Biology @ Somerville, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

2x 25 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Personal statement; Extended Project; specimens; short paper given beforehand (choice of 2); general discussion; motivations; data analysis (graphs)

Best preparation


Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read about your subject, particularly stuff on your personal statement; try to avoid panicking about interviews; they want to see your thought process.

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: just over 24 hours

Length of interviews: 25 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

We talked about the topics I had mentioned on my personal statement that I was interested in. We briefly touched on the topic of my EPQ. I was given some specimens to describe and asked some questions about them. I was also given two short papers to read before the interview, I then had to choose one to discuss in the interview. There were a few more general questions thrown in throughout, as well as being asked about my motivations to study biology in particular.

In my second interview I had to work through some data analysis. This was mostly analysing graphs and talking about what the patterns might indicate.

How did you prepare?


What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I read a little around the subject and made sure I could easily talk about the topics I was interested in that were indicated in my personal statement. I organised a mock interview with my teacher, which helped me gain some confidence.

Try not to self sabotage by getting so worked up and panicked about the interview that you can’t think clearly, try to calm yourself and focus your thoughts before you go in. Have confidence but never be cocky. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, saying the wrong answer is better than saying nothing at all. It’s ok to ask for the question to be repeated or for some clarification.

They want to see your thought process. Think of yourself as Sherlock Holmes, using clues and deduction to find the answer.

Finally, read the books you said you read in your personal statement. You don’t want to be asked to talk about a book you’ve never even read! Most of all try to let your passion for the subject shine through.