4x 20 min interviews, over 4 days
Interview 1 (Jesus College): personal statement and written work (history), sonnet given beforehand; Interview 2 (Jesus): personal statement, written work, reading; Interview 3 (St Peter's): historical topic of interest; Interview 3 (St Peter's): English poem given beforehand
If you can, do a structured project (e.g. A-level coursework) around an area of history that interests you
Show enthusiasm, adaptability, and the ability to think things through.
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.
Number of interviews: 4
Skype interview: No
Interview spread: 2 on first day, 2 more three days later at different college
Length of interviews: 20 minutes each
In my two interviews at Jesus College there was a subject
My later interviews at St Peter's College were quite different. I had one interview with each set of subject tutors, which I felt worked better because I was allowed to spend the whole 20 minutes in conversation with both of the tutors present, rather than having to discuss History for 10 minutes, then switch tutors and talk about English. The History interview started with the tutor asking me to pick any topic that I was interested in, which we then discussed for the whole 20 minutes. This interview was much more casual, and felt more like a two way discussion than an interview. The English interview was similiarly informal, although it did follow a specific structure: I was given a poem to prepare beforehand, and the tutors asked questions that they had come up with beforehand. I didn't discuss my personal statement or submitted written work in either interview, although I cannot be sure if this is because I did not apply to St Peter's and the tutors had not had time to consider them, or if they were simply not interested in discussing them.
To prepare for the test, I used past & practice papers, as well as walkthrough videos published by the university.
I mostly prepared by closely reading my own personal statement. I wish I had also gone back and re-read the written work that I had submitted, because I almost entirely forgot that I had sent any off and was caught slightly off guard when it came up.
The best thing that I did was choose a subject that really interested me for my A Level history coursework, which forced me to carry out in depth and structured academic work on something that I was passionate about. I was lucky that I was given completely free choice by my school, and not every school allows this. I think I would have struggled to engage so well in conversation if I had been only reading in my free time, rather than for a specific structured project. However, I recognised that this only worked out so well for me because of the very relaxed approaches of certain interviewers.
I feel like most of the preparation that I tried to do other than reading my personal statement was fairly redundant - trying to learn new things in order to impress the
Although every tutor has an interest in encouraging applicants to play to their strengths, it seems very hard to predict how individual tutors will approach discussion. From the interviews that I had, I recognise that in most cases the tutors were trying to ask me questions that they thought I had the potential to answer well. They are human beings, and they did not always get this right! Each tutor naturally has a slightly different way of structuring interviews, just as each student will respond well to different sorts of questions. Therefore, it seems to me that no one preparation technique will work for every context. Overall, though, my interview experience supported what I had heard on open days - that the tutors are simply looking for individuals with enthusiasm, adaptability, and the ability to think things through.