The University of Oxford and Its Real Interview Questions Examples

Updated: Mar 16, 2017

In order to make an interview easier, the world top University of Oxford has released a collection of sample questions for applicants to test their skills, both intellectual and rhetorical.

This tricky move will allow more high school graduates apply for a university. Moreover, it will dispel the myth that surrounds applicants at the university that interviews 10,000 young people for 3,500 places.

Some questions are really short, some are ambiguous. For example, Helen Swift, a professor of French likes to ask language candidates such question as “What makes a novel political?” A brilliant example of ambiguous sample question is a question asked by a professor of philosophy: “What exactly do you think is involved in blaming someone?”

Marcus du Sautoy, a professor of mathematics at Oxford says that all they want to see during the interview is that how the applicants think, not what they know. He states that “to get stuck” while interviewing is O.K. The main idea for a candidate is to show how she/he thinks, in what way applicants can solve the problems, and how they react to different life situations. 


Marcus du Sautoy, who is now a noble professor at the University of Oxford remembers his own interview. He wanted to get a place to study at Wadham College. Du Sautoy came from a comprehensive, so it was a real challenge for him coming up to Oxford. When young Marcus entered the room the tutor asked him: “Can you change my light bulb?” Du Sautoy could not understand whether it was the beginning of a mathematical joke or a real ask for help. He also thought: “How many mathematicians does it take to change a lightbulb?” 

The reason for such a tutor’s question was that the light bulb had blown indeed and he wanted Marcus to change it. Du Sautoy got the highest grade that year and was given a place.

Every year just days before the 15 October the University of Oxford releases a set of sample questions where there are only five but genuine ones. Approximately 10,000 applicants are invited for interview in December; then they just have to get the required A-level grades (usually a combination of As and A*s) to secure their place.

The aim of Oxford is to help pupils, particularly from state schools to get rid of fear that surrounds the interview. Candidates from state schools are not as well drilled in Oxbridge interview techniques as their peers in the independent sector. This year there were 6 out of 10 candidates educated in state schools who took up places.  

A director of admissions at Oxford, Samina Khan, said that since interview is new experience for most high school graduates and that a lot of applicants are worried being asked by unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place, the University of Oxford releases the real examples in order to help students become familiar with questions they might be asked during the interview.

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