Chalk Talk: How not to slip up during university applications


Richard Garner
Wednesday 02 July 2014 20:59

If you are applying for a place at Oxford or Cambridge and the interviewer says: "Tell me about a banana," you might feel a burning desire to reply, in John McEnroe-esque terms: "You cannot be serious!" But you should keep a straight face and answer the question, according to a new guide.

It is the time of year when first-year sixth-formers are starting to think about their university applications – particularly if they hope to study among the dreaming spires. Oxbridge Applications, a company that each year helps thousands of wannabes plot their course to an elite university, has just issued a number of tips on how to go about trying to ensure a place at the UK's two most elite universities.

According to Alicia Luba, who drew up the tips, first of all, you should relax if you get that kind of banana question. "Then, think about how the banana relates to your subject area [my parenthesis: sorry if images of John Cleese suddenly come to mind]. For instance, if you're studying the sciences, think of the nutritional value of the fruit. If geography is your area, think of the importance of the banana to certain cultures and communities."

Other tips include watching international media channels such as Russia Today and Al Jazeera beforehand, so that you are able to comment on world affairs with an international perspective.

Also, make a video of yourself answering questions and see if you think your body language is likely to impress those on the other side of the desk from you.

Keep a diary of any work experience you engage in during the summer. "If you are working in a hospital, jot down what you think about the equipment used, the operations you see and whether things could be done better." Keep it to yourself, though, until the interview – best not to interrupt the consultant when he's in full flight cutting open a patient.

The consultancy has published a book, So You Want to Go to Oxbridge? Tell Me About a Banana, for those who are interested. All I can say is: best of luck and don't slip on any skins during the interview process.

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