By Nirali Jain
Tutorials are a unique experience incorporated into Oxford's teaching method - you get the chance to spend focussed time in small groups with your professors to ask questions, discuss and debate topics. For many STEM students, these additional contact hours are used to consolidate your understanding of lecture content. While the exact format and frequency of the tutorials varies from subject to subject, and even college to college, they often require a few hours of preparation in advance. Some subjects may need prior reading, a written essay submission, or maybe even a presentation.
In Materials Science, for example, we are often required to submit a problem sheet set by the department after every 4 lectures in a series. These typically take between 3-9 hours to complete and are then marked by the tutors before we come to the tutorial. Most of the time is spent understanding the solutions to the problems, but we have the freedom to guide the discussion as we like towards topics of interest or those we feel we need further explanation on. I am personally fascinated by my tutors' research and therefore enjoy when they link our lecture content to their work so we can see what our learning might lead to!
Tutorials can take place in your college or department, or you might get the chance to discover a new college on the way to your class. While they can seem intimidating at first, tutorials are ultimately a chance to explore new ideas and develop your thinking skills in a safe and relaxed setting. I've lost count of the number of times I've entered my tutorials in a state of complete confusion but then walked out feeling like Einstein!
Fun fact: If you've already completed an Oxbridge interview, those are in fact designed to mimic a tutorial setting so you've had a taste of what they are like!