#UniShorts: How Do I Prepare for an Oxford Interview?

If you’re asking yourself “how do I prepare for an Oxford interview?” then there are plenty of steps you can take to optimise your chances of performing well on the big day.

Check out our in-depth article on relieving stress for your Oxbridge interviews here.

However, in this #UniShort, we’re going to focus on three actionable tips that not all candidates will think to follow before their own interviews. These three tips will help you to gain the upper hand over the rest of your peers before you all meet your interviewers in December. 

How Do I Prepare for an Oxford Interview? The More Mocks, the Better 

Many candidates will spend the days and weeks leading up to their interview trying to cram and read as many books and news articles as possible, as they believe that this tactic will give them an advantage over their peers. 

Put simply, don’t waste time trying to remember certain socio-political theories or ideas that you can parrot in your interviews. Reciting a number of ideas, whilst making no attempt to engage analytically with these ideas, will not impress interviewers: in fact, it will do quite the opposite. 

Generally speaking, Oxford tutors aren’t really interested in hearing about this type of revised, acquired knowledge. What they’re really looking for is raw intelligence: what one Oxford tutor calls “intellectual capacity.”

When Oxford interviewers talk about this capacity, they’re really talking about your potential to take on new, complex information and coming up with original and innovative interpretations of these ideas. They also want to make sure that you can think on your feet, and adapt to the rigorous academic challenge of an Oxford tutorial. 

So how can you develop and strengthen this ability and curate this capacity? The most effective method is to do as many mock interviews as possible with an experienced mentor who won’t be afraid to give you constructive criticism. This form of practice will get you used to adapting on the fly and taking the time to steady yourself and think clearly under pressure. 

Work on Your Conciseness 

You can also use your mock interviews as an opportunity to both evaluate and strengthen your communicative precision and conciseness. No matter the subject matter, you’ll find that each question the interviewer asks will pose a particular problem. 

Make sure you take time to think about the question and figure out what the problem might be before starting to formulate a potential solution. Interviewers would far rather that you took a moment to consider their question before answering instead of plunging into a mumbling and misinformed answer just for the sake of trying to look like you’re thinking supremely quickly. 

Learn to value communicative conciseness over aimless rambling. There are multiple plausible solutions to most questions the interviewers will ask, so the best answers are most often: “One way to look into it is X; another way to look into it is Y; I find Y more plausible/practical than X because of the following reasons…”

It’s also worth noting that if you’re a natural rambler when it comes to talking, this is completely fine! Just try to be self-aware of that fact, and make the effort to check yourself a little bit if you feel like you’re getting more and more off course in your answers.

The interviewers are well trained at spotting intellectual potential in anyone, whether it’s a candidate who keeps their answers blunt and to-the-point or someone who tends to jump from idea to idea and connect seemingly tangential points together. 

Strengthen Your Active Listening Skills 

Perhaps, in hindsight, the answer to the question “how do I prepare for an Oxford interview?” is to develop the invaluable skill of active listening before the big day. 

In a wider context, “active listening” is the act of engaging in a conversation with someone and really focussing on what it is they’re saying. When it comes to your Oxford interview, this proactive form of listening is highly useful for two main reasons: 

  • It ensures that you’ll better understand the problems posed in the interviewer’s questions: if you really focus on what your interviewer is asking you, rather than worry about what smart-sounding thing you’re going to say back before they’ve even finished formulating the question, you may well miss the mark completely with your answer. Listen, then reflect and evaluate, then begin to answer the problem posed. 
  • It will improve your rapport with the interviewer: when you actively listen to anyone, no matter who they are, they feel respected and the conversation will tend to flow a lot better. Remember that tutors are looking for candidates who they will want to work with every week during tutorial sessions, so it’s useful to build that human connection with these academics early on in the interview. 

Final Thoughts 

Here are three important steps to take when preparing for your Oxford interview: 

  • Practice by doing mock interviews, and ask for constructive feedback from your mock interviewers. 
  • Evaluate your conciseness when answering open-ended questions, and try to check yourself if you veer too far off course in your answers. 
  • Work on developing your active listening skills before the interview itself. 

If you want more in-depth advice on the Oxford interview process, check out this article. Those wanting to book a free consultation should get in touch with one of our team of experts at A&J Education.

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