Computer Science And Philosophy @ St Anne's, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

4x 20 min Maths interviews; 2x 20 min Philosophy interviews (1 with 10 mins preparation); spread over 3 days

Interview content

Maths interviews: problem-solving; Philosophy 1: logic, discussion; Philosophy 2: discussion

Best preparation

For the test: look through aspects of the curriculum not covered in school; practise past papers under timed conditions

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Check the information on the university websites; practise thinking through difficult questions; make sure you look after yourself, physically and mentally; your background isn't important, the only thing that matters is that you're passionate about your subject(s)

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

Test taken: MAT

Number of interviews: 6

Skype interview: No

Interviews spread over 3 days.

Length of interviews: 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

I had both Maths (4) and Philosophy (2) interviews.

In the Maths interviews I got some problems and needed to solve them together with one of the two tutors present, while the other one was taking notes. Many of the problems were difficult enough to stump me for at least a couple of hours, but the tutors gave hints about how to approach them so that they became manageable. The maths tutors were lovely and really made an effort for me to relax (I was extremely nervous and even came too late to one of the interviews).

The Philosophy interviews were a little more stressful, probably because I feel less confident about that subject. The first one was mainly about logic. The important thing is to argue clearly and to respond reasonably to the tutors' objections (either by defending, adjusting or changing your position). In the second one, I got a problem to work on for 10 minutes before proceeding to interview, where we discussed my solution.

I can't know this for sure, but they didn't seem that interested in my personal statement. While I was asked about it in most interviews, I had the feeling that this only served to relax me by giving me an opportunity to give well rehearsed answers.

How did you prepare? I looked through the required curriculum and read up on the things that I hadn't covered in school. Then I did past papers and measured how much time it took for each section. There was one question that I'd never managed in time, but I looked at how many points I needed to score to be likely to be invited to an interview and figured that I could skip most of the question.
What advice do you have for future applicants?

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self? For the most part, I trusted the information that Oxford provides on its website and didn't go over the board with preparation. Of course I knew my personal statement rather well and was ready to answer standard questions like 'Why Oxford?', 'Why Computer Science?' etc. But what I think helped most was to to Maths problems outside my comfort zone (undergroundmathematics is a good source) ­- not to lean more advanced techniques, but to get used to thinking through difficult problems. What also helped was to keep myself in good physical and mental shape during the interviews themselves: sleeping enough, socializing enough but also taking a silent break now and then (for me, speaking a foreign language for hours and hours was unexpectedly exhausting) etc. You know best what works for you :) It really is true what they tell you: the interviewers care about how you are able to think and work in the tutorial system. Private-school-trained confident banter is easily spotted. It doesn't help you, it doesn't hurt you. It's simply not part of the equation. The only thing that matters is that you love your subject and are able to talk about it.