“Have a sparkle in your eye and a passion. It’s a chance to show a mind that has potential, not a brain full of quotes from a textbook.” Berenika, 1st-year History student at Jesus College

Over the next few weeks, prospective students across the country, and indeed across the world, are coming for much-coveted interviews at Oxford University and Jesus College.

But what can you expect if you are coming to Jesus College for an interview ?

We asked a selection of current students at College about their interview experiences. Here they share their thoughts and provide some ‘top tips’ on how you can prepare -

Ayesha, 1st-year Medicine

From: Blackburn

Student photoIt’s easy to be nervous about your interview. It’s inevitable, but try not to let the nerves get the better of you if you can. Try to relax so you can perform at your best. When you’re nervous you tend to overthink. The tutors want to know how you are thinking. They want to know how you get to an answer, even if that answer is wrong.

Before the interview I’d done some preparation, mainly mock interviews at my school. I went to a state school, and sixth form college, and was the first student to go to Oxford. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to answer the questions, but don’t worry, even if you feel like you’ve given a silly answer, it’s ok. I always tell people about a question I was asked by the tutor. He asked me what would you put in a bone? I answered calcium. He asked me why? I said my Mum always told me if I drink milk my bones will become strong. I was so worried it was a silly answer and I’d ruined my chances, but they liked it because I told them what I was thinking and I was honest!

Berenika, 1st-year History

From: Poland and London

Student photoI found my interview really enjoyable. Of course I was stressed as the pressure was on, but I got to have a conversation with a specialist in the subject that I love. Everyone was very nice and made me feel at ease. They genuinely made an effort.

Be prepared that the tutor will throw stuff at you, they don’t want you to talk about what you know about. I’d suggest taking an area of your subject and reading a few controversial articles about it. Make sure you have an opinion or a stance on it and be able to justify your answers.

Also know why you love your subject, have an answer ready. And be yourself, however clichéd that sounds. Have a sparkle in your eye and a passion. It’s a chance to show a mind that has potential, not a brain full of quotes from a textbook.

Enjoy meeting people too while you’re at College. You’ll be there for a few days so it’s an opportunity to make friends, play games in the JCR, talk to older students. Don’t shut yourself in your room studying for your interview - I’m still friends with people I met at the interviews.

Ryan, 3rd-year Biological Sciences

From: Talbot Green, Wales

Student photoI was anxious about my interview but I tried to prepare as much as possible. I wanted to go in with a mindset that I could do it. I think once you’re in there your brain kicks in and it’s not as overwhelming as you may think. The tutors are there to help you, rather than catch you out.

I’d say make sure you say what you think and work through any problems that you are given, slowly. Expect that you won’t know the answer to everything, but know that’s ok as long as you share your thought processes.

I’d had a mock interview with my teacher at school. Not many students had Oxbridge interviews before me, I went to a comprehensive school in Wales, but it’s still good to prepare where you can. I looked at my personal statement so it was refreshed in my mind and made sure I had a good level of knowledge about everything I had written on there.

Ashleigh, 1st-year Law with Law studies in Europe

From: Aylesbury

Student photoI wasn’t too stressed about my interview, I tried not to put too much pressure on myself to get in. I took it for what it is and that the tutors would make the right decision if I was suited to the course and the College.

The interviews were tough, I was asked lots of challenging questions but it was also enjoyable! I went to a state school and had a practice interview with my teacher. I’d recommend trying to find an opportunity to be put up against a devil’s advocate. You need to be comfortable with being challenged on why you have a view. But hold your ground if you still agree with yourself, after being challenged.

Above all, I’d say take the interview as an opportunity to enjoy a subject that you love, an opportunity to spend time with a knowledgeable tutor. I also tried to remember that it’s about finding people who are most suited to that style of teaching, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get in.

Lewis, 1st-year Experimental Psychology

From: South West London

Student photoI genuinely enjoyed my interview and had a fantastic time. The great thing about Oxford interviews is that what you say, right or wrong, is almost irrelevant, as tutors aren’t expecting you to know everything before starting here. They are looking for you to justify your answer with a sound and coherent argument. You need to go in with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. If you slow yourself down and logically think through everything you say, you can’t go too far wrong.

I took a gap year so I didn’t have any interview practice beforehand. I’d say, however, that it does help if you can find someone to practise forming an argument against. For example, even if a parent or friend asks you, ‘do you like that apple, and why?’, it’s a chance to formulate a solid argument, perhaps by comparing and contrasting it against other fruits subjectively rather than simply giving an objective answer. You need to be comfortable arguing about anything logically.

The word ‘comfortable’ is key. You need to be comfortable in your skin as well as in your arguments. I went on the College website for my course and read all of the available information, it takes a lot of time but it was worth it. I searched for the Tutor who was interviewing me as well, so I knew what she looked like and was familiar with her work. Familiar means giving it a quick glance, not trying to understand her PhD thesis! That really made me feel more comfortable going into the process.

Don’t get too caught up in specific knowledge and information, it won’t get you very far. In the Tutor’s eyes, if you know everything by the time you get here, there’s no point in you coming! They are looking for raw talent and ability.

Jenyth, 3rd-year Classics

From: Northern Ireland

Student photoI came from a state school in Northern Ireland, three of us in my year had interviews, but it was four years since anyone had got into Oxford. I did feel the pressure, I didn’t know what it was going to be like. Was it going to be full of really posh people, my friends were asking if I was sure that I wanted to go, would I fit in? But I’d been to an Oxford University summer school and met other people from schools like mine, and I really liked it.

I didn’t expect to get an interview, and to be honest, on the day of the interview I was pretty terrified. I hadn’t studied any Classics at school. Once I was in the interview though, it was fine. It was really good fun. The tutors understand your background, they know what you have studied and they make it very personal which I appreciated. In the first half of the interview we talked about themes from a Classics text. You have to be honest with your interviewer, even if you don’t have a clue about the answer, you need to give it a go.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more time to think if you need to. I wouldn’t say sit in silence for 10 minutes but a couple of seconds or even a minute or two are fine if you want to think of a good answer or provide a few examples.


For more information about the interview process, Dr Alexandra Lumbers, Academic Director for Jesus College, Oxford has provided top tips on how to prepare.