Mathematics And Computer Science @ Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

7x 30 min interviews, spread over 3 days

Interview content

Unseen maths and computer science questions (graph sketching, prime numbers, new topics, sorting, etc.); warm-up questions on personal statement

Best preparation

Practice MAT and TMUA papers, graph sketching

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Don't sit in silence and don't worry about previous interviews.

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: MAT

Number of interviews: 7

Skype interview: No

Interviews spread over 3 days

Length of interviews: 30 minutes each (+ 30 minutes reading time for 1st interview)

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The interviews were almost entirely unseen questions on maths and computer science topics. A couple asked me questions about my personal statement, but my answers weren't too important, it was just a warm-up. Some interviewers dived into the first question without properly saying hello, so be prepared! Don't be put off if the interviewers seem a bit cold - you can't tell how well you're doing while it's happening.

There were some questions on graph sketching, which you can find examples of online. You can work out some routine methods to answer these questions beforehand (e.g. what happens to y when x gets big?), but interviewers might give you hints as well.

Other questions were on prime numbers, or things I'd never seen before. For computer science, there were questions about sorting coloured balls and boxes with keys and all sorts of other stuff.

How did you prepare?

Practice papers! I did all the MAT papers, which was really useful, particularly more recent years as they tend to be harder. I also recommend the Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA) - it was in its first year when I applied, so there were no past papers, but now there are a few and they are really good for preparing for question 1 of the MAT (the multiple choice section).

I did a fair amount of practice at graph sketching questions, which it's well worth doing. For everything else, don't worry too much about preparing! Doing past MAT papers helps in these areas too, but when it comes down to it, you will always get something you've never seen in the interviews, so don't panic. Interviewers will help you as long as you say any thoughts you have out loud.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

In my worst interview, I had a question where I made a good guess at the answer, but they pressed me for a reason why that was the answer. I basically sat in silence for 15 minutes. So there's two pieces of advice I'd give: the first is to not sit in silence! Come up with any tiny relevant fact, or method you could use, and say it - the interviewers will help you when you tell them something useful. The second and perhaps more realistic piece of advice is to always carry on and not worry about how you did previously - even though that interview was a complete disaster, I still got an offer!