Applying to Classics at Oxford University

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees at Oxford, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy, a flexibility which makes Oxford’s Literae Humaniores different from most other Classics courses.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: AAA (with A’s in Latin and Greek, if taken)
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB (with A in Latin, if taken)
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 666 at HL (and an aggregate of 12 in Latin and Greek, if taken)

Why did you choose to apply for Classics at Oxford?

I preferred the course offered at Oxford, and also the city, which does not feel so university dominated. (Profile 293)

Oxford had the better reputation for be honest I didn't think I had a cat in hells chance so I lumped for the one I'd heard more about. I'd visited Oxford once with my cousin just to see the museums and to this day I've never even visited Cambridge; I should make the effort really. (Profile 1067)

Classics has always been my passion, I like the balance of language, history, philosophy etc. on the oxford course and it seemed a course which offered an extremely widereaching range of options and encorporated aspects of many different subjects. (Profile 918)

Supposedly, the Classics course is the best in the country, and I liked the flexibility of the course options with things like linguistics and philosophy thrown into the mix. Possibly also because it was "expected" by the school after my GCSE results. (Profile 295)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

I'd say practice interviews were probably the best overall preparation. Whatever help your school is prepared to offer, snap it up. Being able to present yourself as confident without coming over as arrogant is also very important.

Equally, I found being fully aware of the application process and the interview process was useful. Knowing deadlines and dates is essential and meeting them critical. It's a bit of hassle getting the UCAS form off early but after you can sit back and relax a little.

In yourself, sometimes it is good to sit back and think a little, asking myself a few questions over a beer in my local pub helped me...not that I'm recommending that of course. It can be good to really ask yourself why you want to study your subject and what you really want.

If you're comfortable in yourself you're much more likely to come across well in an interview and it will only help you.

If you have to sit any form of exam, then find what resources you can from the internet, from the university, or from your school. Do practice and revise because it will boost your confidence if, during the interviews, you're comfortable with whatever written or oral tests you get given. Being fantastic in the interview probably won't be enough if you flunk the tests and the tests (in the case of Classics at least) are less of a variable than the interviews. (Profile 1067)

Don't be afraid to argue your point of view, even if the interviewers are disagreeing. (Profile 293)

You don't need to know loads of esoteric facts or be stunningly articulate as long as you are clear in your head of why you love your subject and show a genuine interest in it. Practise interviews are probably a good idea although bear in mind they most likely won't be like an interview at all, more like an intellectual chat. (Profile 918)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your interview(s)? 

I had to do a Latin unseen. I prepared by revising my vocabulary and grammar. (Profile 293)

Two written essay's pertaining to the subject. It is helpful in the run-up to the application process if you bear in mind you'll need some marked written work. Speak to subject teachers about the best course of action. (Profile 1067)

When I arrived at Oxford I had to do a language translation paper. I had to translate two pieces of latin which they said were standard A-level latin but were so much harder than anything I'd done before! (Profile 918)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

In my Balliol interview I was asked a question regarding one of my essay's. It was about the nature of Kings and Tyrants in Ancient Greece, I was asked to explain why I had voiced a rather throw away opinion in my essay. I was then asked what impressions I had of a passage from Plato's 'Meno' regarding the desire for good things. My St.Johns interview was reasonably thorough, I was asked for my opinion on a disputed line in Sophocle's Antigone, which I ascribed to Ismene eventually, my thoughts on the Spartan disaster at Pylos and my impressions of a rather ugly statue of an old Greek man. The perfect preparation for the drive home listening to 'Dark side of the moon' if you ask me… (Profile 1067)

Magdalen - Questions ranged from "Why do you think Cicero wrote down the actio secunda of the case against Verres?" to "Do you eat meat?" Christchurch - I've completely forgotten now, it was that dull. Oriel - "Do you think that by applying the methods of music teaching to all forms of education we might bring about social and economic reform?" (gulp) Oriel was the only college to refer to my personal statement at all. (Profile 295)

I had 3 interviews. 1 philosophy interview on the evening I arrived, 1 subject interview and 1 ancient history interview (at Oriel). In my subject interview at Jesus, I was asked why I was applying for Classics and specific questions relating to points I had made in my essay (the interviewers were arguing against my points). In my philosophy interview, which lasted 20 minutes, I was asked how to define living. Unexpectedly I enjoyed it, as I had time to develop an argument, and the interviewer quite often interrupted to disagree with me, which guided me onto another track. (Profile 293)

Loads on an intellectual level, all very unpredictable, things like "In this poem what does the poet suggest is the nature of stars and planets" and "do you think socrates was a sophist". Nothing generic like you why do you want to study the subject and I personally had hardly any mention of my personal statement. (Profile 918)