Prior to becoming a full-time, independent tutor, I was a
part-time philosophy tutor for various Oxford colleges. I took my doctorate
at Oxford and my masters at Cambridge; so I'm
able to offer expert tuition and guidance to candidates thinking about
their Oxbridge interview questions.
This page describes the tutorial support I provide for candidates preparing answers for the typical kinds of question they might encounter at Oxford or Cambridge admissions interviews:
Generally speaking, Oxford or Cambridge interview questions typically break down into four broad kinds.
Like any standard interview, your Oxbridge interview may kick-off with an utterly predictable 'ice-breaker' question intended to put you at your ease. For these you will be expected to have prepared an answer, and you are well-advised to have rehearsed one.
Ice-breaker questions may then ease into questions that arise from the personal statement. So, in effect, the first steps you take towards preparing for your Oxbridge interview questions, may be the drafting of your personal statement.
Interview questions drawn from your personal statement may give way to more general subject-specific questions, raised by one of the subject tutors. However, these will not be simple factual questions; rather they will be designed to test your ability to apply familiar knowledge in unfamiliar contexts.
A fourth, familiar group of Oxbridge interview question comprises whacky, lateral thinking exercises to examine how well you respond to unexpected scenarios.
The personal statement of course provides a rich source of ideas for
questions that the interviewers might be prompted to ask.
A simple yet effective service I provide is to analyse your personal statement and compile a list of salient questions that it suggests.
It's surprising how a fresh pair of experienced eyes can identify issues that may not have occurred to you.
Interviewers at Oxford and Cambridge often
try to put candidates at ease by first posing some simple, predictable
Why have you applied for this course?, Why have you applied to Oxford/Cambridge?, Why have you applied to this college?
So the very least you can do, by way of preparation, is to rehearse some sensible replies to these questions.
The first of these is not as innocent as it might seem, by the way: it is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of exactly what kind of course you are applying for. A disastrous answer to this question would therefore be 'I know very little about the subject, which is precisely why I've applied - to satisfy my intellectual curiosity'.
Other standard opening Oxbridge questions focus on eye-catching biographical details from the personal statement: 'Tell us about your collection of tarantulas'. Having someone examine your personal statement, and provide you with a list of likely questions, is good preparation.
Oxford and Cambridge college interviews often include a general tutor
whose academic expertise is in
another field, but who will help appraise the intellectual abilities and promise
of the candidate.
Their questions will therefore be of a more general nature:
'What contribution do you think you might make to college life?', 'At the end of your time here, how should we measure your success?', 'Why should anyone go to university?'
I teach logic and critical thinking, as part of my philosophy tuition, and therefore am in a good position to evaluate, and help improve, your reasoning abilities as you prepare for your interview at Oxford or Cambridge.
This section is currently being re-drafted for the new 2017 academic year.If you would like a mock philosophy interview with an experienced Oxford tutor, then by all means email me:
This section is currently being re-drafted for the new 2017 academic year.Please email me with any queries you may have about Oxbridge interview questions, not covered in the FAQ: