Economics Interview Advice


Elizabeth Leong
Created: 3 weeks, 4 days ago
Last modified: 3 weeks, 4 days ago

So you’ve got an interview for Economics at Cambridge! To help you prepare we’ve compiled some of the best advice from successful Economics applicants, so you can get all the top tips in one place.

If you’re looking to learn more about the course from Cambridge themselves you can do so in this video 🔗 or from their website 🔗, and you can find much more advice from students on how to prepare an Economics application in our InsideUni Economics guide 🔗 🌟.

What could be asked?

What might you get asked at your interview? We trawled through all the testimonials given to us by past Economics applicants. Here is a list of some of the key things they have mentioned. (Of course, not all of these will be asked in a single interview!)

MATHS-FOCUSED QUESTIONS
These often require A Level Maths knowledge at most, which you will apply to economics concepts. Here are some areas covered in past interviews.
Graph-sketching, sometimes of difficult functions. Tip: try to figure out how the function behaves, for example by differentiating it or exploring its asymptotics.
Graph interpretation
Probability calculations
Simple game theory
Data interpretation

CURRENT ECONOMIC AFFAIRS DISCUSSION
Some interviewees received an article or paper on some of these topics prior to the interview, which they would then discuss with the interviewer. Other times, a general discussion on these topics proceeded without the provision of such readings.
Trade and tariffs
Exchange rates
Macroeconomic shocks
Aspects of economic development
Externalities
Production and productivity
Money

PERSONAL STATEMENT QUESTIONS
“Since I mentioned development economics and spoke about that in my personal statement, most of the interview centered around that. One of the fellows interviewing me had read the book I had mentioned and asked me about one of the arguments. It wasn't a very tricky question but would catch you out if you hadn't actually read the book.” - applicant to Sidney Sussex College. Full interview here 🔗.

How to prepare

“If you're looking for books to discuss in your personal statement, try hitting up the Cambridge, Oxford, LSE, UCL etc. reading lists for some inspiration/more rigour.” - applicant to Christ’s College. Full interview here 🔗.

“I would highly recommend keeping up with the news and trying online practice questions - don't try reading tons of new books now; instead consolidate all that you have done. Instead, make a list of everything you have done, whether by reading, lectures or work experience, and really make sure you know what you are talking about in those fields. Also go over your personal statement line by line and make sure you know exactly what you wrote, and that you can explain everything with examples.” - applicant to Sidney Sussex College. Full interview here 🔗.

“I'd recommend finding an area of economics that interests you, and read a couple of books within this area. [...] Try to avoid mentioning the popular books like 'The Undercover Economist' and 'Freakonomics' to stand out, though don't necessarily avoid reading them as they're [a] good, interesting introduction...Prepare an answer for ‘why economics’ as well as 1-2 questions you could ask at the end of the interview if you had chance...Practice actually speaking about your thoughts. This could be on your own but ideally with a friend/relative/teacher, even if they know nothing about economics. I found I had very little experience of doing this.” - applicant to Sidney Sussex College. Full interview here 🔗.

How does the admissions test relate to the interview?

In addition, here are some resources that successful applicants have used to prepare for both the interview and the Economics Admissions Assessment (ECAA).
ECAA Past Papers 🔗 🌟.
Similar admissions test papers, such as the Oxford Maths Admissions Test 🔗.
UKMT (United Kingdom Mathematics Trust) Senior Individual Challenge past papers 🔗.

Other advice for interview day

“The main takeaway for me after the interviews is that it genuinely is fine or even better to admit honestly the parts you are unsure or do not know about. It lets the interviewers know that you have room to grow. In my opinion, they're looking at your willingness/passion to learn about your subject and how malleable/adaptable you are in unfamiliar and challenging situations.” - applicant to Emmanuel College. Full interview here 🔗.

“Don't mention any words or concepts that you are not completely familiar with (I started talking about hysteresis, which I only knew a very vague definition of, the interviewers then asked me to define it which I really struggled with). Answer the question they've asked you, not the question you wish they'd asked you.” - applicant to Magdalene College. Full interview here 🔗.

“My advice would be not to worry if you get stuck on some of the questions - we all struggle while we’re nervous and the interviewers are really just looking for someone who would be enjoyable to teach and is eager to learn. Don’t worry too much about preparation because the interview is different for everyone!” - applicant to St Catharine’s College. Full interview here 🔗.

Advice from international applicants

In regular, non-COVID times, the University of Cambridge flies out its interviewers to certain international locations. As a result, some international students do a single in-person interview in their own home country.

This 🔗 is a testimonial from an applicant to Sidney Sussex College in 2017 who was interviewed in Singapore. Here 🔗 is another testimonial from an international applicant to Christ’s College in 2017.

If you would like to read the accounts of Economics applicants in full, we have many testimonials in the interviews section 🔗 🌟 of our website. You can find more general information about the interview and how to prepare a Cambridge application in this InsideUni guide 🔗 🌟, and the Cambridge University YouTube channel also has a video 🔗 about the interview process. Good luck with your application!