It's all about YOU
Let me give you the scenario; everyone in your class has read Hamlet, everyone in your class has read the same criticism, everyone in your class has analysed the language with the same teacher...what's the word which keeps coming up here?
Now, when applying to Oxford, the aim isn't to be like everyone else, it's to be YOU because to stand out YOU need to offer something different, something extra to all the other applicants.
So, how can you do this?
Well, number 1, this 'everyone' scenario I've presented to you very much takes place in the classroom, so you need to step outside of that and extend your learning beyond the school environment.
This isn't to say that what you've learnt at school is a waste of time, far from it, but the best way is to treat it as a building block. Take what you've learnt at school, particularly areas which have interested you, and use them to guide your reading and research.
Often at the back of the books you've read at school, there will be a bibliography for further reading, this is a good place to start, particularly if you're finding it difficult to know what to read. Equally, if you've read one book by a particular author, read another one and see how they compare. If you've looked at historical theories on scientific research, then look at the modern day take on them and new ideas about the same topic. Constantly look for connections between the different areas you explore and you'll find the next stage comes naturally.
Let me give you an example of what I did, applying for English:
I read Virginia Woolf's 'Orlando' at school and found it really interesting. I then went onto read her other texts, 'Mrs Dalloway', 'The Waves', 'A Room of One's Own' and 'Flush'. Alongside this I'd also been reading Robert Browning's poetry, so when I realised the main character in 'Flush' was Robert Browning's wife's dog, a connection was made. Woolf deals with themes of sexuality and gender, so I also looked at these themes when reading another of my favourite poet's work, Christina Rossetti. This all paid off when at interview I was asked what Woolf would have thought of Rossetti's work! I'd actually looked into this, so had an answer ready. Importantly though, none of this extended reading took place at school but school acted as a starting point; I read my first Woolf novel at school, my first Browning poem and my first Rossetti poem but then I went off and read so much more and compared and contrasted them outside of school. You can do this too!
* To stand out go beyond the school curriculum.
* Look for connections between different areas of your subject.
* Use school at a starting point and extend your learning.
* Think about what you read/research - there's no point in reading a load of texts if you haven't analysed and remembered any of them.
* Write notes as you go along, so you can refresh your ideas if you get to interview.