Gifted students aiming for Oxford and Cambridge have just submitted their applications and are now nervously awaiting that all-important interview in early December. If you are tutoring a student going through this, how can you best help them prepare?
As well as intelligence, the Oxbridge interviews are testing potential for academic development, the ability to think through a situation and develop a valid and justifiable opinion. Therefore, it can be highly useful to run discussion-based tutorials in the run-up to interviews, encouraging students to work through problems posed verbally rather than in written or essay format.
A wider knowledge of the desired subject will also stand the candidate in good stead and tutors can valuably aid their students by providing recommendations of background reading in the run up to interview. If possible, tutorial time should be given over to discussing this reading and how it fits into the student's current work.
Students should know prior to their interview what form it will take. If any form of exam is involved, then tutors can help preparation by simulating these conditions in a tutorial. For example, mathematicians may have to solve lateral-thinking problems off the top of their heads, while English candidates may be required to undertake analysis of a previously unseen text. Practical help in developing these skills can greatly assist confidence on the day of the interviews.
The interviews are designed to be challenge students to think for themselves. By encouraging this in tutorials, inviting questions and opening up avenues of debate and discussion, you could make a real difference to one of the most important tests a student can face.