Oxford Human Sciences Interview Questions & Overview
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The Human Sciences course at Oxford is interesting and quite unique, blending elements of sociology, anthropology, biology, and psychology – amongst other subjects. The university explains that the interview is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to think independently, to follow an argument, their communication skills, and their ability to listen. No knowledge is tested without context. The interview should also be seen as a chance to demonstrate how motivated you are for your current studies, and that your motivation goes beyond standard academia – that you are excited to deploy your learning in new and interesting ways. The standard offer is AAA. Biology or Maths to A Level are not required, but are ‘helpful’ so are perhaps typically expected.
The Human Sciences course interviews 58% of its applicants, with 18% successful, making a small intake of 33 students per year.
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Interview Key Dates for Human Sciences at Oxford
All students have interviews at two colleges. These take place in the second week of December typically, and there are additional panel interviews the week after.
Interview Format and Purpose
From previous students, it’s clear that the interview can cover a real breadth of questions. One student explains that they were asked ‘why human sciences’ initially, and then asked to define how a human scientist could help other types of scientists. After this questions covered topics like altruism, evolution, and the different composition of materials used in construction by groups of people from different areas of the world (e.g. somewhere very remote compared to somewhere less remote). The student was asked to define anthropology in a second interview, and explained that they saw it as the study of humans and their behaviour. They were then presented with different images of buildings from different cultures and tribes. This led to a discussion on the definition that the student had used.
Another student explains that their first interview was personal statement based, and then moved into looking at graphs and comparing data. Their second interview had another prompt to use, and focused on genetics, as well as the way that humans interact with art.
A third student explained that they had two hour-long interviews. Again, this student was asked to interpret a graph, and then provided with more information, which they had to use to iterate their ideas. It was clear that they were not expected to have any prior knowledge, but rather were expected to develop ideas as they went. This was very much a discussion in which the tutors pushed the student onwards. The student explains that they were asked questions on a huge range of subjects, some of which they found confusing and had to ask for help on. However, the interviewers were polite and helpful.
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All students applying to Human Sciences at Oxford must take the TSA, or Thinking Skills Assessment. This is a computer-based test, and it’s divided into two parts: the first is a 90-minute, multiple-choice Thinking Skills Assessment and the second is a 30-minute writing task.
In Section 1, there are 50 multiple choice questions. These assess your problem-solving skills, including numerical reasoning, and your critical thinking skills, including understanding argument and reasoning using everyday language. Section 2 of the TSA is a writing task, and it seeks to find the student’s ability to organise ideas in a succinct and coherent manner, and communicate them through their writing. Questions are general enough that students applying for a wide range of subjects can answer them.
Previous Oxford Human Sciences Interview Questions
- What are the advantages of the Human Genome Project?
- Is nature ever as beautiful as art?
- What evidence is there that humans are still evolving?
- How does the way you think determine who you are?
- Explain what it means to ‘be conscious’
- Draw a graph of learning against time/stage of life
- If a psychologically ill person commits a crime, are they a criminal?
- If you had to give human rights to one of either chimpanzees, dogs or elephants, which would you choose?
- What do you like most about the brain?
- How much of human behaviour is genetically determined?
- Can we think without language?
- Which is more important – art or sciences?
- Is it morally wrong to attempt to climb Everest?
- What is courage?
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