Here's a list of brilliant interview questions by Oxbridge dons to prospective students. I am going to test these out on my son this weekend and report back. He is 11 years and 11 months and 27 days old so that has to be considered, but these 100 odd questions would be interesting to know. He attends the local council school so he is NOT a private schooled student.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!
Oxbridge 'prefers interviews to exam results'
By Graeme Paton Education Editor
Last Updated: 2:30am BST 17/09/2007
Oxford and Cambridge universities are increasingly relying on interviews to select the best students because A-levels and GCSEs fail to distinguish between bright and weak candidates, according to researchers.
Test your lateral thinking with the Oxbridge Q&A As a result many applicants could see their fate decided by their responses to famously bizarre questions put by Oxbridge interviewers to test their knowledge and powers of reasoning.
School exams alone are no longer a marker of sixth-formers’ ability as record numbers now leave with a string of A grades, it is claimed. Universities cannot even rely on references from teachers who are reluctant to criticise students for fear of being served with an official complaint.
Geoff Parks, the director of admissions at Cambridge, said interviews were becoming "more important" as other methods used to select sixth-formers are eroded. But according to Oxbridge Applications, which advises people applying to the ancient institutions, interviews are more likely to benefit those from elite independent schools or state grammars.
They are more likely to be "coached" by teachers to give the best answers, they say. Last year a student applying for a geography course at Cambridge was asked: "What is the population of Croydon?" Another applying for physics at Oxford was asked: "How high can I go up a mountain having only eaten a Mars bar?" James Uffindell, the founder of Oxbridge Applications, said interviews often punished comprehensive school pupils.
Figures from Cambridge show that 34 per cent of independent school pupils and 31 per cent from state grammars who apply get a place. However, just 21 per cent of comprehensive pupils get in. At Oxford, more than 32 per cent of independent school pupils who applied were admitted last year.
Mr Uffindell said: "Tutors are understandably having to reply on the interview — what else do you do when a quarter of all A-level papers are now marked an A? "This means pupils from the state comprehensives and the less well-known independent schools will find it harder to get in. They don’t have the amount of knowledge of the Oxbridge interview process that perhaps they have in the big private schools, where many teachers know the type of questions that are going to be asked and can provide coaching."
Earlier research by Oxbridge Applications showed that almost one in 10 state school students who had good grades did not apply to Oxbridge because they lacked confidence about the interview process. An Oxford spokesman insisted the interview process was fair to all
students. "One of the reasons for asking questions that require some lateral thinking is to really examine how a candidates thinks, rather than how they’ve been coached or what they’ve been taught," she said. "They are looking for raw aptitude, not polish.”
Test your lateral thinking: Oxbridge questions
Last Updated: 2:30am BST 17/09/2007
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Suggestions for tackling the questions (source: Oxbridge
1. Does a girl scout have a political agenda? (Law, Oxford)
* An agenda is a set of beliefs or a single issue view which a person or organisation looks to get across either openly or subversively.
* This becomes political when it concerns the way society is organised, or how individuals interact with one another in the public sphere.
* The Girl Scouts is a group which has a certain set of views they look to promote, advance and enact. Part of being a girl scout is a belief in, and a desire to promote, this agenda.
* These concern the way society is organised or how individuals interact in the public sphere. For example, there is a strong belief in charity; a belief in community and group identity; a Christian theology and approach to life; support for hierarchical and ordered power structures.
* A girl scout thus has a set of beliefs she looks to advance, and these concern the organisation of society and the interaction of individuals within it. She therefore has a political agenda.
2. What is the purpose of comedy? (Modern and Medieval Languages, Cambridge)
* In this question I will address comedy as that placed in a play, poem or novel by an author for humorous effect.
* Comedy centres around disorder: the patterns of an event or words are broken from the path our experience has led us to expect. It therefore makes us consider something in an unconventional manner or from an unusual perspective.
* Comedy is therefore highly interactive. Its purpose is thus to ignite a reaction or perception within the recipient.
* It thus uses an unconventional outcome or approach to ignite a reaction. This can either by reflective or inspirational.
* It is reflective when it encourages us to appreciate a certain truism about human life or humanity. This might be tragic, joyful, or any variety of emotional values. We are thus merely reflecting on the disorder highlighted.
* It is inspirational when it looks to motivate us to change something. We are thus looking to change the disorder highlighted.
* The purpose of comedy is therefore to encourage a fresh perspective on a given subject. By challenging an expected order, one is left to either reflect upon the resulting disorder or to rouse the desire to change it. It interactivity ensures this perception is made. It is therefore used as a vehicle for highlighting an author's viewpoint to an audience.
3. Should the use of mobile phones be banned on public transport? (Law, Oxford)
* Does this area of society's conduct require regulation by law? What time of law? What do you understand to be the function of the law?
* Almost all laws place a restriction on the rights and freedoms of individuals-it is often a question of is this restriction justified in light of other factors, such as the public good, or the safety and security of others.
* Think about what factors are being balanced here (a person seeking to ban phones would perhaps argue the phone use is causing a nuisance, distinction between public/private nuisances, whereas this would be counterbalanced with the users claimed right to automatism).
* What are the student's personal opinions?
* Can he / she justify these?
4. Can you imagine a world without laws? (Physics and Philosophy, Oxford)
* What is a law? How are they defined? What is their purpose?
* Is our understanding of a system formed independently, or does it merely emerge through our experiences of interactions with the system?
* What do we mean by a physical law? Are they truisms, or merely an abstract concept we, as observers, have developed through study of a system and a desire to be able to formulate the system in terms we can understand.
* What is the most fundamental law, in your opinion?
Sample Cambridge questions (source: Oxbridge Applications):
1. What is the population of Croydon? Geography at Cambridge
2. Do you believe that we should eradicate Christmas on the basis that it offends other religious groups? Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge
3. What is the purpose of comedy? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
4. Why is the pole vaulting world record about 6.5m, and why can't it be broken? Computer Science at Cambridge
5. What do you think about those who regard global warming as nonsense? Geography at Cambridge
6. Is it more important to focus on poverty at home or abroad? Land Economy at Cambridge
7. If you were to form a government of philosophers what selection process would you use? Philosophy at Cambridge
8. Where does honesty fit into Law? Law at Cambridge
9. Is the environment a bigger crisis than poverty / AIDS etc? Land Economy at Cambridge
10. Do you think that getting involved in poverty abroad is interfering with others' freedoms? Land Economy at Cambridge
11. If you could have half an hour with any mathematician past or present, who would it be? Mathematics at Cambridge
12. What would happen if the Classics department burnt down? Classics at Cambridge
13. Make Poverty History is a commendable thought, is it a practical one? Land Economy at Cambridge
14. Are fair trade bananas really fair? Geography at Cambridge
15. The stage, a platform for opinions or just entertainment - what are your thoughts? Education Studies at Cambridge
16. What do you think about those who regard global warming as nonsense? Geography at Cambridge
17. Was Romeo impulsive? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
18. Why does French food interest you? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
19. Is there such thing as 'race'? History at Cambridge
20. What do you like most about the brain? Medicine at Cambridge
21. 'How would you describe a human to a person from Mars? Medicine at Cambridge
22. Was it fair that a woman's planning application for painting her door purple in a conservation area was declined? Land Economy at Cambridge
23. How many animals did Moses take on the arc? Natural Sciences at Cambridge
24. Should someone sell their kidney? Medicine at Cambridge
25. Do you think Chairman Mao would be proud of the China of today? Oriental Studies at Cambridge
26. What is the point of using NHS money to keep old people alive? Economics at Cambridge
27. How would you compare Henry VIII and Stalin? History at Cambridge
28. How would you simulate altitude in your living room? Medicine at Cambridge
29. In the 1920s did the invention of the Henry Ford car lead to a national sub-culture or was it just an aspect of one? History at Cambridge
30. On a hot day, what should you do with a fridge? Natural Sciences at Cambridge
31. Do you feel that music is an art incomparable to history in that history cannot be performed? Music at Cambridge
32. Is emotion an important part of religion? Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge
33. How does global development would affect your life personally? Land Economy at Cambridge
34. How would you reduce crime through architecture? Architecture at Cambridge
35. Define 'at fault'. Law at Cambridge
36. Why did they used to make the mill chimneys so tall? Engineering at Cambridge
37. Do you think Feminism is dead? Classics at Cambridge
38. Are you surprised that there is no Russian word for "privacy"? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
39. Why does the word 'God' and 'I' have a capital letter? Oriental Studies at Cambridge
40. Should obese people have free NHS treatment? Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge
41. Why do we psychoanalyse historians? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
42. What is Christmas? Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge
43. "Emma has become a different person since she took up yoga. Therefore she is not responsible for anything she did before she took up yoga." Discuss. Classics at Oxford
44. Imagine you are hosting the BBC4 Radio Show on New Year's Day, what message would you send to the people using this programme? Geography at Cambridge
45. Think of a painting of a tree. Is the tree real? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
46. 'What would you say if Gordon Brown were to take a report which shows that people who go to university earn more than those who do not, and then proclaim that going to university causes you to earn more? Economics at Cambridge
47. What books are bad for you? English at Cambridge
48. Should historians be allowed to read sci-fi novels? History at Cambridge
49. How would you describe an apple? Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge
50. If a carrot can grow form one carrot cell, why not a human? Natural Sciences at Cambridge
51. Is it moral to hook up a psychopath (whose only pleasure is killing) to a reality-simulating machine so that he can believe he is in the real world and kill as much as he likes? Philosophy at Cambridge
52. How do you make a place peaceful? Architecture at Cambridge
53. Chekhov's great, isn't he? Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge
54. There is a Christian priest who regularly visits India and converted to be a Hindu priest. When he is in England he still practices as a Christian priest. What problems might this pose? Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge
Sample Oxford questions (source: Oxbridge Applications):
1. How high can I go up a mountain having only eaten a mars bar? Physics at Oxford
2. Do we have the right to interpret the story of the birth of Christ as a comment on Tony Blair's current political situation? English at Oxford
3. Should the use of mobile phones be banned on public transport? Law at Oxford
4. What is the most pieces of pizza I can get from 'n' cuts? Mathematics at Oxford
5. What are the origins of your Christian name? History at Oxford
6. Who is your favourite Metaphysical poet? (Bear in mind this was a MATHS interview) Mathematics at Oxford
7. One grain of wheat does not constitute a heap. If one grain doesn't make a heap neither will two. If two don't make a heap neither will three..... If 9,999 grains of wheat don't make a heap 10,000 don't make a heap…. Physics and Philosophy at Oxford
8. What problems do fish face underwater? Biological Sciences at Oxford
9. If you entered a teletransporter and your body was destroyed and instantly recreated on mars in exactly the same way with all your memories in tact etc, would you be the same person? PPE at Oxford
10. Explain why teachers might be changing jobs to become plumbers. History and Economics at Oxford
11. Will the bag ever become empty? Mathematics at Oxford
12. Can you imagine a world without Laws? Physics and Philosophy at Oxford
13. What is 'turning you on' in chemistry at the moment? Chemistry at Oxford
14. If I could fold this piece of paper an infinite number of times how many times must I fold it to reach the moon? Physics and Philosophy at Oxford
15. What food (out of a choice) was best to eat before an interview? Physiological Sciences at Oxford
16. Tell me about drowning. Medicine at Oxford
17. Is there a difference between innocence and naivety? English at Oxford
18. What do you think of assisted suicide? Medicine at Oxford
19. Would you give a 60 year old woman IVF treatment? Medicine at Oxford
20. I am an oil baron in the desert and I need to deliver oil to four different towns which happen to lie on a straight line. In order to deliver the correct amounts to each town, I must visit each town in turn, returning to my warehouse in between each visit. Where should I
position my warehouse in order to drive the shortest distance possible? Roads are no problem since I have a friend who is a sheikh and will build me as many roads as I like for free. Mathematics at Oxford
21. Why did Henry VIII call his son Arthur? History at Oxford
22. Is the Angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus? Theology at Oxford
23. What makes a strong woman? Theology at Oxford
24. Does a girl scout have a political agenda? Law at Oxford
25. What is the difference between buying and selling of slaves and the buying and selling of football players? Economics and Management at Oxford
26. Is wearing school uniform a breach of human rights? Law at Oxford
27. Is being hungry the same thing as wanting to eat? PPE at Oxford
28. Why do firms exist? Economics and Management at Oxford
29. What is fate? Classics and English at Oxford
30. Why is there not a global government? PPE at Oxford
31. Why would you consider Toys R Us to be a failing business? Economics and Management at Oxford
32. If you could make up a word, what would it be? Why? English at Oxford
33. Is someone guilty of an offence if they did not set out to commit a crime but ended up in doing so? Law at Oxford
34. Should a Wal-Mart store be opened in the middle of Oxford? Economics and Management at Oxford
35. What do you think of teleport machines? PPE at Oxford
36. What makes you think that I am having thoughts? Mathematics and Philosophy at Oxford
37. When are people dead? Medicine at Oxford
38. Tell me about these eggs? Physics at Oxford
39. Are there too many people in the world? Human Sciences at Oxford
40. Do you know who decided to put English Literature on to the school syllabus? English at Oxford
41. Why are you sitting in this chair? History at Oxford
42. How would you travel through time? Physics at Oxford
43. Should there be an intelligence test to decide who could vote? PPE at Oxford
44. You have a 3 litre jug and a 5 litre jug. Make 4 litres. (it's from die hard 3) Mathematics at Oxford
45. Would you trade your scarf for my bike, even if you have no idea what state it's in or if I even have one? Law at Oxford
46. What was the most beautiful proof in A-Level Mathematics? Mathematics at Oxford
47. Is nature natural? Geography at Oxford
48. Don't you think Hamlet is a bit long? No? Well I do. English at Oxford
49. If you could go back in time to any period of time when it would be and why? Law at Oxford
50. Is the Bible a fictional work? Could it be called chick lit? English at Oxford
51. What trees did Disraeli plant at Hughenden Manor? History at Oxford
52. Was Shakespeare a rebel? English at Oxford
53. Are humans still evolving? Biological Sciences at Oxford