Asian And Middle Eastern Studies @ Emmanuel, Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

Your interviews may be in the faculty

Interview content

Your personal statement is usually key to your interview!

Best preparation

You are able to prepare by yourself by knowing your personal statement and reading around your subject

Final thoughts

Don't try to read the interviewer, it doesn't help to concentrate on them!

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

I arrived at Emmanuel in the morning and was greeted by student helpers who took me to the old library to wait for my interview. The first interview I had was at the college - no matter which branch of AMES you apply to, you will have the same interviewers in college, who may not be members of the faculty (we are a small faculty after all). Don’t worry though, this first interview is normally about your personal statement, not about anything that requires specialist knowledge too much. Later that day I had a second email in the faculty of AMES, with lecturers from the faculty. These interviews will be no more than half an hour long, and it will be finished before you know it. Do not worry about how long your interview is, it doesn’t affect your chance of getting in!

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The first interview was about my personal statement, so make sure you are prepared to be questioned on it. The second interview was more based on Japanese, my branch of AMES, but still had a continued focus on the personal statement. The interviewers assume no knowledge of your subject, outside of your personal statement of course, so that will drive your interviews. Don’t worry, you won’t be asked to speak in the language you will be studying (unless you say something like you are fluent in your personal statement!), but you will be asked about almost everything in your personal statement. Personally I did have a language aptitude test in my second interview, but I cannot say that will definitely happen, as even some people within my own branch of AMES didn’t receive one, never mind across the whole faculty.

Both interviews were interesting and challenging as I could debate my views with someone and I think it was an intellectually stimulating experience.

How did you prepare?

Because Japanese and AMES as a whole is very niche, there is not a lot of published material I could have used. Of course talking to current students would be really helpful, but I wasn’t in a position to do that. My best advice would be to know your personal statement inside out, and be willing to answer questions on any of it. A really good tip I was given was to go through any books you’ve said you’ve read (and please please make sure you’ve read them!) and make a bullet point list of the main points given, which you can then look over the night before. Being able to disagree/agree with a book’s point and defend your opinion will be a very useful skill to practice. If your school is able to set up practice interviews then make use of them, because being in an interview can be a very stressful experience, and having some form of practice cannot hurt.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

I’d just say not to worry too much, to be yourself, and to not overthink your interviews once they’re over. I got half way through my language aptitude test before the interviewer took it off me and ended the interview (granted, it was the last thing to do in the interview anyway). As you would assume, I thought I had completely failed. However, I then got in, and it turns out that the interviewer in question took the paper away because they thought I was doing well enough that there was no point in finishing it. My point is that it is very difficult to read an interviewer, so don’t even try. You’ll save yourself a lot of anxiety if you just treat it as a done job and realise that you can’t change anything once you’re done. Other than that, what you wear to interview really doesn’t matter, within reason. If you feel comfortable in a suit, wear a suit. If you feel comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, wear that. I went for a suit because up until that point I had done all the major stressful moments in my life (I.e. exams) in my school uniform, so that’s what I was most comfortable in. But your sense of dress (and for that matter any other things unrelated to your potential as a student) will not affect your chances of getting in.