History And Modern Languages @ Pembroke, Cambridge in 2018

Interview format

HAA and MLAA; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: German; personal statement; Interview 2: History; pre-submitted essay

Best preparation

Practise papers and summarising ranodm articles in German

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Use mentoring schemes if possible; know every component of your application inside out; focus on source analysis skills

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

Test taken: History Admissions Assessment (HAA); the HAA before the interview, and Modern Languages Admission Assessment after both interviews

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between interviews: 1 hour 30 minutes

Length of first interview: 20 minutes; Length of second interview: 20 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

First Interview: This one was for German. I had one interviewer and a PhD student taking notes on me. The first question was about my personal statement as an easy introduction to the interview to cool my nerves. We then moved onto an extract in German that I had been given to read for about 10 minutes prior to the interview, and I was asked about who I thought the author was, their opinions and where they might be writing from. I then was asked some grammar questions; basic ones that tested my understanding of tenses, gender, cases and declension, and so on. We then spoke in German about the extract for about 5 minutes. I was then asked if I had any questions and it was over.

Second Interview: This was the history interview and it was in the same format. I had read extracts outside the room on a city in the 16th century from the opinion of three different people. In the interview I was asked in depth about these and asked to speculate on who the authors were, their position in society, the time it was written, and was also asked how I might investigate and substantiate my claims here: they want you to really be creative and pick apart the extract and speculate a lot on little things. We then spoke about my essay submission which was on the Korean War and I was asked in depth about my comments and arguments and asked about the differences between Russian and Chinese communism.

How did you prepare?

I used practice papers. For the History Admissions Assessment (HAA), I also used LNAT (Law National Aptitude Test) and TSA multiple choice questions as they were similar. For the MLAA I found random scholarly articles and summarised them in German (as this is 50% of the MLAA).

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I applied for a place on the Oxbridge Mentoring Scheme run by Insight Outreach. I cannot stress enough how useful this was and recommend any student that is eligible to apply take this up. I received some mock interviews from school but these weren't so useful.

Looking back, I think all humanities applicants need to know 1) their A-Level course (or equivalent); 2) their essay submissions; and 3) any books or historical periods mentioned in their personal statement absolutely inside and out. On top of this, your source analysis skills are by far the most important, so if you're doing an essay subject, focus on this in the interview because it's what they want to see.