Try th­ese tricky ques­tions if you want to get into Ox­ford Univer­sity

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - CORPORATE BUZZ - Pra­sun Son­walkar pra­sun.son­walkar@hin­dus­tan­times.com

LON­DON: From silly to sober to se­ri­ous, the manda­tory in­ter­view for ad­mis­sion to un­der­grad­u­ate cour­ses at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford has ac­quired a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion for the na­ture of ques­tions asked, prompt­ing au­thor­i­ties to try to calm the nerves of ap­pli­cants.

The Ox­ford in­ter­view has spawned many sto­ries of de­light and de­spair, but tu­tors in­sist ques­tions that may seem quirky or con­fronta­tional have a pur­pose - to chal­lenge ap­pli­cants to think on their feet, in­de­pen­dently and lat­er­ally, and show an abil­ity to ap­ply the­ory.

As the in­ter­view sea­son be­gins for the aca­demic year be­gin­ning next Septem­ber, the univer­sity has re­leased some ques­tions with notes of what is ex­pected, to de­mys- tify the process. The process is nerve-wrack­ing to many, but one that some sail through with clar­ity, a dash of hu­mour and pluck.

A can­di­date for a course in the­ol­ogy and re­li­gion may be asked: “Is re­li­gion of value whether or not there is a God?”

In­ter­viewer Peter Groves of Worces­ter Col­lege said: “It raises a num­ber of is­sues for them to ex­plore. What is our def­i­ni­tion of re­li­gion, and how fluid is that def­i­ni­tion? What do we mean by value, and how might it be mea­sured? Are the ef­fects of re­li­gion in the past as im­por­tant as its con­se­quences in the present?

“A can­di­date might also want to ask what we mean when we say ‘there is a God?’ Is af­firm­ing this state­ment enough, or should re­li­gious or the­o­log­i­cal en­quiry be more spe­cific – is talk of God in the ab­stract as help­ful as dis­cus­sion of par­tic­u­lar re­li­gious ideas or texts? How would we con­struct a case for the value of re­li­gion in the ab­sence of be­lief in God?”

A can­di­date for mu­sic could be asked: “What are the dif­fer­ent ways in which you lis­ten to mu­sic? How does that change the way in which you think about what you’re lis­ten­ing to?”

For his­tory: “What can his­to­ri­ans not find out about the past?” For earth sciences: “Tell me what this rock looks like.”

Other sam­ple ques­tions: What makes a novel or play po­lit­i­cal? 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?

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