10 MAR 2020
In any situation, an interview is an intimidating and difficult experience. And fewer interviews have a more nerve wracking and mysterious reputation than the ones required for admission into Oxbridge - in particular, the Oxford Law interview.
However, in reality, the Oxford Law interview is not as terrifying as it might first seem, as Oxford actually does its best to inform students of what the interview will entail. Ultimately, it is a completely doable step in the UK admissions process.
The first thing to be aware of is that, for Oxford, the interview is an invitation-only “next step” of the admissions process - only students whose applications look to a certain high standard will be asked to sit for an interview. That means that even being invited to an interview represents a preliminary level of acceptance, and is an achievement in itself!
When preparing for the Oxford Law interview, it’s important to have the answers to three key questions:
The answer to this question is essential to know for any applicant who wishes to do well. In inviting you to partake in this interview, what kind of information does the admissions panel want to gather about you?
The interview is essentially a chance for the admissions panel to see your brain work in real time - to test your intelligence, critical thinking skills, informational processing and ability to adapt and consider new ideas. Basically, the interview will be used to determine which applicants possess the skills needed to be a successful law student at the university. Being such a competitive course, places are obviously limited, and Oxford wants to find students who will excel in, and eventually best use, the education that they provide.
This is often the biggest question on students’ minds when they receive the great news that they’ve been invited for an interview to study law at Oxford. Luckily, the answer can be found with just a quick Google search - Oxford details the general style of its interviews, and even provides lists of previous questions, on its website.
Essentially, Oxford Law interviews are intellectual and specific to the area of study that the applicant is hoping to study in. Interviewees will often be given (or sent, in virtual interviews), an example of a previous legal case(s) and/or short extracts from a law, with legal jargon being defined for them. The interviewers will not expect applicants to possess university-level theoretical knowledge of law (although some knowledge will showcase your sagacity to do independent reading and research). Instead, they will expect interviewees to have read and thought about the salient points in the materials given. During the interview, they will often ask questions about the reading material that demands a level of logical reasoning, critical thinking or problem solving. For example, an interviewer may ask the applicant to explain the judge’s reasoning for coming to a certain decision in the case provided.
If the student appears to be ‘keeping up’ reasonably well during the interview process, the questions may progress to become more complex. If they correctly justified the judge’s sentence in the first question, the interviewer may then alter the details of the original legal case slightly and ask if the judge’s decision would then differ from the first situation. Another example of an interviewer pushing the boundaries of an applicant’s logic is to play devil’s advocate to their original response, and see if they can handle their ideas being questioned or criticised.
Interviewers may also ask hypothetical questions out of the blue, that sometimes blur the lines between the law, philosophy and morals. A classic example of this type of question would be: “If I am driving on an empty road at night and run a red light, causing no damage or danger to anyone else, should I still be prosecuted?” This question encourages applicants to think beyond specific legal cases, and ponder more broadly about the role of the law in defining society’s standards of right and wrong.
Within the interview, certain strategies will increase your chances of success. The first is thinking out loud - when presented with a question, interviewees shouldn’t sit silently with their thoughts until they think of an answer. Even if the question completely stumps you, you should still verbalise your thought process. This is to let the interviewers know exactly what you’re attempting to do: the logical links you’re trying to make, the factors you’re considering, and the conclusion that you’re trying to draw. It is completely normal for questions to be challenging, but what the interviewers want to see is how you’re attempting to answer them.
Another tip is to stay highly alert to the nuances and hints that the interviewers are trying to give. As the questions are hard and the interview situation itself is stressful, it is almost guaranteed that you’ll become confused or lose your way halfway through a response. Again, this is normal and fine! The important thing is what happens after you lose your focus. The interviewers will try to help you in subtle ways, often by suggesting that you think of the problem from a different perspective, or suggesting another stakeholder to focus on. If this does happen, listen to their words and tone of voice. Are they trying to help you and put you back on the right track? If so, you should do as they say! A key quality that the admissions panel are looking for is the ability to think with flexibility and to adapt to new ideas. If you ignore or miss the interviewers’ hints and stay stubbornly stuck in your own error, you won’t present yourself as the ideal candidate for law at Oxford.
Overall, these are some tips and information that I found useful in my own Oxford Law interview. If you adhere to these and do your own research (and practise, practise, practise with your Crimson mentor), you’ll be well on your way to achieving your dreams!
Lina was assisted by her Crimson tutors and mentors in applications to both the US and the UK. Undecided as to which education system would suit her best, she pursued both educational opportunities with great success, including acceptances from Harvard, UPenn, and Oxford.