We use all of the information available to us on your UCAS form, so it’s really important that you fill it in as fully, and as carefully, as you can.
We look at:
- Your grades so far, and your predicted grades
- Your personal statement
- Your school or college reference
We also take into account all the other data on the form. We are looking for academic excellence, but also evidence of potential.
We look at these very carefully. We check to make sure you’ve reached the basic requirements in English and Maths, and we look at your GCSE and AS level results, paying particular attention to English Literature or Language and Literature. Then, we look at your predicted grades, to see how these match up. If there are any big discrepancies – perhaps your GCSE results weren’t that good, or your AS results were patchy and don’t match up with your predicted A2 results – then this needs to be accounted for. Ideally, this should be addressed in your teacher’s reference; otherwise, in your personal statement.
Our standard offer for A level candidates is 320-340 UCAS points from three A levels, excluding General Studies and Critical Thinking, with an A in either English Literature, or combined English Language and Literature. If your predicted grades don’t meet these requirements, we won’t automatically discard your form. However, under these circumstances we will only make you an offer if we are really impressed with your personal statement and reference.
We pay a great deal of attention to your personal statement. You are a potential student of English, and this is our first encounter with your writing, as well as with you as a person. In the personal statement we need an account of why you want to study English at university; and we want to see evidence of enthusiasm, critical engagement, intellectual curiosity, and potential.
Your personal statement needs to be just that – personal - and so it is difficult to offer any hard-and-fast rules for how it should look. However, here are a few pointers.
Our real interest is in your intellectual life, including – and focused upon – your engagement with literary texts. We want to be sure that you love reading, and we’d like to know what you read, but just as important is the question of how you read. We require evidence that you can think analytically, and make the kinds of conceptual connections that will help you to understand how literary texts work.
Obviously, space is tight, so you have to be economical; but try to give examples which demonstrate what you’re like as a critical thinker. You could do this in all sorts of ways. You might want to discuss one literary text in some detail; or tell us about a new area of literature you’ve been exploring recently, and what you’ve discovered. Or you might want to write about the relationship between two or more of your A level subjects, and how the study of History, say, or Politics – or, for that matter, Physics – illuminates your understanding of literary texts.
As well as your engagement with literature and with your studies, we are also interested in your wider cultural life, and in your other interests and commitments. You might want to use some of your other activities to tell us about things you think are particularly important: your ability to cooperate well with others, to organise your time effectively, and to develop particular kinds of communication skills. Or, you might want to use them to tell us what you’re really passionate about. There is no formula to this. What we are looking for are diverse, interesting students, who are curious about and engaged in the world. So, we aren’t so much interested in a long list of hobbies and pastimes – we’d much rather you use your discussion of ‘the other stuff’ as a way to tell us who you are.
Finally, and we’re sure this goes without saying for prospective students of English: proofread your personal statement. Get friends and teachers to look it over. You don’t want a misplaced apostrophe lurking around there, nor do you want to misspell the name of the author about whose work you’re enthusing.
One of your teachers will write your reference, often with input from other teachers (particularly your English teacher). References are never negative, but of course we are looking for outstanding positives. In particular, we will be swayed by evidence that you’re motivated, reliable, work well independently and with others, and that you show real intellectual promise, particularly in English. What you can do to help yourself here is to demonstrate to your teachers that you possess these qualities. You should also speak to your teachers if there are particular issues which you think need accounting for in your reference – including grade discrepancies, but also perhaps other specific circumstances which we should know about, such as prolonged teacher absence.