A tutor’s experience of being interviewed at Balliol College, Oxford for Classics as an undergraduate candidate.
Balliol College interviewed by: Oliver Lyne, Osmind Murray, Rosalind Thomas, Kinch Hoekstra
I was not given anything to read or prepare before my interviews. My first interview focused on literature and philosophy. My Greek set-text was the Illiad, and much of the conversation was focused in this text – I was asked my views on particular scenes, e.g. bk 9, and 24, and characters (both divine and mortal and the differences between these groups) e.g. Hector, Hera, Thetis etc. They clearly wanted to see if a had a good grasp of the text both at a macro and micro level, so general themes (e.g. war, mortality, the human condition, morality, tragedy etc) were discussed as well as very specific questions – e.g. asking me to name and analysis an analogy in the text that I could remember – I couldn’t remember any, completely froze, and had to move on, but it didn’t matter in the end fortunately. Then because I had no experience of studying philosophy we discussed a current affair, the Iraq War, that brought up issues that might be touched upon in an applied philosophy class – e.g. were we right to go to war etc.
My second interview was a mixture of history and literature – I had done modern history for A-level so some of this was dscussed, as well as my historical set text, Thucydides.” “I was lucky because the interviewers’ approach was friendly and gentle, unlike many other people’s experiences for the same subject at different colleges, yet I still managed to freeze at one point.
Advice for future candidates:
I don’t feel that I answered any of the questions particularly outstandingly, and I think the best preparation one can do is to know one’s set text very well (and to have read the rest of the work thoroughly) and have previously discussed the big themes of the work so you are comfortable talking about them. Balliol in particular is interested in linguistic skills, and the main reason I feel I was accepted is because I had really focused on my language skills and did very well in our language tests.