Department of Materials - Statement on Admissions Policy

The Department of Materials’ selection procedures for undergraduate entry aim to ensure that the candidates’ chances of obtaining a place are affected as little as possible by their choice of college. Candidates are selected for interview at a Departmental level; tutors from all the colleges are involved and the decision not to call candidates for interview is taken only if all colleges agree. All candidates who are called are interviewed by two colleges, with the second college, and the first if applicants have submitted an OPEN application, chosen on the basis of the colleges’ need of applicants and normally such that all colleges see a reasonably similar ratio of first choice applicants to available places. If there is very uneven distribution between colleges of the ratio of first choice applicants to available places then it may be necessary to re-allocate some applicants to a different ‘first choice’ college. When making offers of places, college tutors assess applicants with respect to the whole applicant cohort for that year according to our published admissions selection criteria (see below, or our web-site: www.materials.ox.ac.uk).

In principle, the Department of Materials has no strong preference for or against applications for deferred entry. In practice, however, tutors are only likely to commit places for deferred entry to applicants who are significantly above the borderline for selection. It should be noted that some deferred entry applicants may be offered a non-deferred place instead and unsuccessful deferred entry applicants are welcome to re-apply in the following year's admissions exercise.

The Department of Materials short-lists applicants for interview. Prior to the short-listing meeting, which is attended by a representative of each college that accepts Materials undergraduates, all Materials applications are assessed against the Admissions Criteria described below and awarded a short-listing grade.

Our policy is that normally applicants will be short-listed for interview unless (i) or (ii) below apply:

  • (i) Their application gives good cause to doubt they are likely to achieve grades equivalent to our 'standard minimum offer'. This is currently set at A*AA in specified subjects at A-level.
  • (ii) A comparison of their grading or ranking in the short-listing exercise with the maximum number of places available suggests that they would be unlikely to be successful in attracting an offer of a place.

Typically the number of candidates invited for interview will be between two and three times the number of places available.

Admissions Criteria for the Undergraduate Programme in Materials Science (MS) 

These admission criteria are correct as of September 2017 and apply to applicants to be considered in December 2017 for admission in October 2018.


The University and its colleges seek to admit students of high academic merit and potential. All selection for admission takes place irrespective of gender. All colleges select students for admission without regard to marital status, race, ethnic origins, colour, religion or social background. Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual merits of the candidate and the application of selection criteria appropriate to the course of study. Entry is competitive and the attainment of minimum standards is no guarantee of a place.


1 Academic Ability

  • Sufficient background knowledge and understanding of Maths, Physics and Chemistry to be able to understand first year lectures in Materials (assuming progress continues at the same rate after the admissions exercise). The level of knowledge required is similar to typical UK GCE A-level syllabuses in these subjects.
  • Sufficient academic ability and independence of thought to grasp the concepts encountered in the Materials Science course and to apply scientific knowledge to unfamiliar problems at a level where marks of at least 2(i) standard in Materials Science examinations are a reasonable expectation.
  • A higher minimum level of academic ability is required for those who have not studied Chemistry to A-level or equivalent (see educational achievement for our normal minimum level).
  • A higher minimum level of ability may be required for those whose performance at interview and/or in the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) is inconsistent with their predicted school exam grades.
  • An ability to understand and appreciate the interdisciplinary nature and applied scientific approach inherent in Materials Science.

2 Interest in Materials Science and the relevant parts of Physics, Chemistry and Maths, including an appreciation of some aspects of Materials Science outside the confines of the A-level science syllabuses (or equivalent).

3 Motivation and perseverance

4 Independent working and communication

  • Ability to work independently; willingness and ability to express ideas clearly and effectively orally, in writing, and numerically; ability to absorb information given orally or in writing.

5 Educational achievement

  • GCE: Good grades at GCSE are expected, especially in science and mathematics and must include chemistry, double science or all three of core, additional and further additional science. Three A-levels are required. It is essential that two of these be Mathematics and Physics. Chemistry is highly desirable as the third A-level, and it is strongly recommended that if it is not offered at A-level it is offered at AS-level. Our standard minimum entrance requirement is A*AA with the A* in any one of Maths, Physics or Chemistry. (For Hong Kong A-levels the equivalent offer is taken to be AAA)
  • SCE: Good grades at Standard level are expected, especially in science and mathematics and must include chemistry. Five Highers are required. It is essential that Mathematics and Physics are offered at Advanced Higher Level and if Chemistry is not offered at Advanced Higher level it is strongly recommended that it is offered at Higher level. In recent years most offers have required AAAAA/B at Higher level and our standard minimum entrance requirement at Advanced Higher level is AA or AAB with the AA in any two of Maths, Physics or Chemistry.
  • International Baccalaureate: A minimum of 40 points including core is required, and our standard minimum entrance requirement also includes 766 in specified subjects at Higher level, with the 7 at HL in any one of Maths, Physics or Chemistry. It is essential that Mathematics and Physics are offered at Higher level and if Chemistry is not offered at Higher Level it is strongly recommended that it is offered at Standard level.
  • Applications are welcomed from those studying for qualifications other than those listed above.
  • We expect you to have taken and passed any practical component in your chosen science subjects.
  • The standard minimum entrance requirements outlined above deliberately do not specify that your A2-levels, Advanced Highers, IB HL subjects, or equivalents should all have been obtained in the same examination period. However, based on our consideration of all relevant information available to us, such a requirement may form part of a conditional offer for an individual candidate.

6 English language requirements

7 The Physics Aptitude Test

  • All candidates for the MS programme must take the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT), normally at their own school or college, on 2 November 2017. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2017. However please check well in advance of this with your local test centre if you will be sitting this test outside the UK as some centres, including those organised by the British Council, have earlier deadlines for registration to sit the PAT. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. Please see the Admissions Testing Service website www.patoxford.org.uk for further registration information.
  • Further information about the PAT, including a syllabus and a sample paper with model solutions, can be found at http://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduates/physics-aptitude-test-pat
  • Candidates are strongly advised to familiarise themselves with the format of the test and the syllabus.

Other relevant information

The selectors assess each candidate against the above criteria on the basis of the following information, and taking into account the educational background of students and the level of existing knowledge and experience. There is no fixed weighting to the criteria descibed above.

  • UCAS application, including references and personal statement.
  • PAT results
  • Examination results and predictions.
  • Two interviews, one with the candidate’s college of choice (or the assigned first college for Open Applicants), and a second with another college.
  • Candidates will also have the opportunity to present any special factors that may have adversely affected their attainment so far.

Many applicants are studying more than three A-levels. Further Maths can be helpful to students in completing this degree programme but is not required for admissions. For candidates studying Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths to A-level, normally our conditional offer will require A*AA in Maths, Physics and Chemistry (the A* being in any of these) and an expectation that you continue to study Further Maths.