Oxford University is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.
Keeping that in mind, it makes sense that it’s also one of the hardest unis to get into – and not only do you have to get flawless grades at A-Level, you also have to pass an admissions test.
Now, the uni have released some sample questions from said admissions tests for various different faculties – along with the answers so you can see if you would make the grade.
Oxford’s director of admissions Samina Khan claimed that admissions consist mostly of ‘academic conversation’ about the subject applied for – and they’re pretty philosophical questions if these are anything to go by.
Oriental Studies candidates
Can archaeology prove or disprove the Bible?
Alison Salveson of Mansfield College said:
I would be looking for an answer that showed the candidate could appreciate the Bible was a collection of documents written and transmitted over several centuries, and containing important traditions that have a bearing on history.
But academic study of the Bible means it has to be examined carefully to see when and where these traditions had come from and for what purpose they had been written.
Biomedical science candidates
Why is there a link between sugar in the urine and diabetes?
Robert Wilkins of St Edmund Hall said:
Students usually have learnt that the kidneys filter blood to remove waste products, such as urea, that must be eliminated from the body.
But many other useful substances which must not be lost – including glucose – are also filtered.
Given that glucose is not normally found in the urine, students are asked to speculate as to how it can all be recovered as the urine passes through the kidney’s tubules.
Experimental psychology candidates
What number would you choose between 0 and 100 if asked to take part in a game in which 100 people put £1 into a prize pot? The winnings go to the person whose number is closest to two thirds of the average of all the numbers picked.
Nick Yeung, of University College, said:
Partly it involves numerical and analytical skills: the question implies that the answer will be 2/3 of some other number, but which one?
The question also has a psychological angle in thinking about reasons for people’s behaviour and choices.
Will everyone put in the same effort? Will everyone be motivated to win?
Economics and management candidates
Do bankers deserve their pay and should the government should take any action to limit how much they receive?
Brian Bell of Lady Margaret Hall said:
A simple answer might be that since banks are generally private firms and workers are free to work where they wish, then the pay they receive is just the outcome of a competitive labour market.
In this story, bankers earn a lot because they are very skilled and have rare talents. It is hard to see a reason for government intervention in this case.
A good candidate would wonder why it is that seemingly equivalently talented people can get paid so much more in banking than in other occupations.
Do we really believe that bankers are so much better than other workers in terms of skill?
An alternative story is that the banking industry is not competitive and generates profits above what a competitive market would produce.
The key point about this question is trying to get candidates to think about the economics of pay rather than just whether they think it is fair or not.