If you are successful enough to have secured an Oxbridge interview, then we’re sure you won’t have got this far by expecting it to be easy. But are you really prepared for everything you might be asked? Below are some of the most unusual and unexpected questions asked during Oxbridge interviews, with rationale from Oxbridge professors on why these are important and how they are designed to get you thinking!
Why do human beings have two eyes?
This question can be developed into a few different directions. Two eyes are important for 3D vision. Then why can we still see 3D when looking through one eye? What is the optimum position and distance between two eyes? How can maths, physics and biology help us explain 3D vision?
Why do animals have stripes?
The aim of this question is to get students to think about biological topics and put them into the context of successful adaptations of life on earth. So they may take an example of a striped animal that has developed its stripes for camouflage, or a harmless animal who has developed stripes to mimic a more dangerous species.
Imagine we had no records about the past, except everything to do with sport – how much could we find out about our history?
Answers to this question could relate to race, class or gender relations in society. They could reflect international politics, which countries were involved in particular events, and economic development, how sports were watched at certain times. It could also tell us about values within society – more aggressive versus more gentile sports, and even health, if we consider participation rates. What interviewers would be looking for here is how far the candidate pushed their analysis.
Should poetry be difficult to understand?
This type of question has no right or wrong answer. It is used as a basis for a candidate to take a new direction of discussion – what sorts of ‘difficulties’ do we have in mind? Are these specific to poetry, or writing in general? Professors are looking for a willingness to venture down a new path, to have a go and show potential to develop thinking further. This is the type of candidate who would thrive in an Oxbridge environment.
How hot does the air in a hot air balloon have to be to lift an elephant?
This sort of question is used to test how materials science applicants think about problems and how they might operate within a tutorial. It is not so much about solving the question, but seeing how readily they can see into the core of the problem.