Oxford History: Tips & Questions for Interview

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Oxford History interview
Oxford History

In this article we will guide you on how to best prepare for your Oxford History interview. This includes guides on past Oxford History questions, interview tips, mock examples and real experiences from students who have sat the Oxford History Interview.

Here is a link about what to expect about the History course at Oxford.

What is the Oxford History interview structure?

The Oxford History Interview is split into two interviews that candidates will take. Tutors are looking to see what your intellectual potential is. The essay that you submit will generally be a starting point for discussion in one of your Oxford History Interviews. It will include discussing the terms you have used, comparing your work to some other historical examples or the inclusion of new pieces of information. 

Some colleges may ask you to read a short passage of historical writing just before your Oxford History Interview which will then be brought up as a part of a discussion. 

Still not sure what to expect for your interview?

Here’s an Insider History Mock Interview:

What are the Oxford History interview dates?

The Oxford History interview dates are expected to begin from the first week of December, with second interviews continuing in the second week. 

Example Past Questions from Oxford History interview

  • Questions on personal statement and submitted written work 
  • Read a JSTOR article 30 minutes prior to the evening and make notes on the same
    The interview included questions about the text to test your understanding of arguments made by the historian.
  • How would you compare Henry VIII and Stalin?
  • Would History be worth studying if it did not repeat itself?
  • How can one define a revolution?
  • Which person in the past would you most like to interview and why?
  • Can history stop the next war?
  • When was the English monarchy at its strongest?
  • Why did Henry VII call his son Arthur?
  • Do you think governments should spend money to preserve historical sites?
  • What is the difference between modern history and modern politics?
  • Do you believe historical artefacts belong in the country of their origin?
  • How would you organise a successful revolution?
  • Is there such a thing as ‘race’?
  • Did the 1920 invention of the Henry Ford car lead to a national sub-culture of was it just an aspect of one?
  • Should historians be allowed to read sci-fi novels?
  • Why are you sitting in this chair?
  • Do you think the Bavarian peasants of 1848 had an ideology?
  • Why is it alright for one country to intervene in another?

Further Examples:

  • Who writes history?
  • How do you research illiterate medieval craftsmen?
  • What are the origins of your Christian name?
  • How do historians obtain evidence?
  • What is the most useful source for a historian?
  • Can we still learn lessons from 18th century warfare?
  • Are verbal sources more useful than written sources?
  • Assess the role of dance in history?
  • Can losers ever play a role in writing history?
  • Compare and contrast the French and Russian revolutions?
  • Compare and contrast WWI and WWII
  • Compare the French Revolution with a modern event
  • Did the 9/11 attacks change the way we write history?
  • Do you consider history a science?
  • Do you think history can have any practical purpose?
  • Do you think that Ancient History should be seen as a different subject from Modern History?
  • Do you think the government should spend money to preserve historical sites?
  • How can we justify public funding of the study of history?
  • How is the Arab Spring similar to the Russian Revolution?
  • How would you have stopped Hitler?
  • If you could have dinner with anybody that has ever lived, who would it be and why?
  • Is Marxist history still worth studying?
  • How would you have stopped Hitlet?
  • What do you need to consider when evaluating the reliability of a source?
  • What do shoes tell us about the past?
  • Where does history end?
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    Insider Guides: Oxford History Interview

    What happened on the day of your Oxford History interview? 

    I did not have much advance notice of when my Oxford History Interview was going to take place so I had to be prepared for it to happen at any time. I would have to check a noticeboard every morning to see if I was going to have an interview. A few hours before my Oxford History Interview, I was informed of what time it was taking place and where. Following that, an interview helper took me to my interview room.

    What do you have to bring to your Oxford History interview?

    Dress code does not matter at all – the tutors are interested in what you say, not what you look like! For my Oxford History Interviews, I took a few pens and highlighters to help me analyse the source I was presented with. You are not allowed to take in any copies of your personal statement or written work that you have submitted. 

    What is the Oxford History interview setting and how long is it?

    Both my Oxford History Interviews took place in the respective tutor’s office. The setting was quite relaxed – we were sitting on their armchairs and sofas. For both my interviews, there were two tutors present with one asking the questions and the other making notes. 

    Each Oxford History Interview lasts approximately 30 minutes in total. 

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    What are the Oxford History interviewers like?

    The Oxford History interviewers were friendly but at the same time, they did not give much away. It is really hard to tell what they are thinking, so don’t try and guess. I thought one of my interviews went badly because the interviewer did not smile much or react as I would have expected, but in the end that was not the case at all. 

    The interviewers had a clear idea of the questions they wanted to ask, especially at the beginning. As the interview progressed, their questioning was led by the things that I said. I.e things they either disagreed with, found interesting or wanted me to expand on. The questions asked were far from generic and not easily predictable.

    Are there any academic or challenging History questions at the Oxford interview?

    For my Oxford History Interview, when I had to read an article prior to my interview, I was asked to go into a bit more depth about the finer details and specific evidence used by historians in their arguments. I was also asked about the content of the JSTOR article to allow the interviewers to assess that I had understood both the historian’s argument and the historical period they were discussing. 

    Are there any personality, work experience or extracurricular based History questions at the Oxford interview?

    There were no such questions in my interviews. 

    Top Tips for the Oxford History interview 

    • Read your personal statement: Knowing your personal statement in and out will allow you to be prepared to answer any questions your interviewers might ask in relation to the topics you have touched upon in your essay. These could be certain periods in history, works of literature that talk about historical periods, historians and their writings or a certain war/revolution. Particularly for history, be sure that you are ready to defend any arguments that you have made about any work that you have read or analysed. 
    • Do not try and predict questions: While preparing for potential questions that you can get asked in your interview is certainly useful, the majority of questions you get asked on the actual day will be based on the responses you give to the initial questions. Focus on keeping yourself adept with current relevant news in the field of history as well as knowing your material well. 
    • Practice talking to other people: Get friends, family members and teachers to ask you a wide range of questions related to history. Do not be afraid to practise questions that require you to think critically on the spot. More practice will equip you with the skills needed to openly discuss your ideas with other people, so that you are easily able to put your thoughts into words whilst simultaneously building up your confidence.  
    • Read work written by other historians: Go beyond works you have previously read to immerse yourself in the works written by other historians that are out of your comfort zone. This will give you a better understanding of the life and works and discussions created by these historians, giving you the opportunity to summarise their arguments. 

    Top Tips for the “Why Oxford” interview question

    1. Research Oxford and think about why you really want to go there – this cannot be simply because it is one of the world’s top universities. You should find something unique or rare about Oxford that makes you want to study there.
    2. You must also think about your specific subject. For History, you should research the various courses on offer, making sure to have a few in mind which you would love to come to Oxford to study.
      For example, the Oxbridge Mind 1:1 Oxford History interview tutors give you unique time with leading experts in their field. 

    Remember that this is a unique opportunity! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to interact with some of the best academics in certain areas of history so enjoy the interview, the challenges and the intellectual conversation! 

    My Favourite Things about Studying History at Oxford University 

    I love the tutoring system, incredible libraries, the collaborative atmosphere and the amazing city of Oxford with everything it has to offer. The lectures are great and the tutors are always lovely and read to help. You get a lot of 1:1 advice and supervision which is useful guidance throughout your course. The workload can be quite heavy but it is perfectly manageable if you are passionate about your subject and willing to put the time in to get things done.

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