Interview Tips from a Humanities Student

By Clara Marks

Looking back at my interview experience as a Theology and Religion student at Worcester College, I give some tips taken from friends and myself.

1. Think of the interview as a rehearsal rather than a test

The tutors interviewing you want to see if the tutorial system, that is unique to Oxford, will work for you as a student. It is a rehearsal of a standard humanities tutorial that you will likely be having weekly, often with the very same tutors who interview you! In learning, there are rarely wrong and right answers. The same is true of the interview. What’s critical is how you react to and process new information, how you reason and how you argue your point.

2. Demonstrate your knowledge, but don’t overshare

Regurgitating all the books you’ve ever read which are related to your degree subject will be useless if you provide no analysis or original thinking. Engage in deeper thinking than just listing, and don't be afraid to give your opinions (as long as you have careful reasoning for them!).

3. Take your time to answer questions and consider prompts

It is common in a humanities interview to be given a prompt (a literature passage, a poem, a painting, source material etc.). Sometimes you are given time to consider it before the interview, sometimes only time within the interview. Either way, use your time wisely and make sure you cover all the material. Check it’s not a double sided paper!

Even if asked a question within the interview which seems too complex to give an immediate answer to, you can ask the tutors to give you time to consider it. In my interview one tutor asked ‘What does the Bible tell us about women?’ which was such a broad question that I asked for a minute before responding. This also gives you time to structure your thoughts into a more coherent structure.

4. Be analytical

Don’t be afraid to break things down logically. For example, one of the first questions I was asked was ‘Why do you want to study Theology and Religion?’ to which I listed off three reasons in order of importance to me. Similarly, if you are asked to analyse and compare passages you can number the similarities and differences on the paper provided and follow that logical structure when feeding back to tutors.

5. Take something from the interview

The interview process should be a learning journey for you. I’ll never forget what one of my interviewing tutors said to me at the very start of my interview: “Even if you do not get into Oxford, you have made it this far, which is the highlight of many people’s lives and something that they are eternally proud of.”