Interview tips

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by at least two English tutors, and will usually have two interviews. In order to make sure that candidates' chances of gaining a place are not affected by their college preference on their UCAS form, many candidates will be interviewed at more than one college. Some candidates will also be reallocated before interview from colleges that have a very high ratio of applicants to places, in order to ensure fairness across the University. Interviews are tailored to individual candidates, and may engage with submitted written work and with wider reading interests mentioned in the personal statement. They are likely to include an exercise in which candidates are invited to discuss a short piece of previously unseen literature.

Assessment of performance at interview will be made according to the following criteria:

  • Evidence of independent reading
  • Capacity to exchange and build on ideas
  • Clarity of thought and expression
  • Analytical ability
  • Flexibility of thought
  • Evidence of independent thinking about literature
  • Readiness and commitment to read widely with discrimination

Being invited to interview at Oxford is, in and of itself, a fantastic achievement of which candidates should be proud. You will sit down to discuss literature with academics whose passion for the subject matches yours. Such an opportunity is likely a first for many candidates – the most common piece of advice from undergraduates recalling their own interview experience is to go in without any preconceptions, relax, and enjoy a stimulating and unique discussion.

Remember, interviewing tutors are hoping to hear how you think: you may be the type of person who thinks aloud on the way to an answer, or who pauses to consider before giving a deliberate answer. However you present your thoughts, communication is vital. It is perfectly acceptable to change your mind mid-argument, retract earlier points, and ask questions of the tutors yourself!

In this demonstration video, Oxford University tutors Dr Ayoush Lazikani and Dr Foteini Dimirouli will take you through what to expect during the interview process. This was recorded with a first year English student. The video begins with an introduction from the tutors explaining why they interview and what to expect from the conversation. This is followed by a sample interview, after which the tutors talk about how the interview went.

2nd year student Grace Walters has shared her top tips for the Oxford English undergraduate interview. You can view the slides on our Instagram channel or click on the images below to enlarge them. You can also download a text only version.