114 Oxbridge Preparation questions

What is the "unseen" reading in the interview and how do I prepare for it?

"Unseen" reading is much friendlier than it sounds; it's simply a piece of writing which you are given around 15 minutes to read, make notes on, and think about. You're then asked questions based on this writing by your interviewers, and you'll be able to take the text into the interview room with you. This exercise aims to see how you adapt and learn during discussions - it definitely isn't a test of how many obscure literatary terms or ideas you already know. You can practice for this by annotating text under timed conditions, and perhaps asking a friend, teacher or parent to ask you about your annotations. In your interview, you'll need to discuss observations you have made, making sure you have used evidence from the text to defend your point. You should identify: the type of language being used; the form of the text (poetry, short story, essay...); the themes and how they can be seen; and different interpretations of the writing as a whole. Most importantly, listen to your interviewers! They are looking to get the best out of you, and their questions and comments are designed to inspire your thinking. A great Oxbridge candidate thinks on their feet, even when it's a bit nerve-wracking.
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Fiona H.

3 weeks ago

Answered by Fiona, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


Why do we have and use musical periods?

An oxbridge music interview won't require a written out answer, but it's good to get used to following your thought patterns through. categorising widespread media is a practical way of enabling conversation about themto show a progression from 'primitive' to 'sophisticated'different styles lend themselves to being grouped and compared (why compare? to rank?) (e.g. continental and English polyphony)as a record of creative outputwhat makes it into a history? who decides the criterea?they are mostly retrospective, so categories reflect adgenda of those categorising - this can be useful to later understand what music history was being used for
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Emily L.

4 weeks ago

Answered by Emily, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


How should I best approach writing an Oxbridge personal statement?

Writing an Oxbridge personal statement is difficult, as there is immense pressure to present yourself and your knowledge of your subject as best and in as sophisticated a way as you can. However, contrary to belief, the best advice I received is to keep things simple. The people reading your personal statement will have to read up to hundreds of these, and so they will notice and appreciate it if you make it easy for them to read and understand - it will be easier for you too! But this does not require you to compromise the complexity and sophistication of your points or arguments; it is actually far more impressive to be able to present complex points in a simple manner, than to just bombard your reader with strings of confusing vocabulary that 'sound clever'.
My best advice is to split your personal statement into three thematic 'sections'. The first sentence should try to be eye-catching, as this is what introduces you to your reader and explains why you want to study your chosen subject. Over-used buzzwords such as 'fascinating' and pretentious quotes are best avoided at this stage as it can be off-putting. Use this first paragraph to give concise, specific and perhaps more niche examples of what interests you about your subject (some people like to refer to things from their A-Level syllabus to start with). The second section should outline what you have done outside of the curriculum to explore your subject further. For example, I chose to read an introductory book about linguistics after discussing it briefly at school. I mentioned this and gave a brief summary, explaining that I believed the Cambridge Classics course would allow me to discover this new interest even further. It showed both curiosity about my subject outside the classroom and that I had researched the course. Two or three examples in this section is ideal. The final section should be more about you, your extra-curricular activities and anything else you want to mention. This is obviously the least important section and should therefore be left until the end, but by no means should it be neglected. Treat this section with as much care and diligence as the rest of your personal statement to demonstrate consistency and professionalism. If you make it short and scruffy, this will be the reader's final impression!
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Robyn S.

4 weeks ago

Answered by Robyn, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


How can I prepare for a Modern Languages interview at Oxford?

Firstly, the most important thing is to try not to worry too much about your interview; no interview is the same, and different interviewers will have very different approaches. However, there are a few things you can do to give yourself as much confidence as possible so that you feel at ease and well-prepared. For my French interview at Oxford I was asked a few general questions about my personal statement, why I wanted to study French, then I was given an unseen text to read aloud and discuss, and my final question (to answer in French) was a fairly simple “Have you ever been to France?”.So how can you prepare for these different parts of the interview? Personal statement: Make sure you can talk confidently about what you’ve written; tutors want to see a genuine interest and passion for the subject! They aren’t going to try and trip you up, they might just ask you to go into slightly more depth about something you have mentioned. So the best way to prepare for this is to practice getting used to talking about your personal statement; you could either do this out loud by yourself, or even better try and get a friend, family member, or teacher to read it and ask you about it. Hopefully your school will be able to give you a mock interview; make sure you ask them about this in good time. Why do you want to study the subject: again, practice answering this as truthfully as possible, maybe give some different examples to what you’ve already said in your personal statement (but if you haven’t been asked about your personal statement, you can of course use it here to your advantage!). If you do really want to study the subject, which you probably do, then an honest answer is the best answer. Tutors just want to make sure you are passionate about it and have really considered what it will involve - so a good idea is to make sure you have looked on the university website and read what the course involves, if you can demonstrate that you are interested in what the course offers, and maybe a specific part of the course, that would be a great answer. Unseen text: This might sound horrible and the hardest part to practice, but actually you can prepare for this and practising will make it much less scary. Try and find some literature or poetry in the language, read a paragraph/verse aloud slowly and clearly, read it again, and try and make some notes/annotations in a few minutes. Practice analysing the language - Oxford languages is very literature based and there’s lots of close textual analysis, which is basically looking at the effect the text has on the reader. So don’t be afraid to say how the text makes you react/feel. You can point out more obvious things like a rhyming pattern or imagery, or maybe the text has a certain rhythm that makes it unusual; if you explain your thought process, the interviewer will probably try and help you reach a conclusion! Again, remember the interviewers don't want to catch you out, they genuinely want to see how you think and interpret the text - so don’t be afraid to talk through the text slowly and voice your thoughts aloud.Oral practice for target language: sadly there isn’t such a quick fix for this one, ideally try and do a bit of oral practice every now and then as early as possible (this will also help you hugely for your school exams!). Consistency is important here - try and do a small amount as often as possible, it could be just speaking to yourself for a few minutes a day before you go to bed, or reading a piece of text aloud. You could watch some Youtube videos, or some videos on news websites, or listen to some music in the language. Anything will help! As for more ‘quick fix’ practice, try and write some practice questions and answer them; the questions could be anything about the language’s culture, why you want to study it (ideally ask your school teacher to help you with this too). You could write down some key phrases and vocabulary for the different questions so you feel confident tackling a wide range of subjects.Finally, remember the most important thing is to not panic and try not to worry too much! Not everything depends on the interview: your personal statement, admissions test, and exam results are important too. Good luck!
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Lea K.

1 month ago

Answered by Lea, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


How much extra-curricular information do Oxbridge want to see on my personal statement?

I'd advise keeping extra-curricular activity to a single paragraph of your statement, towards the end. When it comes to Oxbridge, interest in your subject and a desire to learn are key. Of course, you should be able demonstrate some sort of activity outside of academia, but these two universities are ultimately interested in your academic potential. If you are running out of space on your statement, exploring a subject specific idea that really means something to you should take precedence over the fact that you have a DofE award. Remember, at interview, they are likely to ask you about what you have written on your statement!
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Oliver W.

1 month ago

Answered by Oliver, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


A rocket is at rest on the moon, where g=2 m/s^2. It has a total mass of 1500kg, 1000kg of which is fuel. Fuel is propelled out of the bottom of the rocket at 400m/s, at a rate of 10kg/s. Derive an equation to show its upwards acceleration over time.

The first step is to construct a force diagram of the rocket, which has two forces acting on it; its weight (W) and thrust (T) in opposite directions. T can be calculated by combining the equations F=ma and v=u+at. Rearranging the equations (and removing "u" as it is equal to zero) gives us a=F/m and a=v/t. These can then be combined to give F/m=v/t and rearranged to present F=mv/t. We can now substitute in the values given to us; F=10*400/1= 4000N of thrust. We must now find the weight component. As the rocket is getting constantly lighter (it is burning fuel), its weight will change and so the force opposing its upward motion will decrease. We must therefore introduce a time variable "t". We can now represent the weight of the rocket as (1500-10t)*2= 3000-20t N (0<t<100). The resultant upwards force on the rocket can now be seen to be 4000-(3000-20t) = 1000+20t N. Going back to F=ma, we have derived the force on the rocket and its mass, so can substitute those in to the equation; 1000+20t=(1500-10t)*a. This is now rearranged to give "a" in terms of "t" (so that we answer the question) to give a=(1000+20t)/(1500-10t) (0<t<100).
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Alexander B.

1 month ago

Answered by Alexander, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


Do we have a moral obligation to protect the weak globally?

If faced with this at interview, the first thing to do is BREATHE! You aren't going to come up with a well thought through answer if you panic and blurt out the first thing that comes into your head. The interviewers want to see your independent thought. The best way to approach a question like this is to break it down. What could the idea of a 'moral obligation' mean? Can we ever have universal moral standards? What is it to be weak - economically, mentally, socially? Is this about intervening in genocide or ensuring a basic standard of living worldwide? Where do human rights come into this? Then think about 'global' - they are hinting at ideas about border control but also the notion of difference more broadly. What role does cultural relativity play in all of this?Somewhere you may have thoughts appearing - good! Say them out loud. Interviewers are interested in your thought processes so, after taking a moment, speak through your thought processes. You should find an argument begins to fall into place. As you think aloud, don't be afraid to adapt the argument as you go along as new thoughts occur to you. The most important thing is that it is your thoughts and no one elses, don't try to copy someone else's argument, they will see through that straight away. You have opinions, don't be afraid to stand by them.
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Priya E.

1 month ago

Answered by Priya, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


How does the inside of a cell compare to a galaxy?

Both the inside of a cell and a galaxy fall into a stable pattern, with a clear centre. In the natural world, there are lots of stable forms both in biology and physics - unstable things do not last for very long and are infrequently observed. It is said that at the centre of the galaxy there is a black hole and at the centre of a cell there is a nucleus. To some degree the nucleus and black hole control the fate of the galaxy and cell, respectively. However, I feel that this comparison is unjust since the two structures are so incredibly different. I'm not sure that it is useful to compare them.
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Charlotte M.

1 month ago

Answered by Charlotte, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


If the State could ensure all criminals were convicted 100% of the time, but at the cost of the total loss of privacy of all other civilians, would it be justifiable?

This was a question I was asked in my Law interview. Some knowledge of the main human rights instruments is useful but not essential. It would help the candidate here to have read Tom Bingham's 'The Rule of Law' which explores several tenets of the core concept and discusses key legal principles, proportionality being one of them.There are two key limbs to this question. The first is the question of justification and the second is the question of whether the measure is 'necessary'. As with many of the rights enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights ('ECHR'), the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence (Article 8) is not absolute and can be subject to qualification if the measure is 'necessary'. The mass surveillance in this context could arguably fall within the third justification in Article 8 ECHR: the prevention of disorder or crime. While, the initial question does not give any indication as to whether crime rates are likely to go down as a result of its adoption, we can infer that crime rates are likely to drop if every person considering committing a crime knows they will get caught. As noted by several studies, it is the celerity and the certainty of punishment which serves as an effective deterrent and not the severity of the punishment itself. Therefore, we can say that the justification element of the question is fulfilled.The second limb of any human rights issue is whether the measure is 'necessary'. This can be sub-divided into two further limbs: reasonable and proportionate. It is on these grounds that this measure should fail. As is now generally accepted, the mass surveillance which was carried out by the US in the wake of 9/11 was no more effective than targeted surveillance which only interferes with the Article 8 rights of a number of suspicious individuals. Therefore, the measure is not reasonable since it is not effective. On the question of proportionality, it simply cannot be said that a measure which sacrificed every individual's privacy is proportionate, even if it is adopted for noble reasons. The vast majority of individuals would be sacrificing their Article 8 rights for the sake of a tiny minority of criminals; such an indiscriminate approach would be a disproportionate violation of all law abiding citizens' human rights. Therefore, I would argue that such a measure could not be justified.
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Emma K.

1 month ago

Answered by Emma, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


“What do I do if I get given an unseen passage during my interview?

When you’re full of interview nerves this task can seem particularly daunting, but as long as you keep fully focused on the text in front of you, it’ll be fine. Firstly, breathe! The key to responding well is staying calm and engaging with the passage and that’s going to be very hard if you start panicking. You’ll probably be asked to read out the text, so take your time and mentally take note of anything that stands out (eg. some phrasing, an unusual image etc.). When asked about the passage, start with the very basics (form, style, tone) and then transition to more specific devices the writer has used (metaphors, puns, irony etc.). Go back to anything that stood out to you earlier and consider why you noticed it. Make sure you analyse rather than just describe: reflect on the effect these things have on the reader. Think out loud as though it may feel embarrassing at first, this helps the interviewer to understand your thought processes. Most importantly, remember that it is always better to ask if you don’t understand something. You will look a far better candidate to you interviewers for admitting that you don’t know something and want to learn the answer.Practising spontaneously responding to poems and snippets from plays/novels in advance will make you feel even more confident at tackling the task. Go to the poetry & drama section in the library and spent a couple of minutes picking a poem and formulating a response to it, either in your head or on paper. Another good way to get into the habit of regular analysis is subscribing (for free) to sites like Poets.org<http://poets.org/>, which send you a new poem every day to consider. We can easily practise looking at unseen texts together and working on different ways to break down dense passages, develop an argument on the spot and adjust responses when challenged.”
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Hannah S.

2 months ago

Answered by Hannah, an Oxbridge Preparation tutor with MyTutor


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