Interviews at Oxford are somehow misrepresented as something to be afraid about, full of big mathematical problems and trick questions, however, the only thing students need to worry about is to make sure to bring their personality to the interview.
Dr. Helen Swift from the University of Oxford offered some advice: “We are genuinely interested in people’s honest views about what they have read. The questions are going to be challenging… but we are not expecting people to get everything right”.
How to prepare for the interview
The University of Oxford has some helpful tips on their website about preparing for the interview. Firstly, candidates can think about basic questions that may be asked, for example, why did they choose Oxford? The university advises students to read widely around their chosen subject, including websites, journals, newspaper articles, magazines and other relevant magazine publications. Reading information about your chosen subject will help to broaden your mind, thoughts and opinions and talk about relevant and recent academic work in the interview.
Take a critical view of ideas and arguments that students may have encountered during their previous studies, or in the media around them and think about all sides of the debates. Students should be prepared to show background knowledge of the subject. Candidates are not expected to have a detailed understanding of technical or specific topics but have scratched the surface.
What should I do before the interview?
Ensure you re-read your personal statement, and any written work that you may have submitted to support your application as this may be brought up during the interview. Think about how you might expand on what you wrote in these examples, what you have learnt from completing the work, and what you would do differently if you had the opportunity to complete them again.
Try organising a practice interview, with a teacher, or a friend who has a level of familiarity with your subject, but not someone who you know really well. The unfamiliar environment and experience of talking about yourself and your work will come in handy for the interview.
Lastly, remind yourself of the selection criteria for your chosen subject which can be found on the University of Oxford’s course page.
How can I impress them?
Show that you are engaged, responsive, and focussed about the questions you’re being asked, and try to perform task well that is being set for you. Display the potential you have to push further if you are lucky enough to study at the university.
Who will be interviewing me?
The interviewers may be your future tutors if you are offered a place. The majority of teaching at Oxford colleges take place in small classes or tutorials. The tutors are assessing your ability to think, study and learn, and this will depend on how carefully you listen to the questions asked, and how you answer them.
Candidates may be interviews by two or more tutors at a time, and each tutor is an expert in some aspect of the degree course that you are applying to. If students are applying for a joint or combined degree course, with two or more subjects, they will be generally be interviewed by tutors who represent each of the subjects, rather separately or at the same time.
What will the interview be like?
The interview, in many ways, will be like a mini tutorial. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can explain that you haven’t explored that topic yet but try to work through an answer. Many questions that will be asked will be designed to test your ability to apply logic and reason to an idea or perspective you have never encountered before.
The questions may seem difficult, but as the interview continues you will grow accostomed to the atmosphere. Also, don’t worry as many topics you will cover won’t have definitive right or wrong answers.
The interviewers are not trying to catch you out, or make you feel stupid, but to stretch your mind in order to assess your potential and see how your mind works. The tutors are not always concerned with what you know, but how you think.
Be sure to check out our second half of the interview tips here.
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