. For centuries, mathematicians and physicists have made plenty of scientific contributions thus helping the world make a better place to live...

History (Ancient and Modern) Personal Statement
It is those things we don’t yet know or understand that make history a fascinating, intellectual puzzle. We know a remarkable amount about history and the development of society but new archaeological discoveries, the dedicated efforts of historians, translators and other academics and advancements in areas such as archaeometry mean that the body of historical information is still expanding...

Biology Personal Statement
I can remember my childhood, playing in the garden and exploring why worms come out when it rained. With the help of my ever growing passion for learning, I have found my way into the world of biology...

Law Personal Statement
I cannot remember a person in my life who has had a more significant influence on me than my father. Everything I have achieved with regard to academics, sports, or life in general, I am indebted to him for...

Archaeology and Anthropology Personal Statement
As an immigrant living in Spain, I am constantly reminded of the importance social and cultural factors have on my daily life, the language I speak, and the difference between the relationships I maintain with people from my own country and those I encounter here on a daily basis...

Computer Science Personal Statement
My views about computing changed considerably when I heard about Linux. In the late nineties it was a newer operating system and tasks like installing and configuring were considered to be quite challenging in India...

History Personal Statement
I have always cared passionately about my academic endeavours, from reading as widely as possible in my English and history A levels to carrying out an investigating into the antibiotic effects of indigenous poisonous plants in biology...

Medicine Personal Statement
The human body is undoubtedly one of the greatest natural phenomena known to man, and in its sheer complexity and intricacy is the inevitability of something going wrong, thus highlighting the tremendous role that doctors play in ensuring that the many diverse systems of the body are working flawlessly...

Law Personal Statement
Law is ever changing, whether parliament is passing new legislation, existing legislation is being rewritten or the courts are interpreting laws in different ways. In the case of Anthony Bland the distinguishing of earlier precedents was vital...

History and English Personal Statement
Studying History and English concurrently has appealed to me ever since I recognised the inseparability of the two disciplines closest to my heart. Personally, I believe that the literary style of a piece of writing is as important as scholarly research and I try to make my essays as lively as possible whilst still grounded in solid historical or literary method, dulce et utile, following the example of writers such as Richard J Evans...

English Personal Statement
Recently, I was reading an interview with Francoise Sagan, author of Bonjour Tristesse, when I came across a quote that defined my love for literature. In the passage, the French writer claimed that while “Life is amorphous, literature is formal”...

Economics and Management Personal Statement
My interest in Economics goes beyond an appreciation of statistics and profit margins. In my mind, economics represents the relationship between people and their money – a relationship that dates back to the history of mankind...

German Personal Statement
The study of language has always been appealing and is the focus of much of my time and energy, but the study of the German language is what mesmerises me most. Before understanding German I was first intrigued by its sound, and as I began to learn it, I became fascinated by its complexity...

Law Personal Statement
“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life,” noted Plato, Classical Greek philosopher and student of Socrates, and I hope to live by those words. It has been my desire to study law at degree level since the age of fifteen...

Economics Personal Statement
The ever-changing nature of the human science intrigues me. Newton’s laws of motion will never change, from wherever ‘the ball is dropped’. However, different strategies and policies have to be framed and implemented for each economic problem...

Mathematics and Computer Science Personal Statement
I have found Mathematics a fascinating subject since my early years. I enjoy it as it is challenging and logical. I am particularly interested in Decision Mathematics as it is a field that is directly related to real-life applications of Mathematics and can be used to solve problems, such as finding the optimal solution for transporting materials from one place to another while minimizing the cost...

Japanese & Politics/Religious Studies Personal Statement
England and Japan are two immensely contrasting worlds: this distinctiveness is why the undeniable magic of Japanese culture has always attracted me to study its oriental societies and traditions. I have been enthralled by the Japanese language since I was a young teenager; reading 'Japanese for Busy People' at school and trying to note down homework reminders in Kanji, anything to incorporate Japanese into my daily life...

Chinese Studies Personal Statement
As a pupil in a European school, on occasion I had the pleasure of being lectured about East Asia. Whenever that happened, I found any kind of information imposing. I always pondered why it always had to be cut off and not talked about continuously, like was the case with western countries, whose lectures flowed from one subject on to the next without hesitation...

Physics Personal Statement
I have always been intrigued by the world of physics. From everyday experiences to the most extreme boundaries of today's knowledge, I have always voraciously searched for answers to my questions. As I grew up, the elegance of mathematical demonstrations and of physical theorems fascinated me, and I have often dreamt of making contributions to the unification theory and of improving and simplifying the Navier-Stokes equations...

Electrical Engineering Personal Statement
The defining wonder of today’s age is electricity. In just two centuries, we have come from Faraday’s crude but prophetic experiments to devices just a square inch that can calculate in seconds what the most gifted of human minds might take days...

Medicine Personal Statement
The challenge of spending my working life immersed in the fascinating, ever-evolving world of the medical sciences, and the opportunity to use this knowledge to benefit others, has drawn me to seek a career in medicine...

History Personal Statement - Oxford University
My interest in History was first sparked during a remembrance service at the Menin Gate. Hearing the bugles bellow out the 'Last Post' to a crowd of thousands, instilled in me a deeper appreciation of the past, and the sacrifices that were made to sculpt the world we live in today...

Politics, Philosophy & Economics (PPE) Personal Statement
In this day and age virtually every aspect of our lives may be considered political. My passion to study Politics stems from this tenet and a belief that a comprehension of Politics is integral to understanding the current state of humanity...

Chemistry Personal Statement
Chemistry explores the properties of all matter and energy in our universe, which eventually leads to breakthroughs that benefit mankind, ranging from how to prevent food from decomposing to understanding what chemicals can help or harm you...

Philosophy Personal Statement (Mature Student)
Since leaving education in 2006 I have always wanted to return; a great love of learning, desire for knowledge and natural curiosity throughout my life resulted in an ambition to teach. It was with this ambition in my heart that I took the plunge and returned to education, beginning my Access course last year with the intention of applying to study for a primary education degree...

Civil Engineering Personal Statement
My decision to study engineering stems from a desire to contribute to the evolution of society through a process that does not just define our environment but our era. My personal inspiration is the Segovia aqueduct, an 800m long, 30 metre high Roman marvel which still stands today...

Ancient and Modern History Personal Statement
What makes history engaging and interesting to me is its interdisciplinary nature and its ability to take you on a journey to the discovery of humanity's past. History has been a constant source of captivation for me, from studying the mythology of Ancient Greece in primary school through to the study of the Russian Revolution at A Level...

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