Classics (4 Years) @ Robinson, Cambridge in 2015

Interview format

3x interviews (45 mins each)

Interview content

First interview: general, submitted essay; Second interview: verbal unseen translation and discussion; Third interview: motivations, school work

Best preparation

Notes on books/areas I thought would come up; timeline

Final thoughts

Don't give up if you think one interview went badly

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 had 3 interviews on the same day. They were quite evenly spaced (the first was mid-morning and the last finished early evening) with comfortable breaks between them. All were a similar length, I think roughly 45 minutes. I wasn’t interviewed at the college I applied to because their Classics Director of Studies is at another college, which is where I had my first two interviews [NB The locations of my interviews were in Kings’ and Peterhouse, but I was applying to and made an offer by Robinson]. My third interview was at another different college; I was told that the Classics faculty interview everyone at a second college as well as the main one, I think for moderation?

Students greeted me in the waiting area and accompanied me to the first two interviews-they were really friendly. This was very similar at the third interview except I think I waited in the porters lodge instead. Each of the first two interviews had two interviewers- one would ask more questions and generally ‘lead’ the interview more than the other. The final interview just had one interviewer.

They were all subject based interviews and the second had a verbal unseen translation exercise as part of it.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In the first interview I was asked various questions about Classics, often on my opinion. One thing that surprised me was that I was asked about how an aspect of my submitted written work, which wasn’t on a Classics topic, could apply to Classics. In this interview I often felt like my answers were very vague and unimpressive as I wasn’t used to being asked what I thought.

In the second interview I was given a verbal unseen translation exercise. I could ask for vocabulary that I didn’t know and for grammatical points that I was unsure of. It involved a lot of thinking out loud which I enjoyed. I was then given the actual translation and we discussed the passage and how it could relate to other texts I had read. This was my favourite interview.

The third interview was the only time when I was asked why I wanted to study Classics, and after hearing my answer the interviewer suggested that I could have just done Latin within the English tripos (not in a mean way, he sounded like he wanted to be helpful). The interviewer was also interested that I had done an art-based extended project (not on a classics topic) and asked about whether I found a certain Roman author artistically inspiring, but I didn’t have much of a response to this as I don’t actually do much art.

How did you prepare?

I made notes on each author/area/book I thought they might ask about, trying to anticipate the questions they might ask. Some questions came up and some didn’t, but I think this was helpful.

Even though I didn’t need to use all of it, making a timeline of key dates/periods/authors made me feel a bit more confident.

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

It’s very hard to tell how your interview went and different interviewers can also be very different! I felt much better in the interview where I was given something to work with rather than the open ended questions, don’t give up if you feel the first one went badly because the next could be very different