How would you answer these 7 sample Oxford interview questions?

How would you answer these 7 sample Oxford interview questions?

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A general view of a sign for the University of Oxford – (Andrew Matthews/PA)
A general view of a sign for the University of Oxford – (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Most of us will never interview for a place at the prestigious universities of Oxford or Cambridge, but that’s not to say you can’t ponder how you’d get on.

Doing so is that little bit easier now that the University of Oxford has released a selection of sample interview questions.

The tutors themselves offered a few words of advice on why each question was selected, so if you’re planning on chancing your arm any time soon, perhaps this will make for useful reading.

Subject: Medicine/Biomedical Sciences

Interviewer: Chris Norbury, The Queen’s College

Question: The viruses that infect us are totally dependent on human cells for their reproduction; is it therefore surprising that viruses cause human diseases?

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“In a tutorial-style discussion, strong candidates will engage with the paradox that viruses need us for their own reproduction, and yet cause us damage,” said Chris on the university website.

So discussing zombies… isn’t off the table?

Subject: Music

Interviewer: Laura Tunbridge, St Catherine’s College

Question: What are the different ways in which you listen to music? How does that change the way in which you think about what you’re listening to?

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“The question allows students to use their own musical experiences as a starting point for a broader and more abstract discussion about the different ways people consume music, the relationship between music and technology, and how music can define us socially,” said Laura.

Subject: Chemistry

Interviewer: Martin Galpin, University College

Question: How many different molecules can be made from six carbon atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms?

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“This question gives candidates an opportunity to demonstrate a wide understanding of chemistry and there is no simple, immediate answer,” said Martin.

That probably means saying a random number and leaving it there isn’t enough…

Subject: Theology and Religion

Interviewer: Peter Groves, Worcester College

Question: Is religion of value whether or not there is a God?

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“This is a question we would hope any candidate for Theology and Religion would enjoy answering,” said Peter. “It raises a number of issues for them to explore.

“What is our definition of religion, and how fluid is that definition? What do we mean by value, and how might it be measured? Are the effects of religion in the past as important as its consequences in the present?”

Subject: Earth Sciences

Interviewer: Conall MacNiocaill, Exeter College

Question: How can we estimate the mass of the atmosphere?

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“This question can be addressed in variety of ways and addresses several of our selection criteria,” said Conall.

“An aptitude for analysing and solving a problem using a logical and critical approach; lateral thinking and hypothesis generation; the ability to manipulate quantities and units; and the ability to apply familiar concepts (pressure, force etc.) to unfamiliar situations.”

Hint: industrial scales are not the correct answer in this situation.

Subject: Earth Sciences

Interviewer: Roger Benson, St Edmund Hall

Question: Tell me what this rock looks like.

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“This question does not rely on pre-existing knowledge of geology or rocks,” said Roger.

“In fact, what we are interested in is whether the candidates can make accurate and critical observations (what does the rock look like?) and are able to interpret the meaning of those observations using their knowledge of physical and chemical processes (reasoning ability: aptitude for analysing and solving problems using logical approaches).”

Subject: History

Interviewer: Sian Pooley, Magdalen College

Question: What can historians not find out about the past?

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“The aim of this question is to encourage candidates to think critically, creatively and comparatively about how historians know what happened in the past,” said Sian.

“I would use this sort of open question to allow a candidate to talk about the availability of historical evidence in whatever time period, place or theme interested them from their school-work or wider reading.”

Press Association

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