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A guide to the Oxford term

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Tuesday, November 14, 2017

We're now into 6th week of Michaelmas Term, which means that the first of Oxford's famously short 8 week terms is nearly over! Oxford terms tend to run from 0th to 8th week for undergraduates, although you may find yourself starting earlier and/or staying longer depending on your course and if you have coursework deadlines. But generally, you’ll arrive in 0th week and leave at the end of 8th week, after having got through an intense 8 weeks of teaching.

A student in a labAlthough Oxford terms are certainly shorter than at a lot of other unis, this does mean that they can be very fast-paced, as there’s a lot of work to get through in that relatively short space of time! You’ll be set your first work at meetings during 0th week, and you’ll probably have handed it in by early 1st week so that it can be the focus of your first tutorials and classes – so you’ll have to be prepared to get straight to work once you come back from one of the vacations!

Depending on your subject, you’ll end up having some classes every week, and some things, such as tutorials, every other week – termed ‘odd weeks’ and ‘even weeks’ depending on whether you have those classes in 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th week, or 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th week. Or you may have a bit more of a messy schedule that you need to keep track of – either way, it’s good to be organised! Lectures tend to happen at the same time every week, but tutorials may vary depending on whether you keep the same tute partner all term or if your groupings will vary. For scientists, your timetable is likely to be more regimented, with lectures in the morning and labs in the afternoon, and this probably won’t vary a huge amount during the course of a term.

Because of how much you'll have to get through in a term, it’s also a really good idea (and is actually expected as part of the course) for you to get as much work as possible done during the vacations. Because of the short terms these are actually fairly long (6 weeks at Christmas and Easter, and just over 3 months in the summer), so there’s plenty of time to get some reading done in preparation for the next term, or to go over your notes to make sure you really understand everything that you’ve just been taught. You’ll definitely appreciate this when it comes to revision! You don’t really have time to do a huge amount of reading during term itself, so the more of this you can do in advance, the easier it’ll be later.

A music group practice at Christ ChurchDespite the amount of work, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy other activities during term time. Most sports clubs have sessions a few times a week, so if you can’t make one because of classes or other commitments there should still be others you can go to, and there are so many other societies such as orchestras or drama groups to join that you’re sure to find something to fill your free time.

You’ll also have college events taking place throughout the term, such as special formal dinners including guest nights, BOPs (which at Christ Church take place twice a term), welfare events such as welfare tea and late night tea break, and, especially in the summer, other events such as garden plays and balls. So there are plenty of things to look forward to throughout the term to provide a distraction from work!

Although Oxford terms can prove to be pretty hard work due to how much has to be covered in a fairly short space of time, there’s still lots of time to enjoy yourself, and there are always people on hand to help if you’re finding things a bit tough. And although they’re short, the eight weeks you spend in Oxford are a great opportunity to do stuff with friends, make the most of teaching from world-leading researchers, and enjoy everything that the city and University have to offer.