How to pass the Oxford interview

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    (Original post by iamux)
    You are so lucky, most poor asians are at ex polys
    TLG: Smashing stereotypes since 2007 :cool: :bhangra: :yep:

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    (Original post by Plagioclase)
    It really is about getting into a habit of actually trying to think things through, rather than expecting to know the answer.
    I think going through 'Fermi problems' is another very useful preparation, not so much because you'll be asked them in your interview (although you might)
    Great advice here.

    One thing to add is that you will probably get stuck at some point during a technical question. At that point, don't clam up or stop thinking. Verbalise your thoughts and why you are stuck. In my experience the interviewers then prod you and give you little hints to get you to the next stage. They want to see how much further your thinking can take you, not sit back satisfied that they've "got you".

    I was asked questions about "what is the pH of water" (sounds so simple...); some curve sketching question for an equation I wasn't familiar with; and I was given a weird biological object and asked to speculate what it might be.
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    They weren't as stressful as I thought they were going to be. The interviewers were friendly, albeit slightly eccentric in some cases! Some people talk about the whole setting, like the buildings etc, being intimidating to state-school students. Those people be crazy - its just an beautiful old city.

    In terms of preparation, I'll copy what I wrote in another thread:

    I simply recommend being practised at talking about academic topics. Probably the best preparation i did was having nerdy friends who would ask those 'what if x?' kind of questions. Rote learning facts is the opposite of what you need - instead you need to be able to take a question that you do not know the answer to and work through logical and sensible thought process to work out an approximation of the answer. There are videos on the respective websites which show examples of what I mean from a few different subjects.

    So practically speaking I think this means: Reading around your subject, doing some mock interviews to get used to the setting, having a logical mind, and being well rested and relaxed for the interview itself.
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    I literally don't know a single successful Oxbridge applicant (myself included) who came out of their subject interview thinking it went particularly well. They're not looking for 'the answer'. In all likelihood, there isn't a single answer. Rather, they're looking for whether you can sit there and logically and intelligently think through a response (which may or may not include an 'answer'), and develop a cogent argument
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    (Original post by iamux)
    Be white and privileged
    Being white and privileged has nothing to do with getting accepted into Oxbridge, the interviewers don't care where you are from, they care about if you know how to think.
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    (Original post by Reality Check)
    I literally don't know a single successful Oxbridge applicant (myself included) who came out of their subject interview thinking it went particularly well. They're not looking for 'the answer'. In all likelihood, there isn't a single answer. Rather, they're looking for whether you can sit there and logically and intelligently think through a response (which may or may not include an 'answer', and develop a cogent argument
    I agree with this for the most part, though I would say it depends. I for one came out of my interview very pleased with how it went and I got in. I think the main thing is that some people think a good interview means 'telling the interviewer what you know', rather than having an intellectually challenging and quite often abstract conversation on your subject. If all you do is regurgitate information to the interviewer, you probably won't get a place.
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    (Original post by TheTechN1304)
    If all you do is regurgitate information to the interviewer, you probably won't get a place.
    Very true.
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    (Original post by Gabriela.K)
    Being white and privileged has nothing to do with getting accepted into Oxbridge, the interviewers don't care where you are from, they care about if you know how to think.
    For the individual, by the time you get to an Oxford interview, this is probably largely true.

    I'd love to see the place stuffed with students from less privileged backgrounds, and strongly encourage anyone who thinks Oxford is for them to apply, no matter what their background or identity. However, it is misleading to imply that "being white and privileged has nothing to do with" going to Oxford. Despite the fact that Oxford runs special programmes to encourage applicants from less privileged backgrounds, the stats remain depressing. Just as an example, the county borough where I work is the most deprived in Wales. Total number of successful Oxford applicants in the 5 years 2011-15? Two.
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    (Original post by OxFossil)
    For the individual, by the time you get to an Oxford interview, this is probably largely true.

    I'd love to see the place stuffed with students from less privileged backgrounds, and strongly encourage anyone who thinks Oxford is for them to apply, no matter what their background or identity. However, it is misleading to imply that "being white and privileged has nothing to do with" going to Oxford. Despite the fact that Oxford runs special programmes to encourage applicants from less privileged backgrounds, the stats remain depressing. Just as an example, the county borough where I work is the most deprived in Wales. Total number of successful Oxford applicants in the 5 years 2011-15? Two.
    How many applied?


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    (Original post by jneill)
    How many applied?


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    Eighteen. With such low numbers, simple statistical comparisons are a bit pointless.

    The point is that the problem lies in much broader issues than how Oxford interviews candidates - for instance, with the (sub-) cultural norms around what these teens and their families see as 'our kind of thing'. A lot of the bright young people I have worked with - and, tragically, the teachers they have, too - would no sooner consider applying for Oxford than they would see themselves aiming for a career training owls to transcribe Proto-Norse runes into Linear B.
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    (Original post by OxFossil)
    Eighteen. With such low numbers, simple statistical comparisons are a bit pointless.

    The point is that the problem lies in much broader issues than how Oxford interviews candidates - for instance, with the (sub-) cultural norms around what these teens and their families see as 'our kind of thing'. A lot of the bright young people I have worked with - and, tragically, the teachers they have, too - would no sooner consider applying for Oxford than they would see themselves aiming for a career training owls to transcribe Proto-Norse runes into Linear B.
    But the children do need to take some responsibility for not striking out, defying the expectations in their immediate community and give it a go. It does seem a little easy to mollycoddle them in this whole victim mentality of Big Bad Oxford being not for 'them', whoever 'them' actually is. But sometimes you have to take a risk to get a reward.

    I entirely agree that Oxford (particularly) hasn't done awfully well in the past at outreach. But they have made strides, and there does need to be some effort on the 'other side' as well.
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    (Original post by OxFossil)
    Eighteen. With such low numbers, simple statistical comparisons are a bit pointless.

    The point is that the problem lies in much broader issues than how Oxford interviews candidates - for instance, with the (sub-) cultural norms around what these teens and their families see as 'our kind of thing'. A lot of the bright young people I have worked with - and, tragically, the teachers they have, too - would no sooner consider applying for Oxford than they would see themselves aiming for a career training owls to transcribe Proto-Norse runes into Linear B.
    So the key is to encourage more applications.
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    (Original post by Reality Check)
    But the children do need to take some responsibility for not striking out, defying the expectations in their immediate community and give it a go. It does seem a little easy to mollycoddle them in this whole victim mentality of Big Bad Oxford being not for 'them', whoever 'them' actually is. But sometimes you have to take a risk to get a reward.

    I entirely agree that Oxford (particularly) hasn't done awfully well in the past at outreach. But they have made strides, and there does need to be some effort on the 'other side' as well.
    I had hoped that I hadn't framed it as such a simplistic dichotomy. In any case, we are all fortunate that TSR isn't the place to expand upon my brilliant and incisive analysis/rambling drivel.....
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    (Original post by OxFossil)
    I had hoped that I hadn't framed it as such a simplistic dichotomy. In any case, we are all fortunate that TSR isn't the place to expand upon my brilliant and incisive analysis/rambling drivel.....
    Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen - another TSRer like me who (a) has a sense of humour about themselves and (b) doesn't consider every one of their pronouncements those of the Oracle at Delphi. Thank you!
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    (Original post by Reality Check)
    But the children do need to take some responsibility for not striking out, defying the expectations in their immediate community and give it a go. It does seem a little easy to mollycoddle them in this whole victim mentality of Big Bad Oxford being not for 'them', whoever 'them' actually is. But sometimes you have to take a risk to get a reward.

    I entirely agree that Oxford (particularly) hasn't done awfully well in the past at outreach. But they have made strides, and there does need to be some effort on the 'other side' as well.
    :congrats: :adore: :yep:

    I can't speak about Wales but we do have to realise that some of these problems lie with certain communities (I'm think of the South Asian community here, which IS something I can talk about) more than it does with Oxford :sadnod:
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    (Original post by OxFossil)
    A lot of the bright young people I have worked with - and, tragically, the teachers they have, too - would no sooner consider applying for Oxford than they would see themselves aiming for a career training owls to transcribe Proto-Norse runes into Linear B.
    Is that a bad thing?

    I've witnessed so many debates about how to get more people applying to Oxford, about how the problem is with the schools, or the parents, or the lack of 'ambition'. I'm all for all opportunities being open to everyone, of course, but... what if they don't want to be at Oxford?

    I often wandered what the people we were talking about (in rural Wales or what have you) would say if they saw a video of us talking about how under-privileged they are because they aren't like us. More than that, how they're under-privileged because they don't want to be like us. I think they'd find it hilarious at best. Horrendously arrogant at worst.

    Practically speaking I'm not suggesting any change - we need to work harder to ensure everyone has the opportunity. I'm just trying to remind people, particularly those at Oxford or writing the Guardian (new very topical article from today), that some people's dream is to set up their own successful business. Or to raise a happy family. And that's fine. Telling someone that they need to want to be at Oxford, which you've not said but I've witnessed many other people saying, is... bizarre.
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    On the topic of giving everyone the opportunity though, paragraphs like this one from the article above show the extent of challenge that remains. Its no wonder some candidates are so scared on interviews - they might have been told by their teachers that they're one of only a handful of state-educated students there!

    But a fifth of teachers surveyed thought fewer than 20% of students at Oxford and Cambridge were from the state schools, compared with the actual figure of around 60%. Only 1% of teachers overestimated the proportion of state school students at the two universities, while just one in 20 knew the right proportion.
    https://www.theguardian.com/educatio...pils-interview
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    (Original post by nexttime)
    Is that a bad thing?

    I've witnessed so many debates about how to get more people applying to Oxford, about how the problem is with the schools, or the parents, or the lack of 'ambition'. I'm all for all opportunities being open to everyone, of course, but... what if they don't want to be at Oxford?

    I often wandered what the people we were talking about (in rural Wales or what have you) would say if they saw a video of us talking about how under-privileged they are because they aren't like us. More than that, how they're under-privileged because they don't want to be like us. I think they'd find it hilarious at best. Horrendously arrogant at worst.

    Practically speaking I'm not suggesting any change - we need to work harder to ensure everyone has the opportunity. I'm just trying to remind people, particularly those at Oxford or writing the Guardian (new very topical article from today), that some people's dream is to set up their own successful business. Or to raise a happy family. And that's fine. Telling someone that they need to want to be at Oxford, which you've not said but I've witnessed many other people saying, is... bizarre.
    Totally agree with you. But this is merely an extension of the fetishisation of leading academic institutions in this country, to the detriment of almost everything else. What about kids who'd probably fulfil their potential much better at a polytechnic and would want to attend one? They closed them. Or how about an apprenticeship at a local employer? They're as rare as hen's teeth. Unfortunately, we who've been to 'leading' institutions tend to make the mistake of thinking that everyone else wants to go to one too.

    Horses for courses.
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    I never venture into anything political on TSR, but nexttime's and Reality Check's perceptive comments lead me to chime in...

    There is no doubt a problem with perceptions of Oxford in some sections of society. Children who would be interested in and benefit from an Oxford education are told that Oxford's 'full of snobs' or 'not for the likes of you'. There is plenty of work to do in changing those attitudes, and it won't be easily or quickly done.

    A separate problem is the idea that a university education is something that everyone ought to aspire to 'in theory', and that those who are not sufficiently academically gifted to go to university are somehow a lower stratum of society that those who are. This is obviously wrong not only because our value as people cannot be judged on our intellectual capacities, but also because, as the above posters point out, the ways of living a fulfilling life are infinitely various, and it's blinkered in the extreme to think that a university education is a sine qua non of the most successful life.

    What I want to add specifically to what has been said already, though, is that the elitist attitude outlined in the above paragraph has over the last twenty years been bolstered by a more insidious (because less obviously misguided) elitism that originated (I think) in the Blair government. That was the idea that we ought to send more and more people to university not because (as was and no doubt still is the case) there are lots of people out there sufficiently equipped to do well at it and who would benefit from it, but because academic training is somehow intrinsically superior to vocational training. This was the idea behind turning away from vocational training, or wherever possible turning it into (pseudo-)academic training. This grew out of a fear of elitism, but is in fact an elitism in its own right. What that regime should have tried to stress was that there is nothing inherently more valuable about any kind of training - or, for that matter, any kind of job, be it academic, clerical, manual etc. - than any other.
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    I seem to remember when we came out of the interviews, there were a number of people who were so certain they'd done well and so excited about it. I shared my phone number with a couple of people. Turns out pretty much all the ones who were certain they'd got in hadn't. And pretty much all the ones who were unsure had - thankfully for me!

    I'm white and definitely very working class. (Disclaimer: when I was a kid I got a scholarship & bursary to a private school in another town. That was a very weird, not-especially-fun experience.) Most people from the northern town I come from decide they're not going to apply to Oxbridge years in advance because they think it's like what the media puts out. For some of them, it could have been a dream (like it was for me). Also I just mumble something about "down south" when people ask me which uni I went to, even though I'm very proud of Oxford. Let's not support the media ********...

    That said, there will definitely be snobs there, and that's probably more true for arts subjects than it was for me. Like most adults, I just opted to only hang out with people I liked... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 
 
 
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