On my car radio, during the week we were doing our admissions interviews in December 2014, was a Q&A session with the astronaut Chris Hadfield. He answered lots of questions in very inspiring fashion, including one from a schoolboy called Joe. Joe wanted to know how Chris had stayed motivated from the first moment at which he decided that he wanted to be an astronaut (aged ten years old) to the point twenty-three years later when he was accepted into the Canadian astronaut programme.
First an important note of caution. Each Oxford college will run its interviews for English in different ways. You will have at least two interviews, and you might be asked different sorts of questions in each interview. You might be asked about your personal statement, your extra-curricular reading, your A-level work or the piece of written work which you sent in. If you are given an unseen text to look at shortly before your interview, it might be a poem, or a piece of prose, or a piece of writing about writing.
Today’s the deadline for applications to Oxford for our BA in English Language and Literature. At the beginning of December, shortlisted candidates will come to Oxford to be interviewed by tutors. Many colleges ask candidates to look at a short poem just before their interview. Once a candidate has read over the poem for fifteen or twenty minutes, their interview may begin with a discussion of the poem. We want to know how well the candidate can paraphrase the potential meanings and how well they can decide which of their interpretations are plausible, how good an eye they have for detail, and how responsive they are to language, form and style, amongst other things.