Geography @ Jesus, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

Human geography: pictures, general discussion; Physical geography: graphs

Best preparation

Past papers only

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read; have a practice interview / chat with someone about your subject; try to vocalise your thoughts.

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: TSA

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: No

Interviews spread over 2 days

Length of interviews: about 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

There was a main tutor and a postgrad student in there. Questions tended to be on niche topics but weren't looking for specific knowledge, rather how you would approach sources of information.

The human geography interview tended to be more focused on pictures, and a few questions on more general discussion. The questions asked were more 'describe/suggest' questions, and after an answer had been given the tutor would respond to what was said, creating a two way dialogue on a certain topic.

In the physical geography interview, the tutor had a PowerPoint with a different graph on each slide. Some of these graphs were ridiculously niche, which at first seemed daunting, but they made it clear they weren't looking for insightful commentary on (made up example: water regimes in Guyana), but how you would approach data and ask questions about it.

At first I remember feeling very intimidated by the room and the people, but once you start talking you realise they're not here to score you but to try get to know you, and just have some (hopefully) good and interesting discussion about geography.

How did you prepare?

I just used the past papers.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

For preparation I read a lot of recent news articles on anything related to my subject. Whilst none of this knowledge came up directly, the experience of interacting with sources from a geographical viewpoint was highly useful.

Something I maybe could've done more of was trying to read a few academic papers, or at least looking at more sources including graphs and statistics; that being said, a general scientific background (doing GCSE/A-level maths and science) is probably practice enough, most of the graphs being bar charts and scattergraphs.

I also had a practice interview with a geography teacher from my school. Again, this was really helpful to practise actually vocalising your thought train, as this can be difficult. If you don't have a teacher who could do this, even getting a family member or friend to pick a few random sources and ask you to chat about them is good.

My expectations going in were that I'd be expected to know a huge amount of geography, stupid things like rock types in certain parts of the world, or the ins and outs of trade agreements.

What the tutors really want to see is that you can approach problems in a logical manner (never just guess, try to say whatever seems the most sensible and validate this claim with reasoning), and also, quite importantly, that you can vocalise this thinking, as that's how they'll be teaching you.