History And Modern Languages @ Selwyn, Cambridge in 2017

Interview format

3x interviews and 2x assessments

Interview content

Submitted essays discusion; personal statement focus (Interview partially in French)

Best preparation

Understand what you're talking about

Final thoughts

Focus on yourself

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 interviews lasted a day in total - instead of staying overnight in college I drove down that morning. This isn't something I'd recommend, but it just about worked. I had two subject interviews, one general interview and a Modern Languages Admissions Assessment (I'd already done a history one earlier). My subject interviews were each led by two interviewers, while my general interview was only with one. All three interviews felt very friendly and relaxed, almost like a chat with a subject teacher.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

For the history interview, we discussed an essay I'd submitted and I was asked to clarify, analyse and even question many of the points I'd made. I was asked to explain some of the more specialised parts to the interviewers, who weren't as knowledgeable on this area as I'd expected. This was a challenge and I left feeling a little shaky, but I managed.

French: We discussed various research topics from my personal statement. I really enjoyed this and found it quite interesting. Part of the interview was conducted in French, which was challenging but exciting - I had to read a literary extract out loud and then discuss it.

General: We mostly just chatted about what I intended to pursue in college, as well as a bit about my approach to my studies.

How did you prepare?

I read books on the subject material - but not too many. Instead, I made sure I really thought about what I was reading and that I understood it fully. I completed an independent research project involving both of my subjects, which then ended up forming part of my interviews. I also attended prep sessions with various teachers at my school.

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

Make sure you eat well and drink plenty of water - you need the energy and talking all day can make your throat quite dry. Take some time to explore your college grounds when you have the chance, but don't focus too much on other candidates - it's fine to make friends, but worrying about how others have done will only make you more nervous. A word about caffeine...use it sparingly, even if you're on limited sleep. Shaky hands or jittery speech in an interview are never a good thing for nerves.