Biochemistry @ Wadham, Oxford in 2016

Interview format

2x 30 min interviews, 1.5 days apart

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, technical questions; Interview 2: technical questions

Best preparation


Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Reviewed school work; looked up interview questions online. Think out loud and ask clarifying questions.

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: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between each interview: 1.5 days

Length of interviews: about 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview I was so nervous I could barely think before getting in the room. I walked in and the two tutors greeted me from across a wide table, they tried to give me a bit of a warm-up by asking me a question about my personal statement. I was so nervous I ended up half-arguing with them about how something was defined (which afterwards I felt was an awful mistake, but I now realise showed that I knew what I was talking about and was thinking constructively about their question!) Then we got into the questions they had prepared, and I was pleasantly surprised that they all had a grounding in something I knew well from school - there was no ridiculously complicated elements, they were just seeing how I could think. After the first interview I thought I had messed it up so badly, and was frustrated because I knew I could have solved the questions better than I had but my nerves got in the way! This gave me a new confidence for my second one, however, because I realised that I was actually capable of doing it.

My second interview was the next day at St. Edmund Hall. I had one tutor interviewing me and one person sat in the corner moderating, I believe. They were running late so they said they would skip the warm up question after a few niceties about my home-country which had already relaxed me into it. This time I was sitting next to the tutor at a desk and it felt much more as though we were working through the questions together, which I liked. Something I had learnt before coming is that most of the tutors design their questions with knowledge of what an average A-level student would have learnt by this point. As I was doing the IB and there are some different topics which are done in a different order from A-level, I made sure to point out when something was totally unfamiliar to me (e.g. I had not covered any organic chemistry yet at school, but A-level students learnt it earlier) so the tutor had the right context from which to assess me, and I think that really helped too. This interview was far better, and I answered every question well, so I thought I may have just redeemed myself from the first.

In hindsight I think I probably did just as well in both, but I was just blinded by nerves in the first, so that all I could remember was how badly I had articulated myself!

How did you prepare?


What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I didn’t do loads to prepare. Mostly, I was just making sure I was confident with everything I had learnt in my relevant school subjects. One thing that did help was looking up interview questions online - there aren’t many, but they gave me a much more real idea of what I might be up against.

I think what would have helped me the most is if the process had been demystified a bit. You’re led to believe that you’re going into a powerhouse of academia where you’ll be challenged beyond your wildest dreams with these unfathomably difficult questions, but that’s not true. The realisation I had after my first interview, that it was a much more normal experience than I had anticipated, cleared my nerves away and allowed me to perform so much better in my second one.

I now know the interviewers are just looking to see how you tackle unfamiliar questions that build on what you already know. So say all of your thinking out loud (no matter how silly it seems - it’s good for them to know that you’re thinking some things that may seem obvious to you, but they won’t know you’ll have thought about unless you say it), and ask clarifying questions.