Biology @ Wadham, Oxford in 2016

Interview format

4x 30 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

Personal statement, explanation of A-level choices, graphs and other sources

Best preparation


Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read about things mentioned on personal statement; revised biology A-level; had practice interview. Think aloud; read a bit about your subject.

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: 4

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 2, a couple of hours apart, at Wadham on first day; 2 back-to-back at Pembroke on second day

Length of interviews: about 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

All of my interviews started with something broadly related to my personal statement but mostly not specifically questions about what I'd done - more just discussing topics I'd mentioned. One asked me to justify my A-level choices. For the second part of the interviews they used resources to ask me to explore different areas of biology - there were quite a few graphs that I had to interpret and then suggest hypotheses for what might explain the patterns, explain how I would test this, etc. For one they had some stuffed birds that we looked about and talked about sexual selection.

My main memory of the interviews is that it felt like they fitted a lot in in not very much time - some of the questions felt pretty quick fire. Most of my interviewers were pretty friendly but I think they try to make themselves look very neutral for interviews so its really hard to tell how you're doing.

How did you prepare?


What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I mostly did a lot of reading around stuff I'd talked about on my personal statement (I think a read a couple of reviews of the books I'd mentioned, that kind of thing). I went over the syllabus of my biology A-level a little bit. I did a practice interview with my biology teacher at school which was helpful but not very similar to the real thing at all.

I think what interviewers are really looking for are people who say their thoughts aloud - so feel relaxed about shooting out ideas even if you don't know if they are right - I definitely said some stuff that was just wrong in my interviews but that was fine. I would probably recommend reading a fair bit around your subject if you can but you'll never be able to predict what topics will come up so it's mainly just to get ideas about what sorts of key debates in the field are.