Classics (4 Years) @ Churchill, Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

2 x interviews (30 mins each); 1 written test (1 hour)

Interview content

Translated a text and discussed its content, personal statement.

Best preparation

<issueMockInt>Mock interview</issueMockInt>, reading beyond the curriculum.

Final thoughts

Don't overthink how the interview went, know your stuff, enjoy the opportunity.

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

My interview day was in early December. I arrived at the college fairly late the night before and was shown to accommodation by a student. The day itself started with an interview in the morning, a short break followed by a written test (about an hour long, in a small hall with one other test-taker and an invigilator). I then walked into town for lunch, before a second interview at St. Catharine's, with a fellow and a PhD student. Both interviews lasted about 30 minutes.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The first interview included a test of my Latin reading ability (reading a passage without preparation, though asking questions and thinking out loud was encouraged), we spoke about my personal statement and analysis of a picture of some art. I felt slightly anxious (and sometimes a little foolish) during the interview - in retrospect I could have prepared better around my personal statement especially - but the interview went generally well.

The written test was the most relaxed moment of the day, a passage to translate, which was easier than any of the A-Level exams I'd seen before. I confidently finished it in half the time and checked it thoroughly.

The second interview was a discussion, prompted by a few comments in my personal statement, about translation and interpretation. I still felt a little out of my depth and challenged by the discussion (especially since it was two-on-one), but I generally enjoyed taking a wider look at the subject and discussing issues surrounding the study of history and nature of translation. This was probably the best part of the day and was actually fairly similar (in terms of the way the discussion flowed and went through questions) to many supervisions I've since had.

How did you prepare?

My school organised a practice interview (over the phone) with an ex-student, which was really close to the actual thing and by far the most useful specific preparation. Other than that, doing some reading beyond the curriculum.

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

Above all, I wouldn't worry or overthink about how you feel the interviews went - you can't tell what the interviewers are thinking or how hard they're pushing you compared to everyone else. You definitely need to know your stuff when it comes to what you're already studying (at least, more general things like language, not necessarily 'facts' or specific topics) and have a healthy interest in topics beyond that curriculum, but otherwise I'd say you should treat the interviews as rare opportunities to discuss your academic interest with people who know the subject really well.