Human Sciences @ St Hugh's, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

3x 20-30 min interviews, over 2-3 days.

Interview content

Discussed personal statement, Extended Project, and sources

Best preparation

Worth finding books (e.g. at local library); practise with friends if you can

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read lots, practise interviewing with friends, and don't worry if your school doesn't offer help.

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: 3

Skype interview: No

Spread: Either 2 interviews in one day and then 1 the next, or 1 per day for three days. (I can't remember but there were definitely a few hours between.)

Length of interviews: 20-30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Most interviews followed the same format, there were 2 people asking me questions and sometimes a third who was just making notes. The rooms are generally either offices or meeting rooms - nothing super intimidating. I was introduced to the people in the room and they welcomed me and asked a short question around how I was feeling, and then they started the interview.

I think something that was interesting is that none of the interviewers touched for more than a minute max on 'why I wanted to come to Oxford' or 'what could I bring to the university' they were much more academically focused than I had been prepared for. My personal statement was mentioned in all - know everything you have written on it inside out (don't lie its so obvious), one interview they asked me about my EPQ which was great because I could talk about it lots. In general the questions revolved around being given a source - an object, picture, graph, etc. and then being asked a series of questions surrounding it. In general the tutors took turns interviewing with each focussing on a topic.

The questions can be very challenging but the key is not to give up. Instead, try and think about things from a different perspective. I was extremely nervous before my interviews but once inside I found that adrenaline just kicked in and it went quite quickly.

How did you prepare?

You can buy a couple of books second hand on line (or potentially from older students). Also, you can sometimes get books through your local library, which is free to sign up to (but remember to loan them in advance as there generally aren't many copies), ideally ones with less information on how to do the questions and more just hundreds of questions.

Practice makes perfect. If anyone you know is doing the same or a similar test, share books with them.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

Human Sciences is quite hard to prepare for because there are so few applicants and it is such a niche course (in my opinion, completely different from any other course offered in the UK). Therefore, there are not that many questions online and you are quite unlikely to have ever met someone who knows what it is, let alone someone that has applied.

The best thing I did was to read heavily - anything I could get my hands on, like newspapers and books covering a wide range of topics. Know the basics of your A-level/equivalent if you do a subject that is related to the course - eg. biology or sociology.

The other thing that I think was helpful that wasn't academic was practising being interviewed by someone who you respect / intimidates you slightly (not someone who scares you, obviously) but practise being put in a situation where you have to think about how to construct answers and it's not just joking around with your friends. That being said, it's great to talk to friends, siblings, or anyone who can just listen to you talk about a book and ask you questions on it based on what you said - they don't have to know anything about your topic. I asked a friend physics questions despite knowing nothing about physics.

Personally I didn't have any interview help from my school and I didn't go on any courses. If these things are offered I would take them but they are not the be all and end all. Preparation is key, if you go into the interview not having read/being able to talk about what you say on your personal statement that really is not a good start.

Remember the tutors want to accept someone they want to tutor for the next 3 years so try and be open and engaged and positive. A lot is sometimes written about things like dress code - in general wear what you want, I personally dressed quite smartly because it put me in the correct frame of mind to be answering academic questions and felt appropriate.

It's hard to say what I would do differently, as I was successful. but honestly I think just read more, have opinions about things that are happening in the news, and read books that might be related to the course in some way. Try and build confidence because then you can lead the conversation where you feel most comfortable. The tutors have spent their lives researching and teaching so you must show that you are passionate about what they are talking about, this can not be faked - they can tell.