PPE at Hertford College
The Point of Interviews
An interview is bound to be a bit scary, but we try to make it as painless as possible. We are well aware that you will be nervous, especially if you haven't been prepared for it by your school, and of course we take this into account. Our aim is not to catch you out, but to get to know you a little, and to have a conversation to assess your interest in the subjects, your commitment to work, and most of all your academic potential.
Why We Interview
Interviews are not a perfect method of assessment, but they add valuable information to the picture we try to build up to assess which of our candidates would benefit most from what Oxford has to offer. Prior to 1995, Oxford relied largely on a special Entrance Examination, but this was abolished because it was felt to give too much benefit to those from privileged schools with the resources to give special tuition for it. Over subsequent years, school qualifications become almost useless as a discriminator between applicants, the vast majority of whom would be predicted (and achieve) three As at A-Level (or equivalent). Typical A-Level work also tends to put rather too much emphasis on learning rather than analytical and critical ability: someone who achieves twelve A*s at GCSE and six As at A-Level, for example, will no doubt be very clever and extremely hardworking, but might not be the ideal Oxford student (hence we ask for only three A-Levels, and advise you to go for Advanced Extension Awards, STEP papers etc. if you want to be stretched).
Interviews give us the opportunity to see how you can cope with being challenged intellectually, thinking through difficult problems in 'real time' without the aid of prior learning. Another point of the interview is to assess your suitability for tutorials, in which you learn and develop your ideas through individual (or paired) discussion with a tutor. Tutorials are a distinctive feature of Oxford, and we are looking for people who will most benefit from them: able to explain and put forward views clearly, to discuss them intelligently, to defend them forcefully, while able to recognise and address points on the other side, and to modify their views when the force of the argument is against them.