“Read around your subject” is one of the most commonly given pieces of advice for applying to Oxbridge, and for good reason - it can increase your knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject, and shows to the tutors that you are truly interested in your chosen subject that you’ll be studying for the next few years, and enjoy engaging with it. Here on the InsideUni website, our subject guides 🔗 🌟 contain a wide variety of different resources to help you do this. You don’t need to be the most informed person on the planet about your subject, but it’s a really good idea to find things within the subject that interest you, and learn a bit more about them!
There is a wealth of information and sources online for you to learn more about your subject. Science blogs and magazines, for example, New Scientist, Scientific American, The Oxford Scientist Magazine are a great way to be up to date with new discoveries in your chosen field in an accessible way. Educational websites like Khan Academy, EdX, Crash Course (on YouTube) and Coursera can help give you a good grounding of the basics, as well as university-level insights. Many scientific journals are behind an expensive paywall, but there are some which aren’t for example the Journal of Cell Science, where you can read articles about research, however many of these are very difficult to read without having started your degree!
There are so many popular science books out there, which can be found at your local library or bookshop - pick some on topics that you’re interested in! The “Very Short Introductions” series is great for getting a more in-depth overview of a topic. Videos from science channels such as SciShow can be used as a springboard for further research because they are a quick way to find out about lots of different things, and by themselves can be part of developing your interest and subject knowledge. BBC iPlayer, as well as many other streaming services also often have documentaries available on many different areas of science.
Podcasts are a great opportunity to engage with your subject in an everyday context. Listen while you’re doing the dishes or on a walk, and if anything sparks your interest, follow it up afterwards. The process of using a ‘source’ such as a lecture or podcast, and then researching anything interesting, contradictory or surprising that it mentioned, is a key part of being a student. Again, this will prepare you for life as a student and could come in handy as evidence of interest and curiosity on your personal statement. On the Life Scientific podcast, Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, many of whom are biologists from a variety of different areas. These are really good for getting snapshots into a wide range of different topics that aren’t really covered in the A-level (or equivalent) course, and a good jumping-off point to find areas that you want to read and learn more about.
In summary, you definitely don’t need to read or look at all of these resources! They are just some suggestions to help you read around your subject. Make some notes about things you do read, and think critically about what you read. Was it interesting and do you want to learn more? If the answer is yes, seek out more articles, books, or videos on a topic to gain a deeper understanding - this process can help to make a great personal statement, showing your path of investigation and learning. Also, if you are lucky enough to get an interview, reread the books and articles you read and think about the key ideas, but you don’t need to memorise facts! The interviews aren’t about how much you know, but about how you think, and whether or not you can apply what you know.