Oxford University is one of the oldest, most prestigious and competitive universities in the world. Its roots can be traced back to the 11th century, and it has since grown to become a leading centre of academic excellence and research. It's not surprising that only about 17% of Oxford applicants on average (some courses are more competitive than others) get offers and are successfully admitted to undergraduate courses.
Interview with tutors who teach and research at a particular college about one's subject plays a significant role in the admission process. Oxford typically receives over 22,000 applications for around 3,300 places every year, and only shortlisted candidates get invited to interview.
The main purpose of these interviews is to evaluate candidates' academic ability and potential and their suitability for the Oxford tutorial process, which centers around the rigorous academic exchange of ideas and perspectives between academic experts and students. What matters most is the ability to think for yourself, and the willingness to share your thought process and solve intellectual problems and challenges.
As Professor Nick Yeung, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, and Tutorial Fellow at University College points out, the main goal for candidates is not to give the ‘right’ answer immediately, but to show how they think when they don’t know it yet.
Here are some sample questions coming from the real Oxford tutors to puzzle over:
Biology - Why do many animals have stripes?
Maths - Imagine a ladder leaning against a vertical wall with its feet on the ground. The middle rung of the ladder has been painted a different colour on the side, so that we can see it when we look at the ladder from the side on. What shape does that middle rung trace out as the ladder falls to the floor?
History - Which person (or sort of person) in the past would you most like to interview, and why?
Law - If the punishment for parking on double yellow lines were death, and therefore nobody did it, would that be a just and effective law?
Modern Languages - In a world where English is a global language, why learn French?
Philosophy, Politics and Economics - Are our deaths bad for us?
Psychology - What is 'normal' for humans?
Physics - A ball, initially at rest, is pushed upwards by a constant force for a certain amount of time. Sketch the velocity of the ball as a function of time, from start to when it hits the ground.
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