Looking around

It is a very good idea for applicants to come to one of the University open days. There are general events at Hertford, including an opportunity to meet and talk with the Music tutor. The Music Faculty also organises open days. This is a valuable opportunity to meet students and teaching staff and to get an appreciation of the course and the atmosphere of the College.

In addition, on a weekly basis there is a sung evensong and concerts arranged by the college music society. There offer an opportunity to witness the musical life of the college away from the proceedings of a college or faculty open day, and you will be very welcome to attend. For more information, do contact the Tutor in Music.

Application process

There are a number of different components to your application and each will be carefully considered.

  • UCAS form. Your exam results (actual and predicted), your references and your personal statement will be taken into account.
  • Submitted work.  You must submit two pieces of written work and some harmony work and/or composition which have already been marked by your teacher. At least one essay should be on a musical subject, but the other may be an essay written for a different subject. A rough guideline for length is c.1500 words. Harmony work can be a Bach chorale, a counterpoint exercise or a similar piece of pastiche.
  • Interview. On the basis of the UCAS form and submitted work, you may be called for interview. 82% of students who apply to read Music are invited to interview. More information on the interview if provided below.
  • Performance on first study instrument. If called to interview, you will be asked to play in front of the music tutor. It is not a requirement of the Oxford course to be a fantastic performer (though it is always welcomed!) and this part of the test only contributes to the overall pictures of the applicant’s musicianship.
  • Keyboard facility. It is recommended that you are grade V standard on keyboard when you apply to Oxford. However, all applicants are assessed on an individual basis and you need not be put off applying if you have not reach this level by the time of application.

Interviews – what to expect

If invited to interview, you will be interviewed at least once and possibly twice by the Hertford tutor. In addition you may well receive another interview at a second college. This does not mean that your application has been unsuccessful at Hertford, but enables colleagues within the faculty to consider the whole field of applicants more fairly and ensures that the best applicants are offered places, even if not necessarily at their first-choice colleges.

The interview itself will last between 35 and 40 minutes. An hour before the interview you will be given a piece of music to analyse without the aid of a piano and some prose relating to music. There are three parts of the interview:

  • The interview will begin with a discussion of the given piece’s formal design and the harmonic framework. You will be asked about the music’s character, to suggest a possible composer and to give reasons for your choice. There will be an opportunity to talk about any other aspect which you deem significant within the texture, orchestration, motivic working etc.
  • Secondly, you will be asked to respond to the prose extract. The extract will contain an argument relating to music which you possibly have not previously encountered.  You will be asked whether you agree or disagree with the writer and for what reasons. You will be invited to apply these ideas to different types of music with which you are familiar.
  • The final part of the interview is a general discussion relating to your submitted work, your A-Level course and your musical interests. If you have not yet passed your grade V keyboard you may be asked to take a short keyboard test at this point. You are free to ask any questions.

Interviews, by their nature, are stressful. The music tutor will be sympathetic to nerves, and try to make you feel as comfortable as possible in discussions. There may well be some issues of disagreement and this is no bad thing, nor is it not a good idea to try and ‘read’ the interview retrospectively for signs of success or failure. Rather, the interview allows you (and the tutor) to glimpse how you might fit into the tutorial system. It is important to remember that it is only one of a number of different indicators in the selection process.

Further information about Organ awards are available on the faculty website: