Oxford Psychology: Tips & Questions for Interview

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

What is the Oxford Psychology interview structure?

Psychology can be studied as a discipline by itself, also known as Experimental Psychology, or alongside Philosophy or Linguistics. The structure of the interview will be very similar if not identical regardless of the combination. It’s common to be given pre-reading prior to the interview, such as an experiment to look at or some data to analyse, and the majority of the interview is likely to focus around this, with some extra broader questions to encourage you to consider different aspects of the discipline.

What are the Oxford Psychology interview dates?

For Psychology, Oxford generally interviews around 3 people for one place. The Oxford Psychology interviews usually take place in the second week of December. 

What are the Oxford Psychology interview offers based on?

According to the Oxford website, the Oxford Psychology Interview offers are based on:

  1. The interview
  2. Predicted or obtained A-levels or equivalent
  3. GCSEs or equivalent
  4. The academic reference 
  5. The pre-interview admissions test(s) results
  6. Personal statement
  7. Other relevant information. 
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Example Past Questions from Oxford Psychology interview

  • Discussing a study – ‘Tell us about a study that has inspired you’, which I answered by describing a study I’d learnt about in the Memory topic of Psychology A-Level, and describing its implications for the real world.
  • Data Interpretation – The interviewers gave me data presented in ways I hadn’t seen before, and asked to interpret the graphs, and what they might mean. At first I was unsure, and was given a little prompting from the tutors to guide me in the right direction, which allowed me to consider the data in a different way from how I’d been thinking about it previously. 
  • Designing an experiment – I was given a hypothesis for a study, and asked to design an experiment to test this hypothesis. This was followed by questions asking me to identify the independent and dependent variables, which variables I would control, and any ethical implications I would need to consider. They continued the question by asking how I would change the study to adapt to various changes they posed to the original hypothesis.

Example Interview Questions

  • Should interviews be used for selection?
  • How would you describe emotions?
  • Discussion of an interesting thing you have read about in science.
  • Research methods about a specific psychology topic, including links to experiments
  • Questions on Psychology personal statement
  • Less focus on imaginative questions (e.g. describe the colour blue) 
  • Discuss the origin of phobias.
  • What are the effects of recreational drugs on the brain?
  • Does a snail have consciousness?
  • How many monkeys would you use in an experiment?
  • How would you design a scientific experiment to show that a certain substance is addictive?
  • Can a thermostat think?
  • What are the properties of a triangle?
  • What is ‘normal’ for humans?
  • How could you design an experiment to see if babies can recognise faces/if faces are special compared to other shapes/objects?
  • Why do we sleep and dream?
  • Which do you think would be worse – having a short-term memory deficit or long-term memory deficit? Why?
  • Do you believe critical thinking is something one is born with or can be taught?
  • Do you think intelligence is a general concept or do you believe that there are multiple intelligences? What support do you have to justify your answer?
  • If there are multiple intelligences, do you think there should be multiple entrance exams for university admissions? Do one-size-fits-all tests, like the SAT and ACT tap into multiple intelligences or do they assess intelligence in general?
  • Give some examples of why Chemistry might be important to Psychology.
  • A new treatment is tested on a group of people with depression, who are markedly better in six weeks. Does this show that the treatment was effective?
  • There are records of violent crimes that exactly mimic scenes of violence on TV. Does this indicate that TV causes real violence?
  • Is it ethically justifiable to kill animals for the purpose of research?
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    Insider Guides: Oxford Psychology Interview

    What happens on the day of your Oxford Psychology interview? 

    I had two interviews for Psychology, one with St Hugh’s College and one with Somerville college, though both Oxford Psychology interviews were online due to the pandemic. I was sent a link to a meeting on Microsoft Teams prior to each Psychology interview, and logged on 5 minutes before it was due to start, and was let into the meeting at my allocated time. At the beginning of my interview with St Hugh’s, I was introduced immediately to two tutors, who began the interview, though with Somerville, I was first introduced to two student volunteers who welcomed me and put me at ease, and answered any questions I had, before leaving and allowing the tutors to join for the real interview to begin.

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

    You shouldn’t need to bring anything with you! I did all my interviews with a glass of water by my side for if my throat became dry, and a pen and paper in case I needed to take notes on anything. I didn’t find I needed to use these, though the interviewers gave me the option of taking notes to quickly prepare for questions if I wanted to.

    How long is the Oxford Psychology interview?

    Interviews last between roughly 20 and 40 minutes – they often vary by college and how long a response you give for each answer. Don’t feel like you did badly just because the interview was shorter than you expected – quality of response is much better than quantity, and you’ll seem more confident and knowledgeable if your answers are concise rather than excessively long.

    What are the Oxford Psychology interviewers like? 

    All of my interviewers were lovely and reassuring, and eased my nerves very quickly. Some of them were more openly kind than others, while some kept quieter and were harder to read their reactions to what I said. ​​They seemed to have prepared a general list of questions before the interview commenced, but would often ask follow-up questions directed by what I said to them: sometimes they would ask me to expand on my line of thinking, or consider the impact on my viewpoint if a certain aspect of the question changed, or if extra information was given.

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

    They were mostly beyond the scope of what I’d learnt in class during A-Level Psychology, which is because they don’t want to see what you already know – they want to test how you think and can respond to new information that you’re not already familiar with. They want to see how you can critically analyse data or other perspectives, and use what you already know to guide you in applying this knowledge to the information they give you. There isn’t often a ‘correct’ answer, but if you start to go down a line of thought that is less relevant, they’ll guide you back on track, and aren’t trying to catch you out: they want to see you perform well! 

    The most difficult questions revolved around unfamiliar data and experiments – it can be hard to gauge an understanding of a study so quickly, and you may have to ask the interviewers for clarification of various things (which they will be more than happy to help you with!).

    What were the Oxford Psychology Personal Statement questions like?

    They don’t ask about the Personal Statement in every interview, but past research has shown that they may pick out specific parts of your Psychology personal statement and ask you to explain a specific line, such as how you explained a certain concept. They could also ask what you found particularly interesting from a book you’ve read, but they won’t quiz you on the books – they may not have even read the texts themselves, and so want to know what you learnt from it, not whether you’ve managed to memorise the whole thing!

    Top Tips for the Oxford Psychology interview

    1. Read around the subject. Read around your subject, and explore areas outside of the curriculum if you study the subject already at school: they want to see that your love for the subject goes beyond the classroom.

    2. Have an open mind. Consider alternative perspectives to what you may already know or have learnt about, and have an understanding of how your views could be contradicted or challenged – be open-minded and willing to change your opinions based on new information.

    3. Practice with friends and family. Discuss relevant topics with friends, and get used to talking about your subject. Sounding familiar with what you’re talking about will help you to feel less awkward, and as if you’re in your comfort zone rather than doing something completely unnatural.

    4. Make links. Find ways you can link what you’re saying to your personal life, or things you really care about – when doing a mock interview with my teacher, she told me I seemed most passionate when I linked an area of Social Psychology with the activism I do outside of school, since it’s something I care about deeply and my interest in both subjects are closely intertwined.

    5. Treat the interview as a discussion, more than an interview. The Oxford Psychology Interview is an opportunity for you to chat to some of the most renowned specialists in your field about a subject you both care deeply about – it should also be a unique learning opportunity for you to listen to them speak about the subject too!
    Still need more support with preparing for your Oxford Linguistics Interview? Check out our 1-1 Oxford Psychology Interview packages for more information on our one-to-one tutoring service, to help secure your place at the University of Oxford!

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