Could you answer Oxford University’s interview questions? | Varsity Education

Could you answer Oxford University’s interview questions?

Ahead of their deadline for 2017 applications, the University of Oxford published a number of sample interview questions.

The aim is to dispel false rumours about the types of questions asked of applicants. It’s also to remove some of the fear surrounding stories of students having to answer trick questions or guess which chair they should sit in when they enter the interview room.

Oxford releases a selection of interview questions for candidates each year. The university’s education and outreach director, Samina Khan explained: “We know there are still lots of myths about the Oxford interview, so we put as much information as possible out there to allow students to see the reality of the process”.

The questions are designed to see how the student thinks and responds to new ideas, essentially how well they’ll fit into the academic world of Oxford.

Here’s a few for you to try:

Questions from 2017

Biological sciences:

Why do lions have manes?

Here’s a cactus. Tell me about it.

Computer Science:

How do pirates divide their treasure?

A group of 7 pirates has 100 gold coins. They have to decide amongst themselves how to divide the treasure, but must abide by pirate rules:

  • The most senior pirate proposes the division.
  • All of the pirates (including the most senior) vote on the division. If half or more vote for the division, it stands. If less than half vote for it, they throw the most senior pirate overboard and start again.
  • The pirates are perfectly logical, and entirely ruthless (only caring about maximizing their own share of the gold).

So, what division should the most senior pirate suggest to the other six?

Economics and Management:

Do bankers deserve the pay they receive? And should government do something to limit how much they get?

How would you design a gravity dam for holding back water?

English Literature:

Tell me about [this literary work you have mentioned in your UCAS personal statement]


Imagine we had no records about the past at all, except everything to do with sport – how much of the past could we find out about?

Which person (or sort of person) in the past would you most like to interview, and why?


If the punishment for parking on double yellow lines were death, and therefore nobody did it, would that be a just and effective law?


Why do we have red blood cells?

Philosophy, Politics and Economics:

I’m having trouble with the meaning of three words: Lie, Deceive, Mislead. They seem to mean something a bit similar, but not exactly the same.  Help me to sort them out from each other.

A ball, initially at rest, is pushed upwards by a constant force for a certain amount of time.  Sketch the velocity of the ball as a function of time, from start to when it hits the ground.

Should interviews be used for selection?

Questions from 2016

Click on the questions to see the explanation from the tutors.

So how well did you do, and how well do you think you would have done in a real Oxford University interview?

Varsity Education’s courses help students prepare for Oxford and Cambridge University interviews so that answering questions like the ones above is no longer daunting.

Our Oxbridge preparation courses focus on expanding academic knowledge as well as mock interviews, mock exams and lectures from Oxbridge Fellows.  Students are able to discuss their chosen subjects in a comfortable environment where they benefit from the unique Oxbridge style of one-on-one tutoring.

Apply for your place on one of our  summer programmes today and increase your chances being accepted into an elite university.

For the full list of 2017 Oxford sample interview questions, click here.