Tips for an Oxford Maths Interview

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2024 Oxford Maths Interview – Tips for a successful interview

So you’ve been through the preliminary process of applying to Oxford. You’ve submitted your UCAS application, sat the MAT, and got invited to an interview! Congratulations! Getting invited to an interview at Oxford is a considerable achievement in its own right. The thought of being assessed by some of the world’s most acclaimed academics might seem scary. However, as all applicants learn after the interview, it’s not as scary as it initially seems! Here are our ten tips for an Oxford Maths Interview to better understand the interview process for the 2024 admissions cycle.

Check the interview arrangements

The Oxford Maths interviews have once again returned to face-to-face, apart from international interviews, which may be held online. It is important to check the interview arrangements, including where it will take place and any necessary accommodation needed.

Become familiar with the interview process

Just because Oxford Maths interviews are different from other universities. But that doesn’t mean you have to guess what yours could be like. The universities, not to mention specific colleges, provide plenty of information about how they like to assess applicants. You can even watch mock interviews for free on YouTube. Additionally, there are numerous sources of interview questions that previous applicants have been asked – on forums and Oxbridge Mind!

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Don’t cram before the interview

Given that the interviewers will be asking you maths questions, you might think cramming everything you learned through your A-levels before the interview might be worth it. But don’t let this fool you! Oxford Maths Interviews aren’t designed to try and see how many facts and theorems you remember about the subject. They are most interested in assessing your thought processes and problem-solving skills. Most interview questions will be on topics that you haven’t seen before. However, these can be approached with A-level maths knowledge. So instead of revising everything off your school syllabus, reviewing several sample interview questions will better familiarise you with the interview. A top tip is to practice Maths Olympiad questions, as you can expect these to be mimicked in the 2024 Oxford Maths Interview.

Practice thinking out loud

In the interview, you will be given one question at a time. The interviewers will ask you to “think out loud” so as to better understand your thought process. Since they are more interested in assessing your approach to problems, it’s crucial that you explain every step in your solution. This can seem a bit scary at first, but with practice, you can perfect your verbal problem solving skills. Here are some bonus tips from our Oxford Maths experts on practising thinking out loud:

  1. You can work on MAT past questions or past Interview questions with another friend
  2. You can try explaining solutions to MAT or interview question to someone who doesn’t know the topic
  3. You may sit for mock interviews with your MAT tutors
  4. You can also help your siblings with their homework
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    Don’t forget your usual prep

    One of the unique things about the Oxford Maths Interview is that they tend to ignore the staples of most other interviews – questions about why you chose maths or their specific university, as well as questions on your personal statement, work experience or personal traits. For the vast majority of interviewees, none of these will come up. That’s not to say you should tempt fate and ignore them entirely in your preparation. So before the interview, it’s worth looking at your personal statement to see what you wrote and think about how you might expand on the topics if you’re asked to. 

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions

    Remember, the Maths tutors don’t expect you to be an expert in the subject you are applying to. Rather they want to see your enthusiasm in the subject and assess your abilities to overcome challenges. The questions they ask reflect this philosophy, and there is a high chance you will get stuck somewhere during the interview. If you tried every possible approach that came to your mind, it’s okay to tell your Maths tutors that you’re stuck. They are typically more than happy to give you a hint. Of course you shouldn’t expect them to spoon-feed you the solutions, but they are likely to point you in the right direction. So think of the interview as a learning experience, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

    Get suitable interview practice

    To get a proper feeling for the 2024 interviews, you should try to organise mock interviews that imitate the Oxford interviews’ style. You can organise these with anyone you know who studied mathematics or computer science at Oxford or Cambridge. If you don’t, though – as will be the case for most people – you can ask a teacher at your school to try and replicate the interview experience for you. You can also check out our services at Oxbridge Mind, as most of our Maths tutors and MAT tutors at Oxbridge Mind are current undergraduate students at Oxford. As always, you can practice by yourself as well; we suggest recording yourself online whilst you answer past questions out loud and then watching these recordings back to self-critique your approach.

    Don’t worry about a missed question

    As we previously mentioned, not being able to solve a single problem most likely won’t break your application. Don’t over-analyse what you said in your interview after it’s over. It’s often the case that applicants think they did worse in the interviews than their interviewers thought! 

    Some interviewers might ask you if you have any questions for them at the end of the interview. You shouldn’t stress out about having a question. If you are genuinely curious about any topics that came up during the interview, or if you’re interested in any of the Maths tutors’ research, you should feel free to ask it. Before the interview, you could do a bit of research on your interviewers to reflect on their specific areas of interest.

    Tips for an Oxford Maths Interview: Relax and enjoy the conversation

    Despite the stress of the university admission process, interviews are a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to have a conversation about something you are passionate about with world class experts. So enjoy the conversation, and have fun solving some good maths problems!

    So there you go, the beans have been spilled! Prepare well for the interview, get a good night’s sleep the night before, and good luck!

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