106 -Oxbridge Preparation- questions

What should I write in my personal statement?

Your personal statement should be a concise, enthusiastic and interesting promotion of yourself. It may seem awkward to write about the things in which you excel at first but remember that this is the one opportunity you get to show the universities why they should want you to study with them. Open with an original and subject-related phrase; the admissions team have thousands of statements to get through and you want yours to stand out! Talk about why you want to study your chosen course and what you hope to gain from studying it. If your statement is university specific, such as the Cambridge SAQ, have a look at the course content online, pick something you find interesting and mention it briefly in the statement, to show your curiosity and engagement with the course. Extra-curricular activities are important, but they are not the priority of your personal statement. If you do wish to mention them, talk about the transferable skills you have gained from them which will make you a better learner. Show that you have an interest in your subject outside of the curriculum, and specify a book, film or news article etc which you found particularly interesting. It is important to show off your passion for your subject! Universities are looking for people who are keen to learn, so do not worry about whether you are getting the top marks in your class or not. The important thing is your thirst for knowledge, curiosity and drive to succeed.
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Emily B.

Answered by Emily, tutor with MyTutor

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How best can I prepare for an interview in Classics at Cambridge

First of all, critical thinking is essential when it comes to preparing for any Oxbridge - and in this case - Cambridge interview. Second of all, your ability to read widely and beyond the syllabus is what is going to greatly set you apart. Find an area of Classics that you are particularly passionate about and do not underestimate that passion you have, even if you think the area where your passion lies is not as important a topic of discussion. Remember what you wrote in your essays and be prepared to discuss it widely, as it relates to other aspects of Classics and/or even contemporary society. Remember that the interview is a mirror of what weekly supervisions/tutorials are actually like, so let your enthusiasm come through and remember you are not expected to know everything. 
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Nnenda C.

Answered by Nnenda, tutor with MyTutor

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Am I what Oxbridge are looking for?

If you're considering applying to Oxbridge, the key thing you need is a passion and drive for learning. This doesn't mean you need to be that person who is always studying or the person who consistently gets the top grades in class, but rather the person who is curious about things and then does something with that curiosity. Oxbridge really takes the time to get to know their prospective students. My Cambridge application included: - A Level Grades - UCAS application (personal statement etc.) - A separate Cambridge entrance exam - An SAQ (Supplementary Application Questionnaire - where you can add a little bit more about what interests you about your course / the university itself) - Interviews with Senior members of the College While this can look daunting, each step is simply an opportunity for you to demonstrate what it is that drives you. To simplify this process, they are looking at your academic history (your grades), your academic potential (your interview and test), and your intellectual passion (your SAQ and personal statement). Oxbridge are making efforts to improve access and diversity within their respective institutions so don't rule yourself out just because of your background or any other reason for that matter! Preparation for applying to Oxbridge needn't be time consuming, and really isn't as mysterious as some people make it out to be. So I cannot stress enough, the application process rewards authentic passion and curiosity. Because of this, there is no 'ideal' Cambridge applicant as everyone's interests differ.  I can offer tutoring on writing a strong Personal Statement, preparation for interviews and the English entrance exam (ELAT). 
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Grace G.

Answered by Grace, tutor with MyTutor

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What are tutors looking for in a law interview?

In a law interview, tutors are looking for raw academic potential, so make sure you think out loud so that they can see all the thought processes happening in your brain. When they ask you a question, think first about what the question means, and consider the terms they have used. What does fair mean? Even if you don't have a good answer, make a working definition and then test it along the way against problems which come up. Keep talking out loud as you answer the question. That way, even if you come to the wrong conclusion, the tutor can understand how you got there. It's entirely possible that you could have had promising intuition and instinct, but due to nerves you've erred in your answer. What the tutors are looking for is raw potential to do well under the intense tutoring system Oxbridge colleges have in place, therefore you should worry less about giving perfect answers (because you won't be able to most of the time!), and more about showing them you can cope with the unknown and unfamiliar. 
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Bethan S.

Answered by Bethan, tutor with MyTutor

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I find poetry very difficult - what if I don't understand the poem in the interview?

Firstly, do not panic! During my interview I had no idea that the poem they gave me was an allegory for the process of writing poetry, but I was able to work with what I could deduce from the poem. Try and use all the skills you have learned from A-level to help you. In an English interview you should make notes on language, structure and form so that you can comment on them. Quite often tutors will ask you an open question to warm you up - for example, "talk me through the poem". In this case make some observations thinking about poetic voice, structure, tone etc. If you cannot think of concrete conclusions, make some speculative comments or say what questions arose as you were reading. Tutors also love it when you make links between other things you have read. In your preparation time think about whether the poem reminds you of anything you have already read or a poetic voice that you're familiar with. English interviews are not about coming up with the right answers, but thinking creatively and being brave to come up with ideas.  
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James T.

Answered by James, tutor with MyTutor

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What is faith?

I think that faith is essentially the same thing as belief, except that its warrant for existing is rather different to the reference of empirically verifiable evidence or of general ‘experience;’ I think this is why one might ‘believe’ that ghosts exist having ‘experienced their presence’ through something like an Ouija board, but one would not have ‘faith’ per se in the existence of such beings. Belief stems from experiences that either come from the outside world, or false experiences that are attributed as being external in nature, when in reality they are merely a figment of the imagination, while faith comes solely from inner experiences and feelings, and ones that are correctly attributed as such (although conversely this leads to the faith being put in something that may well be more external than it is internal; such a point of view relies on ‘God’ conceptually being everywhere, both in and out of the human psyche). Faith comes either from some kind of internal sense that there definitely is something for which faith is worth having, or from an inner need or desire for such a thing to exist and to be worthy of having faith in. This opinion is almost entirely shaped by my own justification for why I personally have faith in God; for me it comes from the sense that ultimately I can’t believe there is simply nothing that lies beyond the universe – science has no answer for what caused its creation to occur, so in that sense I have faith in the concept of God as a creator because He seems to be the only answer. More than justifying why I could believe there to be a God at all, I think my faith primarily stems from the fact that for multiple reasons I fundamentally believe that there is some kind of ‘specialness’ to humanity and elements of reality that nature alone simply cannot explain – this again is the inner sense of something ‘other’ being present. Faith comes from the inside of the human mind, although it is impossible to say whether its presence is legitimate or not.
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William R.

Answered by William, tutor with MyTutor

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How should I prepare for an application for Oxford?

People applying to Oxford have a wide range of levels of preparation so first of all you don't need to worry about not having read enough or feeling inadequate compared to other people applying! My advice would simply to be read as many books about the subject you're interested in as you can, making sure that you read regularly on topics outside of your ordinary A Level or IB curriculum, There is no right or wrong answer in terms of what is a good topic to read so just follow your passions- tutors in the interviews are above all looking to check that you have a genuine interest in your topic and you can talk about it eloquently and engage with ideas that you may not have heard previously. This doesn't mean that you have to be an expert! No one is expecting you to be the finished product when you do your aptitude test or your interview, you simply have to show a willingness to adapt and engage with concepts that are new to you. Have a look at past papers for the HAT (or whichever Aptitude test is relevant to your chosen course) and have a think about the questions there- maybe try and answer some of them (especially the comprehension-style ones) but don't worry if they're unlike anything you've done before and you think you haven't answered them properly- that's the point! It won't be marked like a normal essay so just be creative and try to think outside the box, linking ideas from various topics you have covered to answer the question in a unique way.
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Nathan W.

Answered by Nathan, tutor with MyTutor

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Is there anything that you wish someone had told you before your interview?

Well, first of all, "calm down"! There really is no need to be overly nervous; an interview is essentially a conversation between you and someone who loves your subject every bit as much as you do. It will be challenging, but it can also be fun (albeit, in a way that might make your head hurt a bit). There is no need to panic about saying the wrong thing or getting the wrong answer. Your interviewers aren't checking to see if you're the fountain of all knowledge; they just want to see how you think and how you might cope with the kind of teaching Oxbridge prefers. If you need to think for a bit or ask for clarification from your interviewers, that's fine! It won't reflect poorly on you and your interviewers will try to help you as much as they can, so try not to be too stressed about answering everything 100% correctly every time. Also, there's no such thing as an "Oxbridge person". Speaking or dressing in a particular way will not help or hinder your chances (well, within reason...going for your interview in fancy dress is not advisable by any stretch of the imagination). You do not have to come to your Oxbridge interview dressed for a job interview. Feel free to see if the college you've applied to has any guidelines on what to wear, but, generally speaking, you should wear what you feel most comfortable in. I wish someone had told me that before I rocked up looking like some sort of boardroom exec/awkward adolescent penguin hybrid.
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Hannah D.

Answered by Hannah, who has applied to tutor with MyTutor

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