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Oxbridge interviews can seem mysterious. How can you know what to expect from the admissions tutors? However, even if you can’t know excatly how your Oxbridge Computer Science interview will go, there are a few rough ideas you can have.

What will the questions in a Computer Science degree cover?

It is very unlikely that your Computer Science interview will be particularly “computer-y”. Because applicants for the subject come from a diverse range of backgrounds, many not having studied Computer Science at A-Level, it is unlikely that any of the A-Level content will be included

Maths is essential to computer science, and your interviews will include questions with a mathematical basis. Generally, the questions will be connected to a broader topic that links to computer science. For example, you may have a question that explores probability. Probability theory is a key topic studied in first year Computer Science, and the skills used are essential throughout the degree. Bayes’ theorem forms a key part of the underlying theory of computer science. 

Bayes’ Theorem is a formula about conditional probability. Conditional probability is about finding the probability of one event given that another event has already happened, that is finding the probability of event A occurring conditioning on event B. It is written, P(A|B). Bayes’ Theorem then states that:

P(A|B)=P(B|A)P(A)P(B)

How will the maths questions differ from a single-honours maths interview?

The maths questions are likely to be more wordy and applied than the maths you would be questioned on in a pure maths interview. Think of the style of question 6 and 7 in the MAT, or the questions in section 2 of the CSAT – these are good ways to practice, as this is the sort of question you will get! You may in fact discuss the questions you answered in your test as a starting point for the interview.

The interviewers are looking to see if you have the ability to extract the key information from a question, and your ability to problem solve. Not only do they want to see your mathematical capability, but also how you can apply this to unknown and new situations. 

It is also very likely that you may have questions that involve diagrams and games. For these, you will be given a diagram, for example of a grid, or of the structure of a simple game, and then asked questions about it. You may be expected to construct and explain formulas about someone moving around the grid, or construct formulas, potentially using probability, about how someone might succeed and move forward in the game. Although the skills required will be those of A-Level Maths, the situation you will be given is new and unlike A-Levels, so the interviewer will help you through and give you any necessary hints. 

Will I be asked about my personal statement?

It is also very likely in a Computer Science interview that you will be asked questions about your personal statement. Because Computer Science is not a degree with a compulsory prerequisite Computer Science A-Level, the admissions tutors are expecting to be able to gauge your interest in Computer Science from things you have done outside of the classroom. For example, if you have been on a coding course, or investigated a particular strand of AI, this is likely to come up, as the interviewers have seen that it’s a particular sector that interests you. They are not trying to catch you out, but lead you into an area you are interested in, so make sure you don’t lie, or you’re just tripping yourself up. 

Conclusion

There’s no need to be scared about the interviews – the admissions tutors want to see you at your best. As long as you’re properly prepared and passionate about your subject, you’ll come across well. For ideas about where you might seek out further interests in Computer Science, check out our list of further reading for Computer Science.

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