Oxford pair offer inside tips on the perfect interview

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The Independent Online

Two Oxford graduates have set up a service designed to take the mystery out of the Oxbridge entrance interview.

Two Oxford graduates have set up a service designed to take the mystery out of the Oxbridge entrance interview.

James Uffindell and William Goodhand, both aged 21, say they want to level the playing field for Oxbridge entrance for state and independent pupils, in response to the controversy over Laura Spence, the Tyneside state school applicant turned down by Oxford.

Their advice on how long to maintain eye contact with an interviewer and how to field questions on medieval literature is based on inside information from present and past students. For £40, would-be applicants will receive a 60-page report giving details of the college of their choice, the course, the tutors who are likely to interview them and the questions they are likely to be asked.

Mr Uffindell, a former pupil at fee-paying Warwick School, who studied politics, philosophy and economics at Mansfield College, said he was well-prepared for his interview but wanted to know how many interviews he would have, what questions he might be asked and what books his tutors had written. "The Oxford interview remains a secretive process," he said. "We want to make sure that all candidates are equally prepared, that they know where the bunkers and trenches are."

His advice service is based on the interview experiences of 250 Oxford students and 30 from Cambridge. College reports are written by current undergraduates and course reports by recent graduates.

The two graduates have formed a limited company, Application Research, with a £10,000 loan. The company will also offer courses in interview techniques at 15 centres throughout the country. Mr Uffindell said: "This is not just for people who are quiet and shy. It is also to stop people being too loud and arrogant and talking too much, like the boy from Eton I met at my interview."

On interview questions, he suggested that all tutors wanted to know why you were applying for their course. Laura Spence might have faltered because she was not passionate enough about medicine: she eventually went to Harvard to study biochemistry.

The two graduates are keeping most of their tips for those who pay their £40 but examples of questions that tutors might put to an applicant for English include:

* dating an anonymous poem;

* commenting on its imagery;

* saying which other works of literature it reminds you of.

A spokesman for Oxford University said people should be wary of what was on offer. "Interviews are conducted subject by subject and interviewers have different techniques. It is very difficult to provide a blanket service for the whole process."

* Application Research is at 01789 204470.

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