Oxford Classics Interview Questions

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A BYT Tutor’s experience of applying to study classics at Oxford.

This is their interview experience and questions asked:

Oxford Classics New College

Robin Lane-Fox, Paolo Crivelli, Jane Lightfoot “Classics standard:

Two or three interviews split:

  1. Literature

  2. Ancient History

  3. Philosophy

In each case if previous knowledge of the subject has been included in the personal statement then questions on that topic may be asked. Questions may not refer to the specific material read, but could include:

  1. The style of the author (whether poet, writer, historian or philosopher).

  2. The ideas of the author (possibly compared to others that you have read).

  3. A comparison of the author with modern authors (in any discipline).

  4. A comparison of the subject matter with modern/ historical examples.

  5. The influences on the author (those who came before).

  6. Those influenced by the author (those who came after).


There will likely be a short passage for translation in addition to the university wide exam. After that school texts or outside reading will be discussed. The literary content of the passage for translation may also be discussed.

Ancient History:

There may be a short passage for translation. School texts or current affairs may be discussed. Tutors will test on ability to analyse causes of events, key players (seen or unseen) and key factors in influencing one outcome over another. There will also be questions on historiography: the influence of the author on our understanding of events, their work compared to other accounts, their bias and their credibility.


If any philosophy as been read at school or outside then this may be discussed (as above). A test on logic is possible, but this will depend on the specialisations of the tutor. a philosophy interview is not guaranteed.

Archaeology and Art:

There may be some questions on artefacts (pictures or real objects such as coins, rings, statuettes) or art. These will be focused on making the candidate think beyond their current knowledge base and use sound analytical skills. Things like style, period, location, purpose and quality/ cost should be considered.

Advice for future candidates

Make sure to have a dedicated topic or author of interest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to stand by your argument. Think before you speak. Do practice translations (ask me for examples). Shake your tutor’s hand. Introduce yourself by name. Try not to fall back on knowledge from school or reading, instead think hard about the questions asked and answer on the basis of your thoughts at the time. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification on any question asked. Do not be afraid to ask questions in order to enter into a dialogue with the tutor. Do not sit silent for a long time structuring a very long answer. Present your points in succint, structured, individuals sentences.”

Here is a link to interview questions at Classics at Balliol College