Surprising interview questions

When our students go to university interviews, they are warned about ‘the doorknob question’— the one that is asked when they think most of the interview is over.  Here is a selection of such questions from recent years:

  • How would you define the word sleep?
  • Did the Vikings go into the Black Sea?
  • What was the agenda of Lars Porsenna?
  • Did Shakespeare use soap?
  • What is a parsec?
  • Please define the word fire.
  • What prompted the peasants to revolt?
  • How would you distinguish power from authority?
  • Please point out Byzantium on this map.
  • Did Jane Austen wear a bra?
  • What does the word planet originally mean?
  • What was the capital city of England before London?
  • How does a historian differ from a journalist?
  • Was Jean-Jacques Rousseau an atheist?
  • Who gave the star Aldebaran its name?
  • What does the name Australia mean?
  • Please multiply thirteen by seventeen.
  • ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Do you agree?

The last one was at the very end of an interview: the candidate was applying to read medicine.