It’s the most nerve-wracking thing about an interview and a scenario that has probably gone through your mind a million times. What if the first question they ask, you quite simply cannot answer and the whole thing goes downhill from there.
This really depends on what kind of a question it is. You need to distinguish in your own head whether this is a question that you need specific knowledge for, or whether this is the kind of question where you can find your own way to the answer by thinking logically.
If it’s the second type of question, then the first thing to do is not to let yourself be thrown by the question. Give yourself a couple of seconds to think and then talk through your answer so that the tutors know your thought process and can put you right or offer you help as you go along.
The first scenario is slightly more challenging. Although the interviewers are not going to ask you about things that you haven’t written about in your personal statement or in your written work, they may ask you about related topics or current affairs. If you’re asked something along these lines – perhaps a new text by an author that you’ve mentioned in your personal statement, or an important development in politics and economics – that you aren’t able to talk about, you won’t ruin your chances by telling the tutors that you don’t know about that particular subject. Instead you could suggest another related topic for discussion, which you do feel confident to talk about. Remember, however, to respect the original question that your interviewer asked you and to recognise that they might have asked it for a reason.
The reason for honesty being the best policy, is that the interviewers really are trying to get the best out of you – and to allow you to show them how you work when you are at your best. They’d much rather move on to a subject that you are more confident to discuss, than for you to bluff your way through your answer, which wastes your time and theirs.
If you have any more questions about your application or interview, that you would like to discuss with a member of our team, please do get in touch. Also check out our Interview Preparation Days page for more information about our course for Oxbridge interview preparation in your subject by Oxbridge-graduate tutors.