Putting some thought into the Oxford Medicine interview questions will give you the edge you need to approach this renowned medical school. Every interview is a little different, of course, but by anticipating as much as you can, planning your answers, and creating a rock-solid strategy for your interview, you will be doing yourself a favour.
Oxford is one of the most competitive medical schools in the UK, so you will need to really be on your toes, especially given their unorthodox interview style: You won’t be dealing with common medical school interview questions. You can be confident, though, because you are at the interview phase, so you must have known how to make your medical school application stand out.
This article takes a look at some of Oxford’s confirmed and likely interview questions. It also provides you with sample answers and answer strategies so you can feel confident about your interview with Oxford.
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The Oxford Medicine Interview Format – Unique Aspects
The way that Oxford teaches informs the way that they interview. Your interview will be conducted by a tutor – possibly even one of the professors you will ultimately study with at Oxford Medicine.
Oxford teaches using small classes or tutorials, so the interview questions are based on that model. What they want you to demonstrate is your ability to thrive in the learning environment that Oxford offers and that you will be a good choice for them.
Trying to figure out how to prepare for your med school interview without memorizing answers? Watch this video:
To that end, Oxford’s interview questions are designed to prompt discussion, invoke curiosity, reveal your passion for the subject, and show off your critical thinking skills. Critical thinking and curiosity are two of the most desirable traits.
All your answers must therefore demonstrate as much creativity and critical thinking as possible. You should ask follow-up questions to those you are asked, work through your answer process aloud and be okay with saying when you don’t know something – while taking a swing at it anyway. Show that you are interested and a keen thinker. Those are the traits that the Oxford interviewer will be looking for.
You can see right away where this interview will be very different from other medical school interviews.
5 Answer Strategies for Oxford Medicine Interview Questions
Your answer strategy must be based on Oxford’s format. The interview is testing your ability to thrive in Oxford’s environment, and therefore, your responses must demonstrate this. Given that Oxford values discussion, curiosity, passion, and critical thinking, you must put forward scientific-minded, curiosity-revealing answers that engage in dialectic.
- It’s all about attitude. Engage with the material immediately. Display your interest. Excitement about the topics will show off your enthusiasm for them. The person who is interviewing you wants to see your passion and enthusiasm.
- Ask your questions. Follow-up questions or probing questions can be asked straight away. Again, you put your curiosity forward, as well as your critical thinking mind.
- As you answer, explain your thought processes out loud. Use phrases like, ‘I’m thinking about such-and-such right now’, and then go on to say, ‘Because...” and detail your reasons.
- Question your assumptions and try to have fun with it. This kind of interview can be complicated and stressful, so you should remember to focus on the exploration of a topic you love. This is your field, after all.
- Other factors to consider are your general communication skills. Although you won’t be graded or evaluated directly on communication, there is the simple reality that, if your interviewer cannot understand what you are trying to convey, you will not be able to communicate with other health care professionals or patients.
Oxford Medicine Interview Questions and Sample Answers
Oxford Medicine Interview Question – No.1
Put these countries in order by their crude mortality (deaths per thousand of the population): Bangladesh, Japan, South Africa, the UK.
What the question is asking:
A surface-level interpretation of this question might read it as simply assessing the student’s knowledge of some medical trivia about world countries, but that is not what the question is for. In fact, this example is perfect for demonstrating how and why Oxford’s approach to interview questions is distinct.
What the question is really probing is whether you understand what a mortality rate is and why any given country has the mortality rate that it does. At Oxford, the emphasis is always on curiosity, enthusiasm, critical thinking and thought processes.
Start with any questions you have, other than the actual death rates themselves. Good questions to ask would include:
- How old are the populations?
- What are the most common causes of death in each country?
Receiving this information will allow you to better understand the question and frame your answer accordingly.
Making statements should be done sparingly. Phrases should include reasoning.
Example: It seems to me that South Africa probably has the highest mortality rate. Given the amount of crime in that country, combined with disease, it is likely to outpace mortality rates in other countries.
The teacher, in this case, would inform you that this is not true and that Japan actually has the highest mortality rate. When you respond to this information, again, show off your excitement for the topic and your thought process.
Example: It cannot just be that Japan is more populated and therefore has more deaths. The mortality rate calculates deaths per 1,000 people, so Japan’s population cannot be the reason. Does this have to do with the age of the population of Japan?
You will get an affirmative.
Remember: This is not about finding the ‘right answer' but about assessing your overall knowledge of the subject and your ability to think rationally and logically to form a conclusion.
You cannot allow yourself to panic while answering these questions, or become distressed if you get an answer ‘wrong'. When the point is the process, there are no single wrong answers, only wrong total answers.
Want to learn the different types of med school interview questions? Check this out:
Oxford Medicine Interview Question – No.2
The viruses that infect us are totally dependent on human cells for their reproduction; is it therefore surprising that viruses cause human diseases?
What this question is asking:
While phrased like a yes or no question, answering either would be destroying every chance you had at success. This question invites you to investigate the paradox between a virus needing and harming its host. You need to say the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your answer, not just the answer itself.
Must include a brief discussion of the paradox itself, followed by some knowledgeable statements about how viruses interact with humanity.
Example: It’s terribly interesting that organisms like viruses, which both rely on and yet harm their host, exist. Understanding this relationship would really help us to treat and prevent these diseases. Some of the harm a virus does actually helps its propagation, doesn’t it? For instance, the spread of a cold virus happens when our bodies forcibly expel it through sneezing. As we try to get rid of the virus, it gets a free ride to someone else.
You might also talk about viruses that jump species and how they do that, speculating that viruses might need to jump species in the event that their present host species becomes extinct.
The interviewer might then go into another area of virology or the discussion, inviting you to explore this new area with them.
The pattern that you see here is one of dialectic, not simple question and answer. Remember that you are being tested less on your knowledge and more on how you think and grapple with questions.
Oxford Medicine Interview Question – No.3
Why does your heart rate increase as you exercise?
What this question is asking:
Some of the questions you encounter will be testing some amount of basic, factual knowledge as well. There is a definitive answer to why your heart rate increases: Exertion requires energy, your muscles need more oxygen, and you need more blood pumped through your system as a result.
It goes without saying that for some questions, providing a simple, factually accurate answer is what is required, but always keep in mind the bigger picture and try to do more than just spew facts.
You should also include some way to engage with the topic on a deeper level. In this case, you might discuss the paradox of a straining heart working hard, which might fatigue it or overtax the muscle, and this process of wearing-down creating a healthy person who lives longer. You might also touch on how exercise affects other bodily systems, why we need or require exercise, or investigate other effects that an increase in blood pumping has on your system.
Example: I know that the muscles need oxygen as they exert themselves, and this will cause the heart to increase blood flow, but I’m curious what other systems get affected by that increase in blood flow. Skin flushes, for instance, but is that effect cosmetic? How many systems benefit from the increase in blood flow. I read a study in which exercise in the middle of mental exertion can help with phenomena like writer’s block. Perhaps that’s due to blood flow.
Speculation, questioning, and critical thinking can lead you somewhere interesting, and that is what your interviewer is really looking for.
Oxford Medicine Interview Questions – No.4
Is it more important to care for a child or for an adult? Whose health is more important or worth more?
What this question is asking:
This is an ethical question. You might encounter ethical dilemmas presented as part of your interview. These questions are complex and automatically invite the kind of insightful commentary, speculation, and critical thinking that we have been stressing with all questions.
Make sure that you are well informed on ethical dilemmas that are currently discussed in the health care field. You will benefit from a knowledgeable and informed understanding of the present dialogues in health care.
Recent topics have included the ethics around lockdowns in pandemics, whether a person can or should be forced to take a vaccine, and what role politics and social media play in health care.
You should make sure that you consider both sides of any argument. If you have not even considered the alternate view, you won’t have a good showing with your interviewer. Intriguingly, you could be ‘for’, ‘against’, or have a split decision; with ethical questions in particular, the main idea is to explore the ramifications and implications of the question.
Example: I personally don’t think that there is a difference. Any life that arrives under my care would have to be considered of utmost importance. If we start valuing life differently based on the person, we run the risk of playing god. On the other hand, I do understand that with triage systems, priorities need to be set, which must play into who gets treatment soonest. While I can see the argument that a child, with more to lose than an adult in terms of potential life, might be considered more important, I would personally come back to the severity of the condition, not the individual. I would triage based on the immediacy of a person’s condition.
You might expand your answer to give the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of each side. Children have longer futures ahead of them, so giving them great attention has exponentially cumulative benefits. They are also perceived as more ‘innocent’, and thus, might be more in need of care and protection.
Adults, however, usually have more dependents, connections, and an established life. Should we weigh that at all? What about the elderly? Like children, they are vulnerable and require our help.
All ethical questions have multiple points of view which must be explored. Again, the primary purpose of this interview is to see how you think, not how much you know. You must demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge, but if you got to the interview phase, your transcript alone has likely proven this. Focus on being able to answer intelligently in a thoughtful, conversational manner.
Oxford Medicine Interview Question – No.5
How do animals know when to migrate?
What this question is asking:
Some questions asked of you will be testing your logic or creativity. Any question that is outside of a direct relationship with medicine might be one of these. You really won’t be expected to know all these facts, but you should strive to display logic, reasoning and creative thinking in your answers as well.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you don’t know anything about migratory patterns, having spent your high school and undergraduate years focusing on human medicine and health care. You won’t know for certain what the answer is, so let’s try logic and creative thinking.
Example: Most animals migrate for a change in environment, like when it gets cold. Food sources get scarce during these times as well. Migration might come from a lack of food. Eons ago, the ancestors of present-day species might have noticed weather changes and responded by simply following the warm air. Animals who did that procreated, and from an evolutionary biology standpoint, they would have passed on their genes. What was once common sense for ancestral animals is now instinct thanks to natural selection.
You might also speculate on animals that don’t migrate. Why not? What makes them so different and adaptable?
If you wanted to indulge creative, outside-the-box thinking, give voice to the idea that these animals might have some biological trait which acts like a compass and is extra-sensitive in colder or warmer weather, letting the animal know when to move.
What about animals with more sapience than other species, like corvids? Crows have been shown to pass information on to their offspring. While crows are not as migratory as other species of bird, it’s possible that they pass on knowledge about long-term weather patterns within their murders.
Oxford Medicine Interview Questions – No.6
How would you test for dangerous allergic reactions while caring for a patient?
What this question is asking:
Use methodical questions, like this one, to show your reasoning from step A to step B. You’ll be able to do this better with some questions than with others.
Example: First, I would want to know if the patient has any previous visits or recorded history with us. Or, if the patient is conscious and lucid, I would ask if they knew of any allergies. If I had to test them, I’d want to find out if there is anything that would cause a similar reaction. So, if somebody would have a severe, dangerous reaction to even a small amount of a substance, I might use a similar, but less deadly, substance to test if they reacted to that before trying to ascertain their potential allergies for the deadlier substance itself.
You can see how step one leads to step two: If the patient is conscious, then this, but if not, then that.
How Do You Know Which Questions Are of Which Type?
The fast answer is that you don’t, but you also don’t need to. Questions might be specifically probing for logic, methodology, factual information, or creativity, but the important thing to remember is that all of these are interconnected. Logic dictates method. Creativity provides insight for both logic and method. Factual information provides the bedrock on which to build all answers.
In a nutshell: Always look for every opportunity to spotlight as many of these qualities as you can. If you must pick and choose, go with logic, creativity, and curiosity, which will always help you stand out more than a simple database of knowledge.
One very important, final piece of advice to take with you: Think of approaching this interview like you are just talking with a more experienced friend. Get excited and allow yourself to just participate in a conversation instead of feeling like you are on the hot seat in an interview.
With these questions and answers at your disposal, you are already miles ahead of where you were. By following the strategies laid out, you will study hard, use a mock medical school interview or two, and be in the best possible position to ace your Oxford Medicine interview.
1. Do the questions change every year?
Questions in medical school interviews vary from time to time, but not necessarily every year. Also, while they can, and do, change, they don’t usually change very much. The spirit of the Oxford interview remains the same, so your answer strategy and general knowledge is what you should work on.
2. How long should my answers be?
With Oxford’s dialectic approach to interviews, you won’t need to worry about this. You will engage with your interviewer on each question, and they will move on when the conversation is over. Explore the topic, rather than worrying about short or long answers.
3. Do other medical schools use the same questions?
Oxford has a fairly unique approach to its interview, so most other interviews will be different.
4. How do I deal with nerves in an interview?
Mock interviews help with nerves as well as with your question answering skills. Preparation is key to handling nerves. The more you know, the more you study and practice, the more confident you will be at the interview.
5. What should I wear to my interview?
Business casual is the standard. You don’t need to dress in a three-piece suit, but something more formal and professional shows respect and readiness.
6. Is there a difference between a virtual interview and an in-person one?
Somewhat. Your preparation will be largely the same, including your attire. If you are interviewing in person, you should practice your route so you can arrive on time. With a virtual interview, do a pre-interview system check the day before.
7. Who performs mock interviews?
Professionals are the way to go with mock interviews. Recruiting friends or peers to stage a mock interview is inviting blind spots you – or they – cannot anticipate. Professionals know what they’re doing and will give you quality, expert mock interviews.
8. Should I memorize my answers?
No. First, because you can’t anticipate the sorts of questions Oxford will throw at you, but more importantly, memorised answers make for a robotic presentation. Learn content and answer strategy, not exact wording.
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