Topic outline

  • The History Aptitude Test (HAT)

    hat image

    What is the History Aptitude Test (HAT)?


    The Colleges of Oxford University use a History Aptitude Test (HAT) in the selection of candidates for all degree courses involving History.

    This test, which aims to examine the skills and potential required for the study of History at university, gives us an objective basis for comparing candidates from different backgrounds, including mature applicants and those from different countries. It is designed to be challenging, in order to differentiate effectively between the most able applicants for university courses, including those who may have achieved or can be expected to achieve the highest possible grades in their examinations.

    From 2018 the History Aptitude Test will consist of one question based on an extract from a primary source, to be answered in one hour.

    Candidates will be asked to offer thoughtful interpetations of the source without knowing anything about its context. The HAT is a test of skills, not substantive historical knowledge. It is designed so that candidates should find it equally challenging, regardless of what period(s) they have studied or what school examinations they are taking.

  • An example of a Q3

  • How to prepare

    How to prepare

    It is worth looking at past papers and the mark schemes, to get a sense of how the test works. The test will not look easy – indeed, it will not be easy – but candidates are given plenty of time to read and re-read the text, to think about it, and to plan their answers. Candidates should not worry, therefore, if the past examples of the primary source question look difficult.  They probably look difficult to everyone else too. We hope that candidates will find the test interesting as well as tough. See below for some practice questions I would like you to attempt. 

  • HAT Q Papers

  • Analysing your personal statement for interview questions

    The personal statement of course provides a rich source of ideas for questions that the interviewers might be prompted to ask.

    It is important to analyse your personal statement and compile a list of salient questions that it suggests.

    Use family, friends and teachers to identify issues that may not have occurred to you.

  • Standard Oxbridge Interview Questions

    Interviewers at Oxford and Cambridge often try to put candidates at ease by first posing some simple, predictable 'ice-breaker' questions:

    Why have you applied for this course?, Why have you applied to Oxford/Cambridge?, Why have you applied to this college?

    So the very least you can do, by way of preparation, is to rehearse some sensible replies to these questions.

    The first of these is not as innocent as it might seem, by the way: it is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of exactly what kind of course you are applying for. A disastrous answer to this question would therefore be 'I know very little about the subject, which is precisely why I've applied - to satisfy my intellectual curiosity'.

    Other standard opening Oxbridge questions focus on eye-catching biographical details from the personal statement: 'Tell us about your collection of tarantulas'. Having someone examine your personal statement, and provide you with a list of likely questions, is good preparation.

  • Questions from the General Tutor

    Oxford and Cambridge college interviews often include a general tutor whose academic expertise is in another field, but who will help appraise the intellectual abilities and promise of the candidate.

    Their questions will therefore be of a more general nature:

    'What contribution do you think you might make to college life?', 'At the end of your time here, how should we measure your success?', 'Why should anyone go to university?'

  • Subject Specific Interview Questions

    • How do you organise a successful revolution? (molivam42's weblog) 
    • Is there such thing as 'race'? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • How would you compare Henry VIII and Stalin? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • In the 1920s did the invention of the Henry Ford car lead to a national sub-culture or was it just an aspect of one? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Should historians be allowed to read sci-fi novels? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Do you think that all of History is a History of Thought? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Would History be worth studying if it didn’t repeat itself? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Is national character a useful concept in History? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • How can one define a revolution? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • How would a biography of a major political figure written while they are alive differ from one written after their death? Which would be the more accurate assessment of their contribution to history? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Imagine we had no records about the past at all, except everything to do with sport – how much of the past could we find out about? (Oxford University website)
    • Which person (or sort of person) in the past would you most like to interview, and why? (Oxford University website)
    • Is violence always political? Does 'political' mean something different in different contexts? (Oxford University website)
    • Can history stop the next war? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What trees did Disraeli plant at Hughenden Manor? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Why are you sitting in this chair? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • When was the English monarchy at its strongest? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Do you think the Bavarian peasants of 1848 had an ideology? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Why did Henry VIII call his son Arthur? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Why is it OK for one country to intervene in another? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Who writes history? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Is History moving away from the study of great men to that of ordinary people? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Do you think the government should spend money preserving historical sites? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • How would you research illiterate medieval craftsmen? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What are the origins of your Christian name? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What is the difference between modern history and modern politics? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What is the position of the individual in history? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • How do historians obtain evidence? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Do you feel historical artefacts belong in the country of their origin? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What is the most useful source for a historian? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • How much of the past can you count? (Oxford University website )
    • Is humanity destined to repeat the mistakes of history?' -( Classical archaeology and ancient history, Cambridge, The Student Room)
    • What do you think of Ben Elton? (Cambridge interview - The Student Room)
    • Can the American political system be compared to the feudal system of the medieval age? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Can you see a connection between Britain’s 'euro-skepticism' and its obsession with teaching about Nazism? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Has the French revolution ended? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • If you could interview anyone from history, who would it be? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Was Hitler really evil? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Was it more detrimental or beneficial to Elizabeth 1's image to align herself with the virgin Mary? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Is the Stansted expansion was a good idea?  (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Is Christianity solely about salvation?  (modern history, Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • Were the Russian peasants mystically connected to the countryside? (modern history, Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • What are the parallels between totalitarian control in the Nazi state and forms of control in the western world today? (modern history, Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • What can we learn from the south wall of Warwick castle? (modern history, Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
    • do you think the dumbing down of history for television and in museums is a good thing?  (Oxbridge Applications)
    • history repeats itself in paragraphs rather than sentences  (Oxbridge Applications)
    • how would one apply effective governmental systems to Mongolia?  (Oxbridge Applications)
    • was Russia just too damn big for democracy?   (Oxbridge Applications)
    • what is your view on women in the second world war, eg. any gains?   (Oxbridge Applications)
    • why do archaeologists love pots so much?   (Oxbridge Applications)
    • What can historians not find out about the past? (Oxford University website)
  • Joint Schools Questions

    Law: Oxford & Cambridge Interview Questions

    • What are the for and against arguments for bicycle helmets?' (The Student Room)
    • What does it mean for someone to ‘take’ another's car? (Oxford University Website)
    • If a wife had expressed distaste for it previously, would her husband’s habit of putting marmalade in his egg at breakfast be grounds for divorce? (molivam42's weblog)
    • If my friend locks me in a room, and says I am free to come out whenever I like as long as I pay £5, is this a deprivation of liberty? (molivam42's weblog)
    • What effect on the whole of society does someone crashing into a lamppost have? (molivam42's weblog)
    • Does a girl scout have a political agenda? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Should the use of mobile phones be banned on public transport? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Where does honesty fit into Law? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Define 'at fault'. (Oxbridge Applications)
    • How do you think the House of Lords should be reformed? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Reduction of an article of 1,300 words to 150-200 words. (Oxbridge Applications)
    • What have you read in the papers recently that relates to international law? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • What is the difference between intention and foresight? (Oxbridge applications)
    • What is best: a written or non-written constitution? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • Explain Naomi Campbell's life? (Oxbridge Applications)
    • If the punishment for parking on double yellow lines were death, and therefore nobody did it, would that be a just and effective law? (Oxford University website)  (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Can you imagine a world without laws? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Describe ‘respect for the freedom of conscience.’ (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Can a computer have a conscience? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Should judges have a legislative role? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What do you think the uses of traffic lights are? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Smith sees Jones walking towards the edge of a cliff. Smith knows Jones is blind, but doesn;t like him, so allows him to walk off the edge. Is this murder? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • If A gave B £100 thinking it was a loan and B accepted the money thinking it was a gift, should he give it back? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • What is reasonable belief? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Where do you see International Law in fifty years’ time? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Is wearing school uniform a breach of human rights? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Is someone guilty of an offence if they did not set out to commit a crime but ended up in doing so? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Would you trade your scarf for my bike, even if you have no idea what state it’s in or if I even have one? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • If you could go back in time to any period of time when it would be and why? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Should anyone be able to serve on a jury? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Compare these bottles of Tesco and Timotei shampoo. (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Where does the state have the right to violate privacy? (Oxford Interview Questions)
    • Do you think courts are like theatres? (Cambridge interview - The Student Room)
    • Does law create morality or does morality create law? (Cambridge interview - The Student Room)
    • How comfortable is that chair? (Cambridge interview - The Student Room)
    • Should judges be able to over-rule decisions made by parliament? (Cambridge interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • a man, who is stuck in a burning house, calls to you and offers to pay you a lot of money if you save him. however, upon saving him, he refuses to pay you this money. can you sue him? (Cambridge interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • what is the difference between a rule, a command and a request? (Cambridge interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • what is the meaning of life? (Cambridge interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • Who do you most admire and why? (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • If a bank manager tells me I have £100 in my account when I actually have £90, and I go out and spend £100 thinking I have that amount, who is at fault and should I have to pay the money back to the bank? (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • If I said Manchester won a football match believing without a doubt that this was true but actually Chelsea won, was I lying? (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    •  if a man was in prison and dying, would it be right to kill him and give his organs to seven or so people?  (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • if there is a baby in a supermarket with a bomb strapped to it, would you shoot the baby to save x no of people?  (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • you’re in a desert and 2 enemies are working independently. one poisons your water bottle, the other then tips the water out (not knowing it was poisoned). you walk out into the desert and die of thirst. which one is guilty of murder?  (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • your old aunt Ethel has given you too much money for your birthday and you're aware of her mistake. she's getting on a bit so what should you do? what does that law require you to do?  (Oxford interview - Oxbridge applications)
    • English Language: Oxford & Cambridge Interview Questions

      • Why might it be useful for an English student to read the Twilight series? (Oxford University Website)
      • Why do you think an English student might be interested in the fact that Coronation Street has been running for 50 years? (Oxford University Website)
      • What books are bad for you? (Oxford University Website)
      • Why do we read literature? (Oxbridge Applications)
      • Read and date this short, anonymous poem. Who do you think wrote it? Comment on use of imagery used and its effect; does this poem remind you of anything you've read? (Oxbridge Applications)
      • Do you think the ending of 'The Mill On The Floss' is poor? (Oxbridge Applications)
      • George Orwell’s 1984 – is it still relevant? How does it relate to the media, politics and surveillance?  (Oxbridge Applications)
      • JK Rowling has just published a book for adults after the hugely successful Harry Potter series. In what ways do you think that writing for children is different to writing for adults? (Oxford University website)
      • Do you think children's literature should be studied at university level?  (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
      • compare Stephen hero and Stephen daedalus to beavis and butthead (Oxbridge Applications)
      • PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics)

          • Is there essentially any difference between taxation and the state taking away one of your arms? (submitted by Oxford applicant).
          • Do you really consent to any government given that there is barely anywhere in the world to escape some government or other? (submitted by Oxford applicant).
          • Put a monetary value on this teapot? (molivam42's weblog)
          • If you’re not in California, how do you know it exists? (molivam42's weblog)
          • Is it a matter of fact or knowledge that time travels in only one direction? (Oxbridge Applications)
          • Differentiate between power and authority. (Oxbridge Applications)
          • Why do we need government? (Oxbridge Applications)
          • Would it be feasible to have an economy entirely based on the service sector? (Oxbridge Applications)
          • Do you believe in free will? How far does it extend to - an oyster, for example? (Oxbridge Applications)
          • Are you cool? (Oxbridge Applications)
          • If there were three beautiful, naked women standing in front of you, which one would you pick? Does this have any relevance to economics? (Oxbridge Applicants).
          • What have you enjoyed most about your A Level Economics course? (The Student Room)
          • Do animals think? (mumsnet)
          • How do you measure the success of a political voting system? (mumsnet)
          • If a Martian drops money across the country, does inflation go up? (mumsnet)
          • Convince me you are real and not just in my dreams? (Not in the biblical sense!) (mumsnet)
          • When I was at school in the 1970s, there was talk of a pensions crisis that would one day hit. The talk persisted in the 1980s, and the 1990s – and then there was a pensions crisis, and little had been done politically to prepare us for it. Is there a fault with the British political system that means we can't sensibly address serious medium and long-term problems when they are identified? (Oxford University website)
          • I'm having trouble with the meaning of three words: Lie, Deceive, Mislead. They seem to mean something a bit similar, but not exactly the same. Help me to sort them out from each other. (Oxford University website)
          • is it possible for a society to exist in which everyone lies all the time? why? (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • define 'cruelty'  (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • if there were three beautiful, naked women standing in front of you, which one would you pick? does this have any relevance to economics? (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • of all nineteenth century politicians which was most like Tony Blair?  (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • put a monetary value on this teapot! (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • would you describe the following as 'traditional British values'? drinking tea, eating roast beef and hitting school children.  (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • what do you think of gay couples adopting?  (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • What exactly do you think is involved in blaming someone? (Oxford University website)
          • a person with 50 k is rich. a person with n pounds is rich and a person with n-1 pounds is also rich. so a person with 1 pound is rich. I then had to falsify I   (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
          • think of a question that you have prepared an answer to, ask yourself the question and show us how you would answer it in a logical fashion 
        (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)