A guide on how to deal with open-ended questions and topics that you haven’t covered or come across yet as well as how to engage with an unknown subject area.
Your Oxbridge interview is likely to comprise of lots of open-ended questions and topics that you haven’t covered. This allows your interviewer to determine your ability to engage with new ideas as well as to learn more about the way that you think. It can be difficult to get used to this manner of responding to questions as your school life will have trained you to answer close-ended questions but the good news is that with enough practice you can get comfortable dealing with unknown subjects.
The first thing to consider is your ability to talk confidently about new topics. Joining a debating society or a society about your subject is a brilliant first step as it will mean that by the time of your Oxbridge interview, you are comfortable speaking about your subject as well as things that you aren’t so comfortable with. The more widely you have read, the less likely it is that you will be asked a question about a topic that you know nothing about, so use that to motivate you to keep reading newspapers and relevant magazines such as The Economist. Partnering up with someone applying for a similar subject is very useful- in order to maximise your working time together allocate different topics to prepare for each other. Take it in turns to choose an article. Once you’ve chosen an article, prepare it as described in “Current Affairs, Hot Topics and all the Big Issues” by making notes of all the questions that you think could be based on the article. Once you’ve prepared in this manner, use your prepared questions to test your partner in a mock interview. This will enable you to get practice in anticipating questions you may get asked in interviews whilst also practicing dealing with new subjects and questions you may not have studied for.
Your Oxbridge interview is not only an opportunity for you to prove your passion and commitment, but for you to demonstrate your capacity to engage with new ideas and your willingness to try and think. Even if you have never heard of a theory, seen a model, or read about a subject, always try and answer the question. There is no shame in asking for some more information or in telling your Oxbridge interviewer that you have not yet learnt about a subject and asking for an explanation. This will then allow you to attempt the question- the worst thing you can do is to act as though you know the answer or to shut down and not respond. Your interviewer will want to ask you about a topic you don’t know so that they can see your ability to cope with the strains of an Oxbridge degree and whether or not you will be able to engage with your chosen course. The more you have practiced answering questions and trying mock interviews, the more confident and capable you will be in your actual Oxbridge interview.
Just remember the old adage- 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.