Classics @ The Queen's, Oxford in 2016

Interview format

5x 30-40 min (sometimes with 20 min prep time), over 2 days

Interview content

All interviews: personal statement; Interview 1: passage in English; Interview 2: philosophy passage; Interview 3: image and two passages in English; Interview 4: poem in Latin; Interview 5: passage in English

Best preparation

Practice papers, translations, language revision

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read things you love; know your personal statement well; be yourself!

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 on first day, 3 hours apart; 3 next day, about half an hour apart

Length of interviews: 30-40 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview (general):
Before the interview I was given a passage from the Odyssey in English and had half an hour to look through it. In the interview, we discussed the passage. They asked what I thought of it, then asked me a few questions about it and how it could be related to other things I had read. We then discussed my personal statement and I was asked for more detailed reasons as to why I liked the things I did, basically it was just a nice conversation about things I enjoyed in classics. It was very relaxed and informal and they made a few jokes and put me at ease.

My second interview (philosophy):
I was given a passage about morals. I had half an hour to look through it and try to understand it. In the interview, I was asked questions about it. I knew nothing about philosophy, but they just held my hand and walked me through every question until we eventually got to a conclusion. In the second half of the interview, the ancient history tutor asked me a few questions about my personal statement, in much the same format as the first interview. Both interviews were quite relaxed and I just felt like we all got on well and just had nice conversations.

My third interview (another college):
I was given pictures of some Roman coins, two passages (both in English) and time to prepare. The tutors just asked me about the work I had looked at prior to the first interviews and we discussed the significance of the coins, etc. Then the second half was a discussion of my personal statement, particularly talking about a writer I mentioned. They were simply asking me questions about what I enjoyed, this again was quite relaxed.

My fourth interview (different college):
I was given a Latin poem in Latin (despite the fact I had never done Latin before). This was my hardest interview. I had told them I had never done Latin, but I was told to do what I could. We discussed this passage, then discussed something I had studied at school. I had also discussed this topic in my first interview. The tutors in the first interview agreed with my point of view but the tutors in this one did not and told me I was a bit basic! The interview didn’t go very well, but it was simply a case of not gelling as well with these tutors as the first few. This interview was not very relaxed, it didn’t feel like a nice conversation like the earlier ones, it just felt like I was getting grilled.

My fifth Interview (another college):
I was given a passage from the Iliad in English to discuss. Again this interview was fairly relaxed, they simply asked my opinion on the passage and then discussed my personal statement, with a stronger focus on ancient history than the earlier interviews. The tutors were nice again, but it felt like I didn’t have as much to talk about as earlier interviews. Again we had different views on the texts and I was less interested in what they wanted to talk about than in the other interviews.

How did you prepare?

I used practice papers mostly, along with lots and lots of translations and just language revision.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

The most important thing I did was just to read things I loved. The tutors were really just interested to hear what I liked about classics and hear my perspective on what I had read. They also enjoyed hearing about how I related classics to other subjects I had done at school and what the link was.

I made sure I knew my personal statement back to front as I really was asked a lot of questions about it and you don’t want to be caught out not knowing something you’ve written about.

I organised practice interviews with my teachers at school just to be asked a few questions so I could have some practice answering on the spot.

The interviews are really just a conversation. They work in a similar format to Oxford tutorials, the tutors just want to see how they get on with you, how you respond to their questions, and why you want to study this subject, so be yourself!

I thought I would go in and be grilled on my skills or breadth of knowledge, but it was a nice experience, simply discussing what I had done.

I’m glad I read as much as I did prior to interview, but I would really emphasise that you should read things you love and are interested in, because the passion will show through.