The Oxford History Interview: what are they looking for?
The Oxford history interview is not a test to see how many facts and figures you know, or even how much history you have learnt.
This stage is about getting to see how well you can speak about a subject. It’s a test-drive to see whether you would be a strong tutorial partner and how passionate you are about your subject.
The Format of the Oxford History Interview:
The format is usually in two parts, however, like any Oxford interview it depends on the tutor and they may try and surprise you at times.
The first part of the Oxford history interview is usually a very unusual source from any area of history. This section of the Oxford history interview is to test similar skills that the HAT examines. However, in this setting, the candidate must think on the spot and prove that they can communicate their thoughts coherently and convincingly.
Analysing a Source
The source that the tutor presents in the Oxford history interview is used to assess how critically and concisely the student can analyse a text. As well as to see if the student can put it into context and adopt a line of argument.
Precision is key. This means that for every point you make about the text, you should try and remember to refer it back to a specific line of the source.
It is very impressive if you can demonstrate a historically directed imagination and show originality of thought that is sufficiently backed up. This will make you stand out and prove that you are an enthusiastic history student.
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Take your Time
In the Oxford history interview, there is not much time to pause and think. However, it is very good to take your time, pick out a couple of aspects that you find interesting or unusual, and take a stand on what you think this source could be used to.
In addition to examining the source, it is very good to relate it to other areas of history – whether thematically or within the context of time periods. The skill of looking outside of the source proves that you are imaginative and can see a broader picture. It shows you understand how history is not just a collection of separate events, but a process. Further reading is recommended before you go into the interview so that you can refresh topics that you may need to refer back on.
The Personal Statement:
The second part of the Oxford history interview will usually be a discussion of either a piece of work you have submitted or an aspect of your personal statement. Be warned that they may play the devil’s advocate at this point and you must stand your ground. This will either be a history book that you have read or a specific subject that you have studied or are passionate about.
In the Oxford history interview, the tutor will nudge you to lead the discussion. Leading the discussion is very important because it shows initiative and confidence in your arguments. Along with this, you should express your opinions clearly, and again, make sure to relate it to other areas of history if you can.
Expert Advice to Study for the HAT
The History Admissions Test (HAT) is something that all applicants must undertake if they wish to study History at Oxford. It is designed to be tricky, but don’t let that scare you. You can practice for the exam with the help of tutors who are experts in the field of history and who know just what you need to learn to succeed in passing the test.
With practice papers and ongoing support, you will build your confidence in passing the HAT.