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Could you get into Oxford University? Try their tricky admission questions

These are incredibly tough questions
Could you get into Oxford University Try their tricky admission

Last Updated on August 10, 2021 by MyGh.Online

If you want to know what it’s like to study at Oxford, their admissions questions might give you a taste.

Spoiler alert – they’re incredibly tough.

Previously covered by The Guardian, all of these questions have been sent to admissions interviewees when applying for a joint philosophy degree.

These questions don’t require an extensive knowledge of maths or science, but simply some logical reasoning and deduction skills.

Oxford mathematician, Dr Tom Crawford said: “These questions are designed to test your logical thinking. Whilst they may initially appear to be impenetrable, with some guidance hopefully you can see how to make progress towards the solution.”

Best of luck on racking your brians trying to solve these!



These are incredibly tough questions
These are incredibly tough questions

1. Stephanie’s Surprise

Stephanie has invited her friends Rowan and Colleen to her home and she tells them she has a hidden surprise under one of the blue squares. There’s one catch though, Stephanie has privately told Rowan the row number of the surprise and Colleen the column letter of the surprise.

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Everyone knows this, and here’s the conversation:

Rowan: I don’t know where the surprise is, but I also know that Colleen doesn’t know.



Stephanie’s Surprise - can you solve it?
Stephanie’s Surprise – can you solve it?

Colleen: Yes, indeed, at first I didn’t know the location of the surprise. But now I know where it is.

Rowan: In that case, I now also know where it must be.

Where do you think the surprise is? Put your brains to the test.

2. Tile Party

We’ve got another party for question number 2, and Shelia and Colin are trying to find a surprise hidden under the tiles

Each friend is privately told a piece of information about where the surprise is.



Another hidden surprise is under these tiles - but which one?
Another hidden surprise is under these tiles – but which one?
  • Sheila knows the shape of the tile.
  • Colin knows the colour of the tile.

It is commonly known by all that this and no other information is given.

Host: Do either of you know where the surprise is?

. . . Awkward long silence. . .

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Host: Do you know now?

. . . More awkward silence. . .

Sheila, Colin: (simultaneously): Now I know where it is!

Once again, where do you think the surprise is?

3. Alice’s Boxes

For question number three, Alice has invited her friends Caroline and Susan to her house and placed several boxes on the table before them.

There’s a small red box, medium red box, large black box, small blue box and a large blue box

Once again, there’s a bit of a common theme here, because Alice has told her friends that she’s put a gift in one of those boxes, and has secretly told Caroline the colour of the box and Susan the size of the box – they both know this.

This conversation follows:

Caroline: I don’t know which box contains the gift, and I also know that Susan doesn’t know.

Susan: I already knew before you spoke that you didn’t know which box contains the gift.

Caroline: Ah, now that you say that, it suddenly occurs to me which box must contain the gift.

The question is, which box actually contains the gift?

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These questions are all about revealing an individual’s personality, let alone their logical reasoning. It’s all about seeing the process unfold, not just who’s right and wrong. They are all from the famous mathematical philosopher Joel David Hamkins’ Oxford interview questions, so they’re a pretty big deal.

Dr Tom Crawford said: “With any admissions question, it’s always important to remember that during the interview the candidates will be given hints and tips to point them in the right direction – they are not expected to be able to do them immediately without any help.”

And talking of tips, Tom added: “I find it very helpful to break down each statement to determine what exactly it does, or doesn’t, tell you about the solution.

“For example on the first question, since Rowan is told the row of the surprise but says that he doesn’t know its location, it cannot be row three. So the information we can get from that first statement is ’not row three’.

“If you take a similar approach to all of the other statements, you can gradually rule out more and more possibilities leaving you with the correct solution.”


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