Resources for all subjects

These resources cover a wide range of subjects. This might be a good place to start choosing a course. If you find a subject which sparks your interest, check out our related subject guide!

What does 'exploring your subject' really mean?

Strong applicants to all competitive universities have often explored their chosen subject
through wider reading and enrichment work outside of their A Level (or equivalent) studies. There are no specific requirements for wider reading, and the best applicants spend time researching topics which particularly interest them. This sort of self-motivated research should ultimately be enjoyable, so if you are not interested in reading about a subject, you are unlikely to enjoy studying it at university! For Oxford and Cambridge specifically, wider reading and enrichment should be the focus of your personal statement, and may be the basis of conversation during your interviews.
The idea of 'exploring your subject', also commonly referred to as 'wider reading' or 'supra-curricular activities', can seem intimidating and mysterious. These resources should provide a good starting point if you're not sure where to look.

Resources produced by Oxford and Cambridge

Apply: Cambridge 🔗 🌟 This initiative is Cambridge Admissions Office. The programmed will consist of a series of interactive sessions, mentoring and guided independent learning. Applications close in May 2023 for the 2023/4 application cycle.

Cambridge HE+ 🔗 🌟 This website is extremely useful. Resources for each subject are clearly divided into specific topics, compiled by Cambridge post-graduate students and high-level research academics. Each topic contains guided activities, questions to consider and suggestions for further reading. The main subject pages also provide an insight into what it would be like to study the subject at university level.

Oxplore 🔗 🌟 Similar to HE+, Oxplore is a fun and easily accessible initiative run by the University of Oxford University, which allows you to learn more about a variety of subjects. Its focus on 'big questions' reflects the type of logical and critical thinking which you will encounter in any university course.

Oxford Digital Resource Hub 🔗 Oxford have produced an extensive Digital Resource Hub, with resources categorised by age groups. For 16-18 year olds, this includes resources that enable further exploration of passions and interests, as well as how to discover more about Oxford.

Staircase 12 🔗 🌟 Organised by University College, Oxford, Staircase 12 is an online hub of resources and information for students thinking about applying to top universities. It consists of a Reading Bank, containing book recommendations and reviews by students and tutors, and a Resource Hub, with links to lectures, podcasts and recently-published academic articles.

The Queens' Access Podcast 🔗 🌟 A fantastic podcast series produced by undergraduates at Queens' College, Oxford, with each episode discussing a different aspect of Oxford life such as welfare, tutorials, and social life!

Choosing a Subject advice 🔗 This page, produced by King's College, Cambridge, guides applicants through the process of choosing a degree and factors to consider.

Super-curricular suggestions compiled by the University of Cambridge 🔗 🌟 For each undergraduate course at Cambridge, a list is given with suggestions of resources to expand your subject knowledge beyond your school curriculum. Although this list is compiled by Cambridge, it is important to emphasise that nothing is compulsory and you should focus your reading or interview preparation around your specific interests.

University of Oxford suggested reading 🔗 🌟 Once again organised by subject, the resources listed are intended to give applicants an idea of the kind of material Oxford students engage with during their studies.

Suggested reading list by Christ's College, Cambridge 🔗 Another list of suggested resources, which are not exhaustive and definitely not mandatory (and not intended solely for applicants to Christ's College!) Some things are quite general, and all the resources are relevant for applicants to similar courses at both Oxford and Cambridge.

Oxford podcasts 🔗 A great library of fascinating podcasts covering many subjects, given by lecturers at Oxford.

Blogs and YouTube videos

That Oxford Girl 🔗 A blog with a range of posts written by current Oxford students about their applications, interviews, and life at Oxford.

Student Q&As by St Edmund Hall, Oxford 🔗 🌟 A range of Q&A videos with current Oxford students speaking about their degree subjects.

Jamie Miles: 'Applying to Oxford or Cambridge' 🔗 A former Oxford PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) student presents a fun and informative video series that covers the application processes at Oxford or Cambridge. (Note: certain aspects may be or become out of date.)

Simon Clark: 'Oxbridge Application Guide' 🔗 A former Oxford Physics student provides information and tips on the Oxford and Cambridge application processes.

Wi-Phi Critical Thinking videos 🔗 🌟 Short for 'Wireless Philosophy', Wi-Phi is an engaging video series which seeks to help applicants learnt to think better. Critical thinking is crucial for any university course, and the content of these videos is relevant far beyond academic philosophy.

Free online courses

Coursera 🔗 Opportunities to undertake free, world-class learning online. Coursera collaborates with over 200 universities and companies, and combines different styles of learning including lectures, reading and accessible videos.

EdX 🔗 Courses at EdX are hugely diverse and include hundreds of niche and interesting topics, which are useful for narrowing down your specific interests within a broader subject.

FutureLearn 🔗 🌟 Lots of FutureLearn courses are entirely self-paced, meaning you can complete the lessons in whatever time frame you have available.

MIT OpenCourseWare 🔗 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) uploads hundreds of course materials, including video lectures, lecture slides and notes, problems, and exams, online for free!

Other application resources

Target Careers: A Level revision resources 🔗 A huge range of resources designed to supplement your A Level (or equivalent) revision, split into subject areas. These may be used to aid your current studies, or learn something new in preparation for university.

The Complete University course guide 🔗 🌟 Here you can find a huge range of subjects and very broad overviews of what studying each subject might involve - a good place to start for ideas.

Gresham College online lectures 🔗 🌟 A truly amazing selection of pre-recorded lectures on a huge variety of subjects, so you're guaranteed to find something which interests you! You could discuss a lecture you found interesting on your personal statement, as evidence of exploring your subject beyond the school syllabus.

Cambridge University Students' Union Guide to Personal Statements 🔗 A guide covering a range of personal statement content and how to include it, from subject-area specific advice to writing about work experience. While you ideally should be exploring your subject for enjoyment and to gain an insight into university-level study, it is also important to include your wider reading in your personal statement to demonstrate your interest in the subject.

Tips and advice

Expect to find things challenging! Some of these resources are university-level content which you have understandably never covered before. Instead of being deterred by the difficulty level, spend some time thinking about the topic, and how you could find the answers to your questions about it.

When reading around your subject, focus on the topics which interest you. Most courses have some opportunity for specialisation, so don't discount a subject simply because you don't particularly enjoy one element of it. Equally, don't worry if you haven't located your specific interests straight away - you'll spend three years studying the course; there's plenty of time!

Where to go next - look in footnotes and bibliographies. If you enjoyed a book or article, look at the bibliography and try to read one of the texts referenced there. Alternatively, if the writer criticises another writer's argument, read both interpretations to get a sense of the wider debate and consider your own perspective. At university, you are strongly encouraged to have an opinion on things you've read or seen, so think about what your view is and which sources have influenced your interpretation.

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