Classics @ Merton, Oxford in 2014

Interview format

5x 20-30 min interviews, over 4 days

Interview content

Interview 1: history passage given beforehand, philosophy problem; Interview 2: personal statement (literature), image (archaeology); Interview 3: poem given beforehand, personal statement; Interview 4: Latin text given beforehand, image; Interview 5: history passage given beforehand, poem extract given during interview, personal statement

Best preparation

Practice papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Be clear about your thought process; make sure any ancient languages you have studied are up to scratch.

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: CAT

Number of interviews: 5

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 2 in one day, then 1 each of the next two days

Length of interviews: 20-30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

All my interviews had 2 interviewers.

My first interview was on ancient history and philosophy. No prior knowledge was expected, but I was given a source passage of history to look at for about 10 minutes before the start of the interview. We then talked about and discussed the passage. Then I was given a philosophical problem for 5 minutes to look at, and we talked about that too. The philosophy was quite intense (in a nice way), but the two interviewers were both quite friendly.

The second interview was based on literature, in which we talked about stuff on my personal statement, and also looked at an image question (for archaeology). The personal statement questions felt more like a conversation and were very relaxed, whilst the image part was a bit more probing in a way.

My third interview was at a different college, where I was given a short extract from a poem to look at for about 10 mins beforehand, and then the first part of the interview was spent discussing that. Then I was asked some questions about my personal statement.

The fourth interview was similar to the third interview, except that the text was in Latin rather than English, and we also talked about an image question too, in quite a conversational manner.

The final interview was quite intense; I was given a passage of ancient history to read beforehand as well as a poem extract during the interview. We talked about these as well as my personal statement.

How did you prepare?

I did some practice papers.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I read some ancient texts in translation, and was given mock interviews by my school teachers, which were of varying help.

The interviewers are really looking for you in Classics to have a go at something you might not have seen/heard of before. It is fine to be wrong, so long as you have based your answer on a clear and logical line of thought.

It is not necessary to have read vast amounts of secondary literature, but it is a good idea to ensure that any ancient languages you have learnt are up to scratch beforehand (it is not, of course, necessary to know any ancient languages for Classics Course 2 at Oxford!).