An Oxford Oriental Studies Interview: What’s Different?

The Oxford Oriental Studies interview is a tough stage in the application process. As most courses under the University of Oxford’s Modern Languages faculty are European, those brave souls who decide to study a language spoken in countries a little further afield will apply for the course entitled ‘Oriental Studies’.

So what can you expect from the interview?

The interview will focus on your potential aptitude for the course. Your job is to persuade the professors that you are committed to something you have never studied before.


Luckily, this means you have quite a free reign with what you might want to talk about. It’s a great time to stand out and show off your personality, which is really the good approach to any Oxford interview.


In the Oxford Oriental Studies interview, they are not testing your knowledge, but instead just making an assessment as to whether you would be a good fit for the course.


Interviews, as a result, may vary greatly from individual to individual.


The logistics of an Oxford Oriental Studies Interview

With fewer applicants than those undertaking the Modern Languages course and interview, the Oriental Studies course itself is more faculty-based than the bigger subjects.

This means you can expect at least two interviews: one in the college of your application, and one in the faculty.

You may also have further interviews at colleges other than the one you applied to.

Oxford Oriental Studies interviews usually take place early on in the interview timescale, roughly the same time as other humanities interviews – within the first couple of weeks.

As the interviews can also take place across multiple days, you should also prepare to stay overnight for around two to three days during the course of the interviews.

Interview Preparation Package

If you would like to discuss what sort of questions might come up in detail, why not book yourself in for an interview preparation package with UniAdmissions?

We’ll take you through 4 mock interviews so that you are ready and confident to tackle any scenario imaginable.

The format of the interview

The Oxford Oriental Studies interview lasts about 30-40 minutes and there will be at least two tutors interviewing you.

If you are applying to a college where one of the language tutors has an affiliation, you could expect to see them there too. (For example, in my college interview, there were three tutors, plus me, and one of the tutors was a language tutor).

You are quite likely to be given a written source or another kind of source (I was given a painting, for example) to consider during the interview. If so, you’ll be told in advance that you need to collect the prompt from one of the college offices around 20 minutes before your interview. I would advise you look at this whilst you are waiting.

Make sure you have looked up the location of your faculty building, as you may have to make your own way there. Remember to be on time!


The Content


The Oxford Oriental Studies interviews are quite personal and, as such, their content can vary a huge amount!


Most of the focus will be on your motivations for the course. Questions that you could expect include: how you became to be interested in the country, or area of interest, or what reading you have done to show this. Other questions could be whether you have an aptitude for language and /or history of the country you have picked, and what attracted you to this course in particular.

College Tutor

Are there particular features of the course that drew your attention?

Think about whether there are particular features of your course within Oriental Studies that stand out from the rest. For example:

  • Oxford’s Chinese Studies course is one of three in the country to offer such a rigorous amount of Classical Chinese.
  • Do you know the course structure, and whether the content is offered elsewhere?
  • Are there particular professors or teaching methods that you are hoping to interact with?
  • Do you know what Classical Chinese (or the equivalent module) is?
  • Can you explain the benefits of this approach succinctly and convincingly?


You need to show that you understand what the course entails and that you are committed to studying it. The opportunities generated by the course are amazing, but it is neither a business course nor an international relations course!

All in all, if you can show enthusiasm for this area of academia, you will be able to get a huge amount out of your Oxford Oriental Studies interview. Best of luck!

(If you want further tips and guidance on perfecting your interview technique, then we recommend reading our ultimate Oxbridge interview book).

Interview Tuition with UniAdmissions


Craft your interview with a little help from our coaching courses. With a UniAdmissions’ interview tuition package you will triple your chance at success at your Oxford Oriental studies interview.

No need to fear those sudden and difficult questions. We’ll target your tutoring to areas that you most struggle with so that when the time comes, you’ll be able to answer any of the questions thrown at you.

Talk to one of our team to discuss crafting your personal interview strategy.

Further reading

MUST READ: Read the 3 most overlooked tips before an Oxbridge interview

Further reading

MUST READ: 3 great tips for a successful Oxbridge interview

Further reading

TIP: Learn how to construct an argument in your interview

Further reading

TIP: Interview advice on how to best communicate your argument