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School Essays

Applicants to all colleges except Hughes Hall and St Edmund's (both of which are mature student colleges) are required to submit one or two School/college essays as examples of written work prior to interview. See individual College websites for further details. 


Approximately 80% of applicants are interviewed each year. In 2020 interviews will be conducted remotely. Please keep an eye on the University Interview pages for full details.

Each candidate is interviewed individually by their chosen college, and the purpose of the interview is to give you a chance to demonstrate your academic potential and explain why you want to study Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion. Our interviewers use different techniques to encourage a good discussion: you may find that you are invited to respond to questions, or that you are given a stimulus, such as a short extract of text or an image, to comment on. To see a mock interview, see the Interviews in Action page.

After all candidates have been interviewed, the Directors of Studies meet to compare notes; at this point they flag up to colleagues strong applicants for whom they might not have room at their College, but who deserve a place at another College. 

At-interview assessment exercise

This year the at-interview assessment will be conducted remotely, but will continue with the format of a pre-recorded sample lecture and a question paper, as in previous years. The assessment exercise and video will be made available to candidates approximately a week prior to interview, and you will have 48 hours to complete and return the assessment. You can expect your interviewer to refer to your answers during your interview.

The at-interview assessment gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how you have developed academically since you took your GCSEs, or most recent exams. It is skills-based, looking at your comprehension and writing skills, and does not assume any prior knowledge. The purpose is to determine a candidate’s potential to achieve in an academically demanding undergraduate degree course. The assessment is designed to be challenging, in order to differentiate effectively between able applicants, including those who may have achieved the highest grades in school examinations. It is worth remembering that this exercise is only one element in a large range of different types of information which are used to make an admission decision.

The exercise consists of two sections:

Section 1

Candidates will be provided with a brief video of a sample lecture on a subject related to religion. The lecture will last approximately 20 minutes.

Section 2

Candidates will provide written answers to a series of comprehension questions about the content of the video. Marks are not deducted for incorrect answers, so candidates are advised to answer all questions. It will be skills based and no prior knowledge of any particular religion will be assumed. You are strongly discouraged from copying from the internet or other sources in your answers. Plagiarism software will be used. The purpose of this exercise is to allow the candidates to show recall, comprehension and analytical skills in respect to a lecture. 

These informal sample lectures will allow you to familiarise yourself with the exercise. We suggest you use these to practise your comprehension and recall skills:


Strong applicants who have not been made an offer by their first choice College are placed in the 'Pool'. You might therefore be made an offer by another College on the basis of the information already available, or it is possible that another College might ask you to a further interview in January.