1) Reading about interviews isn't a substitute for subject preperation. Read them for guidance but remember to do the work and know your subject materials.

2) Someone else's experience will not necessarily reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and, like any conversation, they can be highly personal.

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences | St John's College | 2016

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Interview details

Application outcome: Succesful - Direct offer
Interview type: Pre-Christmas Interview

Interview format

2x interviews

Interview content

First interview: general, personal statement; Second interview: personal statement, motivations, specific technical questions

Advice in hindsight

Less psychology than expected; read what you say you have on your personal statement

Best preparation

Online info; videos about interviews

Final thoughts

Try to enjoy it

Something missing?

1) Reading about interviews isn't a substitute for knowledge. Read them for guidance but remember to do the work and know your subject materials.

2) Someone else's experience will not necessarily reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they can be highly personal.

The Cambridge application has changed in recent years to reflect the new A-Level system. Check the official Cambridge website for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests. Remember this advice isn't official and there is no guarantee it will reflect your experience.

Read our subject resource guide for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences. Keep an eye out for new interviews, we are adding them daily.

Interview Format​

My interviews were in December. I had two of them in one morning. Since I'm not from the UK, I was allowed to spend the night in college, so I arrived there the day before. I was told a few days earlier in an email where I had to go. I didn't know the college yet so it was quite stressful finding the places for the interview. I actually went to the wrong place at the beginning and realised only a couple of minutes before the interview was supposed to start. I had to run all the way to the right place. Hopefully they were behind schedule so noone noticed I was late...

The first interview was just with one person, who ended up being my tutor next year. He said that this interview wasn't very important and it was only to get us prepared for the next one. It lasted around half an hour. In my second interview I had 2 interviewers, my director of studies and another man. This interview was also supposed to be half and hour long, although it went for a bit longer at the end.

Interview content

In my first interview, I was asked general questions about my personal statement, about the subjects I was doing at school and, since I'm an international student, about how the baccalaureate works in my country. Then he said a riddle and asked me what was the solution. He said it was to makes us less nervous and get our minds working and active for the next interview. However, I thought having to solve a riddle was quite stressful. Thinking about it now, I don't think it really mattered if we got the answer right or not.

In my second interview, since I hadn't done any psychology before, they didn't ask any questions about my course. At the beginning, we talked about my personal statement and about my hobbies. Then I was asked what my motivations for studying Pyschology. Lastly, they showed me a couple of graphs (the graphs weren't related to psychology at all) and we discussed them. They asked a few questions related to them and explained a few things that I didn't know or didn't see in the graphs. I was very nervous at the beginning, but it ended up being quite nice. It felt like a normal conversation at some points. Sometimes I didn't know how to say some technical words (English is not my first language) and they were okay with me explaining myself with signs. In those cases, they would help me and tell me the right word. It was all very natural. It didn't matter if you knew the things or not, I think they cared more if you were pasionated and enthusiastic about the course.

Advice in hindsight

I was surprised I wasn't asked any psychology questions. Apparently, they don't expect you to know anything about psychology before you start, so there is no need to prepare for course-specific questions if you haven't done psychology at school. They sometimes ask very random questions, so be ready to be surprised. You won't understand why they are asking that, but I guess they have their reasons.

My biggest mistake was not reading everything I said I would read in my personal statement. I thought I would have time to do it but I didn't. Don't say you're going to do something unless you're 100% sure you will be able to. However, if you end up making the same mistake as me and say that you were going to do something that you didn't have time to do, admit in the interview that you haven't done it. It will look quite bad, but it is better to be honest. They will probably find out anyway if you lie.

Best preparation

I can't remember properly, but I mostly read the information they had in the Cambridge website. I also watched some YouTube videos about it. Some were uploaded by Cambridge, but there are some made by current students talking about their personal experiences that were helpful too.

Final thoughts

This is such a typical thing to say, but try to enjoy your interview. You are obviously going to be nervous, but try to forget that you are interviewing for Cambridge and just be yourself. It really doesn't matter if you don't know everything. If you get things wrong they will just explain them to you and it will be okay. They actually like seeing that you are open to learn new things and that you are okay with yourself not knowing everything. Try to enjoy it as much as possible because, at the end, even if you don't get in, it is an amazing experience.

Image Credits

Image by Akil Hashmi

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