Writing your Personal Statement
Your personal statement is an important part of your application to Oxford. It allows you to tell us about your interests, achievements and ambitions in your own words. Although we do not formally score your statement we read it carefully. If you are invited for interview, the statement is likely to provide a focus for the questions that you are asked. It is therefore essential that your statement is an accurate, unembellished account of your activities. We may check the claims that you make on your statement: discovery of fabricated or exaggerated material – during the admissions exercise, or even later on during your time as a student – may bring into question your suitability to practise Medicine.
Present yourself in the best light: the same basic facts about yourself (in terms of education, interests, experience), when presented differently, can quite dramatically convey positive or negative messages about you to tutors.
For A100 Medicine at Oxford, GCSE and BMAT performance data are predominantly used initially to determine whether or not you are short-listed for interview. The information that you provide in your personal statement becomes increasingly important if you are not short-listed on the basis of GCSE and BMAT scores. Of course, every detail becomes important once you have reached the interviews and are being considered for a place.
1. Please do not be shy in declaring any mitigating circumstances
These may help us to put your achievements or personality within a finer context. We actively look for reasons why you may have under-performed in examinations, or performed well against the odds. These may be factors associated with your schooling, health or domestic circumstances. If you are returning to study after a break, or switching vocation, it is even more important to highlight your reasons for choosing to study Medicine, and for you to demonstrate your determination, resilience, ability and commitment.
2. Do not simply recount everything you have ever undertaken
We’re looking for quality, not quantity! Remember that large numbers of applicants apply for our courses. Tell us in what ways you will stand out from the crowd. In choosing to talk about an activity, describe what you have drawn from the experience: has it changed you as a person? Did it surprise you?
3. We want to learn about you as a person, not just about your academic qualifications
If you have undertaken extra-curricular activities, or hold positions of responsibility at school, tell us why you sought these, and why they are important to you. You will not impress us by simply recounting that you took up a placement in Thailand, but we might be more appreciative if you tell us what you personally learnt from the experience, about your interaction with local people, and about shadowing the medical team working within your village.
Example: I have become involved with a city music and drama group, and work especially with the younger members. I find this exciting and more than occasionally challenging. Coaching for the group has given me experience in organising others, as well as teaching them. Watching group members learn and progress is thrilling, especially in the case of one of them who has ADHD. At first he was incapable of remaining still, silent or attentive for even a few minutes, but eventually became far more focused and calmer, making excellent progress in many areas.
4. Directly address our selection criteria in your statement
Here are our selection criteria and some examples:
Personal characteristics: suitability for medicine
- Empathy: ability and willingness to imagine the feelings of others and understand the reasons for the views of others
Example: My volunteering in the local community and my studies in Religion and Classical Civilization have also increased my ability to understand varying cultural, ethical and social perspectives, and allowed me to look at issues in a wider context.
- Motivation: a reasonably well-informed and strong desire to practise medicine
Example: My interest in the human body burgeoned while I was taking the Essentials of First Aid class organised by St John Ambulance. The two consecutive years of volunteer service in X Hospital that followed reinforced my passion for the subject.
- Communication: ability to make knowledge and ideas clear using language appropriate to the audience
- Honesty and Integrity
- Ethical awareness
- Ability to work with others
Example: I have had a weekend job at X since 2013, which has further allowed me to develop teamwork skills, taught me how to work towards personal targets when under pressure, and allowed me to interact with many different members of the public.
Example: Dancing has taught me valuable people skills; you learn to work intimately with fellow dancers and trust them completely.
- Capacity for sustained and intense work
- Problem-solving: critical thinking, analytical approach
- Intellectual curiosity: keenness to understand the reason for observations; depth; tendency to look for meaning; enthusiasm and curiosity in science
- Communication skills: willingness and ability to express clearly and effectively; ability to listen; compatibility with tutorial format
Example: Studying History at A-level has helped develop my writing and critical analysis skills.
Example: At school I have taken part in a French exchange programme which greatly improved my language skills, independence and confidence.
5. You will not be alone in trying to open your statement with an attention grabbing intro
If you try this, make sure it helps tutors to learn something about what motivates and enthuses you.
Example: My vast collection of books and videos on "How the Body Works" when I was 7 years old first triggered my interest in the functions of the body. Watching the little personified, cartoon blobs that represented red blood cells run around an animated yet functioning body fascinated me and I longed to find out more. As a result, when a friend received a letter explaining their little girl had just been diagnosed with X at just 14 months old, I was intrigued to find out what this was.
6. The statement is called a personal statement for a reason
It should be written by you, not by your parents, siblings, or teachers. Do not plagiarise material that you find on the web as there is a great chance that such deception will be discovered.
7. Do not feel that there is a precise template to follow that will score you points!
We look for bright and independent thinkers, so try to be original!