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Oxford English Literature Interview Experience

Interviewers are more interested to see if you have a go at challenging questions than if you get the right answer.

<p>Hello, I'm Sam. I studied English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford and I want to tell you about my interview experience.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>So, when I went for my interview at Magdalen, there were two interviews that I knew about. The first one was a short interview that I was told was going to be about what I'd written in my personal statement. So I went into a room in Magdalen. There were two tutors there. They were fellows at Magdalen and they had my personal statement in front of them and they took me through it. They asked me questions about books that I'd mentioned in my personal statement.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I think mainly what they were looking for was sparks of curiosity. If I seemed curious about something,&nbsp; then they would ask me a bit more about it. So I wrote about James Joyce, the famous Irish modernist novelist and poet. They asked me about this because&nbsp; I mentioned Ulysses in my personal statement. They asked me if I'd read anything else by him. So it's quite casual, it's improvised and they might ask you a tricky question. So classic tricky questions might be things like what's novel about the novel or they might ask you a specific thing about vocabulary like “What was the early modern meaning of the word fancy?” or something like.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>But those sort of specific more challenging questions have a go at them. They're more interested to see if you have a go at it than if you get it right. If you enjoy the challenge, they're looking to see what happens if, when they challenge you in that interview, do you enjoy it or do you shut down, if you enjoy it if you open up a conversation with them, if you try different things, then that suggests to them that you will enjoy the 1:1 tutoring experience that you look to get at Oxford and Cambridge.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>So that was my first interview, 50 minutes long. Then my second interview was a much longer, more involved process much more like the 1:1 tutorial. So I went into a room. There was an envelope with my name on it and inside was a little booklet of passages, a mix of poems, letters and quotations. I read my way through those and made some notes and then I went in for a 1:1 kind of tutorial with one of the fellows that I hadn't met yet at Magdalen and she asked me what I was particularly interested in and what I'd read and asked for some thoughts. So she would always let me steer it. “She would say okay where do you want to start. Okay you want to look at this stanza of this poem. Why do you want to look at this stanza? What do you find interesting in this line? Is there anything you notice here.”&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>So it's a conversation. I would say my top tip for this section is don't be afraid to improvise a response based on something that you don't fully understand yet. It's something where there's going to be a call and response between you. You could say “I'm not sure what this word means” or “I think this is interesting because ‘this’... Do you agree?” You're allowed to have a conversation with them. It's meant to be like a tutorial and they're seeing how well you respond to working with a more mature, more sophisticated mind in your subject area as a kind of partner to guide you to lead you by the hand through the extracts in front of you.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>My other tip, my final tip is to make sure that you make a quick note or several notes about what you've discussed in your interviews straight after you come out of the interview because you might be invited for another interview. If you are, they might ask you to remind them of what you talked to them about before. That happened to me. I was invited to a third interview and they instantly started with “So what did we discuss last time?” and I couldn't remember any of it and I had to say I don't remember it's gone completely out of my head because of the adrenaline which they were really nice about but I now think I should have made sure that I remembered it. So yeah I hope that helps that was my interview experience at Magdalen.</p>