Claire, 2nd Year, Theology
Hi, I’m Claire and I’ve just finished my first year studying Theology at Worcester. Worcester is a great place to study Theology, as it has a real family atmosphere. Theologians here have dinners together, and lots of informal socials, so everyone knows each other well. Hopefully your social life won’t be limited to Theology fun though, because despite the heavy workload, you’ll find there’s always time for sports, music, drama, nights out or whatever else you feel like doing.
When I applied to study Theology I picked a subject that I was interested in but had very little experience of studying. To show the tutors I was serious about it, I read a book on a topic I was interested in, and started to teach myself a bit of Greek. At the interviews, the tutors wanted to see whether I could talk about and analyse unfamiliar texts, both Biblical and modern. We talked about things I was interested in, and about the essays I had submitted.
Theologians take Prelims, our first year exams, at the end of Hilary term which is just before Easter. This means two terms of hard work, but a more relaxing summer term while everyone else is doing exams. For Prelims, we study a language, either Greek or Hebrew, and two other papers – at Worcester, most people choose Old Testament because this is taught by our college tutor, and a second choice from a few other papers. We go to lectures for each paper, probably two or three a week for each one. These are not compulsory but they’re helpful as everything you pick up from lectures is the material that examiners want you to know. Language classes are intense, but everyone gets there in the end. If you’re not used to studying languages already, getting a head start is helpful – but whatever your experience, it IS possible to learn Biblical languages.
The focus of our studying is the tutorial system, and tutorials do feel intimidating at first but you soon find your confidence. Usually they’ll be in pairs, but it’s not unusual to have them alone. You’ll be given a topic, which you may know nothing about, and a reading list, and have a week to prepare an essay on it, about 2000 to 3000 words depending on the tutor. There is a lot of support between theologians, so if you struggle with any essays, students from higher years are happy to give advice.
The Theology course in Oxford has a lot of scope. After prelims (first year exams) there is more choice about the rest of the course – you can take up a second language or give them up entirely, you can choose more Biblical papers, do a whole paper on one theologian, or focus on religions other than Christianity.
So don’t be daunted by the idea of interviews or tutorials, or even by Oxford itself – if you think you’d enjoy studying Theology here, and you’re prepared to work hard, give it a go. Just applying is a worthwhile experience, and if all goes well, you could find yourself studying one of the oldest and yet most relevant academic subjects, in a world-renowned university. It’s worth going for it!