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How to pass the Oxford interview

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    Interviewer at Oxford Helen Swift has said she wants to see applicants demonstrate that they can think flexibly.

    To give students a head start Oxford have published some sample questions to get you in the right head space....

    • What makes a novel or play "political"?
    • About one in four deaths in the UK is due to some form of cancer, yet in the Philippines the figure is only around one in 10. What factors might underlie this difference?
    • What exactly do you think is involved in blaming someone?
    • Imagine a ladder leaning against a vertical wall with its feet on the ground. The middle rung of the ladder has been painted a different colour on the side, so that we can see it when we look at the ladder from the side on. What shape does that middle rung trace out as the ladder falls to the floor?
    • A large study appears to show that older siblings consistently score higher than younger siblings on IQ tests. Why would this be?

    What would your answers be?

    Oxford have said they want to demystify the interview process.

    Some questions won't have a 'correct answer' it's more about showing how you think, your intellectual curiosity and critical engagement. Similarly some of the questions will aim to draw out whether you can think carefully and evaluate concepts and put forward other considerations.

    You can read the full interview by the BBC here





    What worries you most about an Oxford or Cambridge or any other university interview?


    For those of you that have been interviewed in the past, how was it? What kinds of questions were you asked?
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    What worries you most about an Oxford or Cambridge or any other university interview?
    I'm mostly worried that I'll get too nervous and won't perform my best - I know that I'm not good in interview situations!
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    (Original post by CatusStarbright)
    I'm mostly worried that I'll get too nervous and won't perform my best - I know that I'm not good in interview situations!
    I love your username :heart:

    Have you tried practicing with someone you feel comfortable with? Which course are you applying for?
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    For those of you that have been interviewed in the past, how was it? What kinds of questions were you asked?
    It was actually a lot less scary than I was expecting, in terms of the actual interviews. My first one went really really well, second one went alright, and third one I bombed massively (or so I thought - I was later told that third interviewer really liked me).

    It's not prudent or the done thing to repeat exact interview questions but to frame it in general terms, I was asked questions about my written work (well the music essay - I only had one music essay, and submitted an English Lit essay. To my surprise, they did actually read that one too, I was later told, and they were impressed by it! ) and general music historiography (the history behind the official history). I was also given pieces of music to analyse in each one.

    I now volunteer for one of these Oxbridge interviewing companies (one that is more moral than most) and I have great fun picking questions for applicants (not only music, but other humanities subjects too) each year My advice, as a mock interviewer, to all arts and humanities is to be up-to-date if you can on current affairs, to read around/outside of your A Level syllabus, and - when in the interview - to think aloud. It's how you think, not what you know, that counts for humanities interviews at Oxbridge :yep:

    :smartass:
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    I love your username :heart:

    Have you tried practicing with someone you feel comfortable with? Which course are you applying for?
    Haha thanks. I haven't had any practice for university interviews although I expect college would arrange that if I got invited to interview. I'm applying for Law at Oxford (not sure I'll get in, but I'm hoping to at least make it to interview).
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    Be white and privileged
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    (Original post by CatusStarbright)
    Haha thanks. I haven't had any practice for university interviews although I expect college would arrange that if I got invited to interview. I'm applying for Law at Oxford (not sure I'll get in, but I'm hoping to at least make it to interview).
    Definitely read TLG's post above - she is a complete pro

    Yes get as much practice as possible and make sure you read around the subject :wizard: Fingers crossed you'll get an interview and your college can provide some support.
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    It was actually a lot less scary than I was expecting, in terms of the actual interviews. My first one went really really well, second one went alright, and third one I bombed massively (or so I thought - I was later told that third interviewer really liked me).

    It's not prudent or the done thing to repeat exact interview questions but to frame it in general terms, I was asked questions about my written work (well the music essay - I only had one music essay, and submitted an English Lit essay. To my surprise, they did actually read that one too, I was later told, and they were impressed by it! ) and general music historiography (the history behind the official history). I was also given pieces of music to analyse in each one.

    I now volunteer for one of these Oxbridge interviewing companies (one that is more moral than most) and I have great fun picking questions for applicants (not only music, but other humanities subjects too) each year My advice, as a mock interviewer, to all arts and humanities is to be up-to-date if you can on current affairs, to read around/outside of your A Level syllabus, and - when in the interview - to think aloud. It's how you think, not what you know, that counts for humanities interviews at Oxbridge :yep:

    :smartass:
    Thanks for the sage advice

    (Original post by She-Ra)
    Definitely read TLG's post above - she is a complete pro

    Yes get as much practice as possible and make sure you read around the subject :wizard: Fingers crossed you'll get an interview and your college can provide some support.
    I'm going to re-read the books I mentioned in my personal statement so they can't catch me out there!
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    (Original post by iamux)
    Be white and privileged
    I beat all the white privileged female applicants by being poor and Asian but absolutely fabulous. You mad bro? :dance: :bhangra: :smug:
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    (Original post by CatusStarbright)
    Haha thanks. I haven't had any practice for university interviews although I expect college would arrange that if I got invited to interview. I'm applying for Law at Oxford (not sure I'll get in, but I'm hoping to at least make it to interview).
    I'm not a lawyer myself but my understanding is that you may be given (an extract of) a law in written form to look at. My advice would be to look carefully at all the words used. What do they mean in context and how can a single word change how a law is enforced/interpreted? mishieru07 can advise more about this :yes:

    Don't worry if you don't have any practice interviews in the end - with Oxbridge, practice - whilst it builds a certain level of confidence/familiarity - doesn't necessarily/automatically make perfect! :nah:
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    Someone who works in Oxford admissions came and spoke to applicants in my local area before my interview and one of the things she said that sticks in my mind is 'if you think you answered all of the questions correctly then you probably didn't understand the questions'. The interviewer will keep asking you to defend what you've said and pushing you til you can't answer further so it can easily feel like you've got it all wrong. They will help you if you're struggling though, they love their subject and want to have an interesting conversation about it, so don't be afraid to put your own ideas out there.

    I had 2 interviews which were very different (I am an Experimental Psychology student). For my first one I was given information about an experiment to do with monkeys cracking nuts with rocks, the actual topic of the research didn't matter, they wanted us to think about experimental design and what conclusions could be drawn from the data. The other interview asked me about things I'd written about in my personal statement, an interesting statistical technique I'd read about and my extended project on children with autism. (It went into a strange conversation about whether some pets are more empathetic than autistic children, because I brought up empathy and yawn contagion effects).

    Try not to worry too much and enjoy the experience.
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    I beat all the white privileged female applicants by being poor and Asian but absolutely fabulous. You mad bro? :dance: :bhangra: :smug:
    You have all the sass :bunny:

    (Original post by x__justmyluck)
    Someone who works in Oxford admissions came and spoke to applicants in my local area before my interview and one of the things she said that sticks in my mind is 'if you think you answered all of the questions correctly then you probably didn't understand the questions'. The interviewer will keep asking you to defend what you've said and pushing you til you can't answer further so it can easily feel like you've got it all wrong. They will help you if you're struggling though, they love their subject and want to have an interesting conversation about it, so don't be afraid to put your own ideas out there.

    I had 2 interviews which were very different (I am an Experimental Psychology student). For my first one I was given information about an experiment to do with monkeys cracking nuts with rocks, the actual topic of the research didn't matter, they wanted us to think about experimental design and what conclusions could be drawn from the data. The other interview asked me about things I'd written about in my personal statement, an interesting statistical technique I'd read about and my extended project on children with autism. (It went into a strange conversation about whether some pets are more empathetic than autistic children, because I brought up empathy and yawn contagion effects).

    Try not to worry too much and enjoy the experience.
    :adore: This is so interesting, brilliant insight. Are you enjoying the course?
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    You have all the sass :bunny:
    Don't know WHAT you mean :nah: :angel: :innocent:
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    I'm not a lawyer myself but my understanding is that you may be given (an extract of) a law in written form to look at. My advice would be to look carefully at all the words used. What do they mean in context and how can a single word change how a law is enforced/interpreted? mishieru07 can advise more about this :yes:

    Don't worry if you don't have any practice interviews in the end - with Oxbridge, practice - whilst it builds a certain level of confidence/familiarity - doesn't necessarily/automatically make perfect! :nah:
    I went on a Law Study Day and we got to read the material that last year's interviews were based on and we watched a Classics student doing that interview (I think they used a Classics student to prove you don't need any prior legal knowledge and to be more representative of the typical interview candidate)
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    (Original post by CatusStarbright)
    I went on a Law Study Day and we got to read the material that last year's interviews were based on and we watched a Classics student doing that interview (I think they used a Classics student to prove you don't need any prior legal knowledge and to be more representative of the typical interview candidate)
    Yay
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    OK fab Oxford peeps (and filthy Tabs :nothing: ), let's get down to business :nutcase:

    Fullofsurprises
    BJack
    nexttime
    vincrows
    mishieru07
    nulli tertius
    jneill

    BrasenoseAdm
    LMH OXFORD


    Can't remember others off the top of my head but will keep editing this post as I remember #Shamnesia
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd;679994 92)
    OK fab Oxford peeps (and filthy Tabs :nothing: ), let's get down to business :nutcase:

    Fullofsurprises
    BJack
    nexttime
    vincrows
    mishieru07
    nulli tertius
    jneill

    BrasenoseAdm
    LMH OXFORD


    Can't remember others off the top of my head but will keep editing this post as I remember #Shamnesia
    Cambridge have something similar:
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    This is my job interview advice but it applies to some extent to university interviews.

    BE YOURSELF - it's really tempting in an interview situation to put on a persona or a "mask"...that's self defeating. Be yourself - the WORST outcome from an interview is being made an offer based on you pretending to be someone that you're not. That's going to put you in an uncomfortable position at best and make you deeply unhappy at worst. There is no "ideal" applicant - interviewers are looking for someone they think has the attitude and ability to thrive and that can cover all sorts of people and personalities.

    BE ENTHUSIASTIC - particularly for university interviews about the SUBJECT you're applying for (in a job interview situation it's about the actual job and work you'll be doing). Let them see how much you enjoy your subject, how you deal with challenges, how you work. Don't misplace your enthusiasm onto prestige or the campus or the job prospects after the course - that's like turning up to a job interview and saying that you're attracted by the salary or the promotion prospects. Your enthusiasm needs to be targeted at what you're going to be immersed in for 3+ years and not the peripherals or perks. Ask questions back, show an interest in your interviewers research - geek out at them.
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    I beat all the white privileged female applicants by being poor and Asian but absolutely fabulous. You mad bro? :dance: :bhangra: :smug:
    You are so lucky, most poor asians are at ex polys
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    It really is about getting into a habit of actually trying to think things through, rather than expecting to know the answer. Which can be problematic because school prepares you very much for the latter rather than the former. You are, without a doubt, going to be asked questions that you don't know the answer to (and in many cases there might not even be an answer) so the way to deal with this is to go about thinking of the logical steps you might take to answer the question. Revising your subject content is useful to some extent but that's not really what they're testing, they're trying to see how well you're able to apply what you know to a new situation and how well you're able to articulate your thoughts.

    For preparation, I think the best thing you can generally do is to read as much as possible and engage with your subject by actually thinking about issues (and talking about them with others if you can) rather than just passively consuming it. 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), but more because it conditions you to start thinking about tackling questions that at first might sound unknowable. Enthusiasm is also important - you are talking to academics who really love their subject so show them that you love it too!
 
 
 
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