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What are the Most Unusual Cambridge and Oxford Interview Questions?

AUG 10, 2020 • 13 min read

It’s no surprise that the famous Oxford and Cambridge interviews cause a lot of anxiety for prospective students - the questions that get asked are unpredictable, challenging, and sometimes simply bizarre.

Oxford University 2

Oxford and Cambridge, the UK’s two oldest and most prestigious universities have similar application processes. In particular, both involve a rather unique interview process. Applicants are invited to attend the interview in December after the universities have reviewed their initial application. They then hear back whether they have been provisionally accepted to the university a few weeks later.

Importantly, the styles of questions that are asked are not like the ordinary job or scholarship interviews. Both universities’ style of questioning is slightly different, and within each college and area of study conducts their interviews differently. However, there are generally a few things in common when it comes to the questions.

For one, they are often intellectual and in some way connected to the area of study that the applicant is hoping to study in. The interviewers will not expect applicants to possess university-level theoretical knowledge of the subjects. Instead, they will want to test how you can think and apply more basic principles and knowledge to theoretical questions and situations. This will test your skills at logical reasoning, critical thinking or problem solving, which they look for in a student at the university.

The questions are also often unpredictable, and the universities and colleges are notorious for making these interview questions especially creative and abstract. Here's our list of some of the weirdest Oxford and Cambridge interview questions we could find. How would you respond to these questions, and if you are hoping to apply to Oxbridge, how does this change your approach to preparing for the interview? Check it out below!

Crimson Students are 2-4x more likely to gain admission to the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. We assist you with every part of the application process: from school subject and course specific test tutoring, to personal statement composition and interview preparation. Find out more about our Admission Support service.

Cambridge University Medview

What is your opinion on spontaneous human combustion?

Asked in a Cambridge Medicine interview, whether spontaneous human combustion or SHC is a real or fictitious medical phenomenon is controversial. No-doubt this would have likely drawn some skeptical answers from the candidates.

Here’s a cactus. Tell me about it.

This was asked in a Natural Sciences interview at Oxford, whereupon a cactus is presented to the candidate to comment upon. This, amongst other creative questions involving props seems to be common. There are many accounts of Oxbridge Geography interviews where the interviewer will spin a globe, point, and ask the candidate about the geography of that region.

Would you rather be a seedless or 'non-seedless' grapefruit?

We couldn't possibly imagine what it would be like to be transformed into any kind of fruit, let alone specific kinds of grapefruit. How do you think the Cambridge Natural Sciences students responded?

What would you do if I were a magpie?

This is another really strange question given to Natural Science candidates at Cambridge. We think the first thing we would do is question why we were being interviewed by a talking magpie…..

What is the meaning of life?

The ultimate philosophical question, it almost seems like there couldn’t be enough time in any interview to give a proper answer to this question. Nonetheless, candidates had to tackle this in a couple of minutes during their Cambridge Law interview.

Is it morally wrong to attempt to climb a mountain?

Some prospective Theology students at Oxford were asked this in their interviews. This question could attract a wide array of philosophical responses, including a discussion of the large number of deaths and environmental impacts that occur through people climbing the world’s tallest mountains.

Crimson Students are 2-4x more likely to gain admission to the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. We assist you with every part of the application process: from school subject and course specific test tutoring, to personal statement composition and interview preparation. Find out more about our Admission Support service.

How would you poison someone without the police finding out?

If any murder-mystery fans were asked this in their Cambridge Medicine interview, I’m sure they would have had tons of great and creative ideas on how to respond. You’d hope they hadn’t put too much thought into it though…...

If a wife had expressed distaste for it previously, would her husband’s habit of putting marmalade in his egg at breakfast be grounds for divorce?

Asked in a Cambridge law interview, this weirdly specific question has several dimensions to it in legal theory.

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

Similar to the question above, picturing a world where the death penalty was enacted for breaking road rules is a hard-stretch. However, as an example question for Oxford law interviews, there are a lot of great things to discuss.

Describe a potato and then compare it with an onion

While this is probably a question best asked for an interview to culinary school, it was asked to budding Natural Sciences students at Cambridge.

Is the moon made of cheese?

You might want to rewatch Wallace & Gromit’s mission to fly to the moon in order to eat cheese. Apparently this has been asked in Veterinary Science interviews at Cambridge, and would certainly demand some very creative critical thinking.

Do you believe in fairies at the end of the garden?

While we would imagine that most people over the age of about 8 would give a straight up “no” to this question, having to critically think and make a case for both sides in an Oxford interview would be much more demanding. The fact that this was asked in an Oxford Engineering interview rather than an English or Theology interview makes it even more interesting.

Crimson Students are 2-4x more likely to gain admission to the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. We assist you with every part of the application process: from school subject and course specific test tutoring, to personal statement composition and interview preparation. Find out more about our Admission Support service.

So, how Do I Prepare for the Interview?

There are some key tips we can give to help you tackle challenging interview questions.

1. Read over your personal statement and any written work submitted, as well as read widely around your chosen subject, including newspaper articles, websites, journals, magazines and other relevant publications. Also,

2. Take a critical view of ideas and arguments that you encounter in your reading, at school or college, or in the media: think about all sides of the debate.

But, at the end of the day, the best way to ace your Oxford or Cambridge interview is to practice, practice and practice! Make sure you have several mock interviews so you familiarise yourself with the interview situation and the stress. Informal practice will also help - practice speaking about your subject and your thoughts about what you’ve seen or read in informal settings with teachers, parents or peers.

This is where we at Crimson come in. We assist you with every part of the UK application process: from school subject and course specific test tutoring, to personal statement composition and interview preparation. Find out more about our Admission Support service.

Want to be a top applicant at Oxford or Cambridge?

Crimson Students are 2-4x more likely to gain admission to the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge.