How To Answer An Interview Question You Know Nothing About

Every student’s worst nightmare, realising you have no idea how to answer an Interview question. Read our tips and tactics to help you through this horrible experience.

Author: Rob Needleman

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Arguably every potential student’s worst nightmare, realising you have no idea how to answer an Interview question.

However, these moments are easily salvageable with a few simple tactics. Not knowing the answer is never the end of your Oxbridge hopes. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you through this horrible experience.

1. Take a Breath and Relax

It is important to give yourself time to think. If you feel yourself panicking, focus on your breathing for a few breaths and then start to address the question posed to you. Giving yourself a few seconds to compose yourself can give you the time you need to realise that you do actually know how to answer the question (or at least come up with a tactic to tackle it). 

Though this time will feel like an eternity, it isn’t that long in reality. The Oxbridge Interviewers will not get angry that you’re not answering straight away – they will just realise that you are mulling the question over. Remember that Interviewers will always prefer you to give the question a go rather than say “I don’t know”. 

Interview preparation is the most effective way to avoid being caught out by tricky questions. 

With over 95 hours of guided study (including One-To-One Tuition, Intensive Courses and Comprehensive Materials), our expert Oxbridge Interview support truly gives you an advantage that can make the difference between an offer and rejection.

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What If I Panic?

Interviews for Oxbridge can seem scary, especially if you’ve never done an Interview before.
We’ve all heard the horror stories, from terrifying questions – “Describe the chair without describing any of its physical attributes” – to the one where an Interviewer set his own desk table on fire. With all these rumours flying around, it can be a daunting task to walk into an Interview. There are several things to remember that will help you keep calm during the big day.

2. Take Your Time Answering The Question

We cannot stress this one enough. There are too many times where students jump straight to avoid the awkward silence (though it’s actually not awkward) and end up providing an incomplete, rushed or just plain wrong answer. 

As stated above, give yourself time to compose yourself. This is true for answering any question, not just the ones that leave you stumped! If you’ve given yourself this time and are still drawing blanks, that’s absolutely fine.

3. Think Out Loud

Vocalise your thought process as you talk around what you know about the topic – think back to what you’ve been taught at school or what you’ve read and give yourself a base to build an answer upon. Vocalising your thoughts will give you both more time to think and help you begin to form an answer.

The examiners may give you guidance as you build up your thoughts to help guide you in the right direction. Most Interviewers (particularly Oxbridge) really like this as it shows how you are approaching the question and your thought processes.

Final words

Do not despair if you draw a blank and feel you know nothing about the topic. 

You are not expected to know everything about everything and the examiners know this. If you really cannot come up with an answer or work through the question, there is the final option to instead apologise that this is not something you have covered in school, which is often the case, and that you do not know much about this topic. Then, you can offer another similar topic for discussion.

An example of this would be “I’m really sorry, I’m afraid I haven’t covered cystic fibrosis in school yet. I do know this about it though (insert your basic knowledge here)” or “Would you prefer I talk about (insert another disease you can discuss) instead?”. This approach is far better than rambling and making up an answer.

Finally, the worst thing you can do is say nothing or “I don’t know” with no elaboration. At least attempt it and give it your best shot, they won’t get angry if you’re wrong and are likely to help guide you.

Worried about not knowing how to answer Interview questions? Practice tackling difficult questions with our Oxbridge Tutors.

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Discover our Interview Programmes by clicking the button below to enrol and triple your chances of success.

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