How can I prepare my child for their Oxford Classics interview?
So, your child is applying to Oxford to study Classics? No doubt you’re feeling very proud of them, but also pretty nervous too. Especially when it comes to their interview!
This article will break down the style of a Classics interview with a guide on what types of Oxford Classics interview questions may come up, and show you how to prepare your child as much as possible to give them the best chance at the interview stage of the application process.
What happens in an Oxford Classics interview?
Based on the past experiences of Oxford applicants, interviews can be very different from each other and, as you can expect, intellectually challenging. Typically, an Oxford Classics interview is broken up into a few sections, depending on the subjects that your child already studied.
There will be at least 2 or 3 separate interviews, one each for Literature, Ancient History, and Philosophy (typically if your child has studied philosophy before at school).
The types of questions asked in these are often quite different from each other, and may well include unseen material to get the applicants to think outside of the box. Some of the various tasks that past students have been expected to undertake during their interview include:
It is very likely that your child will be given a short piece of text to translate into English. This is most often a Latin piece, but if they studied Greek at school then they should be aware that this may come up as well.
Passages from an Author
For the Literature or Ancient History interview, candidates are often given a passage to read (in English) a short while before the interview, which they will then be questioned on. Here, interviewers look for the candidates’ ability to understand the author’s style, their influences, their point/historical utility, and the wider historical context that they were writing in. This could be anything, from a section of Virgil’s Aeneid to a historical text by Plutarch. Your child will not be expected to have seen it before (in fact, the opposite is the intention!) Through the Oxford Classics interview questions that will be asked, candidates will be tested on their ability to react to new information.
As well as an unseen passage, some candidates are given an object (or an image of one) from Classical antiquity and asked to say what they can about it. Just as with the unseen passage, the object will likely be something your child has never seen before. It is commonly an unusual object with an obscure function or unclear imagery, and the applicants are tested on their ability to make educated guesses about the object’s purpose and significance in its historical context.
What kind of Oxford Classics interview questions can I test my child to prepare for their interview?
To prepare your child for the rest of the interview and the types of questions that will be asked in their Oxford classics interview, we advise you follow these following points. Generally speaking, the Oxford Classics interview questions will include topics on:
Classics is a huge subject, and your child will NOT be expected to know everything about it already! However, having said this, they should have a strong knowledge about anything they have written on their personal statement or pre-submitted work.
Questions on what they have written here are likely to come up. In fact, many interviewers in the past have asked the applicant what they would like to discuss, and so it is very important for them to have an area of interest that they are ready to talk about.
So, first things first, quiz them on anything they have chosen to write about. It is also worth looking up the Classics professors at the college they have applied to, as it is possible that one of your child’s interviewers will be the author of a book that your child has put on their personal statement!
As a lot of the interviews will be based on previously unseen material, it is a good idea to give your child a piece of text or an object that they have not come across before, and give them 15 minutes to think about it in advance before asking them questions like:
- “Can you summarise what you have been given to look at?”
- “What do you think this passage/item was for?”
- “What influenced the author/manufacturer in their decisions?”
- “How do you think people reacted to this specific piece/item?”
- “Which members of society would have had contact with this?”
Questions like this will prepare them for how to approach the unseen piece and will make them feel less caught out when they receive something like this in the interview.
Logic and Philosophy
Not all of the questions may be inherently ‘Classical’, and particularly those focused on the philosophy side of things may be very broad and vague morally-centred questions to test the applicants critical thinking. You might want to ask questions like:
- “Is war justified in self-defense?”
- “What is free will?”
- “Would an omnipotent god be able to create a stone that they couldn’t lift?”
- “Should a doctor sacrifice one life to save three?”
Literature and History
You may also want to test your child on some more relevant material. Again, using broad and mentally challenging questions, such as:
- “Can a translation ever be accurate?”
- “How do we know anything about the past?”
- “Does cultural and temporal separation mean we can never truly grasp what ancient authors were talking about?”
- “When does History become ancient?”
- “How relevant is the poetry of Ovid to today’s society?”
- What did Augustus want to achieve?”
While it may be difficult to test your child with these kinds of question (especially as you might not know the answers yourself), it is good to get them to feel comfortable with the idea that they will not necessarily know (or even be able to know!) the answer to many of the questions they will be asked – and that’s okay. Your child should remember that this is an interview to prove why they should be given the chance to further their understanding of a topic they love. They just need to show their passion for the subject and all of these will be excellent practice in communicating this.
Look into the Oxbridge Interview Crash Course
The Oxbridge interview crash course at UniAdmissions is your child’s opportunity to squeeze in all their last-minute interview preparations and hone the skills that could be the deciding factor between them getting their place at Oxford or not. Our course provides coaching from 4 different tutors in areas of the exam that they will be tested on. By working at all areas of an Oxbridge interview, your child will be given the key strategies needed to succeed.
Want more information? Of course! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us as and we can work out an interview plan that’s tailored to your child’s needs.
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