Friday, December 01, 2006

Behind the scenes at Oxford interviews

Over the next couple of weeks almost 10,000 potential students will be undergoing probably some of the most taxing and challenging interviews in the country (or maybe even the world) as they seek admission for courses starting at Oxford University in October 2007.

There is a lot of mystique about the admissions process at Oxford, and therefore as this will be my first time viewing it I thought it would be interesting to record my observations and thoughts on what actually goes on. Hopefully it will assist those who would consider applying to Oxford in future years to get an insight into what actually happens, from a perspective that would not normally be open to public scrutiny.

The views that I will express will be my own, and I will not be mentioning individuals or revealing information that would allow the progress of any particular applicant to be identified. It will be more an opportunity to give you an overview of what is happening at Oxford over the next couple of weeks, and why it happens this way, and also indicate what goes on behind the scenes to enable the Colleges to make just over 3,000 offers to the successful candidates. I'm aiming to make at least one post each weekday, starting from Monday 4th December - the content will to some extent depend on what I will be doing each day. I'll summarise my thoughts overall in a final post on Friday 15th December.

I hope that you find it useful and interesting - if you have any comments feel free to post them. If there any questions then I'll try and answer them, and if it is something related to the admissions process I may even be able to find some useful web-links to provide you with more information.

18 comments:

harlow college guidance said...

Hi Mike, What a unique and valuable insight into the interview process ! Word is spreading and both our students and staff are now looking forward to your future postings.

Anonymous said...

I remember my interview at Worcester College for Chemistry in late 1988.

The room was dimly lit, gas fire on, warm on a cold Autumn evening, a hard sofa to sit on and two 'crusty' dons in armchairs facing me.

I wasn't that scared. I could answer a lot of the questions especially the one on free radicals that got me the place. I told a little lie on my application form and was found out but they didn't care, so don't lie kids! They look for creativity and initiative and thinking on your feet.

Ben Davies
Auckland, New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

Toughest interviews in the world? What an elitist self-congratulatory load of crap! Most interviews are conducted by poorly paid PHD students. Oxford just wants people like us: middle class, privileged, dull and conformist.

Dean J. said...

Welcome to the relatively small club of admission officers in the blogsphere!

john.parrington said...

The post that said 'most interviews are conducted by poorly paid PHD students' and that Oxford only wants 'middle class, privileged, dull and conformist' applicants ought to explain where they get their information from. I am a scientist running a busy lab and also a university lecturer and college tutor at Oxford. I interview students who apply to read medicine, physiological sciences and pyschology. Our medical applicants have 4 interviews, each one rigorously conducted by both a scientist and a clinician. At the end of the process, we rank candidates based on all 4 interviews. We spend a week of our time to ensure we select the best candidates. We don't generally involve PhD students but if we did it would be to add to the procedure. How patronising to suggest PhD students can't also contribute.
In terms of who we select, I can't speak for other lecturers but I find the idea that we prefer people from a privileged background, or people who voice uncontroversial opinions, a ridiculous one.
Following my own experience in getting into Cambridge from a poorly achieving Bradford comprehensive (few people went to university, never mind Oxbridge), and with the 'worst school report' the college had ever seen (I didn't get on with my teachers), I believe in using the interview procedure to go beyond surface appearances and in finding out whether an applicant can really think, rather than just reciting things that they have learned by rote.
One of the biggest obstacles Oxford faces in attracting students from less privileged backgrounds is that many ordinary kids are told that Oxbridge is 'not for them'. Ignore such rubbish and go for it - we need people like you!

Ben Davies said...

Someone said..

"Toughest interviews in the world? What an elitist self-congratulatory load of crap! Most interviews are conducted by poorly paid PHD students. Oxford just wants people like us: middle class, privileged, dull and conformist."

My interview wasn't. Both of my interviewers got their DPhils (which is what you get at Oxford) about 30 years before they interviewed me.

If doctoral students do interview people then Oxford has fallen a bit but I wouldn't call an Oxford doctoral student ordinary.

Hardest interview in the world. Hardly, but most of these people are only 18 years old.

As for the rest of your comment I agree with it. Why bring in less able people. We will end up like the US where there are racial quotas. "Decline of education, loss of Grammar Schools" I mumble as I get up from the computer and enjoy the rest of my evening.

BD

Anonymous said...

I am hoping to apply to Oxford in the future. However, whilst it is apparent that a strong academic background is needed, how much of a part do extra curriculum activities play in securing a place at Oxford University?

Pete said...

Re extra-curricular activities: you'll find some information on this page - http://www.admissions.ox.ac.uk/interviews/

Anonymous said...

Our daughter was interviewed at Oxford last year. The process was fair and above board. As a teacher I felt that tutors treated candidates fairly and the letters explaining why candidtaes were rejected were hwelpful and frequently mirrored our opinions.Our daughter has just finished her first term at Oxford and loves the atmosphere in her College and is bubbling over with enthusiasm for her tutora nad he rsubject. Well done and Thanks!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I was interviewed in december of 2007. I found the process both just and very pleasing. To all prospect applicants, please ignore the common myths about the interviews: there are no excentric tutors nor unjust selection procedures (at least from what I got to see).
If you desire to study at Oxford, please please apply and see what happens. Do not let other people's opinion shape your decision-making.

Anonymous said...

i find it somewhat inconceivable that you were interviewed in December 2007 as, at the time of writing, it is the 15th Oct 2007...

wonghamma said...

I also hope I'll be made an offer... I come from Germany and I really have to practise my English and increase my marks. And I hope it isn't a disadvantage not being educated in English literature!! Because I want to read English and such a course isn't available in German schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm applying to medicine this year and I found the last section(essay question) of the BMAT really difficult. Is there a minimum BMAT score to guarantee an interview at oxford?

thanks

SDA said...

You should all start an admission officers forum - tell us all your secrets.

Ātrie kredīti said...

It is not funny... :) Why? :D

Viasms said...

I am hoping to apply to Oxford in the future :)

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