English Language And Literature @ Somerville, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 30 min interviews, over 1 day

Interview content

Both interviews: reading over summer, unseen literature, personal statement

Best preparation

Wrote practice essays; looked at unseen poetry

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Did mock interviews and was in unseen poetry discussion group; there were no stereotypical Oxford interview questions!

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 late morning, 1 early afternoon

Length of interviews: about 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The tutors started by asking me what I had read over the summer, what I had enjoyed and not, etc. We then moved quite quickly onto the unseen literature I had been studying for the past half an hour; I started by talking and they then asked leading questions, which I responded to, and created a dialogue between us. They then moved on to my personal statement and we spoke about this for the last 40% of the interview (this structure was pretty much the same for both interviews).

I felt surprisingly relaxed; the comfort of the tutors' rooms put me at ease - I realised they're just normal people! The atmosphere was friendly and, although intellectual, reassuringly pleasant and calm.

How did you prepare?

I looked through lots of past papers, writing many practise essays to prepare myself for the real thing. I planned the structure of the essays (splitting them into form, language, etc.) and looked at unseen poems to prepare myself for analysing a poem which I hadn't studied before.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I was lucky enough to have many practice interviews at my school, which certainly made remarkable changes in my confidence and ability to talk on literature. The best thing I did was to be part of a reading group which discussed unseen poems each week - this was crucial as this is what the interviews at Oxford focus on.

Honestly, the interviews were much easier than expected - I was waiting for the stereotypical Oxford interview questions, which never came... I wouldn't tell myself to do anything differently because, with the right amount of practice and ability to converse clearly and thoughtfully on literature, they will spot one's potential!