Are CIE and NCEA Scholarship exams really useful for Oxbridge applications?

I am a Year 13 student now studying NCEA level 3 in NZ and my goal is to get a place at Oxford University to read the Geography course there.

I wonder whether or not I should take some scholarship exams to improve my application. The problem is that scholarship results are usually released in February while UK universities typically make their decisions in January, and I was told by my school that predicted results are not usually made for scholarship exams.

I am also considering CIE exams; even though I have emailed some UK universities and was told that NCEA is well recognised and I do not need to do any extra exams to make a competitive application.

Should I still do any of them, or both?


Hey W.Liang,

Unfortunately, NCEA definitely carries far less weight than CIE or IB. We see this consistently in our data on application success. At Crimson, we typically advise our NCEA students aspiring to Oxford to self-study CIE subjects or NZQA scholarship submitting predicted grades and do some relevant research projects with Professors or Graduate Students in our network alongside completion of our pre-Oxbridge reading lists for the various subjects. It is very dangerous generally to apply with only NCEA Level 3 given the competition in the country for Oxford. We encourage our students and work with their counsellors to submit predicted grades for their NZQA Scholarship exams. One of our students Soumil Singh, for example, self-studied 8+ CIE exams with us scoring 2 Top In Worlds at his NCEA school to help address the NCEA challenge (

Fire me an email with your full NCEA transcript so far and CV and I’ll see what would make sense given your current subject mix and scores. Precision is important so you focus on the right activity.