Oxbridge Interview Questions and Answers

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Oxbridge interview preparation requires a range of reflection, revision, and focused work. You can find a range of tutorials, tips, and past questions with model answers in our Oxbridge Interview Question Bank

Why Oxbridge & The Interview Itself

Why the University of Oxford?

I am driven to excel, and believe that requires taking on the best possible undergraduate Medicine experience. Few universities offer frequent small group tutorials with leading tutors (certainly not with doctors and professors), and I do not believe that PBL classes at other universities are equivalent to the world-renowned tutorials one received at Oxford.

I find the idea of studying in a centre of learning to be stimulating. I have visited the university twice to learn more about it and get a feel for it, and have found the atmosphere to be unlike anywhere else. I felt a sense of prestige, and even of history, that made me want to be part of that sense of purpose and achievement.

It goes without saying that the facilities are second to none. Be that the Bodleian library or the Medicine teaching centre, I know that I can expect the best here. I am also driven by the idea of learning in a collegiate setting – with a close-knit group of others, better pastoral support than might be found elsewhere, and a range of activities on offer in your college itself.

Lastly, I am very interested in research. I believe that Oxford places far more emphasis on research, and on helping its students to become leading researchers, than other universities. 

What do you think you could contribute to college life?

I believe that I can contribute through my personality, and through my abilities. Through my personality, I can offer my empathy and my desire to help others. I have always taken on pastoral care roles at school, and would continue to do this as far as possible at Oxford. I would wish to join councils, find roles where I could mentor or help younger students, and find ways of assisting others with their mental health or problems that they faced.

Through my abilities, I can contribute both in sports and music. I am a grade 8 violinist and grade 8 pianist, as well as playing guitar in various bands, and eager therefore to join bands or performances at the college. I have played rugby in my school’s first XV, as well as being in the first 11 for football, and would be eager to play both of these to a university level, as well as representing the college in sports whenever and wherever possible.

I see college life as a true opportunity to be part of a close-knit community, and look forward to doing my part to foster and grow such a community as much as I can, especially as I move through the years. Having spoken to previous students of the college, I understand that it prides itself on its community spirit, and this is part of the reason that I applied here specifically.


What have you done to prepare for this interview?

I’ve spent a great deal of time preparing for this interview! I’ve thoroughly researched the course and what is expected of its students. I’ve read up on previous questions asked of applicants, the format of the interview, and what kind of prompts we might be given. I’ve read about the college and life here, and spoken to previous students about college life. I’ve spoken to previous students about the interview format too, and tried to get as good an overview as possible. I’ve then read up on all the relevant material from my A Level courses, and looked beyond it and reminded myself of additional reading that I have done, to ensure that I am ready for discussion.

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Soft Skills for Oxford and Cambridge Interviews

How have you shown an awareness of diversity in the past?

Understanding diversity and being aware of others’ cultures is vital. I’ve volunteered extensively in the local community which has helped me to break out of the bubble that one could otherwise fall into at school. In particular, I’ve volunteered at a youth club for children under 13, where I’ve helped children of all backgrounds learn the sports that I love and guided them through school work as well, and I’ve volunteered at a home for the elderly. The home’s residents are largely from different backgrounds than my own, and many were first generation immigrants. Hearing their stories has been fascinating and eye-opening for me.

When have you demonstrated adaptability?

Adaptability is key to success, as it allows us to approach new and challenging situations. I’ve shown adaptability both at school and in my activities outside it. In particular I’d highlight my roles as vice-captain of the First XI for football and as leader of the orchestra. In both I had to often field last minute changes and work to best adapt to them – including taking the role of captain on multiple occasions and thus having the entire team depending on me during football matches. I found that I was able to solve problems quickly and ‘rise to the occasion’ each time I had to respond to sudden changes. This in turn allowed others to have confidence and to thrive

How would you deal with falling behind in your studies?

Firstly, I’d hope that this wouldn’t happen, as I work in an organised and efficient manner and am proactive with my learning. However, if it did happen, then I’d begin by working honestly to assess how I had fallen behind – was it due to me not having worked hard enough, due to a lack of knowledge, or due to finding a particular part of the subject difficult? Then, I would need to address the exact cause. For example, this might involve speaking to a tutor and requesting additional help and materials covering the particular area that I was struggling with. If I realised that I wasn’t directing my study appropriately then I could speak to other students to better understand how they were planning their schedule, for example.

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Problem Solving & Left-Field Questons for Oxbridge Interviews

How would you design a better brain?

I would preface this answer with a proviso – that attempting to beat evolution could be seen to be a truly arrogant endeavour. Nonetheless, there are some immediate arguments that might be made. Firstly, we know that those with autism are less likely to be susceptible to illusions, and also that savants, who are frequently autistic, can sometimes outdo a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ human to a degree which is almost unbelievable. This is often seen in feats of memory or of mental arithmetic. Perhaps, we might try to incorporate these elements into the brain of someone with great empathy and communication abilities. Beyond this, I might want to reprogram the brain’s reward scheme to favour long term rewards over immediate gratification, or change the way in which we consolidate and build on memories, so that sleep becomes less of a necessity – meaning that we would have more time in which to live our lives. Of course, we could consider whether the biological brain is the best system, or whether over time a computer could develop its own consciousness – and perhaps ally this to the ability to outdo the human brain in calculation and memory. 

Why are manholes round?

Thinking logically, I would assume that manholes need to be fitted quickly by workmen. If they were any other shape – elliptical, square, etc, then they would need to be more carefully aligned when placing them back in place. As they are circular, with only one side to be aligned, then placing them must be easier. Additionally, their being circular perhaps means that they can be more easily moved around – you can just place them on their side and roll them like a wheel. Given that they are heavy, this would make life easier for workmen again. Lastly, there is no chance of a round shape – especially one with a lip slightly larger than the hole underneath it – falling through the hole which it is designed to cover. A different shape could fall through if placed diagonally.

How would you describe a human to a person from Mars?

I would need to first make a series of assumptions. Do they speak English or have the facility to translate it? Do they then understand the same concepts and ideas that we do? If they do, I would highlight following factors:
Humans are bipedal, have two biological sexes which allows us to reproduce and in turn allows for variety, we have a limited lifespan of around 80 years which necessitates the passing on of information from generation to generation, we have a great variety of different cultures with differing languages and beliefs that stem from thousands of years of different ideas and concepts (even within very small geographical areas), we differ from other creatures on our planet in that we use tools, were able long-ago to use fire to cook food and provide warmth, and have now achieved a rapidly escalating speed of technological advancement that has seen us recently develop nuclear power and harness computers to make calculations that we never could have before. I would emphasise that we are inherently rather illogical, and that our faults – being inclined to war, hate, and anger – can be seen to be remedied by other aspects that make us human – like love, art, and belief in good and virtue.

How many people believe in evolution in the United States?

To approach this logically, I would need to consider what I know about the US’s predominant beliefs, and what I know about the country’s population size. I know that the population is roughly 300m people. I know that the US is more inclined toward creationism than many, if not the vast majority, of industrialised Western countries. Assuming that the vast majority of the population live in cities and that a slight majority of those people believe in evolution, then we might assume that a small majority believes in evolution – these city dweller numbers would be contrasted with, perhaps, the more elderly population, and with citizens of areas like the Bible Belt and the Mormon Corridor, as well as other rural areas, in which I assume belief in creationism to be more likely. I would therefore estimate that perhaps 50-60% of US citizens believe in evolution. I would include within this number those that believe in some form of ‘guided evolution’ like intelligent design.

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