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.
Test taken: Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP)
Number of interviews: 2
Skype interview: no
Time between interviews: about 2-3 hours
Length of first interview: 30 minutes; Length of second interview: 30 minutes
Both interviews were exclusively maths questions.
In the first, I was asked to sketch a series of graphs, the first of which was a basic A-level one which was extended and added to several times until I had to draw quite a difficult graph. I then had an interesting probability question and then one related to game theory, both of which were completely off-syllabus but I coped quite well with them. The interviewers were also really helpful and nice and tried to help me when I seemed unsure. I left the interview feeling pretty happy with how I’d done as I didn’t have any massive problems with anything asked.
The second interview started with a pretty challenging integration question which I managed but it was difficult. This was followed immediately by a
I then tried something slightly different but was told this wouldn’t work either. At this stage I had no idea what to do so they gave me a hint but I really didn’t see how it helped and continued floundering for a bit. They then tried to help me further but I just didn’t get the question. It was pretty awkward but I made sure I carried on trying things and suggesting ideas even if I thought they were long shots. I never actually finished the question and we eventually moved on.
The interview finished with a question on proof which was really quick and felt like it was asked just to make it to 30 mins. I left this interview thinking I’d completely messed up my application because of the second question, but upon reflection I feel like very few would have answered it without problems and what they were looking for was how you dealt with something you couldn’t do and whether you gave up or kept trying things.
I also wonder whether the second interview was so hard and the interviewers more
I also then had an at-interview test which went really well and was in the
My early prep for
The real STEP prep
The majority of my time between January and the A-Level exams was spent working on STEP through basically every paper (1, 2 and 3) from about the 90s to the present day. I think I started timed mocks from the 2012 series onwards, under conditions as close to exam conditions possible. I did a few A-Level papers to keep familiar with that format.
I’d recommend attending the STEP help day at Cambridge, the Warwick STEP days, and any other outreach STEP events available. Check with your
I also recommend stalking the STEP prep thread on the Student Room forum for some useful tips/info. And if you’ve got time, read through last year’s thread, as a lot of it will still be relevant and useful.
For the interview, I contacted a local private school and asked if I could join in with the
I also did practice interviews with my dad, but he didn’t really know what he was on about and I was comfortable around him, so I don’t think these were as helpful (still worth doing though, it’s better than nothing, and some people also find this more helpful).
Other than this, practicing maths problems on the
I’d advise reading around the subject and not putting anything you don’t understand on your personal statement. I didn’t get asked about my personal statement during the interview, but I’ve heard from people who did and found it awkward because they weren’t really experts in topics they’d spoken about on their PS.
My main tip is to try to stay calm. If you go into the interview trying to learn something and treat it as a