London: It's considered one of the toughest universities to get into, and admission interviews at the University of Oxford invariably challenge potential students to think on their feet, think independently and laterally, and show an ability to apply theory.
Tutors challenge potential students with questions that may seem strange to some, but help bring out their potential. Many applicants go through mock interviews to prepare for the rigorous questions — and some questions can challenge the ablest of minds.
Think out of the box
For example, students applying to study biological sciences might be asked why it matters if tigers become extinct, potential history students are asked to discuss whether the word 'political' has different meanings in different contexts, and applicants looking to study materials science may be asked to calculate the temperature in a hot air balloon necessary to lift an elephant.
The university today released some sample interview questions — direct from the tutors who conduct the interviews — to provoke thought and help explain the reasoning behind even the most strange-sounding questions.
Some interview questions posed by tutors are:
• Is violence always political?
• Does 'political' mean something different in different contexts?
• Why do lions have manes?
• Ladybirds are red. So are strawberries. Why?
• In a world where English is a global language, why learn French?
• If the punishment for parking on double yellow lines were death, and therefore nobody did it, would that be a just and effective law?
Reciting facts and prepared answers won't work
Mike Nicholson, the director of undergraduate admissions, explains that the interviews "are an important but often misunderstood part of Oxford's admissions process". He said the interviews are all about giving candidates "the chance to show their real ability and potential - while this may sound intimidating, all it means is that candidates will be pushed to use their knowledge and apply their thinking to new problems in ways that will both challenge them and allow them to shine".
"The interview is an academic conversation in a subject area between tutors and candidate, similar to an undergraduate tutorial. And like tutorials, the interviews are designed to push students to think, not recite specific facts or answers," he added.
Selection criteria is subject-specific
Nicholson said they may start with familiar territory and then move into areas students have not studied before, introducing new material or ideas, and they are entirely academic in focus. The selection criteria, he says, are subject-specific, and interviews are designed to find evidence of academic ability and potential in those areas.
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Updated Date: Oct 05, 2011 17:55:48 IST