A book detailing bizarre
questions that have been asked at Oxbridge interviews has been produced by the
company Oxbridge Applications. Tell Me About a Banana…So You Want to Go to
Oxbridge? is comprised of questions collected from over 15,000 Oxbridge
applicants over the past five years. The book cites examples such as ‘What
is the most interesting thing about a squirrel?” addressed to a prospective
PPEist.Asma Nizami, an undergraduate
lawyer at Wadham College said, “I think, nowadays,
candidates are far more aware that they have a right to be interviewed fairly.”
One second year, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was “extremely
shocked” when she walked into her interview and was faced with an Oxford tutor on a space
hopper.Oxford Admissions and admissions tutors
throughout the University refuse to comment on whether such unconventional
interviews take place, querying the authenticity of some of the more extreme
questions from the book. For example, the book states that the question ‘If
ancient history was a shape, what shape would that be?’ had been posed to
candidates applying to read Ancient and Modern History. Professor
Howard-Johnston, an Ancient and Modern History lecturer from Corpus Christi College
said, when asked whether this would be a likely question, “I find it rather odd”
and that he was “surprised that someone could be asked that.” Professor
Howard-Johnston’s own answer to the question was that if ancient history was a
shape it would be like a “Loch Ness monster or a three-humped camel because the
humps would represent the Greek, Roman and Christian Empires.” Tutors also commented that even
though many questions sound unusual, they were a relevant method of assessment
when put in context. For instance, in reply to “What does George Bush have in
common with a monkey?” in a Human Sciences interview, a tutor suggested in an
article in The Times that “the candidate might talk about evolution or taxonomy.”When asked about its position
regarding the book, the University said, “We do not endorse any commercial operations
or publications offering advice or training on our admissions process, nor do
we guarantee the accuracy of any such company’s information.”ARCHIVE: 2nd week MT 2005