5 Questions that will get you a spot in Oxford

5 Questions that will get you a spot in Oxford


The University of Oxford, one of the most prestigious in the world, has opened the deadline to receive applications for admission this year.

In addition to the applications and their declarations of interest, to enter some of the most competitive courses there are also interviews.

To tear down myths about its admission process, the university publishes examples of the type of questions that students may have to answer, as well as suggestions about the answers.

These are five of the questions presented as an example. What would you answer if they were made to you?

1. A large study seems to show that older siblings consistently achieve better results than younger siblings in tests that measure IQ. Why could this happen?

This was a question for a candidate for a program in experimental psychology. Interviewer Kate Watkins of St Anne’s College explains.

“This is a question that asks students to think about many aspects of psychology and we guide them to think about scientific factors , such as the age of the mother – mothers are older when young children are born, could this play a role? role? – and observational analysis on how birth order can affect behavior and, therefore, performance on tests.

Kate Watkins

Image caption Kate Watkins says the questions with something familiar and then expand.

“It’s a big question, because students start from the point of view they’re most comfortable with, and we gradually add more information to see how they respond: for example, noting that the pattern is maintained even if things like maternal age. “

“This may lead them to think about what dynamics of being an older sibling can have such an effect, they may suggest that receiving less divided parental care in the years before a brother’s arrival makes a difference, for example.”

“Then, we introduce the clause that the effect is not observable in only children, so there is something special about being an older brother that is causing it.”

“Finally, most students come to the conclusion that being an older brother and having to teach the child certain skills and types of knowledge benefits their own cognitive abilities, making them practically learn things twice.”

“But there is not really a correct answer , and we are always interested in hearing new explanations that we have not heard before.”

2. What makes a play or novel “political”?

This was a question for a course in language arts franc . Interviewer Helen Swift of St Hilda’s College answers.

“This is the kind of question that could come out of the declaration of interest of the student, if when talking about his relationship with literature and the culture of the language he wants to study he says he has a great interest in the ‘political’ works.

“We could start by discussing the specific work they are citing, to give them the opportunity to start with something concrete and known , asking, for example, in what ways or why, or why it may be that for the same reason someone does not like the same works? “

Oxford University
Copyright of the REUTERS image

Image caption The University of Oxford publishes suggestions of what the academics look for in the interviews.

“Then we would go on to check their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills , broadening the questions to be more conceptual and inviting them to make comparisons between things they have read or seen (in whatever language).”

“So when asking the general question ‘What does this political do?’ we would like the candidate to start thinking about what you want to say when you apply that label: what aspects of a work do you think about? Is it a judgment about the content or about the style? Could it be perceived as a value judgment? How useful is it as a label? “

“What if we said that all art is, in fact, political? What happens in cases in which an author denies that his work is political, but critics claim that it is? Is it merely a question of interpretation?” subjective? “

“A strong candidate would show an immediate willingness and ability to engage in a conversation and develop their ideas in it, it would be perfectly fine for someone to change their mind during an argument or expose a thought that contradicts something they said earlier. people think flexibly and are willing to consider different perspectives … “

“Without a doubt, the candidate would have to take a moment to think in the middle of all that, we hope that the” emmm “,” yyyy “or” good “will appear in some of the answers!”

3. About one in four deaths in the UK are due to some type of cancer, however in the Philippines the figure is only around 1 in 10. What factors may underlie this difference?

This is a question for medicine. Answered by interviewer Chris Norbury of Queen’s College.

“This is a typically open question , which does not have a single correct answer, the goal is to stimulate the kind of discussion that can occur during a tutoring session.”

“The discussion could take different paths, depending on the interests of the candidate, some candidates will ask useful and clarifying questions, such as where the data comes from and whether or not they are reliable, or what is the average life expectancy in those parts of the world.” .

Copyright of the ISTOCK image

Image caption Interviewers say that there are no “right” answers to what is asked.

“Some candidates will use the idea that various aspects of the typical UK lifestyle are inherently unhealthy, which can be an interesting discussion in itself.”

“Others, especially if they appreciate that life expectancy in the Philippines is substantially lower than in the UK, will realize that other causes of death are more common in the developing world, and that this is the fundamental factor that gives rise to to the difference of the one that is spoken in the question “

“This probes selection criteria such as the ability to solve problems , critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, communication skills, listening and compatibility with the format of tutorials.”

4. What do you think influences the act of blaming someone for something?

This was a question for philosophy, politics and economics, and the interviewer Ian Phillips, of St Anne’s College, answered it.

“Questions like this help to elucidate the candidate’s ability to think carefully and accurately about a concept that is familiar to us, evaluating proposals, thinking about counterexamples, unraveling considerations and being creative in proposing alternative approaches.”

Copyright of the ISTOCK image

Image caption It’s the time for college applications.

“Obviously the notion of guilt is important in moral theory, but to the extent that guilt is an emotional attitude it also brings up issues of the philosophy of the mind.” Debates over the nature of guilt are now happening in the field of philosophy, so the question also gives input to do a little philosophy together , which is exactly what we want to achieve during a tutoring. “

“With a question like this we do not look for a correct answer, but to know if the candidate can be creative and provide examples and suggestions, and can think critically and with care about its implications …”.

“Good interviews will often generate all kinds of interesting and revealing discussions that show the candidate’s capacity for analytical thinking: for example about self-blaming, blame cases where the one who blames knew the other had not done anything wrong, and cases to blame something inanimate (like a printer or a phone that does not work). “

5. Imagine a ladder resting on a vertical wall with your feet on the ground. The middle step has been painted a different color on one side, so that it can be seen when we look at the staircase from the side. What shape does that middle step trace when the ladder falls to the floor?

This was a question for mathematics and was answered by interviewer Rebecca Cotton-Barratt of Christ Church.

“This question checks if you want to do what mathematicians do , which is to abstract from all unimportant information and use mathematics to represent what happens.”

“I would initially ask the candidate what form he thinks he is going to create, and then we would ask him how he can test that hypothesis, they may initially try to draw the ladder in different phases: this is fine, but basically what we want is something that we can generalize and that is precise (you can not be sure that your drawing is accurate, especially if you are making a sketch on a blackboard and you do not have a rule).

Oxford University
Copyright of the ISTOCK image

Image caption Oxford wants to demystify its admissions process.

“So in the end they will go back to mathematics and try to model the situation with equations, if they get stuck we would ask them what shape the staircase makes with the wall and the floor, and finally they would see that in each phase the staircase is forming a right triangle” .

“Some will immediately use the Pythagorean Theorem and use it to find the answer: it forms a quarter of a circle centered on the point where the floor meets the wall.”

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