How To Answer The Strange Oxbridge Interview Questions

Oxbridge interviewers can ask the strangest questions to purposefully put candidates on the spot. We’ll discuss what these questions are like and how to tackle them to help you ace your Interviews.

Last Updated: 30th October 2018

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Sometimes, interviewers ask the strangest questions. It’s a tactic used in many university Interviews to purposefully put candidates on the spot and test their reactions.

It’s therefore worthwhile to know what these questions are and how to answer them. Today, we’ll explore what constitutes as a strange question and how to approach them.

Why are Oxbridge Interview questions “strange”?

To begin with, the Interview already seems very bizarre, terrifying and uncomfortable. However, it quickly becomes evident that the sometimes weird Oxbridge Interview questions are generally just to get you to stop and think and provide some unique and well thought-through answers. 

Myths about Oxbridge Interview questions

There are hundreds of stories about applicants being asked ridiculous Oxbridge Interview questions. However, generally, these are exaggerated rare occurrences. The tutors are trying to test you, but they are not trying to scare you.

You have to keep this in mind no matter how they appear to be acting towards you. Sometimes they put on a hard act as a guise. A fairly common tactic is to also have two tutors Interviewing and for them to play good cop bad cop.

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What constitutes a “strange question” and why are they asked?

The unusual things that people occasionally get asked as Oxbridge Interview questions can span from being seemingly unrelated, oddly worded, very abstract, unnervingly simple, and/or deeply philosophical.

Some example questions include:

  • What is the point of learning?
  • If you could change one thing on the planet now, what would it be?
  • Define success in one sentence.

These questions are perfectly crafted to challenge the candidate in all of their capacities. It is a test firstly of thinking on the spot (something that they haven’t tested you on yet). They sometimes use “strange” Oxbridge Interview questions that are very stripped back to see whether you can demonstrate originality of thought.

They are also seeing if you will argue your point with concrete evidence. The tutors at times present “strange” questions to see how well you manage under pressure in a vulnerable position, as this can sometimes be the format for Oxbridge tutorials.

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What to do if they ask you a “strange” question

The myths about Oxbridge Interview questions are vast and shouldn’t be taken too much note of. Although, at times, the tutors will ask questions that seem slightly absurd or overly demanding. The best thing to do at this point is to take a moment to think about the question and find the link it has to your subject. 

The questions are not completely intended to put people off. They’re specifically targeted to test a student’s imagination and ability to adapt to situations. You should choose an argument and follow it. Your answers should also be consolidated with references from the subject you are applying to and the areas of your subject that you know and feel confident talking about.

Here are some tips to ensure you enter the Interview room with the knowledge and skills you need to answer even the strangest questions:

What to take away from these questions

However odd the question may seem, there is usually a fairly straightforward answer. However, despite this, it is very important to remember that these “strange” Oxbridge Interview questions are fairly rare. If you are asked one it is usually just out of curiosity on the tutor’s part, rather than the linchpin of the Interview! Remember to relax and make sure you relate your answers back to your course and keep your answers focussed. 

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