Here Are Some of The Questions You Could Face If You Want To Study at Oxford University

The University of Oxford has released some samples of the questions you will be asked at an applicant interview. The subject specific questions have been devised by the tutors who would be asking them in order to give prospective students a heads-up about what to expect in their interview, referred to by the university as an “academic conversation”.

In an attempt to remove some of the mystery surrounding the Oxford application process, Dr Samia Khan, the Director of Admissions and Outreach at the university, has said in a statement: “We hope that seeing some of the less obvious questions will reassure prospective applicants that tutors simply want to see how students think and respond to new ideas – we are not interested in catching students out.”

She goes on to explain that the ultimate aim of doing this is “to help students to familiarise themselves with what the process is – and isn’t – about.”

How would you feel about answering these questions?

Q: Why is income per head between 50 and 100 times larger in the United States than in countries such as Burundi and Malawi?

This one is aimed at people applying to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The interviewer, Brian Bell, reassuringly admits that “there is no simple or unique answer.” He does, however, go on to hint that “good candidates should recognise that institutions matter a lot – respect for property rights and the rule of law appear to be pre-requisites for sustainable development.”

Q: Do Bankers deserve the pay they receive? And should government do something to limit how much they get?

This topical question is another of Brian’s, but this one is aimed at those wanting to study Economics and Management. His advice for this one is that you “think widely and not try and fit the answer to some lesson that has been learnt in school.”

Q: Why is sugar in your urine a good indicator that you might have diabetes?

Prospective Biomedical Sciences students can expect to be asked this by Robert Wilkins who suggests: “A successful applicant will make the connection that an elevated level of glucose in the blood in diabetes leads to increased filtration of glucose by the kidneys and saturation of the carriers that perform the reabsorption, resulting in ‘overspill’ of glucose in the urine.”

Q: Imagine that 100 people all put £1 into a pot for a prize that will go to the winner of a simple game. Each person has to choose a number between 0 and 100. The prize goes to the person whose number is closest to 2/3 of the average of all of the numbers chosen. What number will you choose, and why?

Nick Yeung has chosen this question for his prospective Experimental Psychology students. He explains that he’s “not looking for a single answer”. Instead, he’s “interested in seeing how people think through a problem, figure out what are the relevant factors, respond when new information is provided, and so on.”

Q: Place a 30cm ruler on top of one finger from each hand. What happens when you bring your fingers together?

This one is designed for prospective Engineering students. Steve Collins says he is looking to “see how candidates react to what is usually an unexpected result” and that as a candidate you “should then be able to explain why both fingers reach the centre of the rule at the same time as observed.”

Q: Can archaeology ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ the Bible?

Those looking into doing Oriental Studies can expect to be asked this by Alison Salvesen. She states that: “I would be looking for an answer that showed the candidate could appreciate that the Bible was a collection of documents written and transmitted over several centuries, and containing important traditions that have a bearing on history, but that academic study of the Bible means that it has to be examined carefully to see when and where these traditions had come from and for what purpose they had been written.”

If you’ve applied to Oxford University this year, good luck with your answers!