You teach Oxbridge candidates, but could you get into Oxford yourself?
The University of Oxford has just released a series of sample interview questions across a range of subjects. TES put them to four teachers to see how they coped:
Q: Why is income per head between 50 and 100 times larger in the United States than in countries such as Burundi and Malawi? (Philosophy, Politics and Economics)
Tom Starkey (Leeds-based secondary teacher): Uh. Um. Uh. It would be a number of different factors for that – and this is not me playing for time at all. I would suspect it would be something to do with development, and that’s as far as I go. It’s not my area.
David Gower (secondary teacher from Suffolk): Oh, God. Because the US has more money. There are more rich people in the US. This is terrible. This is why I didn’t go to Oxford. Move on. Move on.
Sarah Simons (FE lecturer): I’m not sure I even understand the question. Oh, crap. Are they all this hard? Just imagining myself in that interview, I feel panic.
Sarah Ledger (Cumbria-based secondary teacher): Umm. Oh, crikey. Because…I’ve got no idea why that’s the case. Because things are more expensive in America. That’s the best I can come up with.
Q: Imagine that 100 people all put £1 into a pot for a prize that will go to the winner of a simple game. Each person has to choose a number between 0 and 100. The prize goes to the person whose number is closest to 2/3 of the average of all of the numbers chosen. What number will you choose, and why? (Experimental Psychology)
DG: That’s a ridiculous question. Those aren’t real questions, are they? Good God. I don’t know if I’d want to go to Oxford that badly. I’d probably just take the money and run. Who needs £100 so badly that they’re going to sift through that kind of logic?
SL: It would depend whether I want to win the money or not. As I don’t, I would choose six.
Q: Place a 30cm ruler on top of one finger from each hand. What happens when you bring your fingers together? (Engineering)
DG: OK. I’m going to do that now. [Pause] Nothing happens. My fingers are coming together, and I’m being filled with a sense of inadequacy.
SS: What colour piece of pie do I get for this? I’m quite good at Trivial Pursuits, but I’m guessing Oxford doesn’t base its interviews on Trivial Pursuits. I suppose it depends on how equally I move my fingers, and how sticky the ruler is. If you’re doing it equally, I would guess that the ruler would stay where it is.
SL: I can balance a ruler on my fingers. I’m doing this now. I learn how to do this trick, and then I join the circus as the incredible ruler-juggling woman.
Q: Can archaeology prove or disprove the Bible? (Oriental Studies)
TS: Um. Uh. Hang on. Let me think. That’s a definite yes on that one. Everything I know about archaeology, I learnt from Indiana Jones.
SL: If I believed in the Bible, then I would say that my faith proves the Bible, because faith proves itself. Archaeology could only prove something had happened. If it found the true cross, and something signed by Jesus at the bottom, then that would prove something. But, if they didn’t find anything, then it would prove nothing.
TS: No potential Oxford student would be given all of these questions, right? So I’m doing something harder than a normal entrance examination. I’m going to hide under a desk somewhere.
DG: I wouldn’t get through the door. That’s what we’ve learnt this afternoon. I feel like I’ve had an impromptu test that I might have failed.
SS: It’s terrifying. It’s completely terrifying. I feel stupid. A woman of my age. Surely I should have picked up something along the way. I have handbags older than some of the people taking this interview. It gives me huge admiration for them.
SL: I feel stressed and I feel stupid. I feel like everything I’ve ever known is worthless. But that’s not an uncommon feeling.