About the course
Students on the MSc by Research in Experimental Psychology will carry out independent research under the supervision and guidance of principal investigators and researchers within a research group or lab. Areas of study include behavioural neuroscience, developmental psychology, perception and cognition, psychological and brain health, and psychological disorders, and social psychology.
The Department of Experimental Psychology runs a number of seminar programmes and all graduate research students are encouraged to attend talks and presentations relevant to their research interests. On completion of the course, students are expected to have a high level of knowledge of their field of research and to have acquired research skills that will facilitate a future career in academic psychology.
The majority of our MSc by Research students are expected to be admitted for full-time study, referred to in the timeline below as FTE (full-time equivalent) study. A small number of part-time students may be admitted to the MSc by Research in Experimental Psychology. If you apply for admission to the part-time course you will be required to show that your proposed research topic is suited to part-time study and that the supervisor agrees with the part-time schedule.
Further information about part-time study
Part-time study is expected to take place at 50% of the intensity of full-time study, so all timescales below referring to full-time equivalent study (FTE) are normally doubled for students pursuing the part-time MSc by Research programme. The attendance requirement will be a minimum of 30 days University-based work per year. This will be spread across the academic year to be a minimum of ten days based in the department each term. However, attendance is likely to be higher and will be determined by the demands of the individual research project and will be agreed with the applicant as part of the admissions process.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Experimental Psychology and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Experimental Psychology.
Students normally meet with their primary supervisor at least every two weeks and with their secondary supervisor at least once a term.
In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support. Supervision and guidance may also include co-supervision from other collaborating groups or labs, both within the department or from other departments/faculties with the university or from another institution.
First year of full-time study (part-time equivalent: years 1 and 2)
You are initially registered with Probationary Research Student (PRS) status. During your first year of FTE study, you will be expected to attend various courses, lectures and seminars that will enable you to gain the most out of your time at Oxford and assist you with the design and analysis of your own area of research.
These will typically include:
- graduate statistical workshops
- skills training courses eg in MATLAB and fMRIB methods
- analysis of research methods
The Medical Science Division also offers a large number of courses on transferable skills such as teaching and communicating scientific findings which you are encouraged to attend as a part of your MSc by Research studies.
You are expected to be fully integrated within your own chosen group or lab and attend group or lab meetings as well as attending related seminars and conferences.
Second year of full-time study (part-time equivalent: years 3 to 6)
You will be expected to transfer your status from PRS to MSc by Research before the end of your 4th Term of FTE study. For this, you will be required to submit a written report summarising your progress to date, which you will then discuss and defend in an oral examination (a transfer viva).
Once you have transferred your status, you will be able to conclude your studies with the submission of a thesis (maximum 50,000 words) and an oral examination, your final viva voce.
Assessment of your progress on the course is monitored through termly progression reports and at two key stages:
- transfer of status
- thesis submission
You will need to have successfully completed both stages to be awarded an MSc by Research in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford.
A majority of students on the MSc by Research in Experimental Psychology remain in academia. Others go on to pursue careers in consultancy and government.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the department
Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in psychology or a related discipline that is relevant to your proposed research.
You do not need to have a previous master’s level degree to apply for this course.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
- Publications are not required, but if available, publications demonstrating prior experience and proficiency in psychological research will be considered as part of your application.
- You are required to contact a potential supervisor in the first instance in order to discuss the area of research you wish to carry out during the MSc by Research, and to establish whether they are able to supervise your proposed project. If you are planning to study part-time, please discuss this with potential supervisors in advance.
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.0||6.5|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
All applications are evaluated, initially by the potential supervisor(s) who will then provide a supporting statement for the Experimental Psychology Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC). When shortlisting, the GAC will take into account the supporting statement from the potential supervisor, academic record, references and the quality of the project proposal.
Shortlisted applicants will normally be invited to attend one interview which will last for up to half an hour. Around a third of graduate research applicants are invited to interview. Interviews are usually held in late January or early February.
Applicants who are shortlisted for interview will be invited to Oxford, or if unable to attend, may be interviewed via Skype (with video).
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
You will have access to the department’s IT support and university library services, such as the Radcliffe Science Library, and experimental facilities should be made available as appropriate to the research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your research will be agreed with your supervisor. The department provides some funding towards a computer in the first year and further funding for consumables each year (for a maximum of two years) to students who do not have access to funds from funding bodies.
You will be able to attend the seminars organised by individual research groups or groups with common areas of interest organised for your own members and others. The department also provides regular departmental seminars during term time.
You are encouraged to attend departmental events as departmental seminars and colloquia bring research students together with academic and other research staff in the department to hear about on-going research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.
The departmental social committee holds occasional events throughout the academic year for both students and staff in the department.
The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£27,460|
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£13,731|
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
How to apply
You are required to contact a potential supervisor in the first instance in order to discuss the area of research you wish to carry out during the MSc by Research, and to establish whether they are able to supervise your proposed project.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A maximum of 2,500 words
The research proposal should be single spaced and written in English, outlining your proposed area of research. The text of your document should be no smaller than size 10 Arial or similar. The overall word count does not need to include any bibliography.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
You should be prepared to defend your proposal orally at interview if shortlisted.
This will be assessed for:
- the coherence of the proposal
- the originality of the project
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time frame available for the course (a maximum of three years full-time equivalent study)
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques
- capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas
- the suitability of the research topic for part-time study (in applications for the part-time MSc by Research programme).
It is usual for your ideas to subsequently change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this point in the application process.
Your research proposal should focus on a specific area of research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic and/or professional
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Both academic references and professional references from employment relevant to the course are acceptable.
Your references should provide evidence of your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and your ability to work in a group.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.
Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria;
- residents in a country listed as low-income by the World Bank (refer to the eligibility criteria);
- current Oxford graduate taught students applying for readmission to an eligible course; and
- additional applications to selected research courses that are closely related to your first application.
Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.