University Interview Question And Answers: Oxbridge And Beyond

Embarking on the journey to higher education often entails navigating the challenging landscape of university interviews. Particularly renowned for their rigorous selection processes, institutions like Oxbridge stand as bastions of academic excellence, setting the bar high for aspiring students. Yet, the quest for success transcends these hallowed halls, extending to universities far and wide. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of university interview questions and answers, offering invaluable insights tailored not only for Oxbridge applicants but also for those venturing into the broader realm of academia.

University Interview Question and Answers

Table of Contents

University Interviews in the UK

University interviews in the UK serve as critical components of the admissions process, providing institutions with the opportunity to assess applicants beyond their academic achievements. While not all universities require interviews, they are common practice, particularly for courses with high demand or those seeking to identify candidates with exceptional potential.

Purpose and Format

The primary purpose of university interviews is to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for the course and institution. This assessment goes beyond academic qualifications, aiming to gauge attributes such as communication skills, critical thinking abilities, and passion for the subject.

Interview formats vary between institutions and courses. Some universities conduct one-on-one interviews with a faculty member or admissions tutor, while others may opt for panel interviews involving multiple assessors. In certain cases, group interviews or admissions workshops are employed to observe how candidates interact with their peers.

Types of Questions in UK University Interviews

University interview questions in the UK can cover a wide range of topics, including academic interests, personal experiences, problem-solving abilities, and future aspirations. While specific questions vary depending on the course and institution, common themes often include:

  • Academic Background: Candidates may be asked to discuss their academic interests, achievements, and any relevant experiences, such as independent research projects or extracurricular activities.

  • Subject Knowledge: Interviewers may probe candidates’ understanding of their chosen subject area, presenting scenarios or case studies to assess their analytical skills and depth of knowledge.

  • Motivation and Suitability: Questions about why candidates have chosen the course, their career aspirations, and how they perceive their fit within the institution help assess their commitment and alignment with the university’s values.

  • Problem-solving and Critical Thinking: Scenarios or hypothetical situations may be presented to evaluate candidates’ ability to think on their feet, approach challenges creatively, and articulate their thought processes.

How to Prepare for University Interviews

Effective preparation is key to succeeding in university interviews. Candidates should research the institution and course thoroughly, familiarising themselves with its ethos, teaching methods, and any recent developments or research initiatives. Practising mock interviews, either with teachers, peers, or through online resources, can help alleviate nerves and refine responses.

During the interview, candidates should demonstrate enthusiasm for their chosen subject, engage actively with the interviewer’s questions, and communicate their ideas clearly and confidently. It’s essential to listen carefully, ask questions where appropriate, and showcase both academic prowess and personal attributes that align with the institution’s values.

University Interview Question and Answers

Economics Interview Q&A

Q1: Can we really measure GDP?

The more important question is not whether GDP can really be measured, but whether it is a good measure for national wealth or standards of living. This issue remains crucial, particularly in the field of Development Economics, and there is no established consensus in the current literature. Gross Domestic Product is the best way to measure economic activity in a country. It represents the total value of goods and services produced within a country in a particular time period – this is the nominal GDP. The real GDP accounts for changes in the price level (i.e. inflation) overtime.

GDP is usually measured quarter-by-quarter. There are three approaches to the measurement of GDP: the Production Approach, the Income Approach and the Expenditure Approach. The Production Approach measures the value added of the various activities in the economy (i.e. gross value of output value of intermediate consumption). The Income Approach is equivalent to the sum of incomes that firms pay households for factors of production they hire – wages for labour, interest for capital, rent for land and profits for entrepreneurship. The Expenditure Approach calculates the sum of the final uses of goods and services (with the exception of intermediate consumption) measured in purchasers’ prices. The components include consumption (C), investment (I), government spending (G) and net exports (X-M).

Like all economic measures and models, GDP is by far perfect. There could be errors in the actual measurement of national income, potentially due to differences in the methodology between countries. 

One of the greatest limitations of this measure is that it only takes into account goods and services which pass through organised markets. It therefore doesn’t include home production and black-market activities. This could be a big omission, particularly in developing countries.

In addition, GDP does not appropriately capture harmful side effects such as pollution, or positive effects such as technological progress, nor does it adjust for different distributions of income. It has therefore been criticised by many economists, who believe that GDP is a poor way of assessing the health of economies and that there’s urgent need for a new measure.

Several alternative measures have been proposed in recent years. These include China’s “Green GDP”, which attempts to adjust for environmental factors; the “Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare”, which accounts for pollution costs and income distribution; and the “Genuine Progress Indicator” which adjusts for factors such as income distribution, includes factors such as the value of household and volunteer work, and subtracts harmful factors such as the costs of crime and pollution.

Despite the limitations of this measure, GDP should not be discarded altogether, but rather supplemented by additional indicators in order to provide a fuller picture.

Q2: Should governments intervene in the market?

As many of the questions relevant to economics, there is no distinct correct or incorrect answer to this issue. One should instead weigh the potential benefits and costs of such an intervention, and make a judgement on a case to case basis. There are some occasions where governments could improve equality and efficiency by taking action, as argued by many Keynesian economists.

One of the main arguments in favour of government intervention is that it can correct for market failure. For example, free markets would not naturally provide public goods such as infrastructure, law & order and defence, due to their non-exclusive nature (i.e. there would be a free rider problem). It would therefore be necessary for the government to step in and provide such goods.

Similarly, free markets would not provide the most socially efficient outcome in the presence of externalities. A profit-maximising firm would not incorporate the costs of pollution (negative externality) in its production, nor would it take into account the spill- over effects of its technology (positive externality). Both cases would lead to a lower level of social welfare than what the markets would predict. The government could then tax production which gives rise to negative externalities, and subsidise production causing positive externalities, thus generating a net gain in social welfare.

Moreover, as argued by Keynesian economists, the government can positively stimulate the economy through fiscal policy in times of recessions, as was done in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression. Governments can borrow from the private sector and spend in the economy, increasing employment and stimulating demand.

On the other hand, it is possible that governments make the wrong decision, and intervene in a market which was not exhibiting any externalities, or which was inefficient due to reasons related to business model strategies. For example, state support of some industries may encourage the survival of inefficient firms, which would only serve to increase inefficiency even more.

In addition, many would argue that such intervention might not be economically- motivated, but rather driven by political pressure groups, and would thus not necessarily hold economic efficiency as a priority. They may therefore allocate resources inefficiently and worsen economic outcomes.

In conclusion, given that the majority of economies incorporate some level of government intervention, the question should be to what extent it should be allowed. It is evident that competitive markets are best at deciding how and when to produce, and should thus be left to their own devices as much as possible. However, governments should continuously assess their performance, and if sub-optimal outcomes are being generated, it might be worthwhile to allow for intervention.

Q3: What is the best way to win in the game of Monopoly? Is this possible in real life?

One of the first pieces of advice people give on the best way to win in Monopoly would be to play smart, and to be aware of certain probabilities. For example, it would be helpful to make a note of the most common dice rolls (i.e. 6 or 8), in order to learn about one’s probability of landing on particular spaces or properties. Consequently, one should note the most and least landed-on properties, as they would be the most and least lucrative assets to acquire.

Another important strategy would be to play aggressively. One should buy as much property as possible as early as possible, with the objective of creating monopolies. There is little incentive to wait for larger funds, as returns to the investment would only be earned once rent is collected. Therefore, it would be most advantageous to acquire a monopoly and start building houses early, in order to increase one’s returns. In fact, one should avoid having large sums of money in the bank, as it serves little purpose. It is not being invested and is not earning any interest, thus one should spend as much as they can.

Finally, playing dirty would also be a valuable strategy to consider. One should aim to eliminate weak players who are facing an imminent downfall by exploiting their bargaining power and convince them to forfeit their properties, in order to remove the competition.

In addition, it would be advantageous to purchase properties to block other players from creating monopolies and gaining an upper hand. Although these particular strategies may not completely translate to real life in the 21st century, similar behaviours can be observed, even in industries outside of real estate. For instance, many entrepreneurs wishing to break into a particular industry would need to be mindful of their probabilities of success, in order to efficiently allocate their resources. In the case of real estate, they would need to be aware of their probabilities of earning large returns by purchasing properties in one area versus another – for example 1-bedroom apartments in a university city versus a hotel in a sparsely populated area.

One of the factors that does not fully translate to real life is the state of the market at the beginning of the game. The game assumes that there are initially no players in the market, a fact that is not necessarily true given the myriad of industries which are already saturated, including real estate. It is currently very difficult to find an industry niche to enter. This sort of strategy would however be very applicable to the United States in the 20th century, where many migrants would arrive and plant their roots in the market, with little to no competition.

In conclusion, some of the strategies for winning in a game of Monopoly could be applied to a real-life context in theory. However, there are currently many more market regulations to promote perfect competition, therefore such actions which would allow for the abuse of one’s monopoly power would be much more difficult to carry out.

Finally, one could argue that the strategies in the game are much more extreme than what is observed in real life. For instance, individuals would tend to be much more risk- averse, and would not spend all their resources on any opportunity that arises. Moreover, such property investments would require a large amount of capital or collateral, especially if one wishes to obtain a bank loan. Real life is obviously not as simple.

Engineering Interview Q&A

Q1: What are the main differences between the engines in jet fighters and the engines in jet airliners; which type of engine is the more efficient, and (qualitatively) why?

 

Military Aircraft  

Civilian Airliner  

Design Criteria     

Maximise performance 

Supersonic flight speed

High-speed capability

Maneuverability    

Weapon payload capacity

Engine Location

Inside fuselage 

(small engines)   

Suspended from wings

(large engines)

Bypass Ratio    

Small (1:1)

Large (9:1)   

Noise     

Not an issue

Must be quiet     

Performance Boost

Afterburners provide a    significant but short-term improvement in speed     

Not required   (except on Concorde)    

Q2: How does the turbofan engine work?

A jet engine (the core engine) takes in air, burns it with fuel in a combustion chamber and produces a high velocity jet exhaust. A small quantity of energy from the jet exhaust is used to drive a turbine which in turn causes a large fan mounted on the front of the engine to rotate and suck in yet more air. This air is directed around the outside of the core engine (bypassing the core engine) and produces significant additional thrust.

In a civil airliner typically 90% of the total thrust comes from the bypass air-stream. The bypass air-stream flow forms a blanket surrounding the high velocity jet exhaust from the core engine and significantly reduces the noise generated.

The high bypass ratio turbofan is a highly optimised design for a very limited range of operating conditions and is therefore much more fuel efficient than the jet fighter engine.

Q3: If you had a cylinder, sealed at both ends, with the pressure rising inside, would it blow at the end or split along the side first?

Draw a diagram to explain your answer! Use the idea of stress rather than force – to show that your answer is as relevant to a sausage as it is to a large airship. Assume that the thickness of the wall of the cylinder is small in comparison to the radius of the cylinder. Consider a transverse cross section and a longitudinal section. The force per unit area in the material of the cylinder wall must balance the force per unit area created by the pressure. Work out the stress in the material in each case. You should find that the stress in the length direction is about half the stress in the transverse direction. This means that the cylinder will always split along the side first.

Q4: How would you design a gravity dam for holding back water?

Gravity dams work by using the weight of the material to resist the horizontal pressure of the water against them. Strong foundations that do not move under the weight of material used to make the dam. This usually means rock. Dam must get thicker with depth because the pressure increases linearly with depth (p=hpg, diagram useful here!). The horizontal force due to the water pressure and the vertical weight must combine to give a resultant force that acts through the dam (if it falls outside the dam the dam will collapse). As the pressure increases more weight must be added to the dam in order for this condition to be true.

Q5: Why did they make the mill chimneys so tall?

The draught of a chimney (how quickly the air is drawn up the chimney) gets larger as the chimney gets taller. The chimney ejects hot gas works because of the pressure difference between hot gas in the chimney and cooler gas in the environment. A larger exit velocity for the gas and a taller chimney will ensure that the pollutants are dispersed over a wider area (and hence are less concentrated). A taller Chimney will also reduce the chance of turbulence around the chimney causing the pollutants to be drawn down towards the ground. This is an opportunity to talk about laminar and turbulent flow.

Q6: How does a fridge work?

The basic requirement for a fridge is to move heat from a cold space (the food compartment) to a warm space (the surrounding environment). This is like pumping water up a hill so a fridge is often described as a heat pump. As with water you need to do work to move heat from a low temperature environment to a higher temperature environment.

A liquid refrigerant is forced to expand by passing it through a valve. As it expands its temperature falls and it turns into a cold liquid/vapour mixture. The liquid/vapour mixture passes through the cold compartment absorbing heat from the food and turning into pure vapour as it does so. The vapour now enters a compressor and is compressed forcing it to give off heat and turn back into a liquid again. Careful selection of the refrigerant (large latent heat capacity) allows a large quantity of heat to be transferred with minimal power input (for pumping and compression).

Law Interview Q&A

Q1: If a law is immoral, is it still a law and must people abide by it?

This question requires you to think about the philosophical foundations of laws. It is beneficial to have some understanding of the different schools of thought involved. I will briefly cover the two that are most relevant when answering this question.

Legal positivism: a positivist believes there is no necessary connection between law and morality. Not to say that laws cannot be moral, but that for a law to be valid it does not necessarily have to be moral. Legal validity is simply dependent on its establishment by some socially recognised authority. For example, in the UK a law would have to be debated and passed by Parliament to be a valid law according to a positivist.

Natural law theory: a proponent of this theory would argue that law and morality are irrevocably intertwined and that for a law to be considered as such it must follow a universal understanding of morality. Thus, an immoral law would in fact not be a law at all and there would be no obligation to follow it.

Even without any knowledge about jurisprudence these are general ideas you should be thinking about when answering this question. You could further discuss the place of law in society and whether it should fulfil the role of a sort of “moral guardian”.

Another point to consider is the indefinite and shifting definition of “immorality”. What may be considered as immoral in one decade might, through social progress, become moral in the next. Laws however must retain a degree of certainty and inflexibility. It would not bode well for the validity of laws to be constantly called in the question based on today’s morality. And this is assuming a common sense of morality can even be found. With today’s multicultural and diverse societies it would be difficult to find a shared set of moral principles that all laws could follow from.

If you decide to follow the positivist view and come to a conclusion that an immoral law is still a law, that does not automatically mean that people must abide by it. You might argue that an obligation to obey is a thing separate from the validity of a law and the two may fail to coexist. However, how could a law function if there was no obligation to obey it? Would that not defeat the ultimate purpose of laws – which is to guide conduct? These are question you may wish to consider when formulating your answer.

Q2: If the punishment for parking on double yellow lines were death, and therefore nobody did it, would that be a just and effective law?

This question is not asking you to talk about the intricacies of parking regulations but to consider the purpose of laws and the punishment that accompanies them. There are two questions to consider:

Would such a law be effective? On first glance the answer would seem to be yes – if people thought the punishment awaiting them would be death they would probably never consider parking on double yellow lines. The gravity of the punishment would overweight any benefit gained by breaking the law. However, if we look deeper into the question we have to consider what “effectiveness” means in the context of a legal system. Does the fact that a law scares people out of doing something mean it is an effective law? 

You could argue yes – the sole purpose of the legal system is to prevent people from doing what we as a society don’t want them to do. However, you could, and should, also consider that it may not be the sole purpose of a legal system. For example, what about education? Or rehabilitation? Neither is possible with a law like this. The culprit will not get a chance to change his ways or to learn the reasoning behind why what he did was wrong. Does that mean the law is not effective? It comes down to what you think the purpose of the law should be.

Would such a law be just? Most of us would consider justice to mean fairness, and fairness to rely on the principle that the crime must fit the punishment. Sentencing someone to death for a simple parking violation would not seem fair. The punishment does not seem proportional to whatever inconvenience the culprit might have caused with his illegal behaviour. However, what if it was not a simple inconvenience he caused? For example, what if he caused a major car accident by parking there that resulted in the death of another? Would that make the punishment proportional to the crime? Here you may want to consider whether any knowledge or foresight of possible outcomes of one’s actions would be necessary. 

For the purpose of fairness it would seem so – you should not grievously be punished for something you never even foresaw could happen. A punishment as major as death would simply not be proportional to the mind-set you would have possessed at the time of the act. This is an underlying principle of British legal tradition. However, it would do no harm to explore whether the emphasis should be taken from mental culpability and be put on objective outcomes instead.

Q3: Should the House of Lords be reformed?

In order to answer this question you must have some background understanding of the political and legislative system in the UK. The House of Lords is one of the two houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom. The Parliament is the body that debates and passes law. A big point of contention and the controversy underlying this question is that the House of Lords, unlike the House of Commons, is unelected. Having a body of unelected individuals making the law in a modern democratic society is quite an oddity.

There are a few possible ways the House of Lords could be reformed and each of them have their own pros and cons.

  1. The House of Lords should become fully appointed: currently the House of Lords consists of a mixture of elected and hereditary peers – members who as a virtue of their title gain a space in the House of Lords

Pros:

  • It will help maintain a broad range of membership of the House of Lords rather than creating more professional politicians
  • It does not threaten the democratic supremacy of the House of Commons Appointment is more cost effective than election

Cons:

  • It is undemocratic to have unelected members involved in drafting and passing legislation
  • The UK is the only county in the world – except for Canada – with an unelected second chamber
  1. The House of Lords should become fully elected

Pros:

  • It would fully address the current democratic deficit
  • More people would be given the opportunity to stand for Parliament which would lead to greater representation of the population

Cons:

  • The House of Commons would no longer be supreme
  • The House of Lords would become full of professional politicians rather than what it currently is – individuals with a wealth of knowledge and experience in variety of fields
  1. The House of Lords should be abolished

Pros:

  • Many other countries function without a second chamber
  • It would be more cost effective
  • Scrutiny of legislation could be carried out in other ways, such as through a committee system

Cons:

  • The House of Commons would have too much power without a second chamber
  • The two-chamber system is a part of British political culture

Q3: What does it mean for someone to “take” another’s car?

This question, like most law interview questions, does not require any knowledge of the law. So when faced with a question like this do not immediately think of any theft or property law you know. The focus of this question is on the word ‘take’ – a verb. The interviewer wants you to explore the possible ways in which you could interpret that word. You should start off with the widest interpretation possible and gradually start tightening it up until you come to an acceptable definition for what it means to “take” someone’s car.

A definition people often start out with thinking it is quite wide is that to “take” means to drive away. But this is actually a very restricted definition if you put it in general terms – does it mean I will only have taken your car if I drive away with it? Would this be a beneficial definition in the law – would it cover all the scenarios we would want it to cover?

At this point the interviewer might challenge you with a scenario that would not fall under your definition – for example, what if I sat in your car and locked the doors? I would not have moved the car but you would still probably care. What do driving away and this scenario have in common? Both are preventing me from using my car. At this point you might start to put together a definition. To “take” another’s car means to prevent them from using their car. However, this may be too wide.

Again, the interviewer may present you with another scenario or you yourself may challenge your own definition (good way to impress!). For example, what if someone sat in your car but they weren’t preventing you from using it. You would still care – who wants a stranger in their car – but technically they would not be preventing you from using it. At this point you should consider whether to alter your definition of “take”. You may think of a better definition or you may stick with the last one and decide that a scenario like this would not fall under “taking” someone’s car.

The important thing to remember with any interpretation question you may be given is to not overcomplicate it. A good place to start is the plain meaning of a word. From there you’ll be able to narrow it down and make it more specific to what the interviewer is trying to get you to discuss.

Medicine Interview Q&A

Q1: How does resistance to antibiotics arise? What can be done to prevent it?

  1. A small subset of bacteria are naturally resistant to the antibiotic due to random genetic mutations.
  2. The antibiotic kills only the non-resistant bacteria, leaving behind the mutated resistant bacteria (natural “healthy” gut flora bacteria may also be killed).
  3. Only the mutated, resistant bacteria is left. With no competition from the non-resistant bacteria or the gut flora, the resistant bacteria thrives.
  4. Resistant bacteria can then transfer this resistance to other non-resistant bacteria via lateral gene transfer – the two cells come into contact in a process known as conjugation and copies of the plasmid of each cell are transferred between the cells.

Drug inactivation or modification the bacteria develops ways to prevent the drug from being effective, such as developing enzymes that can alter the shape of the drug, preventing it from fitting in its target site

  • Preventing drug binding-either by developing ways to protect the target site or by altering the shape of the target site so the drug no longer fits
  • Preventing the accumulation of the drug-either by decreasing the permeability of the cell for the drug or increasing the active efflux of the drug from the cell.
  • Alteration of metabolic pathways-altering the pathway affected by the drug by finding a new pathway that produces the same product, but does not require the enzyme that is targeted by the drug.
  • Over prescribing antibiotics-wiping out all competing bacteria other than the mutated bacteria, but with no benefit as the antibiotic was not required in the first place.
  • Not finishing a course of antibiotics-the small number of remaining bacteria left after the patient feels better (but before they’ve finished their course) are likely to be the bacteria with the greatest resistance.
  • Antibiotics used in food production-small doses of the antibiotic may remain in the food product.
  • Appropriate prescribing of antibiotics-only prescribing for infections that will respond to antibiotics (e.g. not viral infections) and ensuring the correct type of antibiotic is used (different bacteria with different structures require different antibiotics).
  • Public education-when antibiotics are required, encouragement to finish a course etc. Infection control-encouraging the adoption behaviours that prevent infections in the first place (e.g. hand washing), preventing the need for antibiotic prescription.

Q2: Why do we have red blood cells?

How are red blood cells (RBC’s) adapted to transport oxygen?

  • RBC’s contain a protein called haemoglobin (Hb)
  • RBC’s do not have a nucleus to maximise space for Hb
  • Hb is made up of 4 protein chains and 4 haem groups-the oxygen binds to the haem groups.
  • Since there are 4 haem groups, 4 oxygen molecules can bind to haemoglobin at one time.
  • RBC’s have a biconcave disc shape-allowing a greater surface area for oxygen to diffuse across into the RBC.

How is oxygen transported in the body?

  • 98.5% of oxygen is transported via haemoglobin
  • 1.5% is dissolved in the blood
  • Therefore, red blood cells allow us to carry far more oxygen to our tissues than if oxygen could only be dissolved in the blood.
  • When oxygen reaches our metabolising tissues, oxygen is released from Hb and diffuses into the required tissue.

Other functions of the RBC

  • RBC’s also transport CO2 (a by-product of tissue metabolism) back to the lungs
  • 23% of the CO2 in our blood is transported via Hb in RBC’s
  • The rest is dissolved in the blood or carried as bicarbonate

What happens if you don’t have enough RBC’s?

  • Anaemias
  • When an individual has lower than normal Hb
  • Symptoms: Fatigue, lethargy, breathlessness, feeling faint, pale skin

Causes:

  • Dietary deficiency of the vitamins required to make RBC’s and Hb
  • Malabsorption: Such as coeliac disease, where the individual cannot absorb the
  • Vitamins required to make RBC’s and Hb
  • Inherited disorders: Such as Sickle Cell Anaemia (where the individuals red blood cells are misshapen)
  • Blood loss: Such as in heavy menstruation or in some cancers of the gastrointestinal tract

What happens if you have too many RBC’s?

  • Polycythaemia
  • Too many RBC’s causes the blood to become too “sticky” leading to blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.

Q3: What do you think of the state of the NHS? What do you think could be done to improve it?

NHS reacts to State of Care: “We’re almost running on empty and well beyond tipping point”

  • How Brexit could open the door to NHS privatisation
  • Hammond confirms additional £27.6bn a year for NHS by 2024
  • No-deal Brexit “may mean cancelled NHS operations and staff shortages”
  • NHS “is facing winter crisis even worse than last year”

Would privatisation of the NHS help?

  • Pros-less financial strain on the NHS
  • Cons-as private companies are run for profit; would profit be more important than patient care? What would this mean for the patients using the NHS?

Would training more doctors and nurses be beneficial?

  • Pros-less pressure on existing doctors and nurses would mean shorter working hours and possibly therefore fewer medical errors which cost the NHS over £1bn in 2017.
  • Cons-but where would the money to train these new healthcare professionals come from? Current incentives to bring doctors trained in other countries to the NHS are costly-recent news stories have reported incentives of £18500 for Australian doctors willing to move to the UK.

Could a penalty for missed GP/dentist/hospital appointments be implemented? 

  • Pros-In 2016/2017, missed hospital outpatients alone cost the NHS over £1bn. Introducing a penalty for missed appointments would give patients an incentive to either attend their appointment or cancel it if they no longer require it, saving the NHS money and opening up appointments for other patients who may need them
  • Cons-A fear of a penalty may prevent people from booking a doctor’s appointment when they need it. This may particularly affect those of a lower socioeconomic status.

Q4: At what point is a person “dead”?

A person is dead when he is no longer alive. But what makes someone alive? Is it the heart beating? The lungs breathing? The brain formulating conscious thought?

Once it used to be thought that someone was dead once their heart stopped beating and they were no longer breathing – cardiopulmonary death. However, we now acknowledge another form of death – brain death. Brain death is when a person no longer has any brain stem functions, and has permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe. However, because there are now machines available that can keep a person breathing even after they’ve lost the capacity to breathe, brain death can occur without cardiopulmonary death. So which one means a person is truly dead?

The medical community considers brain death to be the point at which a person is dead as the state of brain death is irreversible. However, personal convictions on death may differ. It may be difficult for a patient’s family to accept that their loved one is dead even though they are still breathing. Furthermore, in many cases a person’s spiritual or religious views dictate what they see death as. For some death only occurs when the soul has departed the body. From a medical point of view this may seem nonsensical however as a doctor you will have to be sympathetic to your patient’s and their families views.

  • A torch is shone into both eyes to see if they react to the light.
  • The cornea, which is usually very sensitive, is stroked with a tissue or piece of cotton wool to see if the eye reacts.
  • Pressure is applied to the forehead and the nose is pinched to see if there’s any movement in response.
  • A thin, plastic tube is placed down the trachea to see if it provokes gagging or coughing.
  • The person is disconnected from the ventilator for a short period of time to see if they make any attempt to breathe on their own.

Why is it important to know exactly when someone is dead? There are many reasons, however a big one is organ transplantation. Once someone has entered into cardiopulmonary death their organs become unsuitable for transplantation very fast. However, brain death without cardiopulmonary death preserves the organs. It would be unethical to remove organs from someone still capable of recovery so the determination of brain death as true irreversible death becomes important.

Philisophy Interview Q&A

Q1: “Philosophy (Ethics), the trolley problem.”

1a. Classic Trolley Problem:

  • It is important to note that this is a simplified ethical dilemma. Information like the age or other salient features of the people with their lives at risk is not available, and interviewees should assume that it is certain that the changing of the track will be guaranteed to have the desired outcome.
  • Most people would change the track to only kill the one. If the interviewee would choose this option, would they feel guilty about killing the one? Why is this the more ethical option?
  • If they would do nothing and allow the train to kill the five, they generally would say that it’s the act of changing the trolley. Would they feel guilty for killing the five? A question arises as to whether or not inaction (l.e, not changing the track) is itself a moral action.

1b. Fat Man Variant:

  • Again, all details other than that pushing the man would indeed stop the trolley and that he would die instead of the five are unknown.
  • Most people would not push the man, although it can depend upon how the problem is phrased, and varies across cultures. If the interviewee chooses this option (to not push the man), but they did choose to change the track, how are these two options different?
  • If they would push the man, they almost certainly chose to change the track in 1a. Do they think they would feel more guilty pushing the man than changing the track? If so, why?
  • If they would not push, discuss whether saving 10 people, or 100 people, or 1000 people would convince them to push the man. And would their decision change if they were the ‘fat man’, where taking their own life would save the people.
  • If they would push, would they still do it for 4 people, 3 people, 2 people? And would their decision change if they were the ‘fat man’, where taking their own life would save the people.

Q2: Philosophy (Epistemology), Gettier problem.

  • Does the interviewee agree that in the example the protagonist had a justified, true belief? And do they agree that the protagonist did not know that there was an oasis, even though they appear to have a justified, true belief?
  • If the interviewee does not know that they had a justified, true belief in the example, they most likely think that it was a justified belief, as they had the map upside down. Can they think of another example? E.g. the protagonist sees a mirage, unknown to them has been slipped a hallucinogenic drug, etc…
  • When does one know something? Gettier examples appear to undermine justified true belief as knowledge, but can the interviewee try to think about when they know something
  • Again, the argument by Descartes that we only know something when we are certain of it is generally thought to be false. If they argue for this, ask them whether they know they are in an interview, whether they know who they are, etc.. If they don’t know those things, then there’s very little point in continuing the interview, or going to university, for that matter!

Political Science Interview Q&A

Q1: Gerrymandering

It is where one draws strangely shaped districts (or constituencies) for elections, to get a favourable outcome (the name comes from 1812, where Governor Gerry of Massachusetts drew one district that looked somewhat like a salamander).

Q2: The minimum proportion of the vote required for a group to ‘win’ an election in a local district, first-past-the-post system (like we have in the UK for general elections, and like for the US House of Representatives elections).

Cracking is where you split voters between districts: you get them as close as possible to winning without actually winning-if party A gets 50% + 1 of the votes, then they win the district, despite it being close.

Packing is where you make all of the districts you expect to lose landslides: if party B gets 100% of the vote, they’ve wasted around 50% which could have been put towards winning other races.

What percentages of votes are needed to win an election for party A, if they perfectly manage to pack and crack?

Q3: “Have you ever heard of any examples of ‘gerrymandering’ (there are many in the United States)? Or examples that occurred in their places of origin?”

Does proportional representation (where seats are not done at a district level, but allocated based on the number of votes a party wins nationally) solve this issue (it does, as you can’t crack or pack). What are the benefits and trade offs of a local first-past-the- post system versus a proportional representation? Examples might include:

  • First-past-the-post allows for local representatives to look at local issues.
  • Proportional representation doesn’t have Gerrymandering.
  • Smaller parties can get off the ground in proportional representation: this can be a pro or a con (Green party, Nazi party).

University Interview Advice

Here are some final pieces of advice for university interviews:

Be Authentic: Authenticity is key during university interviews. While it’s important to showcase your strengths and suitability for the course, avoid embellishing or fabricating information. Interviewers are skilled at identifying genuine enthusiasm and sincerity.

Practice Active Listening: Listen attentively to the interviewer’s questions and prompts. This demonstrates respect and engagement while also ensuring that you understand the question fully before responding. Active listening can also help you tailor your answers more effectively.

Showcase Your Passion: Let your passion for your chosen subject shine through in your responses. Share anecdotes, experiences, and insights that demonstrate your genuine interest and dedication. Enthusiasm is contagious and can leave a lasting impression on interviewers.

Demonstrate Critical Thinking: University interviews often include questions designed to assess your problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities. Approach these questions methodically, articulating your thought process and considering alternative perspectives where relevant.

Reflect on Feedback: If you receive feedback or suggestions during the interview, take them on board graciously. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and improve can leave a positive impression on interviewers.

Prepare Questions: Towards the end of the interview, you’ll likely have the opportunity to ask questions. Prepare insightful questions about the course structure, opportunities for research or extracurricular activities, support services, or any other aspects of university life that are important to you.

Stay Calm and Confident: It’s natural to feel nervous before and during the interview, but try to stay calm and composed. Remember that the interviewers are not there to trip you up but rather to assess your suitability for the course. Project confidence through your body language, tone of voice, and responses.

Follow Up: After the interview, consider sending a brief thank-you email to the interviewers, expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to discuss your application further. This gesture demonstrates professionalism and courtesy.

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s important to dress appropriately for a university interview, aiming for smart and professional attire. This typically means wearing business casual or formal clothing, such as a collared shirt, trousers or a skirt, and closed-toe shoes. Avoid overly casual or flashy attire, and opt for clean, well-fitted garments that make you feel confident and put-together.

Preparation is key for a successful university interview. Start by researching the institution and course thoroughly, familiarising yourself with its curriculum, teaching methods, and any recent developments. Practice answering common interview questions, both general and subject-specific, and consider conducting mock interviews with teachers, peers, or online resources. Additionally, review your application materials, such as your personal statement or CV, to ensure consistency and readiness to discuss your achievements and experiences.

It’s perfectly normal to encounter questions that you’re unsure how to answer during a university interview. In such situations, it’s essential to stay calm and composed. If you genuinely don’t know the answer, it’s okay to admit it rather than attempting to bluff your way through. You can politely ask for clarification or take a moment to gather your thoughts before responding. Interviewers often value honesty and the ability to handle challenging situations gracefully.

Making a good impression during a university interview involves demonstrating confidence, enthusiasm, and professionalism. Maintain eye contact with the interviewers, speak clearly and articulately, and engage actively with their questions. Showcase your passion for your chosen subject, as well as your suitability for the course and institution, through thoughtful responses and relevant examples from your experiences. Additionally, display good manners, such as being punctual, courteous, and respectful throughout the interview process.

After the interview, it’s a good idea to reflect on your performance and any feedback provided by the interviewers. Consider sending a brief thank-you email to express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview and reiterate your interest in the course. If you’re waiting to hear back about the outcome of your application, use this time to continue exploring your academic interests, engaging in relevant activities or experiences, and preparing for any subsequent interviews or assessments.

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