Can you crack the Oxford UG admission test? Try these questions
There are many stories of delight and despair about the famed interview before gaining admission to an undergraduate course at the University of Oxford, but tutors insist questions that may seem quirky or confrontational have a specific purpose.world Updated: Oct 13, 2016 08:18 IST
There are many stories of delight and despair about the famed interview before gaining admission to an undergraduate course at the University of Oxford, but tutors insist questions that may seem quirky or confrontational have a specific purpose.
The purpose is to assess how prospective students think about their subject and respond to new information or unfamiliar ideas. The mandatory Oxford interview challenges applicants to think on their feet, independently and laterally, and show an ability to apply theory.
Reputed to be one of the toughest universities to get into, Oxford has released some sample questions to demystify the process that is nerve-wracking to many, but one that some sail through with clarity, a dash of humour and pluck.
“No matter what kind of educational background or opportunities you have had, the interview should be an opportunity to show off your interest and ability in your chosen subject, since they are not about reciting what you already know,” said Samina Khan, director of admissions at Oxford.
“Tutors want to give candidates a chance to show their real ability and potential, which means candidates will be encouraged to use their knowledge and apply their thinking to new problems – with tutors guiding the discussion to ensure students feel comfortable and confident.”
Oxford is one of the few universities that interview all applicants before admission, and end up admitting a fraction of those applying. Many applicants go through mock interviews several times to prepare for the questions that can challenge the ablest of minds.
For example, students applying to study biological sciences might be asked why it matters if tigers become extinct, potential history students are asked to discuss whether the word “political” has different meanings in different contexts, and applicants looking to study materials science may be asked to calculate the temperature in a hot air balloon necessary to lift an elephant.
Some sample interview questions released by the university:
• What makes a novel or play “political”?
• What exactly do you think is involved in blaming someone?
• A large study appears to show that older siblings consistently score higher than younger siblings on IQ tests. Why would this be?
• Is violence always political? Does “political” mean something different in different contexts?
• Why do lions have manes?
• Ladybirds are red. So are strawberries. Why?
• In a world where English is a global language, why learn French?
• How much of the past can you count? (to applicants for history courses)
• Why do some habitats support higher biodiversity than others? (biological sciences)
Khan said: “There are plenty of anecdotes about Oxford interviewers asking questions that seem intimidating or confrontational, or even downright silly – we hope that seeing some of the less obvious questions will reassure prospective applicants that tutors aren't trying to catch students out or see how quickly they get the ‘right’ answer or demonstrate their specialist knowledge.”