Philosophy @ Emmanuel, Cambridge in 2015

Interview format

Essay and logic problems test; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement; Interview 2: subject questions

Best preparation

Thinking about controversial topics

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Recognising your own mistakes

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: mixed essay and logical problem solving papers

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: 20 minutes

Length of first interview: 30 minutes; Length of second interview: 30 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The first interview was pastoral and very chatty. We mostly talked about my personal statement i.e. my history and hobbies.

The second interview was more industrious, with philosophical questions about general everyday things. No reading or specific knowledge was required. There were two interviewers for each.

How did you prepare?

Good preparation could include thinking generally about philosophical questions, and practicing non-verbal reasoning questions.

By 'thinking about philosophical questions', I mean e.g. looking at themes, issues or ideas behind your favourite films/books/newspapers/whatever puzzles you find interesting or problematic, and ask yourself why is it interesting/problematic/complex/controversial? Can you suggest a reason why this might be the case? Is that reason coherent? What would someone with the opposite opinion say?

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

For this subject, it’s not about preparation, but whether you think about things in a philosophical way. The interviewers are not looking for expertise or knowledge, but someone willing to think deeply about any topic. If you suddenly realise you held a mistaken view, or did not consider an opposing view, recognise this and say so!