Dec 28, 2022

Written By Toby Clyde

How do I prepare for an Oxford law interview?

Dec 28, 2022

Written By Toby Clyde

Oxford interviews have an outsized reputation. Students worry, schools obsess and tutoring websites offer extensive preparation. Nevertheless, at its heart, an Oxford law interview is nothing more than a conversation, one about a subject you enjoy. Unlike a conversation, however, it helps to be prepared. Here are a few things you can do to bring your best on the day.

What is the point of an Oxford Law interview?

This might seem like an obvious question: to select the best candidates. Certainly, in a crowded field of As and A*s, interviews help colleges choose between students who look similar on paper. But it’s worth breaking this down more carefully.

First, what is a ‘best’ candidate for law at Oxford (that is, a BA in Jurisprudence)? There isn’t a single answer, but a rough summary might look something like this: someone with a genuine, self-motivated interest in law, and the reasoning and analytical ability to back this up. The interview, then, is a chance for tutors to test you against these criteria in real-time.

But why use an interview? After all, you already have to sit the LNAT (Law National Aptitude Test), submit a reference and write a personal statement. Surely this is enough?

It actually does something else. Much of the undergraduate teaching at Oxford is done in small classes or tutorials. The interview is just a mini-version of a tutorial: a structured conversation with a tutor. The point is to see how a candidate handles this style of teaching.

Demonstrating your passion

We’ll begin with the first part: passion and ability. Neither are things you can conjure out of thin air. But the two are mutually reinforcing: the more time you take to read widely and explore law on your own, the sharper your skills of analysis will be and, in turn, the more you’ll find to be interested in.

The interview is not a test of your legal knowledge. But legal knowledge is a sign that you care enough about the subject to learn about it in your spare time, above and beyond what you may have covered in school. The summer before Year 13 is a great time to do some of this reading.

Perhaps you’ll want to pick a subject, like human rights, and do some research. Or maybe pay a visit to court to hear a case being argued. A good place to start is Nicholas McBride’s Letters to a Law Student. He spends a few chapters discussing exactly the kind of reasoning skills that you’ll need.

Of course, this will help you with more than the interview. Summer research is particularly useful for writing a good personal statement. But when an expert in their field is sitting across from you, there’s no substitute for this kind of preparation.

Practice makes perfect

Although the interview is intended to be a conversation, it is admittedly quite a stressful one. Tutors are trying to test your thinking, to tease out how you would approach a problem, identify the legal issues in a judgement or handle complications to an argument. This can be tricky to do as a student in a normal Oxford tutorial, let alone during an interview.

However, there is an easy way to prepare. Practice. Mock interviews are the best way, ideally with someone familiar with the process or the subject. It is hard to make a coherent and logical argument out loud, especially in response to a problem you’ve only just encountered. You won’t be able to do this well in the interview unless you’ve done it badly in practice.

Oxford law interviews will also usually include some written material that you are given a short window of time to review beforehand. This might be an extract from a judgement, a hypothetical scenario or part of a statute. Again, you won’t need any legal knowledge to do well, but you will need to be familiar with assessing an unfamiliar text and structuring a logical response.

Even if you’re usually a confident speaker, it’s hard to overstate the importance of interview practice. You can’t learn the questions or the correct responses, but you can sharpen your ability to think, reason and speak in a compelling and logical way.

Final tips

You’ve applied to Oxford, submitted your personal statement, sat the LNAT and, congratulations, you’ve made it through to the interview stage. What now? In addition to mock interviews, there are a few extra things to keep in mind.

Personal statement

At least one of your interviews is likely to begin with some ice-breaker questions about your personal statement. Make sure, then, that you are not just familiar with what you said, but that you can back it up as well. There’s no point pretending to have read a grand legal tome, only to fall at the first hurdle when asked about it.

Online interviews

Oxford interviews in 2022 were conducted online, and it could stay this way in the future. While it might be a relief for some, interviewing online comes with its own challenges. Make sure you know where you’re going to take the interview from, preferably somewhere with good wifi and where you won’t be disturbed.

Why do you want to study law?

There’s no excuse not to prepare a general answer to this question ahead of time. This is also a good moment for introspection. Applying to Oxford (and university in general) can be a tiring process; a clear sense of why you are truly interested in law will make it easier to keep going.



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