Oxbridge Interview Technique Guide 3: Why Oxbridge Questions

What to Expect

If you’re applying to either Oxford or Cambridge, you’ll need to be able to confidently express why you’re applying there, why the Medicine course there is the right one for you, and why you’ve made the choice of college that you have.

You should expect this to be a significant part of the interview; given that you will have at least two interviews (sometimes three) you should be well-prepared and ready to field different questions on this theme.

You will need to know exactly why the Medicine course at Oxford or Cambridge makes perfect sense for you; that means knowing the structure of the course inside-out, showing that you have either spoken to current and previous students or done as much research as possible in other ways, and being able to clearly express how you suit the course structure as well.

You will have to show a good knowledge of the college to which you are applying, and a knowledge of collegiate life. You should expect to be asked about how collegiate life will suit you, and what you will add to collegiate life in return.

You should also expect to show that you are better suited to study at Oxford / Cambridge in general than at other universities, and that you are worthy of a place.

You should expect a focus on research as part of this domain.

5 Example Questions

Why are you interested in studying at this college?
What makes you a good fit for this college?
Why are you interested in studying at this university rather than elsewhere?
What sets the Medicine course here apart from others?
What do you know about studying here?

Recommended Technique & Steps

Every question here should be seen in two lights: as a chance to sell yourself, and as a chance to show your knowledge of the university.

Your technique should therefore be:
i) Consider the question and whether it focuses primarily on you or on the university
ii) Address the primary facet of the question first
iii) Add to your answer with either relevant information about you, or relevant information about the university  

Implemented Example: What makes you a good fit for this college?

Here, the question is focusing on you – the admissions tutor wants to understand who you are and why you will fit in at the college. However, it goes without saying that this requires the deployment of relevant knowledge about the college too. You should therefore address your characteristics first (ii above) and then swiftly link these to your knowledge of the college (iii above).

I would first highlight my empathy and keen interest in helping others, which has seen me take on pastoral care roles throughout school. I was in the school council from the age of 14, and took on mentoring roles as soon as I was able. I know that this college prides itself on its small and tight-knit feel, and therefore feel that this keen desire to help others and involve myself in community affairs will see me fit in well.

I would next highlight my ability in both sports and music. I have achieved Grade 8 in both violin and piano, and play in the school orchestra, the school jazz band, and a separate band with some of my friends. I know that the college has a reputation as being relatively liberal and arts-orientated, and some of my friends that have studied here before have said that the music scene here is exciting and something that is well-worth being part of. I’d therefore love to continue to play music whilst studying here. I know that the college has less of a focus on sports, but apparently the football team is very good; from speaking to current students I know that they’re highly competitive. I play in the first 11 at school and would love to continue playing here.

I know that this college has a long and proud history of educating world-leading scientists and medics, but am equally aware that this is tempered with a very human element – it seems a place where people support one another and help each other to excel. I believe that this ethos perfectly suits my own mixture of ambition and altruism.  

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