How To Prepare For The Oxford Economics Interview

Interviews are the final step of the Oxford application process. Preparation is key, and this guide will advice on how to do just that.

Author: Chloe Hewitt

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Being prepared for an interview at Oxford is important. They use them to get a feel of applicants, they are used to help determine who is best suited. It is a unique chance to demonstrate creativity and critical thinking.

Applying for university is a very daunting time, deciding where to apply and what course to take is a huge decision to make. This feeling is only increased when applying for a university such as Oxford.

There are so many different things to consider when applying; the university itself, its location, the course and whether there are any additional steps to the process. Interviews are a big part of this process and is typically something applicants may not have a great deal of experience in.

It can understandably be a nervous time, with such an importance being placed onto it, here’s how you can get prepared for your Oxford Economics interview.

Why does Oxford Interview For Economics?

The interview is not designed to catch you out, or for you to recite what you already know but rather use the knowledge you have and apply it to new problems, this is so they can see how you think.

At Oxford, a great deal of the teaching is done in small classes or tutorials and the interview is used to assess your ability to study, think and learn in such an environment. It is important to note that the admissions tutors may well end up being your future tutors, so they want to know more about you.

The interview is designed to assess academic potential, the tutors are wanting to see your motivation and enthusiasm for the subject. It tells the interviewer the important things about you which would not be captured by grades or test scores – they learn about you.

What is key to remember is that every question has a purpose, and that is to get students thinking about their subject and see how they tackle new information or unfamiliar ideas.

Who gets an Economics interview?

Applying for Economics at Oxford is extremely competitive, over the three-year period of 2018 to 2020 applicants to the Economics and Management course an average of just 21% of them were interviewed with 6% successful in getting a place.

Given how competitive the process is, getting an interview is a huge achievement and should be something to be proud of. Taking the competitiveness into consideration, it is important to stand out and make a lasting impression at your interview.

Finding out if you have been invited for an interview can be quite last minute, as you may only be given a week’s notice that you have been shortlisted. Begin preparation as early as possible as if you wait to receive an invitation it will be too late.

Letters or emails indicating whether you have been successful are usually sent middle of November to early December with the interviews expected to take place early to mid-December.

It is important to note, interviews cannot be rearranged so you must make sure you are available.

What can you do to prepare For an economics interview?

A good place to start is to practice speaking. It may seem simple and obvious, but it is a good way to boost confidence as well and help you communicate your knowledge better.

This does not have to be formal in anyway, they can be chats with teachers, friends or family members. You could also record yourself as practice to help gain clarity and confidence and once you have found that confidence, try talking to people which can help with active listening and body language.

Think of some basic questions that may be asked and how you could answer them, this is a handy way to help articulate your thoughts and feelings on the subject. You may be asked why you have chosen Economics and why at Oxford.

Having a read back through your Personal Statement and any written work you have submitted will also be helpful. Think of ways how you can expand on the points that you made. For example, if you mentioned a book that you have read delve further into that and see what other perspectives you could talk about.

It is important to consider why you have chosen the subject and can demonstrate a sound level of understanding.

Oxford-Uni-Birds-Eye-View

A good way to show this is to find examples of it in the real world. For example you could consider economic theories that underlie news stories. Reading would be the place to start, as it is clearly demonstrates an understanding around the subject. 

These can be newspaper articles, websites, journals, magazines and other publications. As a prospective Economics student, The Financial Times and The Economist will bring you a wealth of knowledge.

Use this to your advantage and take a critical view of the ideas and arguments and think of all sides of any debate especially if these are backed up with anecdotal evidence from your reading.

If you are not sure where to start your reading, Oxford have listed suggested reading for many of their courses on their website to give some inspiration on what you should be looking at.

As part of our Oxford Economics Programme, as well as interview tuition, we also have our own recommended reading that differs from that of the university to help you stand out from a very competitive crowd.

Helpfully, the Oxford website does also have a section on how to prepare for the interview.

What will the admissions tutors ask?

Ultimately, nerves will be a big issue during the interview and the tutors are aware of this and will do everything they can to put you at ease. The admissions tutors want you to succeed, you were asked to interview because you are a viable candidate, they just need you to demonstrate that to them.

They want you to feel you can be yourself.

Starting off the questions will be simple, likely around your Personal Statement and why you applied for the course.

For this, your answers should show that you understand the Oxford culture and have strong reasons for applying there. Do not be caught off guard, prepare detailed answers to these common questions. Make yourself a list of the types of questions that could potentially be asked based on your Personal Statement or any work you may have submitted and think of answers.

Moving on from there they will ask questions about your subject, and you could even be given a text or an object to answer questions and comment on.

An example of such a question would be:

 “Can you put a monetary value on this teapot?”

It is an odd question that clearly is not interested in specific knowledge, but rather to push you way out of your comfort zone. It requires out-of-the-box thinking and independence to solve challenging, unfamiliar problems which is crucial to the field.

Another consideration is that there may be more than one way to answer a question, so it is necessary to explore your thought process – they want to know how you think. The questions are designed to test your ability to apply logic and reasoning to an idea you may never have come across before.

As for how, you may go about answering a question such as this an example of a response is below:

“I can certainly look for a suitable price for this teapot from my perspective. However, the valuation different individuals assign to the same product often vary significantly and also with changing circumstances too. Therefore, my monetary valuation is not going to be a universal one.

I would start by stating that the monetary value of the teapot will fundamentally be linked to the concept of a market. I am not looking for the intrinsic value (i.e., the ‘usefulness’ of the teapot) but the ideal monetary amount it should be exchanged for. Thus, I turn to the basic knowledge I have about the market and try to understand how those will determine the optimal exchange price of the teapot. There are two key factors on a market: supply and demand. I will consider both of them in relation to our example.

I know that if goods are supplied widely, its prices or monetary value will be lower than of goods in limited supply. Consider the example of water vs. diamonds. It’s not that diamonds are more ‘useful’ than water, but that they are only available in a very limited amount; hence their supply is constrained. Whereas, water is essential for life but is abundant in supply. Consequently, diamonds have a much larger monetary value than water. In our case, a teapot can probably be bought in any large department store, however, its cracks and tea marks on its side make it unique. Therefore, one could argue that the supply of this teapot is extremely limited, indicating a high monetary price.

Equally, demand for the teapot is also probably fairly limited. While these qualities are visually pleasing, it is probably fair to assume that there aren’t many who could appreciate its artistic beauty. Modest demand suggests a low monetary value, as people would not be willing to pay much for the item. This concept of willingness-to-pay is a central one for our analysis, and we would have to conduct a more thorough investigation into the existing demand for an artistically cracked teapot.

The two sides (supply and demand) put together suggest that this teapot should be valued similarly to other niche products with both small demand and supply. Such products include pieces of art, rarities or unique luxury products (e.g. custom made sports cars or watches).”

This is an economist’s take on the question as they try to utilise the tools of the discipline. The question poses a great opportunity to enter a discussion on markets and prices. With such a question, specific numerical answers are not necessarily required as the process of understanding the determinants of prices is far more important.  

The opportunity to show whether you have done any further reading around the subject as well as knowledge and interest beyond the syllabus will be offered. It is important to utilise this as Oxford are keen to know people have done this reading as it shows they are passionate and dedicated to the subject.

Although it is important for the answers to flow naturally and not sound like all your responses have been rehearsed. So have points you wish to mention but do not end up sounding robotic.

Conclusion

Though a very important part of the application process, it is paramount to not let nerves get the better of you when it comes to your interview.

It is the final stage of the application process, and often what sways the admissions team’s decision so being prepared is essential and vital to having a successful interview.

The questions are not to catch you out. They are however designed to make you think but they are not to be over complicated – just go with what feels right and flows well.

But overall, the key thing to remember is to just be yourself and show off your passion for Economics. The tutors just want to find out what you think and how you think.

Confidence is the key to shining on the day, which can be gained thanks to the help of practice. Being prepared for such a competitive interview will make the difference between getting accepted or not.

Worried about your Oxford chances? Our offer success rate for Economics and Management at Oxford is 53%.

Applying to Oxford is immensely competitive and it is crucial that you give yourself the best chance of success. We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive Admissions Test score and teach you how to Interview effectively – covering all areas of your Oxford application.

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