More than 11,000 prospective undergraduate students will be in Oxford over the next two weeks to take part in the University's annual admissions interview period.
All of the University’s 49 undergraduate course subjects will be conducting interviews, with candidates staying in Oxford's colleges over the course of their subject interviews. Most candidates will have at least two, and up to four, interviews – increasingly at more than one college. And colleges work co-operatively to try and ensure all applicants for a particular subject can be compared against one another, in order that the very best people get Oxford places, no matter what college they apply to. As a result, around one-quarter of students at Oxford are at a college other than the college they named as their preference.
'The interview is only one part of the Oxford admissions process, but for many students it is the part that makes them the most anxious,' says Mike Nicholson, Oxford's Director of Undergraduate Admissions. 'We know most students won't have experienced this sort of academic interview before, so we try and put as much information online as possible to show students what they are really like so they aren't put off by what they might have heard.
'The interviews are 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. They are there to give candidates the chance to show their real ability and potential – which means they 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.'
Interviews are only one part of the selection process at Oxford: academic ability and potential is assessed through a range of measures in addition to interviews, including predicted grades; attained grades; personal statement; teacher’s reference; and aptitude tests. All measures are considered and compared between candidates.
Candidates preparing for interviews can find a range of information online, including sample interview questions, interview videos, and a series of admissions tutors' video diaries – recorded during the 2010-11 admissions round.
For the third year in a row, Oxford received more than 17,000 applications for its undergraduate courses – in spite of a decline in applications across the higher education sector. Applications to Oxford have increased by 55% in the last 10 years.