History And English @ Harris Manchester, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

3x 30 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

Interview 1: English, written work and unseen poem; Interview 2: History, personal statement; Interview 3: History, unseen sources

Best preparation

Read around personal statement and submitted work, and discussed subjects with family and friends

Final thoughts

Try to relax and treat the interview as an open discussion

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: HAT
Number of interviews: 3
Time between interviews: 4 hours, and then 24 hours
Length of interviews: 25-30 minutes each.
Online interview: No

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My English interview was based on an unseen poem and my written work. I was given twenty minutes to read and collate my thoughts on the poem before the interview began, and the first 10-15 minutes of the interview were based around it. The initial questions the tutors asked about the poem were quite general, before focusing in on individual sections and doing some close reading. The next 15 minutes were based around the two English essays I had submitted in my application; the first questions were about the essays themselves, before moving on to discuss broader questions related to the content of the essays. This interview was probably my favourite of the three, the atmosphere was really relaxing and my nerves quickly disappeared.

My first History interview was based on my personal statement, and they also asked me a lot about my experiences working in museums during my gap year, and how this related to the academic study of History.

My second History interview was based around two unseen sources, one of which I was given twenty minutes beforehand to read and take notes on, which we discussed for the first ten minutes of the interview. After that discussion ended, the tutors gave me an image to look at and asked what I thought of its potential meaning; art/images are not really my strong suit so this initially made me panic a little, but I asked for a couple of minutes to look at it and collect my thoughts, and then we continued the discussion.

How did you prepare for your interviews?

I re-read the texts I had mentioned in my personal statement and my submitted work, and did some further reading on each of them in case they were asked about in interviews. This extra work did prove useful as my written work formed the basis of my English interview; being aware of the current debates about the texts helped me inform my answers, and overall gave me more confidence when discussing the texts. I also did a lot of reading on critical/theoretical ideas for both English and History. This didn't come up in any of my interviews, but I still found it rewarding in that it allowed me to explore both subjects at a deeper level, and in hindsight it may have increased my confidence in discussing both disciplines and their intersections.

As I applied a couple of years after I left school, having a mock interview with a teacher was not an option. Instead, I asked friends and family to ask me questions based on my statement; I think one of the essential parts of preparing for interviews is getting used to talking about your subjects with confidence, especially if you're from a background that doesn't facilitate such discussions on a regular basis. All this being said, I think it's important to avoid over-preparing; the majority of the time in my interviews was spent discussing unseen material.

If you took a test, how did you prepare?

I downloaded all the HAT practice papers that were available from the Oxford website, had a go at answering them in timed conditions, and then compared my answers to the mark schemes . It's important to remember that the HAT is not based on what you know, but rather how you approach unfamiliar material; the extracts of text they select are designed to be challenging for everyone. In light of this, I also tried to find as many primary historical sources I could about periods I was unfamiliar with and practiced responding to them; I found some of the resources on the Cambridge History Faculty website quite useful for this (https://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/how-use-historical-sources).

What advice would you give to future applicants?

Remember that your interviewers are real people, who are usually very sympathetic to the position you are in, and you shouldn't feel intimidated by them! Try to think of the interviews as an opportunity to discuss the subject/s you love with leading academics; for me it was quite useful to try and forget that my performance was being assessed, and I think that helped me be more open and creative with my responses.