Oxford Interview Questions and Answers

Oxbridge Application Specialists

Here, we present ten high-yield general interview questions for Oxford applicants. More specific questions can be found in our Oxbridge Interview Question Bank.

Oxford Interview Questions: Diversity and Working with Others

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. 

How have you demonstrated teamwork in the past?

I’ve shown teamwork throughout my school life, and outside it. In particular I’d highlight my role as the leader of our school’s team in a national business competition. We had to create a product from scratch and outline how we would market it. The team brought together a disparate group who didn’t know each other that well, and I had to help everyone bond, ensure that all team members had clear areas of responsibility, and take overall ownership for the project. I ensured that I was empathetic to all and listened to any complaints, and we were able to win the competition. 

Have you ever had a difficult time acting as a leader?

I’ve encountered difficulties whilst acting as a leader once, at school. In our final year we act as prefects for younger years, and I was selected to be the prefect for our Fourth Form, or Year 10. I was briefed that this selection was in part because they’re a difficult year – or at least that there are some difficult pupils in the year – and I was thought to be a good choice for the challenge. I found that some pupils were challenging, and refused to listen to instruction from either me, other prefects, or even staff at times. I therefore ensured that I remained patient and polite, did not rise to provocation, and over time I was able to bring some of the pupils onside – simply through listening to them and remaining objective and sensible.  

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Oxford Interview Questions: Studying

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.

Have you discussed how difficult the workload can be with current or previous students?

Yes, I’ve discussed all the different elements of life here, and college life, with a range of different students. Two of my friends from the year above study here, one in this college, and I made sure to get as much information from him as possible. I’ve heard about the amount of essays I’ll have to do, how many tuitions I’ll have, and what it’s like living in college as a fresher. Additionally I’ve spoken to some older students that are graduating this year, and found out how the degree progresses. All of this has added to the picture of the university that I have built up through reading, research and visiting. 

How do you set goals?

I use the SMART technique to set goals. This involves the following components:
Specific – this means that goals are not vague.
Measurable – this means that I can define when the goal is achieved, or how my progress is going.
Achievable – this involves setting realistic goals. If the goal is not achievable, it means we need to rethink it.
Relevant – this means setting the correct goal for the context.
Time bound – this means setting a time limit, and ensuring that we stick to it.

This structure ensures my goals are clear and understandable, and that I can achieve them efficiently.

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Oxford Interview Questions: Values & Attributes

How have you shown responsibility in your life so far?

I have shown responsibility through my role as a senior prefect at school. Here I worked alongside a team of five other senior prefects to both coordinate the other prefects in my year and to care for younger boys at the school. Both parts of the role involved responsibility for others and leadership. A particular instance would be when I was tasked with looking after a new boy who was struggling to acclimate to the school. I was given responsibility for his well being in many ways, and dedicated myself to ensuring that he had everything he needed to succeed. I helped him find societies that he enjoyed and helped him practise rugby as well, and he soon became more confident and sure of his place in the year. This was rewarding, and I was glad that I had taken on such a responsibility. 

What motivates you or enables you to stay motivated?

My motivation comes largely from my own interest in the world and my desire to experience that world as much as possible – which I believe is only possible if we dedicate ourselves truly to everything that we do. This has meant setting high goals for myself, and these goals themselves then act as further motivational factors. I also enjoy competing against others – for example in individual sports – and against myself. I’m always seeking to improve and progress. 

How do you manage stress?

I manage stress through activities that distract me or allow me to focus on something else, through honest assessment of my mental state, through planning and organisation, and through speaking to others. To illustrate this – I recently had a particularly tough period of studying, and simultaneously had some problems in my family. This led to a difficult and stressful time for me. To combat the stress I made sure to speak to my friends and open to them – one’s support network can be a lifeline in such situations – and to keep my days as regular as I could, beginning with meditation in the morning and always running in the evening to clear my mind. I found that this allowed me to push through and keep myself focused. 

What is your greatest weakness?

My greatest weakness is a desire to focus on planning, sometimes at the behest of doing. To put this in a different way – I will often find that I spend far longer on organisation and perfecting a plan than I need to, and that this can actually result in an inefficient approach compared to simply beginning the work. I wouldn’t quite label this procrastinating, as I am working hard – yet I am being something of a perfectionist, and not realising that I need to accept unpredictability. Recently I have become much better in this regard – perhaps in part due to simply realising this habit – and have set myself a clear barrier for any larger task, at which point I simply have to start ‘doing’ rather than ‘planning.’

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