1) Reading about interviews isn't a substitute for subject preperation. Read them for guidance but remember to do the work and know your subject materials.

2) Someone else's experience will not necessarily reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and, like any conversation, they can be highly personal.

Natural Sciences (Physical) | Sidney Sussex College | 2017

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Interview details

Application outcome: succesfulDirect
Interview type: directInterview

Interview format

2x interviews

Interview content

Talking through problems; graph sketching

Advice in hindsight

Don't let people talking in the waiting room put you off

Best preparation

Be confident in your learning up to this point

Final thoughts

Show you are teachable; being invited to interview is a sign you're capable

Something missing?

1) Reading about interviews isn't a substitute for knowledge. Read them for guidance but remember to do the work and know your subject materials.

2) Someone else's experience will not necessarily reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they can be highly personal.

Remember this advice isn't official and there is no guarantee it will reflect your experience. The Cambridge application has changed in recent years to reflect the new A-Level system. Check the official Cambridge website for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Read our subject resource guide for Natural Sciences (Physical). Keep an eye out for new interviews, we are adding them daily.

Interview Format​

For Natural Sciences at Sidney you will have already sat a test so there are no admissions assessments to sit on the day. There were students sat in the main entrance to college right opposite Sainsbury's who checked my name off and guided me to the JCR. Inside the JCR you wait for you interview time with other people being interviewed at the same time and some current Sidney students who have chosen to stay on later to help out. The students are there to help you find your interviews and make you feel comfortable but also to ensure no one discusses the content of their interview in a way that advantages anyone unfairly.

Keep an eye on the time and ask a student to walk you to your interview room with plenty of time to spare. You can check with them how long it will take to get there when you first arrive but aim to be there 5-10 minutes beforehand. No one will prompt you to leave as they don't know when everyones interviews are so its up to you to be outside the room for when the interviewers open the door to call you in.

You'll normally be told the type of interview you'll have and who your interviewers will be in your invitation email so I had a Chemistry interview and a Maths/Physics interview each with two academics.

My advice to prepare for interview would be to know your A level/equivalent content covered so far inside out and back to front. Personally I wasn't asked anything personal statement related but this isn't necessarily representative.

Interview content

Generally speaking you will just work through problems, thinking aloud. Do not be afraid to ask for or take prompts. In my maths interview I felt like the interviewers had done more of the problem than me but here I am! My maths and physics interview felt genuinely diabolical and I was sure I had thrown it all away - so its just another one of those "you never know" stories that I should have listened to when I was applying.

I felt quite confident after my chemistry interview mostly due to how well I knew the content around what they were asking. It is worth having a planned approach to the stereotypical Cambridge interview questions just incase you are asked one. It is also a very good idea to practice graph sketching as this is an interview favourite.

Advice in hindsight

Please don't feel intimidated by the waiting room, some people there will just talk and talk and talk and that can very easily put you off. If you have a long gap between your interviews you don't have to return to the JCR you can explore the city and come back when you need to be walked to the venue.

Best preparation

My school wasn't very helpful as they did not have any experience with Cambridge applications. If yours does then definitely take advantage of it. If not try to put yourself in that pressured interview environment through a mock interviewor similar just incase it makes the actual thing more comfortable.

The best thing you can do is know everything you've been taught so far and be confident in it.

Final thoughts

To be invited for interview shows that you are most likely capable of succeeding at Cambridge, you just have to convince the interviewers of that. Remember that if you are successful these people will become your teachers, so present yourself as someone they'd like to teach.

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