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How to apply - Interviews

Interview Guide  Interview guide

The Interview Process

Based on the information given during the application process, and the results of the MAT test, around 1 in 5 of our applicants are invited to come for an interview.

The Oxford admissions office publish an excellent booklet that explains in general terms what happens when you come for interview at Oxford. Most of that booklet applies just as well to Computer Science as it does to other subjects.


A tutor's-eye view of admissions interviews
(not Computer Science specific)
If you are shortlisted you will be invited for online or in-person interviews. In 2022, interviews will all be held online. More of what to expect can be found here.

A copy of the interview timetable is published a few months in advance. It is the colleges, rather than the Department that send out the interview invitations or, sadly, let you know that you haven't been shortlisted. This can be done either by letter or by email - it varies from college to college. If it's less than a week before the scheduled interview period for your course, and you haven't heard anything, then do get in contact with the college - it may mean something has gone astray in the mail. But, if it is more than a week to go, please wait a little longer: the time the college staff will take answering your call or email, is time they could have spent sending out your, or someone else's invitation. They will get in touch with you, good news or bad.

Preparing for the interview

We often start with a general question discussion to get to know you better, and to understand what motivates you, so be ready to talk about what excites you about your chosen subject.

From then on, we conduct interviews that are like a mini-tutorial. Either you will have been given a problem to think about in advance, or a question will be asked at the start of the interview. What follows should be a discussion where you and the interviewer explore the problem. This sample dialogue shows the kind of discussion we hope to have with you during the interview. As preparation, pick a Maths problem, such as one of these sample questions, and discuss your answer with a friend or an older person (a parent or teacher). This will get you used to discussing Maths out loud.

We don't ask about non-technical books you have read or about events in the news, because we don't find that this tell us much that is useful.

During the interview period

Whilst you're here, each candidate will normally have at least three interviews – two in the college they have chosen (typically on the Monday or Tuesday), and another in a second college (often on the Tuesday). This is done in such a way as to even out the number of applicants for each place. Interviewers at different colleges exchange information about candidates, to ensure that each applicant has an equal chance of a place at Oxford, no matter which college they have applied to. As a result, you might be invited for an interview at a third, or even a fourth college. These multiple interviews are intended to give you several chances to show what you can do. We are quite used to the fact that candidates are nervous when they come for interview, and we are willing to discount one or more interviews if we see that your nerves got the better of you. Being invited to these extra interviews is a good sign: it shows that you have done well enough in the process so far to be seriously considered for a place. On the other hand, having interviews at just two colleges is not a bad sign: if the tutor at your host college has indicated that you will certainly be offered a place there, then tutors at other colleges will not want to see you.

If you are applying for a joint degree, you might have single-subject interviews for each part of the degree, or there may be an interview with tutors from both disciplines. Some candidates may be asked to undertake a pre-interview exercise. The interviewer may then discuss some of the questions from the exercise, with you, during your interview.

Interviews will normally be with two interviewers. Sometimes one interviewer will ask all the questions, whilst the other takes notes, or sometimes they might share the questioning and note-taking between them.

All the interviews happen over a period of a couple of days. There's no sending you home, and then asking you to come back to Oxford at a later date.

Once the interviews are all finished, we decide whom to make offers to.

Some Examples

Demonstration Video Example

Recorded with our tutors and current students, this specific demonstration interview will give you a good idea of what to expect from your own interview. The video begins with an introduction from the tutors explaining why they interview and the format or structure of the conversation. This is followed by the sample interview itself and then a tutors' commentary during which they discuss how they feel the interview went. You might like to stop and start the videos as you watch, so you have time to think how you might have tackled the questions and of course you can rewind and watch as many times as you like. Don't worry if the students seem confident and articulate, remember they are used to tutorial teaching now and tutors will not expect you to be as familiar with this sort of academic discussion.

Please click here and navigate to the Demonstration Interview Videos Tab

Example interview questions

In case you want to practice thinking about similar problems, here is also a short list of problems that have been used in the past.

Sample interview dialogue

An example interview dialogue is also available.