St John's College Oxford
Interviews form an important part of the selection process in Oxford. They are designed to explore your intellectual potential and enthusiasm for the subject, and how you suit our system of small group or one-to-one teaching.
Student Interview Advice

About your interview

college in snowMany excellent candidates apply each year, and most have a good personal statement and a glowing reference, and are predicted top grades. With so many applications for each place at Oxford, it isn’t possible to interview everyone. Tutors review each UCAS application, along with any written test or work required for the subject, and then decide on a shortlist of candidates to invite for interview.

For some courses, over 90% of candidates are shortlisted. In other subjects, particularly those that are most heavily oversubscribed, a smaller proportion of candidates will be shortlisted. Sadly, this does mean that some candidates will be disappointed. However, shortlisting means that those candidates who have been identified as having the strongest ability and potential may have more than one interview.

Please ensure that you keep a clear diary for the days when the interviews for your subject are to be held. Please note that in some subjects interviewees may be required to arrive a day or so earlier than the published date. 

You will be interviewed by two or three tutors in the subject(s) you wish to study. You will have at least two interviews, lasting at least 20 minutes or so each. Interviews are not a test of what you have already learned, and you should not worry about preparing for them. Interviews are based on your academic aptitude, and you will not be judged on your extra-curricular activities, although you may be asked about them if they relate to your subject.

You should expect some searching questions about your subject. In some subjects you may be asked questions arising from your written work, or your reading; in other subjects, the tutors may pose a problem and ask how you would try to solve it, or base the interview on a piece of text you will be given to read. The tutors will not be trying to catch you out, but they will be seeking to find out how well your talents are suited to our courses. If you think the questions are difficult, you can be reassured that the other candidates in your subject will be thinking much the same!

If you encounter any difficulties during your stay, please don’t suffer in silence! The student helpers are always on hand to advise and listen, and you can contact me by asking one of the helpers to contact me. I have been through the interview process myself as a candidate, so I do know what it’s like.

We would all like to wish you a very pleasant stay at St John’s.
Good luck!
Sarah Jones, Undergraduate Admissions 

Interview confirmation form

Please complete the following form to let us know that you will be attending the interviews at the times outlined in your invitation communication.

Interviews at other colleges

You might be called for interviews at other colleges while you are in Oxford. Notification of other interviews will be displayed on the noticeboards in the candidates’ common rooms, the Prestwich and Larkin Rooms.

Often these interviews are arranged at very short notice, so it is very important that you check the noticeboards regularly and keep your mobile phone switched on. All the information we have about you will be available to tutors in other colleges, and the aim of these interviews is to give everyone as fair a chance as possible of a place at Oxford.

Any nights you are required to stay will be spent here in St John's. If you are required to attend an interview at another college after dark, or if you are worried about getting lost, one of the helpers will be on hand to escort you should you wish it. 

Within the period of the interviews you should not leave Oxford until you have been told you are no longer required. You will normally be required to stay at least one night and possibly two or three, depending on the timing of interviews.

If you need to stay for other interviews after you have checked out of your room, luggage storage is available. Ask one of the Helpers or the College Porters if you need this.

The Oxford University website has useful information on what to expect and how to prepare for Interviews.

Information for interview candidates

clock in snowFor most subjects, candidates will be invited to the College on the evening of the day before their interviews begin. This is to enable you to arrive in good time and settle in, have dinner and meet the student helpers and other candidates before the interviews get going. If you need to come earlier or leave later extra accommodation can be arranged to suit your needs.

When you arrive, collect your room key from the Lodge. There will be helpers on hand to show you to your room. Once settled, you should also consult the noticeboards in the candidates’ common rooms – The Prestwich and Larkin Rooms – where the times of meetings and interviews will be posted.

Staying at St John's
Every effort will be made to make your stay here as agreeable as possible. After your arrival, you will be welcomed by a group of undergraduate helpers who are here especially to help the candidates. These helpers will look after you during the interview period, tell you about College life and keep you entertained. They will be easy to spot as they will all be wearing bright red hoodies or t-shirts. You will also be given information regarding meal times and other College facilities.

Please ensure that during your stay you keep your room locked and your wallet/purse with you at all times. If you do go out at night please be back in College by 11.00 pm. Although Oxford is no more dangerous than any other city, it would be sensible to keep to well-lit areas and not to go out alone at night.

If, for any reason, you have to leave before the release time for your subject, please be sure to inform me (the Admissions Officer) as the College needs to be able to account for you in the event of an emergency.

Useful things to bring

  • Alarm clock: useful for those early interviews
  • Mobile phone and charger: keep your phone switched on whenever possible as we might need to contact you at short notice. Please note that reception for phones on the O2 network is not that reliable in the College. If you have an O2 phone you might like to consider making alternative arrangements for the interview period. If you are coming to us from outside the UK it might be a good idea to buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone. If you don't have a phone or if your phone lets you down DON'T WORRY, there will be plenty of notices on the boards and people to help you.
  • Written work: if you have been asked to submit written work, bring a copy with you to read before your interview.
  • Something to read: magazines and newspapers are available in the candidates’ common room, but there can be a lot of waiting around so bring some extra reading material.
  • Warm, comfortable clothing and an umbrella: there is no dress code for the interviews, but bring warm clothing and an umbrella as Oxford can be cold and wet in December. Comfort should be your prime consideration. You may need to walk to and from other colleges so wear comfortable shoes.
  • Please note that you do not need to bring bedding or towels.

Do not bring alcohol: it is not permitted for candidates to bring alcoholic drinks onto College premises. This policy is strictly enforced and anyone failing to comply will be asked to leave.

Meals in College
We make every effort to see that you are well fed during your stay with us. If you have any food allergies please tell a member of the kitchen staff when you go in for meals. All meals are served in the Hall.

Breakfast: Monday–Saturday 8.00–9.00 (7.30 for early interviews) Sunday 9.00–9.40
Lunch: 12.30–1.30
Dinner: weekdays 6.30–7.30, weekends 6.30–7.00 

Going home
We need to be sure that no further interviews are to be arranged for you, before we release you to go home. Therefore, we will not post notices releasing you until we are certain of this. Please do not ask the College Porters if it is OK to go home, as they will not have access to this information.

Offers
All decisions will be sent out by email at 1pm on 10 January. Please note we will not give decisions out over the telephone.