Up to it? Try these questions for admission to Oxford University

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Oct 20, 2014 01:51 IST

It’s considered one of the toughest universities to get into, and admission interviews at the University of Oxford invariably challenge potential students to think on their feet, think independently and laterally, and show an ability to apply theory.

The university has released some sample questions that may be asked at interviews to select students for undergraduate courses in the next academic year from September 2015.

Oxford is one of few universities who interview all applicants before admission, and end up finally admitting a fraction of those applying.

The interviews are an important part of Oxford’s admissions process, designed to give candidates the chance to show their real ability and potential.

Tutors challenge potential students with questions that may seem strange to some, but help bring out their potential. Many applicants go through mock interviews to prepare for the rigorous questions — and some questions can challenge the ablest of minds.


Samina Khan, acting director of Undergraduate Admissions at Oxford, said, “Interviews are not about reciting what you already know — they are designed 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 in ways that will both challenge them and allow them to shine”.

She added, “They are an academic conversation in a subject area between tutors and candidate, similar to the undergraduate tutorials which current Oxford students
attend every week.”

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.

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