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Oxford Interviews - Philosophy and French

By Jospehine Krupa

Interview Time!! Are you ready?

Before we dive into the specifics, first prepare yourself mentally. Interviews are naturally stressful, and the best way to keep your composure while waiting for an interview scheduled in ten minutes is to build self-confidence.

Think about something that makes you proud. Ask a friend if they can compliment you that day, or write positive messages to yourself the night before so you can wake up to them. A method that has proved highly effective in my experience is to go somewhere private, stand tall, head held high, with your fists on your hips, and say to yourself “I am a superhero.” It sounds silly, but if you play with it, it puts you in a much better mood, ready to take on anything.

Now for the specifics. Since I was applying from the United States, my interview was online. For those who will be doing this as well, make sure that you are in a quiet room, preferably alone. A good example would be your bedroom or an empty classroom.

I applied for Philosophy and French, so I had two separate interviews. In any course interview, there is a high probability that you get asked about your personal statement. Make sure to write about what you know. The interviewers want to check whether you are qualified to study your chosen course, so they start by verifying your statement. If you cite any authors or book titles, make sure you know them inside and out, from the content to the publication date!

Be prepared to discuss any activities or theses you mention in your statement. At some point during the interview, you will be asked why you want to study your chosen course (or why your course should be studied). Answer from the heart. Seriously.

In language interviews, you only speak in the given language briefly at the end. The beginning starts with a passage in that language. You will read and discuss its content and purpose. Try connecting and comparing it to other topics or books that you know. If there’s a word you don’t know, ask what it means. Be willing to be vulnerable, and above all be yourself (confident and at ease).

The Philosophy interview is different because knowledge about philosophy is not required. You will be asked random philosophical questions, anywhere from “is the chair I’m sitting on real” to “premises and conclusions?” Never give a definite answer. Consider all the possible arguments and think through them out loud. Listen to the interviewer’s arguments and ask questions. Practice philosophical discussions about random topics with your friends is the best prep. Fun fact: no one comes out of the philosophy interview thinking it went well (philosophy is fun, but it’s intense! Take it from someone who didn’t know what premises and conclusions were and got asked about them..).

Interviewers are very nice. Looking back, I realize it was an intense but enjoyable time. So take it easy, be confident, and have fun!


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