Today Rose is giving you ways to prepare for Oxford interviews:
I’d say that the most obvious way to prepare for interviews is to read – it’s relatively simple and pretty easy to do, although there are plenty of other things you can do, too! Knowing what to read, however, can be a little daunting to some…
There’s a section of the Oxford University website which advises what to read when applying for a subject. I don’t know much about other subjects, but I know that for my subject, Classical Archaeology & Ancient History, and also for Classics, you’re simply advised to read what interests you. This is pretty solid advice, because if you’re actually interested in what you’re reading, you’ll enjoy it so much more, but you’ll also remember it better – handy for interviews – and be more inspired to read more, and again – handy for interviews – you’re also more likely to have opinions on it which you can discuss, and enjoy discussing.
Personally, I’m interested in the art of the Classical World, so I started off by reading RRR Smith’s Hellenistic Sculpture, from the World of Art series, recommended to me whilst on UNIQ. I loved this book, not only because it gave me so much more knowledge about sculptures that I already knew and loved, as well as more that I had never even seen, but it had pictures – really helpful for studying art! As it turns out, the rest of the World of Art series also has pictures (!) and they have a huge number of books dedicated to Classics, so I ended up reading more of them, which turned out to be really helpful for my Classical Civilisations A Level, too (I loved them).
Another book I read was Persian Fire, by Tom Holland, which is about the Persian Wars. This book was useful to me in another sense, as although it wasn’t as enjoyable to me as reading about art, it contained some pretty incendiary opinions (which I suspect were designed to shock you into reading on). Right in the introduction – so before you even know anything about the Persian Wars – Holland tells you that ISIS exists because of Helen of Troy. Over-simplified? Yes. A bit of a stretch? Yes. But really easy to form an opinion on? Also yes. Even if you don’t agree with everything an author is saying, you can still form your own opinion, and you can also still learn from them, trying to see things from their point of view.
I was also advised, as I was hoping to study the ancient world, to read some actual ancient texts. As you’re probably aware, buying books can be really expensive, but Amazon has a lovely little section for second-hand books, which are more often than not really cheap, and you can also hit up charity shops or second-hand books shops. I’m lucky in that I work for the National Trust, and each property has a second-hand book shop. I visited Attingham Park and found a huge proportion of Aristophanes’ plays there for about 20p each!