Oxford Interviews, Lessons Learned (History)

Jian Wong, B.A. History, 2012-2015
4 Jun 2015

Briefly tell us about your interview.

My interview experience was incredibly. The interviews were fast paced. I found myself struggling to keep up with the questions and problems being thrown my way. I left the room feeling mentally exhausted, yet it was also quite enjoyable discussing History in such a rigorous setting.

I was given a text an hour before the interview on wife beatings in 19th century Russia. This was the basis of the interview, during which I was asked various questions based on the text: What do they tell us about gender roles? How does this suggest 'violence' was defined in this period? Is there an inherent bias in the source? How can we overcome it?

The majority of the interview revolved around discussions of the set text, with a minor portion based on my Personal Statement.

What would you say you did best during your interview?

Overall, my interview experience suggests two main points were being tested for. One, the ability to be analytical and creative with History. Two, a passion and desire to study the subject.

I think I was able to show that I possesed both these qualities. The second aspect, passion, really must be emphasised. There are a lot of clever applicants who are analytical and creative, but I think I did well because I truly wanted to study History and I was able show it.

Advice for History applicants.

Read widely and think deeply about History. My tutor told me a certain amount of 'nerdiness' is welcome in candidates. The best way to start thinking about History in complex ways, preparing yourself for interview, is to go through academic works. Not just reading them, but thinking about the concepts and ideas they propose. If an applicant did this for a year leading up to interview, he or she would be extremely well placed to shine.