Music @ Queens', Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

1 interview

Interview content

Interview 1: subject discussion

Best preparation

Discussing music with people

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Listening to a range of music

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: none<\p>

Number of interviews: 1

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: N/A

Length of interview: 1 hour 20 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

We talked a lot about the canon and particular composers, as well as issues such as time management. There was also a handout with various scores which I had to analyse, for example guessing the period or potential composer. We also went through the exam I sat that morning to discuss where I went wrong

There was no real theme to the interview - I only had one interview so it was all covered there. There was very little focus on the personal statement.

I was nervous before going in but it genuinely was a positive experience, and within about 10 minutes I had relaxed. The atmosphere was chatty and both interviewers were exceptionally friendly. I was expecting it to be a more stressful environment, but it really was relaxing. I was also expecting much more difficult questions than they were (although they certainly weren't easy).

How did you prepare?

I didn't take an official test, but got given an exam to complete on interview day. The description of the exam we were given was very vague so I just focused on preparing for the interview itself. I would advise revising lots of harmony (Grade 8-ish standard) and getting to know Bach chorales, but the written questions couldn't really be prepared for.

I prepared for the interview by learning a lot of contextual information about anything that I had written in my personal statement, as well as just talking through a lot of things I learnt with anyone that would listen. I also read the texts I put on my personal statement several times. (Note that I only put a chapter each from 2 different books down - the less you say reading-wise, the less they can grill you on!)

Actually putting your thoughts into words with someone, especially if that person was willing to ask questions and get you to prove your points, proved a great help. The best thing I did was having a mock interview with my Music teacher at school; he gave really great feedback, and it was good to prepare with someone who knew lots about the subject areas. Even just talking with parents and friends about music was really useful.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

If I was to do anything differently, I would have listened to more music than I had. A lot of the questions were repertoire-based and I fell into a lot of traps through a lack of familiarity with these repertoires. In hindsight, I would have made a playlist with lots of different musical examples (from Medieval to today) and had them on all the time (in the car, on the walk to school etc.). I would also have learnt a few contextual/analytical facts about each (maybe just a few notes from the Wikipedia page) so I could have spoken about them in a little detail. However, for the facts I did learn I don't think they helped me at all really - most of the things I learned I never used (and haven't used since). They are looking for how you think and respond to criticisms, not how much you know.