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