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Oxford Psychology Interview Questions & Overview

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Interview Essentials

Oxford typically invites less students to interview than Cambridge – an average of around 40% across all its courses. This holds true for Experimental Psychology too, with the university emphasising that in order to be invited, applicants must have exceptional academic achievements, exceptional A Level predictions, and a strong mark in the TSA as well. The process for selecting students is highly involved and personal, with all information on UCAS forms, including the personal statement and individual circumstances, being weighed up by tutors. After this process, applicants are shortlisted for interview. The interview is designed to assess how well you can develop in future, and how well suited you are for the experimental psychology course. Every applicant to Oxford is interviewed at two colleges – their ‘college of preference’ and a second allocated college. This ensures fairness for those being interviewed, as all applicants receive two entirely independent assessments.

Admissions Statistics

The experimental psychology course at Oxford is very competitive. On average the university receives around 700 applications, and as stated the majority of these are very good candidates. All candidates are judged using the same set of criteria. Only around 240 candidates are then invited to interview, and of those 240 only 80 will receive a place. This is a success rate of only about 11%.

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Interview Key Dates for Experimental Psychology at Oxford

You should expect the interviews to take place in the first two weeks of December.

Interview Format and Purpose

The interview is designed to find the right students for the course. Many students will have the excellent academics required, but that doesn’t mean that they will fit with what the tutors are looking for. The attributes that you must display are an ability to evaluate evidence, being able to consider issues from different perspectives, an ability to think logically,show an ability to think creatively, that you can appreciate the importance of empirical evidence when supporting an argument, and crucially that you have the ability to cope with the course. From previous students, a typical interview experience would consist of one day, in which you will sit both of your two interviews. The interviews will both be around 45 minutes in duration. Don’t expect both interviews to be the same. From a previous student, as an example, one interview consisted of a 30 minute period in which they had to study a journal article about the development of children’s minds. They were then provided with a sheet of questions to consider, which would be posed in the interview. The interview was with a PhD student and a main tutor. The student was then asked the questions on the sheet, at a high pace. Their second interview was entirely different, consisting of questions on the personal statement and an explanation of some of their readings and projects, along with some general questions on science and probability. The second interview featured three interviewers – two PhD students and one main tutor. You should therefore realise that you will face a range of different tests as part of an Oxford interview, or interviews – be prepared by knowing your personal statement inside out, keeping up to date with recent news in psychology, and practising analysing data and presenting conclusions.

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Additional Assessments

All applicants must sit the TSA. The Thinking Skills Assessment is a computer-based test, and is divided into two parts. The first is a 90-minute, multiple-choice Thinking Skills Assessment and the second is a 30-minute writing task. Section 1 has 50 multiple-choice questions, through which Oxford aims to assess the following attributes: Problem-solving skills, including numerical reasoning, critical thinking skills, including understanding arguments, and reasoning using normal, everyday language. Section 2, the writing task, looks to test your ability to organise ideas coherently and succinctly, and show that you can write effectively. Questions are not subject specific – they are sufficiently general that students from any discipline ought to be able to answer them. In Section 2, candidates answer one question from a choice of four.

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