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For this month’s blog, I want to discuss one of my favourite interview questions and one that I use regularly to show students that not all questions will require an extensive knowledge of economics, but the ability to apply current knowledge and to think logically and rationally.

Most students anticipate incredibly difficult or tricky questions and so are thrown by the slightly more straight forward questions – especially when they cannot find the “catch” or the big difficulty. Students spend so long trying to find the difficult mathematical answer or try to think outside the box that they often miss what is right in front of them. This question is typical of the questions that you may be asked in an Oxbridge interview. The point is not to test you necessarily on a concept you do not know, but to test how you can apply your current knowledge to a new concept or to force you to have to think hard to understand exactly what answer they are looking for. This is a question that forces you to prove your application abilities, as well as simply learning and understanding information. 


Despite the simplicity of the question, many students panic and start looking for the difficult aspect without realising that this is simply a way for the interviewer to check that you can apply your knowledge and remember to answer with as much economics as you can. If asked a broad question like this, take a deep breath, stay calm and then think about the basics of your subject. In this case, let’s start with Supply and Demand.

1)      There is a far greater supply of actors in general than there is demand. This pushes wages down. In film, however, loyalty is built far more easily as actors become brands and a film is far more likely to pay for that brand in order to attract consumers than a theatre.

2)      The number of consumers who can watch a play (and therefore pay for it) is limited to the capacity of the theatre whereas a single movie can be watched by a practically countless number of people so the revenue will be far higher, as will the amount that can be paid to the actors.

3)      The magic of theatre is that it is special when watched live. Movies are designed to be watched on a screen so far more revenue can be made selling DVDs and videos than just the initial revenue from the cinemas.

4)      Due to the large audiences for films, far more money can be attracted from investors as well as from advertisers paying for product placement – this is not really viable in theatre so the revenue opportunities are far lower.

These are just a few of the possible answers that you could give for the question – have a think about other answer and try and use Economics language where possible! Other similar questions to practice on are:

a)      I own a fruit stall based in the centre of Cambridge. How do I increase my profit?

b)      Should the Royal Mail have to deliver to every address or should it be able to cherry pick?

Remember to keep it focussed on economics and to ask the interviewer for further information where necessary. For example, you may want to ask details about the fruit stall such as merchandise or staff costs before answering. Most of all, remember to stay calm and to think of every angle before you give up. Good luck and remember that practice makes perfect.

All views and ideas represented in this blog post are exclusive to Resham, and do not represent those of any other third party.

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