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Anyone whose DD or DS had a disastrous Oxbridge interview....

(393 Posts)
Supermanspants Mon 07-Dec-15 18:41:12

..... and managed to get an offer?
Hideous interview today. Grilled on a topic she hasn't even covered in her A level course and based purely on a 7 page academic article she only got half an hour before the interview.
She is so down about it all.

Molio Mon 07-Dec-15 18:50:16


Is it Oxford so does she have another interview to go?

Please tell her lots of DC have had disastrous interviews and still got offers (and lots have had amazing interviews and not got in smile). Honestly, she really can't judge, and the unseen/ new stuff is very standard and almost all DC are thrown.

Mine have categorically had dire interviews and still got offers. Cheer up DD, especially if you've another interview tomorrow!

MalhamWaterfall Mon 07-Dec-15 18:53:43

Not an interviewee or parent, but I have been involved with Oxbridge admissions and I wanted to reply - for what it is worth.

It is absolutely fine and normal in many subjects for candidates to be asked about topics not yet covered at A Level. It is also very normal for interviewers to use an 'unseen' prompt piece that's studied for a very short time before questions are asked.

They will have done the same with the other candidates - the prompt piece may not have been identical, but other candidates will also have been answering questions based on a short article they'd only just looked at, and so on.

If someone feels rotten about an interview, it can be a sign they were working right at the edge of their comfort zone, and actually showing how good they are.

Themodernuriahheep Mon 07-Dec-15 18:56:50

Crap tests today for DS, nit what he was expecting at all. A couple if school boy errors. Should he mention that tomorrow in interview?

SecretBondGirl Mon 07-Dec-15 18:56:59

Heard an interview on Oxbridge interviews on Woman's hour this morning. Apparently that style of interviewing is quite common in order test a candidates thought processes on a subject they haven't encountered previously

ThomasRichard Mon 07-Dec-15 18:58:43

Me. I had one interview with an economics lecturer who asked me to draw a diagram on her whiteboard, which was positioned above her electric fire. I was wearing a skirt, kept getting the diagram wrong and was too embarrassed to say anything so I kept going while I felt my tights starting to melt shock I still got an offer.

MalhamWaterfall Mon 07-Dec-15 19:02:38

This is quite useful:

There are links (right hand side) to film versions here:

If you watch the mock interviews, you see they mention they're using an unseen passage there. They also talk about wanting to find out how people are thinking - so, not necessarily going over what's expected from A Levels.

So it is what's normal, not a sign of a terrible interview.

GloriaHotcakes Mon 07-Dec-15 19:03:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Supermanspants Mon 07-Dec-15 19:05:35

Thank you so much for the replies.
She had interviews today. The second one was really hard going. They kept on and on. She answered every question and made suggestions even though she was not familiar with the topic. Each response she gave was met with another question. She was pretty upset when she came out and ended up in tears. She really felt out of her depth.

MalhamWaterfall Mon 07-Dec-15 19:12:43

They kept on and on. She answered every question and made suggestions even though she was not familiar with the topic.

This what she should have been doing. She should feel proud of that.

Tell her to think about this - they had loads of questions to ask. These people are asking questions of everyone from A level students, right up to their PhD students and their colleagues. Some of these people will be grilling senior lecturers during job interviews.

So, if she can stand up to their questions and keep on going, she is doing exactly what she was meant to do, and it's an achievement.

If they had wanted to make her feel comfortable, they could have stopped pushing and asked her easy things, couldn't they? But would that have shown how good she is under pressure?

strawberryandaflake Mon 07-Dec-15 19:14:38

That's the idea. They don't want people who just give up when presented with new ideas. As long as she had a go and didn't give any excuses then she is still in with a chance.

horsemadmom Mon 07-Dec-15 19:26:29

DD said it was 'meh'. She felt she had good answers but didn't feel particularly stretched. No idea what that means.

Supermanspants Mon 07-Dec-15 19:34:54

Thank you for your kind responses. She may well have answered every question but she doesn't think she answered them correctly but she had a go so I guess she should be proud of that. She is sitting curled up next to me really quiet. She wasn't asked about anything on her PS

MalhamWaterfall Mon 07-Dec-15 20:40:29

She doesn't have to have answered 'correctly'.

She should definitely feel proud.

She may or may not get a place, but nothing she's saying sounds bad - it sounds as if she kept on going in response to questions, which is what is being required.

There's nothing wrong at all with not being asked about her PS.

Indole Mon 07-Dec-15 20:53:38

I had an awful interview at Oxford. One was fine. The next was just dreadful. Like your daughter, I got asked things that I knew nothing about and like her I just carried on making suggestions. I think some of the suggestions were actually either highly impractical or downright wrong. Your daughter did the right thing. They want to see how you cope with something unfamiliar - whether you give up or try another tack or come up with ideas or whatever. I got in, btw. And yes, they probably do want to see how you cope under pressure. If she gets in there will be plenty of pressure!

GloriaHotcakes Mon 07-Dec-15 21:29:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hedgehogsdontbite Mon 07-Dec-15 21:39:47

My DH is a prof at a top university. He's a bugger for grilling his potential students mercilessly (phd level mostly). He says he's not interested in whether they know the correct answer or not. He's interested in the thought process that gets them to whatever answer they give. He's looking at their potential not their knowledge.

Your daughter may have done just fine.

FreezePeach Mon 07-Dec-15 21:57:21

Ah yes two years ago.
DS emerged from his Cambridge interview looking shell shocked.

There were no nice introductory questions.
No pleasantries to settle him in
Nothing about his PS or the vast amount of reading around his subject. (He did nothing "extra curricular" just his subject and more of it).
The entire interview was exactly as you describe, pushing further and further until he could answer no more.
He came out and said "that's it,it's over, I never want to think about this disaster again".

He got an offer 3 weeks later. Hadn't even checked when they went out, so sure was he that he'd failed.

DinoSnores Mon 07-Dec-15 22:00:09

They kept on and on. She answered every question and made suggestions even though she was not familiar with the topic. Each response she gave was met with another question.

Impossible to say, obviously, having not been there, but this sounds like she did really well. She kept thinking through and working through the problems. Bad interviews are often when you get nothing back from the candidate and have to say, "Ok, let's move on to something else."

Supermanspants Tue 08-Dec-15 05:06:07

Thanks for the replies. She felt a bit better last night when she went to bed. She is holding four offers from amazing universities so hopefully when the dust settles she will re focus on these.

boys3 Tue 08-Dec-15 12:35:35

OP a genuinely disastrous Oxbridge interview is one which is probably a nice PS focused chat. I'd echo FreezePeach's comments - that also pretty much described DS1's Cambridge interview, and similarly offer subsequently received and since achieved. Anecdote only but those successful applicants that year from his school had an interview experience similar to his and your DD, whilst a number of those unsuccessful perceived that their interview had "gone well". So quite possibly not a doom and gloom secnario for your DD, but hopefully the opposite entirely.

Asterisk Tue 08-Dec-15 13:36:27

Well that all prompts the question, 'Has anyone's DC had an interview that "went well" and been offered a place?' wink Good luck Supermanspants and everyone else. It's difficult not to get emotionally invested. My DD is heading off to Oxford on the coach tonight for three days of testing times.

Sevendayweek Tue 08-Dec-15 15:48:01

Ha Asterisk grin ! having read this thread I am assuming ds' relatively easy ride at his Cambs interview means they weren't really interested in him smile

Sevendayweek Tue 08-Dec-15 15:53:49

And actually, still mostly comfortable that if he doesn't get an offer, it means he would very likely have struggled & perhaps had a rotten time if he went. This could just be rationalisation after the event of not coaching with pretend tests and interviews solidly since August, but I have to say am v glad he really doesn't seem to be madly stressed. I do genuinely think the other places he has offers from will suit him very well - and he knows I think so smile

MarianneSolong Tue 08-Dec-15 15:59:57

My daughter declared that her interview had been 'a car crash.' They asked her a lot of questions about a historical political figure, who she had studied, but all focused on an area of his writing/thinking that she hadn't been taught about.

I think the experience was a stressful one, but she had obviously dealt with it much better than she had thought - because she did get offered a place.

I think it's just very different from school where they are only asked questions to which they've already been taught the answers.

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