The hardest Oxford interview questions - according to Alan Rusbridger

'In equilibrium, what are the implications for global tax rates if people move to avoid higher taxes? If the answer’s zero, how does France get away with taxing the rich?'

Samuel Osborne
Friday 18 December 2015 17:22
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Oxford and Cambridge Universities both have tough interview questions for potential students
Oxford and Cambridge Universities both have tough interview questions for potential students

Students hoping to study economics and management at Oxford University are asked about the Old Testament story of the Jugement of Solomon in their interviews.

Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of The Guardian, has blogged about his experience of sitting in on an Oxford admissions interview.

The 61-year-old read English Literature at Cambridge while working for the Cambridge Evening News as an intern during the holidays of his first two years at university.

The 20 hardest universities to get into

He writes about how candidates are given a two-page passage to study, which quotes from the First Book of Kings, Chapter 3, 16-28, where King Solomon settles a claim between two women who say they are the mother of the same child.

The candidates are then invited to identify how the king's approach was flawed, suggesting some alternative ways Solomon could have decided which of the women was the true mother.

Prospective students are then asked rapid fire questions: "Do the mothers have an incentive to tell the truth? What if A is telling the truth? How does it change if B is telling the truth?

"What if Solomon simply sold the child to the correct mother by asking a price high enough to deter the false mother? What price would he have to offer?"

After answering the question about the Judgement of Solomon, interviewees were then asked: "From an economic perspective... what are the problems with a wealth tax?"

More questions follow: "How might the wealthy react to such a tax?

"In equilibrium, what are the implications for global tax rates if people move to avoid higher taxes? If the answer’s zero, how does France get away with taxing the rich?

"Does taxing property get round the mobility of capital? What policy initiatives would help stop the flight of capital in response to changes in the taxation rates of individual countries?"

Oxford students have previously been asked why humans have two eyes and why both ladybirds and strawberries are red during their interviews.

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