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Book Review: Preparing to get into Oxbridge

24th Jul 2020
Book Review: Preparing to get into Oxbridge

The Oxbridge Formula, Paarul Shah. STEPMaths Publishing (UniPrepCo Ltd) Pp 476

This book reads like pudding with none of the guilt. Think of it like a Rough guide or a Lonely Planet walking you through an Oxbridge application.

The Oxbridge Formula is aimed at an A-level student looking to prepare for their University applications and does not leave any stone unturned. Thoroughly researched and meticulously written, I can imagine it being a great comfort for both parents and prospective students alike.

It covers the degrees mainly, offered by the STEM subjects with a very big emphasis on the Maths and a bonus chapter on philosophy.

Each section highlights the different variations of the degree (did you know Philosophy and Maths was an option?), how the subject is offered in Oxford vs. Cambridge, which exams are needed, the expected workload in the first year (the thought is a workout in itself…) and interestingly recommended reads to deepen an understanding of a subject.

It looks and feels like a textbook, but it is peppered with excerpts from current students, tutors at the university and heads of colleges on what they have seen and would like to see in their interviews. This gives valuable insight, making the book more personable and adds a lot of warmth to the ruthless process of selection.

I thoroughly enjoyed the efficiency in which the book, such as the QR codes in sections discussing exams that enable the reader to take a look at past papers instantaneously (provided you have an internet connection).

An underlying theme throughout the book is how ability, passion and potential are being sought in a successful candidate and how to display these three qualities throughout the application process, be it the exams, the interviews or any experience that a candidate embarks on.

It doesn’t stop there. The Oxbridge Formula talks about the interview processes at different colleges, a variety of interview scripts, the successful personal statements and outlines of the sort of people that apply to the programme showing which ones are successful and which aren’t and most importantly why they didn’t succeed.

As an arts degree graduate, I found the book very math-heavy. There is a lot of space dedicated to solving maths questions and I wonder if this would have been more beneficial outside the book.

I would wager that maths is the author’s passion and that shows in the book. But, the volume of maths doesn’t detract from the mission of the book; it just makes it a bit cumbersome at times. I can say this as a person who has specialised in the humanities.

Like most parents, I want the best for my child, but having no clue on where to begin feels like the odds are stacked against you before you even begin.

This book is like a hand guiding you through the dark labyrinth of the application process and the expectations that go with it. Reading this book is like walking into a very well-organised dinner party, where you’re handed a drink shown where the nibbles are, and you know the food is going to be as divine as the conversation.

Aasiya I Versi

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