Oxford Oriental Studies: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read

Stuck on how to prepare for your Oxford Oriental Studies interview? Don’t worry! We have spoken to top performing students to gather their experiences and advice to help you smash the interview!

Oxford Oriental Studies
Oriental Studies at Oxford may seem daunting at first, but this article contains key bits of advice to help guide you!

What is the Oxford Oriental Studies interview structure?

Candidates can typically expect 2 online interviews of 20-30 minutes in length over a couple of days. Bear in mind that some candidates have reported being pooled for a second round of interview at a different college, and have had 4 x 30 minute interviews in the space of four days.

Oxford Oriental Studies interview
Oxford Oriental Studies interviews may be held virtually

Example Past Questions from Oxford Oriental Studies interviews

General questions:

  • Why do you want to study Oriental Studies at Oxford?
  • Questions on why I talked about X in personal statement 
  • What is it about Oriental Studies that most excites you?
  • What skills would make you suited to be a successful student at Oxford?
  • Why this college?
  • Why Oxford University?
  • What can you contribute to college life?
  • Discussion on my EPQ topic (if done)
  • What did you do in your gap year?
  • Discussion of my future plans for study and career
  • Summarise a book mentioned in my personal statement and my opinion of it
  • What news have you seen that relates to Oriental studies?

Oxford Oriental Studies interview questions:

  • The interviewers asked me to look at either a poem or article (both in English) for 30 minutes beforehand and make notes about it, with the first 15 minutes of the interview focused on a literary analysis of the poem
  • They gave me 30 minutes to choice between two texts (prose or poetry), and had time to prepare notes to discuss in interview
  • I got two different scientific diagrams (one Eastern and one Western), and tutors asked me to discuss the differences between the two and why these two may be different 
  • I got time to read an article about a trade-war, before having a broad discussion of the extract in the interview
  • I had two pieces of Chinese art and asked to talk about similarities and differences between the two
  • I had to read and translate traditional and difficult Chinese characters 
  • We discussed the history of the Chinese language for the bulk of the interview 
  • We worked through a problem sheet related to language, with an emphasis on my thought process
  • We talked about Chinese culture, history and language 
  • We talked about visual sources I was given during interview
  • My final interview looked at the written work I submitted as part of the application process
  • “Do you think Mao would be proud of China today?”
  • “Why does the word ‘God and ‘I’ have a capital letter?”
  • “What is the point of studying Oriental Studies”
  • “How can China be so materialistic and have such a large Buddhist population if Buddhism teaches non-attachment?”
  • “Why do you think Chinese students obey their parents more than those in the UK?”
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    What happens on the day of my Oxford Oriental Studies interview?

    Students have reported different Oriental Studies interview experiences depending on the college and the year interviewed. However, some students had an extract/choice of extracts to make notes on beforehand. They then discussed these points for a large section of the interview.
    Other candidates had new material, and tutors presented them with sources or images in the interview. It sparked discussions based on these materials.
    One overlapping similarity between many interviewees is that tutors asked many students questions about their personal statement. This also included current affairs in the subject, or motivations for studying the subject. In this vein, make sure to touch up on your reading and answers for why you want to study Oriental Studies!

    What do you have to bring to your Oxford Oriental Studies interview?

    Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in – whether this is a suit or gym clothes. I opted for casual clothing to make me feel more comfortable, and my tutor did the same!

    I had a pen and paper handy to make any notes through the interview, and tutors presented me with documents and images over screen share during the interview. 

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    When are Oxford Oriental Studies interviews held?

    According to Oxford University, the vast majority of interviews happen in the first three weeks of December. Candidates will be given at least 24 hours notice before their interviews, with most interviews occuring over 2-3 days. If you get pooled for another round of interviews then this period could be even longer.

    Tutors then decide based on the application performance, and the university should send offers to candidates in mid-January.

    What are the Oxford Oriental Studies interviewers like?

    Initially I was very nervous before my interview, but my interviewers quickly put me at ease and made me more confident. As the interview progressed, I felt a lot more comfortable and ended up really enjoying the experience. 

    Because Oriental Studies is more a niche subject, both you and your interviewers share an uncommon interest and passion in your chosen field. Utilise this and flex your knowledge and passion for the subject, bringing in any extra reading you have done, or any news that relates to the subject. 

    Importantly, your interviewer knows how stressful it can be! In fact, two of my interviewers told me they both did Oriental Studies at Oxford for their undergraduate degree so realise how daunting it can be. Take your time, talk out loud and show the interviewers why you are a top student.

    Oxford Oriental Studies teaching style
    Students reading Oriental Studies at Oxford will typically have 1-2 tutorials a week with 0-3 other students and a tutor

    Oxford Oriental Studies interview tips

    • Relax as much as possible before the interview. Do not cram revision the night before, instead make sure you are well rested and ready to smash the interview on the day.
    • Double check you have everything ready before the interview starts – checking all electronics (and making sure it is charged!), and bringing anything else you may need for the interview (water, pen, paper etc).
    • Be confident! The fact that you have been invited shows you are a top student – remind yourself of this and back yourself going into the interview!
    • Try to stay calm! Interviewers care less about your final answer and more about how you arrived there – so practise talking out loud and showing the interviewer your thought process. If relevant, be sure to bring in extra reading into your answer to show you are an engaged candidate!
    • Do not panic if you do not immediately know the answer. It is very possible you get asked a question you initially do not know how to answer. Do not worry – take time to think and structure your answer, and clearly communicate how you want to arrive at your conclusion. Oxford University states they care less about your final answer and more how you arrived there – show the interview how you logically arrive at an answer step-by-step!
    • Mock interviews help! Talking outloud and answering unseen questions is great practice for the interview – this can be with a teacher, friend, or parent!

    Bonus Tips!

    • Show your passion for their subject! Your interviewer could be your tutor for the next three years, so try to be a student they would look forward to seeing every week! Be engaged, polite and enthusiastic, showcasing your commitment and passion for the subject.
    • The interview is not a knowledge test. Most students have not studied Oriental Studies before, so they do not expect specific knowledge. Instead, they are looking for enthusiasm and potential!
    • Know your personal statement and EPQ! Many tutors will be interested in your extra-curricular reading and passion for the subject outside of the classroom, so make sure you are comfortable talking about anything mentioned in your personal statement.
    • Keep up to date with the news! Showing you read around the latest developments shows you are engaged and can be bonus marks to impress your interviewer! 
    • Enjoy the experience! Being invited to an Oxbridge interview is an achievement in itself, and see this as an opportunity to discuss your interest with leading academics in the field.
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