Guide to writing Written Work

5 Jun 2015

Arts subjects at Oxbridge sometimes require submission of a piece of written work.

Please check the individual course page to find which colleges require written work submission

Land Economy
Psychological and Behavioural Sciences


Oriental Studies

For these pieces of work, tutors are looking for four specific attributes:

- Passion
- Knowledge
- Analytical ability
- Sophistication Of Argument

The coursework submitted must thus be taken as a chance to show that you have these skills and attributes. The role of the submitted coursework in Oxbridge admissions varies. Some colleges use it to consider whom to invite for interview. Others use it to form the basis of the interview. Because of this, your written coursework should be on a topic that you are ready to discuss with an expert. This means having read widely enough and thought deeply enough on the issues involved so that you can hold your own in an intellectual conversation. Colleges have no real preference between writing a piece of coursework from scratch or using one from existing schoolwork. So long as your work demonstrates your analytical skills and writing ability and covers a topic you are passionate and knowledgeable about, you will do well.

It is not expected that your work is perfect, but these attributes have to be present. These four attributes will be broken down below.


Tutors want to see applicants who show genuine interest in the subject. The easiest way to convey this is to demonstrate an interest in your subject that goes beyond your schoolwork. You should demonstrate through your coursework that you have read widely on the topic and gone beyond the syllabus.


This is closely linked to passion. Demonstrate that you have read widely on the subject and command a firm grasp of the important issues contained therein.

Analytical ability

Analytical skill is the ability to deconstruct, make sense of and utilise given information effectively to quickly identify the issues at stake and the possible resolutions. A common mistake to be avoided is slipping into narrative, where a story rather than an argument is presented. The ability to convey the salient points of an argument in a clear and concise manner is the mark of a good writer.

Sophistication Of Argument

Constructing a sophisticated argument involves being able to consider an issue from multiple angles. There might not be a ‘right’ answer at all, but it is still important to find a position which you incline towards and can defend in a persuasive manner.