So you’ve got an interview for Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge! To help you prepare we’ve compiled some of the best advice from successful HSPS 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 advice from students on how to prepare a HSPS application in our InsideUni course guide 🔗 🌟.
“It’s important to vary what you are listening to in my opinion. Even if you hate what someone is saying, it’s a good idea to listen and think about the validity of their argument and your argument against them.” - applicant to Newnham College. Full interview here 🔗.
“I read several books around my subject and practised articulating what I thought about them out loud... for all the advice I was given the best thing I was told in preparation was that I should treat it as if it was a conversation, so to prepare, have lots of conversations!” - applicant to Christ’s College. Full interview here 🔗.
“A few days before my interview, I rigorously reviewed everything I had mentioned in my personal statement, SAQ and the examples of class work essays I had sent in... I found it made me a lot less nervous knowing that I could remember all of my personal statement etc. inside out in case I was asked about that!” - applicant to Peterhouse College. Full interview here 🔗.
“I read over the essays I had submitted and made sure I knew the topics I spoke about in my writing well. I also tried to follow the news more closely than usual during the weeks preceding my interview just in case I would be quizzed on anything, or there was anything that I could use to illustrate my points!” - applicant to Christ’s College. Full interview here 🔗.
“You can never really know what they’re going to ask you, and chances are they won’t expect you to know the answer. They want to see how you think, how you make connections with what you already know. “ - applicant to King’s College. Full interview here 🔗.
"Get as comfortable as possible with both writing and talking through ideas. It sounds really simple but interviews aren't looking for right answers like exams are. They want to see how you think and if you can take an idea and run with it.” - applicant to Homerton College. Full interview here 🔗.
“The interviewers obviously don’t expect you to be experts in the topics, just that you have an awareness of the world around you and can decide on an argument and argue it. Throughout the interview, my opinions were challenged and thinking and defending myself was a main part of the interview.” - applicant to King’s College. Full interview here 🔗
“I often didn't know how to answer their questions initially, but once I'd said something they could springboard off this either to help push me in the right direction or to make me rethink, so they always guided me to an answer in the end...You do relax into it but try and go in with confidence, they just want to see how you think and what you're interested in. If they're pushing you they think you can go further and that's a good thing, so don't panic!” - applicant to Sidney Sussex College. Full interview here 🔗.
“It is important to articulate what you're thinking as if you are on the wrong track they can help you out. Never say you don't know! However challenging the question, the interviewers will only be able to help you if you have said what you think, for example, how you would answer it or what information you think you need to answer the question.” - applicant to Christ’s College. Full interview here 🔗.
“If you're asked a question, try and come up with an answer even if you don't think it's 'smart enough', your interviewers can help you once you've said something by asking you more questions or giving you more info so just think out loud… Be confident - you were invited to interview for a reason! It's as much about you seeing if you like their teaching style as it is them assessing you.” - applicant to Sidney Sussex College. Full interview here 🔗.
“If you’re not sure, ASK! The interview isn’t a test of your intelligence, but rather of your ability to thrive in an Oxbridge supervision based setting, and supervisions are all about learning new things and building on your knowledge.” - applicant to Christ’s College. Full interview here 🔗.
“At the end of the day, keeping the passion for your subject at the centre of the application process will mean that you make all of the decisions that are authentic and right for you. The interviewers are not looking for someone who already knows everything about their subject - they are looking for someone with the potential to learn!” - applicant to Peterhouse College. Full interview here 🔗
“You shouldn't feel like you are 'less prepared' than anyone else if you haven't taken particular subjects during 6th form, you'll definitely find a way to include what you've learned in your answers and being able to do this creatively is a great skill.” - applicant to Christ’s College. Full interview here 🔗.
“My advice would be to try to make yourself as relaxed and comfortable as possible and just try to treat it as a normal school day. For example, I wore what I would normally wear to sixth form and when I got really nervous between the interviews I ate some McDonald's and listened to my favourite Spotify playlist to make me feel more relaxed and at home.” - applicant to College. Full interview here 🔗.
If you would like to read the accounts of Human, Social and Political Sciences applicants in full, we have a huge selection of testimonials in the interviews section 🔗 🌟 of our website. You can find more general information about the interview and how to prepare a Cambridge application here 🔗 🌟, and the Cambridge University YouTube channel also has a video 🔗 about the interview process. Good luck with your application!