Oxford Exams

By Lizzie Bateman @lizzie.bateman


As the days are getting longer and trinity term nears the end; that means prelims are just around the corner. But oxford exams are a bit different to school exams & come with their own sprinkle of oxford tradition. It’s easy to get caught up comparing your marks to what they used to be like and feeling like you’ve not done as well as before but it's useful to keep in mind that exams are different at a university level.


You’re not expected to know everything - unlike at school where a specification told you everything you were expected to know, here some of the questions are designed to test you on things you’ve never seen before, by applying concepts or reasoning that you’ve developed over the year. Sometimes questions will look very daunting & bizarre, but everyone else will be in the same boat.


The bar has been raised & your mark will be lower than you’re used to - At school exams tested the whole year group but coming here the group being tested is at a higher level, so the mark distribution reflects that. Therefore your marks will probably go down compared to at school but that doesn’t mean you’re any less capable, the goalposts are just in different places. It’s pretty rare for anyone to be getting >80% in exams because they’re designed to be able to challenge even the smartest in the year group.


Exams are designed to pass- at prelims level, the exams are designed so you can pass them since you need that to continue your course. The pass mark is usually around 40% & even if something goes wrong on the day, you can just resit after the summer vac, so it’s really not the end of the world.


Exam Traditions - Carnations are one of my favourite traditions: for your first exam, you wear a white carnation, for your last exam a red one & pink carnations for all the exams in between.


At the end of the day, the oxford experience is about more than just exams so enjoy the beautiful city, the opportunities available to you & all it has to offer.