Biochemistry @ Trinity, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

3x 15 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

Interview 1: starter questions, personal statement; Interview 2: A-level topic; Interview 3: questions on info sheet

Best preparation


Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read academic paper; did Extended Project; revised personal statement; mentioned specific examples of research in personal statement. Try to stay calm and focussed; don't worry about not knowing everything!

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

Number of interviews: 3

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 2 interviews, three hours apart, one day; 1 the next day

Length of interviews: 15 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Most of the tutors are really friendly and will help guide you into questions. Nonetheless, they may seem slightly intimidating if you are nervous!

My first interview seemed to be made up of a few seemingly unrelated questions to start with, as well as a few questions relating to specific examples I had written on my personal statement. I would urge you to know anything you put on there in detail so they don’t catch you out.

For my second interview we explored an A level topic. Although I had not fully covered it, they were not at all fussed that I didn’t know some of the basics to the topic as they know you are only midway through your studies at school. So I was ‘prodded’ in the correct direction and given necessary information so that I could work things out myself, although I definitely needed extra help at some points. If you do get stuck in an interview like that, there’s no shame in asking for more.

In my third interview I was given a sheet with some information and was asked some introductory questions about the topic (DNA, chromosomes, et cetera in my case). I then was told to explain the figure on the sheet. I laid out my thought process - every single step - with the information they had given me. I kept on going round in circles, as I couldn’t make the final leap because I’d forgotten a key piece of basic information. Not that that mattered, as they kept dropping hints every time I’d arrived at the start again, until eventually, after a really obvious hint, I’d realised what I’d missed and correctly made the last jump.

In general my advice for the interviews is to think for a second about a question and plan your answer in your head before you start rambling on! As long as you’re making logical and clear steps in your answer, then even if you’ve missed out a piece of key information like I did, the interviewer will know where you’ve gone wrong and will be able to help you. It’s also really important to state any assumptions you’ve made and really start from the beginning of the question. Whilst I know this is really tricky to do in real life and almost impossible to practise before, every little helps so even if you can try and get your friends or family to give you questions so you can attempt answering them in this logical and meticulous way before the interview you’ll be more prepared than not.

One final piece of advice I have, especially if you’re not sure you want to go to Oxford or Cambridge, is this. Many people say an interview is like a mini tutorial and I could not disagree with this more. In college you get to know your tutors really well; you have dinners and drinks receptions with them and they’re all really lovely people and not intimidating in the slightest, so tutorials can be a lot of fun (although still academically challenging). In interviews, on the other hand, I for one was more nervous than I have ever been before, and with your emotions running so high in a situation like that there is no comparison between an interview and a tutorial, so don’t let that put you off if you had a horrible time. I hated my interview and thought I’d failed horrifically, but I’ve really enjoyed my time at Oxford and would definitely recommend applying. Good luck!

How did you prepare?


What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

The classic thing to do is to read a load of books, which was my plan, but I got distracted over the summer and only read one. In the end I read the paper ‘Hallmarks of Cancer’ by Hanahan and Weinberg, which was really interesting even if I didn’t understand a large number of things in the paper.

I did an EPQ in Year 12 about a biochemistry topic which ended up being a topic my tutor was really interested in (although I would advise against planning your application for what tutor you think might interview you as it’ll probably backfire) and that really helped me as it eased me into the interview. Since I had really revised everything in my personal statement, those questions did not phase me much at all.

I think the best thing I did was to put loads of very specific examples of research I was interested in on my personal statement as it meant I could really explore some topics with my interviewer. However, that said, not everything is about the personal statement. Trying to keep calm and focussed will really help you in interview as, if the previous one hasn’t gone so well or something, it’s really important to try to get that out of your head and do the best you can in the next one.

From what I can tell, the thing the interviewers are looking for most is the ability for you to be open and be able to explore topics with their help. They’re not looking for you to know everything already, but if you can piece together knowledge you already have with information they are giving you that will show them that you can be an Oxbridge student.