One of the differences in the ways which Oxford and Cambridge run their interview processes is in the number of interviews and when they take place.
This is because the collegiate system, and more specifically the “pooling” system. It operates differently between the two universities and if candidates interviewed at both, they would notice the distinction.
The collegiate and pooling system might affect how many Oxford interviews your child has.
Unfortunately, it actually means the exact number which they will have is less certain because in fact, it is not fixed or decided in advance of the interview process. In fact, how many Oxford interviews one candidate has is open.
They are told to come to Oxford for a period of a few days. The arrival time is specified but not the date that they will leave. While the candidate is in Oxford therefore, it is possible at any time that they will be called for extra interviews. Once they leave Oxford they will have been told they can do so by their college, there will be no further interviews for that candidate.
It is easiest to rewind back to the beginning and to walk through the process, explaining as we go.
Invite to interview.
This happens about a week before the interview period. For Oxford, this is usually the first week of December for humanities subjects and the second week of December for science subjects. Your child would receive a letter or email (up until now it has often been the former, but it’s hard to tell exactly when Oxford university will come into the modern world…!) inviting them to attend the college handling their application for an interview.
At this stage, it will not be specified how many Oxford interviews they will face once they do get to the city. We appreciate that between the short notice and the uncertainty, this can be particularly difficult for international students or those who have to make complicated travel arrangements. It’s a very unfortunate situation, however you can see some of our other blogs about the timeline of the Oxford application process in order to try and work out how it tends to pan out year on year, or about Oxford interviews for international students.
You can at this stage also try and work out the minimum number in terms of how many Oxford interviews your child will have. For many subjects this would be two – one with the department and one with the college they applied to, or the one which they have been assigned if they made an open application.
We’d recommend looking at the course pages and the details of the application process on the Oxford website.
Also asking questions in this regard at open days if you have the chance. You won’t however be able to get any information on when these two or any extra interviews would be – mostly because they are arranged very close to the days themselves and won’t be fixed or available in advance.
If you would like to discuss this with one our advisors, perhaps you can get in touch with Uni Admissions whose tutors or interview preparation programmes can discuss this as part of the interview crash course.
What to ask at an Oxford Open Day >>>
The week of interviews itself.
Once your child travels to Oxford, the fun starts with how many Oxford interviews they have.
They are likely to be informed of the time and day of their college and department interviews (if they have these) on arrival, or not long afterwards if they have not been already.
However, at any point up until they are told they may leave Oxford, they may be asked to attend (an) additional interview(s) at other college(s). They may not get much notice for these, so perhaps make sure they are prepared for the possibility. It’s also worth them keeping an eye on the college noticeboards, asking on arrival where such developments will be posted (most colleges keep lists on display near the porter’s lodge).
It’s highly unlikely that someone would have more than five or six interviews, but it’s not unheard of. How many Oxford interviews each candidate has varies from person to person.
We should emphasise that how many Oxford interviews a candidate has does not at all indicate their chances of success or what the outcome might be.
The system is a bit mystifying and there isn’t much point worrying or trying to figure out what it means. Let it do its own thing – someone who has lots of interviews may or may not get a place. They might end up at their original college, they might not.
The same for the person who has the expected number of two. Often it is just a logistical case of the colleges disturbing candidates amongst the spaces they have, but also the tutors’ own thoughts about who they can fit where. It’s out of the candidates’ control however, so really don’t reflect too much on how many Oxford interviews you have other than to make sure you are prepared for the logistics.
After the week of interviews.
To be absolutely clear, unlike Cambridge, candidates applying to Oxford will not be re-called back to attend any additional interviews and there is not a “winter pool” in the same way.
It is still possible that your child can end up at a different college than the one to which they applied, but this will occur without any further interviews, and your child would simply be informed when they receive their interview results in January.
How many Oxford interviews they have is therefore the number from when they leave the city in December.