English Language And Literature @ Oriel, Oxford in 2014

Interview format

3x 30 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

All interviews: poem given beforehand; Interview 1: motivations

Best preparation

Sessions run by school, past papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Get used to talking to new people about subject; read widely; recognise that it's not really about what you know.

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: 3

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 2 one day, 1 next day

Length of interviews: about 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview was half a discussion on an unknown poem, which I had a bit of time to read and think about before going in, and half on general discussion about why I wanted to study English, what I had read recently and what I had done to challenge myself in the subject.

My second interview was very similar, except it was a poem deliberately very unfamiliar, coming from a period no one studies for A-level, so they wanted to see how you react.

My third interview the next day was at a different college. We basically talked about the poem for the entirety of the interview and this was a lot more intense, making me feel like I was wrong and more nervous.

My first two were very relaxed, however, and felt more like a chat to get to know my individual personality than a test of any kind. The tutors were all lovely and didn’t want to catch me out, but I still felt very uncertain even when I came out of the interviews! I obviously didn’t do too badly though, as I got in, so you can never really tell how it goes, you just have to do your best and be true to the real you!

How did you prepare?

My school ran some lunchtime sessions to discuss some practice questions, and then I just did loads of past papers and that was it!

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

It is very difficult to prepare in any way, except by getting used to confidently and enthusiastically talking to new people without nerves getting in the way.

I also made a list of everything I had recently read, making sure I had a variety of genres, eras, authors etc., so I was ready to talk about anything they might ask me.

I now understand the interviewers are mainly looking for someone who is eager to learn, adapt, listen, and fundamentally someone they would enjoy spending time with every week for the next 3 years.

It’s not personal, but at the end of the day, it’s less about what you know, but more about who you are and how you present yourself.