English Language And Literature @ Christ Church, Oxford in 2016

Interview format

2x 30 min interviews, over 1 day

Interview content

Interview 1: unseen poem, personal statement and written work; Interview 2: unseen prose, general discussion of literature, motivation

Best preparation

Analysed unseen poems from The Guardian

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Be familiar with texts mentioned in personal statement and written work, and try to draw connections between them; have an opinion on everything; keep notes on everything you've read for the last year.

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: ELAT

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 1 in morning, 1 in afternoon

Length of interviews: 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In my first interview we discussed a 'modern' unseen passage (a poem) for about ten minutes - we talked about single words and more generally about the tone of the piece. They didn't expect me to know anything about it! Then, for the rest of the interview, we discussed texts I had mentioned in my personal statement and written work submission and how they related to each other thematically.

In my second interview we discussed an earlier unseen passage (I think it was 16th century, but I had no idea at the time) which was from a play. We talked about what I thought unfamiliar words might mean, and how I had made those decisions, and what I thought the piece as a whole was about. After this I was asked some general questions about literature - things like how important the canon was and if I had read any texts I really didn't like - and the course and what I liked about it.

Both interviews were very, very relaxed and the tutors were very patient and generous with their questions. I really felt like it was more of a conversation than an interview, and at no point did I feel like they were trying to trick me or catch me out!

How did you prepare?

The ELAT tests your close-analysis skills on unseen passages, so to prepare I practised analysis on lots of unseen poems - I went back through The Guardian's poems of the week!

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I didn't prepare too much for my interview - I didn't know anyone who had done an Oxbridge interview so I couldn't ask any questions! I read a little online, but most articles are super overdramatised and inaccurate. Try not to read them if you can, they will just freak you out!

The most important thing is to be really familiar with anything you have mentioned in your personal statement or written work, and to think about the similarities and differences, the connections between the texts, even if they seem really different!

Tutors are looking for enthusiasm for your subject, so the best thing you can do is to read as widely as you can. It doesn't matter what you are reading (it doesn't have to be the classics!) as long as what you do read you are thinking hard about - make sure you form an opinion on everything!

If I did this all over again, I would keep a notebook with notes on everything I was reading throughout the year before I applied, because it can be hard to remember things.