Every year, the University of Oxford releases a set of sample interview questions from tutors who conduct admissions interviews, in what the institution describes as “an attempt to explain the reasoning behind even the most strange-sounding questions”.
According to its press release, students can expect to encounter questions on the difference between “lying”, “deceiving” and “misleading”, whether it is easier for an organism to live in the sea or on land, and which historical figure they would like to interview and why.
“Interviews are designed to give candidates a chance to show their real ability and potential, which means candidates will be pushed to use their knowledge and apply their thinking to new problems in ways that will both challenge them and allow them to shine,” says Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate admissions and access at the university.
One commenter on the Telegraph website drew on personal experience to answer one of the questions. “What’s the difference between lie, mislead and deceive?” ponders the reader, named itsallaboutmememe. “I don’t know. I’ll just ask my ex.”
Unsurprisingly, the questions are a source of anxiety for students hoping to study at Oxford. The online discussion forum The Student Room is littered with questions posed by nervous applicants ahead of their interrogation.
“How long does the Oxford interview last?” asks one. “What should I wear to the interview?” says another. “Should I shave my facial hair before I go to avoid looking scruffy?”
Others try to second-guess the outcome of their interview. “I had my two interviews at Magdalen and then about 1/3 of the Historians were told they could leave, the rest of us had to wait to see if we had another interview…but I never got one. Does that mean Magdalen didn’t want me?” asks one concerned applicant.
In another thread (which runs to 12 pages), users have decided to share their most embarrassing university interview moments. “My UCL interviewer had researched me in advance, googled my email address, and proceeded to go through my Twitter posts which included a joke about dodging A‑level maths classes to go to the chippy. I still got an offer,” says one post.
“At an interview at Keele University, the only question I was stumped by was ‘why do you want to come here?’ Didn’t have an answer then, and still don’t now,” confesses another.
“My friend…had an interview,” says a third, “and she managed to walk into a glass door, trip over her scarf, spill coffee down herself, and then go into the interview and she was asked if she smoked. She said no, and then when she was leaving the interview a lighter fell out of her bag.”
The Student Room also has a page offering a wide range of advice to would-be Oxford applicants. It includes the following invaluable tip on how they should dress: “wear what you feel comfortable in, the vast majority of applicants wear informal attire. Jeans and a jumper is good. On the [other] hand, don’t turn up in football kit or a bikini…keep it reasonable!”
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