Weird and Wonderful Oxford & Cambridge Interview Questions

Oxbridge interviews are known for being tough and sometimes a little bit intimidating. However, although the admissions tutors are highly selective, they aren't purposely trying to make you feel nervous. As such, you will often be asked at least one weird and wonderful question during your interview, so let's take a look at some examples from previous years, including a breakdown of how you could approach it!

Last Updated: 29th April 2024

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If you’re applying to study at Oxford or Cambridge, you’re going to have to sit multiple interviews before you get your offer.

While these interviews are tough, they’re designed to provide a space for your to present yourself as a prospective student, giving you the chance to highlight why you should be given a place. This is crucial for Oxbridge admissions tutors as they will have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applications to choose from. 

Even among the shortlisted applicants, there are still a lot of factors that cannot be determined until the faculty have had a chance to sit down and speak with the most promising people to see if they would be right for Oxbridge.  

Oxbridge interviews play out in a traditional panel format and you will encounter various common types of questions.Why Oxbridge?”, “Tell me about something you’ve read recently”, “Solve this problem”. These are all questions that you can be prepared for, but what about when the admissions tutors asks “What would you do if you woke up as an ant?”.

Tackling Oxbridge's Weird Interview Questions

To many, being thrown a curve-ball question like this seems like a nightmare scenario. How could you possibly answer a question like that in a satisfactory manner? 

The important thing to know about these questions is that you shouldn’t take them too seriously. While you should still approach it in a logical manner, everyone in that room knows that there’s no definitive way to respond to some of these scenarios or solve these issues.

Some are certainly more serious that others, requiring a deeper, philosophical approach, but others will simply see you trying to navigate a truly ridiculous situation. These questions are all about displaying your creatively, curiosity and problem-solving abilities, so work through them as best as you can without worrying about sounding silly. 

Some interview questions can seem a bit strange, asking you about abstract concepts or seemingly irrelevant topics, but these are truly weird questions that you would never expect to hear, so they will need to be approach a t little bit differently.

Before we look at some examples, here are a few tips for tackling these strange questions: 

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Weird Example Interview Questions

Now, let’s take a look at some of the strangest and trickiest questions that have been asked to Oxbridge applicants:

"Do You Think You're Clever?"

What a way to start. While it may feel mildly threatening, this is a perfect question for making the candidate think that the Oxbridge interviews questions are a test of your personality (they are not). Should you be honest, modest, confident? These aren’t necessarily the best way to go about it. 

The first thing to note is that anyone who has gotten this far in the process is considered reasonably clever by the admissions tutors. The work you’ve done up to now proves that you probably have the academic capabilities to do well at university. This question is all about your reaction to a pretty direct question, and coming off as defensive is possibly the worst reaction you could have. 

One way to approach this question is to answer it in relation to your subject. The admissions tutors likely won’t be as interested in how well you can perform mathematics if you’re applying for an English degree, so consider your strengths in your subject and link those to cleverness. 

However, a response like this could, again, fall in to the trap of defensiveness – the admissions tutors know that you’re good at your subject. What they want to know is if you would be a good Oxbridge student – someone who can work independently, think creatively and put their all into everything they do. 

The ideal Oxbridge student isn’t just good at their subject; they also have general intelligence that allows them to navigate a wide variety of questions and problems. These kinds of skills are typically what are being tested with these weird interview questions, so this is basically the most direct way of testing you. 

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

Now things are starting to get a lot stranger. The bizarre nature of this question might immediately throw you off but you need to make sure not to panic. This question was once asked in an engineering interview with the intention of forcing the candidate to take this ridiculous question and place it in a practical setting. 

For example, “believing” doesn’t mean anything without proof in terms of mathematics. You would, therefore, be willing to believe in them if someone showed you proof – it is the dissection of question that is important.

If you wanted to take things a step further, you could explain how you would go about acquiring proof for yourself (setting up cameras, placing out nectar as bait, etc). The question you may be asked will likely be different, but the principle is always the same – run with it and see where your train of thought takes you. 

Small Fairy House Ornament in Garden

[Pointing to a map of the world] "What would you comment on about that?"

Here’s a very vague one – what on earth are they asking you? Well, in reality it’s actually pretty simple; they want you to say something about the location being pointed at. 

This is one of those interview questions that are so interesting because they can be used for any subject. While it’s most likely that the subject in question would have some relevance to international affairs, you should usually have something interesting to talk about either way.

It could be the history and science of the fact that the pieces of lands were altogether. It could be a literary view of how lonely the world looks from that perspective or a political. Possibly a statement about the geographical point, about the community distribution within the world. In a worst-case scenario, you may just comment on the thickness of the paper used.

The key is to find a way to link your thoughts to the subject you’re applying for. In some cases this is pretty easy (such as geography or PPE), but other links may be a bit more obtuse. This isn’t a bad thing though, as it means you’re doing the mental exercise correctly, using your knowledge creatively to keep things on topic,

Close up image of a globe

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"What is a sense?"

Oxbridge interview questions are sometimes difficult because they are hardly understandable as a meaningful phrase. You have to remember that this is because you choose how to answer the question. 

Therefore you could answer this question in terms of what a sense means for humans, as in one of the five senses. Or, you could consider what sense is, as in, what does something mean if it ‘makes sense’.

When answering a question like this, it may help to discuss things as your “beliefs” rather than as facts. While the literal definitions you provide may be true, the question is so vague that you should consider multiple options for what is actually being asked. 

It probably isn’t the best idea to ask for clarification when answering this sort of question as they are intentionally vague to leave things open for your thought process. Just try your best to articulate what’s on your mind.

"What Would You Do If You Woke Up Tomorrow As An Ant?"

The university equivalent of your partner asking you if you would still love them if they were a worm, this was a question asked at one Oxford student’s Engineering Science interview.

In a very specific scenario, this may be asked during your interview to find out your scientific knowledge of ants, although this isn’t going to be the case for most subjects. More often, something like this would be asked to simply hear your imaginative perspective on identity, existence and meaning.

When it comes to any strange scenario-based questions like this, the key is to look for the most logical and active response to the situation, no matter how silly it feels to say. In this scenario, it may make more sense to lay there and cry over your lost Oxbridge dreams (an ant has never been admitted to study there), but it’s your job to spring into action and make the most of the situation.

If you were to wake up an ant, you could approach the situation a number of ways. You may try to communicate with a family member or friend, or you may accept your new life and find a colony to integrate with. The interviewers may bounce back with additional factors that affect you plans, so you’ll need to think fast to find an appropriate response (almost like a game of Dungeons & Dragons). 

Close up photo of an ant on a leaf

"How Would You Try To Win At A Game Of Monopoly?"

This is another odd one, but when you consider that it was previously asked during Cambridge Economics interviews, it starts to make a lot more sense. 

Although the mechanics of Monopoly are far from realistic, the principles behind how someone plays could still offer an insight into how they view the economy and land ownership, two highly relevant topics for the subject. 

A Cambridge student who was asked this question actually broke down their response in our Cambridge Economics guide, but there are two pieces of advice we would give before you try to tackle it. 

Firstly, you should be sure to emphasise that you understand the game has a large element of chance involved. Despite many factors being dependent on dice rolls, there are still plenty of ways you can build a strategy to win, so just acknowledge that your fortunes could always be reverse in a single turn (and perhaps offer a plan for how to protect yourself from this). 

Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for more details if you don’t understand the rules and gameplay of Monopoly. While we would suggest familiarising yourself with the basics, your place at Cambridge isn’t going to be threatened because you’ve never played one specific board game!

Monopoly Board with Metal Car Game Piece on it

"Would you believe me if I said right now that you have not secured a place at Oxford?"

This is a terrifying question but it’s usually extremely rare for this to be included as an Oxbridge interview. However, you have to be able to think on the spot if it does come up. 

Therefore, you’ll need to quickly theorise how to approach this question (i.e. what does authority and trust mean within our social system), and try not to react emotionally.

Providing a simple yes or no answer is a very poor response. Saying yes shows a complete lack of confidence or ability to stand up to yourself, but saying no will usually come off as over-confident or arrogant.

Decisions are rarely made during the interview itself, so one potential response could be to explain your knowledge of the admissions process, although you should avoid coming off a patronising. 

Overall, Oxbridge interview questions like these aren’t the most common, – but they do sometimes throw them in. As we said, there’s no way to predict exactly what you’ll be asked, but the most important thing to do is to go with it. Don’t just treat is as a joke but don’t think that you will need to find a definitely correct answer. 

Think logically, be creative and link your answer with the subject where possible. As long as you try your best to answer, the admissions tutors will usually appreciate the effort and thought behind your response. 

While you can’t prepare for every possible weird question, you can practice your abilities to answer them in a more general sense. One of the best ways to do this is through mock interviews, which you will be able to access with a UniAdmissions Oxbridge Interview Programme. Discover how we can triple your chances of success and learn how to enrol today. 

Be ready for anything in your interview with support from UniAdmissions. 

The Oxbridge interview is arguably the most important part of your application, so it’s important that you get it right.  At UniAdmissions, we teach the most effective interview strategies and give you plenty of chances to practice your skills through one-to-one tuition, comprehensive materials, intensive courses and much more, all underlined by a curriculum that is proven to deliver higher chances of success.

Discover our Oxbridge Interview Programmes today to learn how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.

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