Oxford Theology & Religion: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read
Will Lowndes SandersonWriter at Oxbridge Mind

Nervous about your Theology and Religion Oxford interview? Don’t stress! We have spoken to top performing candidates to gain their unique insights and top tips to smash the interview!

This article will help you prepare for your Oxford University Theology and Religion interview. It covers what to expect on the day and previous interview questions so know what to expect.

Oxford religion
Taking Oxford Religion & Theology may seem daunting at first, but this article contains key bits of advice to help guide you!

What is the Theology and Religion Oxford interview structure?

Interviews typically last 3x 30-45 minutes over a couple of days. Importantly, some candidates had been pooled to another college for more interviews, and have 4 x 40 minute interviews over 4 days!

Theology Oxford interview
Oxford Theology and Religion interviews may be held virtually

Example Past Questions from Oxford University Theology and Religion Interviews

General questions:

  • Why do you want to study Religion and Theology at Oxford?
  • Questions on why I talked about X in personal statement 
  • What is it about Theology and Religion that most excites you?
  • What skills would make you suited to be a successful student at Oxford?
  • Why this college?
  • What have you learnt in school that is relevant to Theology and Religion at Oxford?
  • 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
  • Why should we give you an offer to study Theology and Religion?
  • I was asked to summarise a book mentioned in my personal statement and my opinion of it
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Oxford Theology and Religion interview questions:

  • “A lot of the questions we discussed were tailored to things I mentioned in my personal statement”
  • A discussion on a text to interpret. I had 20 minutes to prepare 
  • I was asked what I had learnt about the subject in school 
  • Questions centred around religion as a construct
  • A discussion on unseen content (such as texts/pictures) and possible interpretations
  • “Should we eradicate Christmas on the basis that it offends other religious groups?”
  • “Is emotion an important aspect of religion?”
  • “What is the best reason you can think of for believing in God?”
  • “Do the Gods command it because it is great, or is it great because the Gods command it?”
  • “How would you define faith?”
  • “Does religion have value regardless of if there is a God?”
  • “Which arguments for the existence of God are most convincing?”
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What happens on the day of my Oxford Theology and Religion interview?

One common recurring theme students find in their Theology Oxford interviews focuses on two aspects.

  1. discussion on an unseen source
  2. a broader discussion on your background and personal statement. 

Firstly, many students have reported an unseen source section of the interview. Often, they have had time beforehand to read over the text/analyse the image and make notes, before discussing your thought process and ideas with the interviewer. 

Second, another common aspect is the focus on the candidate’s personal statement, with an in-depth discussion on any books or references the candidate has mentioned, or a discussion on school material that relates to the course.

What do you have to bring to your Oxford Theology and Religion interview?

We were told to wear whatever we felt most comfortable in – whether this is a suit or gym clothes. I opted for more 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 was presented with documents and images over screen share during the interview. 

What are the Oxford Theology and Religion interviewers like?

My interview experience was very positive!

Initially I was very nervous and anxious about what questions they might ask me. However, the interviewers were very friendly and welcoming which put me at ease.

Honestly, the interview felt more like a collaborative conversation than a typical interview. Instead of them constantly asking me questions and moving on, we bounced ideas off each other and debated our different perspectives – it felt like two people just discussing a subject we are interested in.

Lastly:

Whilst the interviewers were all very welcoming and friendly, at times they played the devil’s advocate with my response, really pushing and challenging anything I said. This is not because I gave an incorrect answer, but instead to see how I can cope with debate and discussion, whilst taking into account other perspectives. 

In regards to this, do not feel like you have to always agree with your interviewer! When I was pushed on some of my answers, I defended myself, and why I thought my argument was most convincing and why I disagreed with the interviewer. On the other hand, if you are convinced by the interviewer, don’t be afraid to say why your original answer has changed and why – this is not a bad thing, it shows you can critically analyse and assess new perspectives and information!

religion and theology at Oxford
Theology and Religion Oxford students will typically have 2 tutorials a week with 0-3 other students and a tutor
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    Oxford Theology and Religion interview tips?

    Firstly, 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.

    Second, 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).

    Finally, 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!

    Tips for the Oxford Theology and Religion interview itself?  

    1. Try to stay calm! Interviewers will understand if you are nervous, so do not be afraid to take a few seconds to compose yourself and structure your thoughts.
    2. Do not panic if you do not immediately know the answer. Focus on talking out loud, clearly communicating your thought process throughout the interview.  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!
    3. Mock interviews help! Talking outloud and answering unseen questions is great practice for the interview – this can be with a teacher, friend, or parent!
    4. Show your passion for their subject! Your interviewer could be your tutor every week for the next three years – so make a good impression outside of academics: be engaged, enthusiastic and friendly!
    5. Know your personal statement and EPQ (if applicable)! It is likely the interviewer will want to discuss your personal statement with you, so make sure you are comfortable talking in-depth about anything you have mentioned!
    6. Enjoy the experience! Being invited to an 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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