Oxford Interviews Explained

By Nicola Boys


Interviews at Oxford are a daunting prospect. You get told you’ll be grilled by world experts or be asked baffling questions such as “Why is this pen not a banana?” (unfortunately, a real question). In order to demystify it a little for you, here's a bit more info about what you can expect if you’ve been invited to interview for Biology.


You will have two interviews, one at your college at choice and one at another. These two interviews may be on the same day or even a few days apart. Each will last 30 minutes (but don’t worry, this is only rough and they aren’t timing you). There will be two interviewers involved, one will be asking the questions and engaging with you, while the other will be observing. This may seem weird at first, but it means they can make real-time notes on your discussions rather than having to pause to write or write after you’ve left. Either one will take notes and one will speak for the duration of the interview, or they may swap halfway or for certain questions.


It is possible that you will first be asked about your personal statement, since this is something you should know quite well and so should help settle you in to answering their questions. Then, they will move on to their set of interview questions. The goal is not to race through answering as many questions as possible, but rather to think through each critically, implementing your own understanding, ideas and creativity. Don’t worry if you feel like you’ve hit a wall with a question, but try and vocalise this effectively (eg. “I’m not too sure, could it maybe be to do with this…?). You may be handed objects, graphs, tables or scientific articles, and asked for your independent analysis.


Its ok to feel nervous, and its more that ok to feel like it wasn’t your best. So many of my friends recall their interviews as difficult and stressful, but there is a reason for this: Oxford tutors don’t want you to be in your comfort zone. They want to push you and make you stretch for ideas and leave your black-and-white sixth form teaching behind. They want you to find it difficult because that is where YOU shine through.