Modern Languages @ Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

5x 30 min interviews, usually with 30 min prep time, over 3 days

Interview content

Texts given beforehand, personal statement, general questions

Best preparation

Practice papers, grammar exercise, vocab revision

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Talked to teachers, had varied material to discuss; believe in yourself and enjoy your subject!

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: MLAT

Number of interviews: 5

Skype interview: No

Interviews spread over 3 days: one in morning and one in afternoon of day 1; two in afternoon of day 2, an hour apart; one in morning of day 3

Length of interviews: about 30 minutes each, usually with 30 minutes preparation time beforehand

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

All my interviews covered the same areas but in slightly different orders. For each, beforehand I had been given a poem, article and / or short story to read through and analyse in the target language (for me, French or German). This was usually the starting point for the interview. They would ask me to talk them through the material in terms of what was happening, interesting details, translation of certain words, explanations of grammar, etc. I didn't usually understand the poems in particular, so I often made the wrong interpretations or translation, and the interviewer often corrected me but in a way that didn't make me feel intimidated and instead helped to guide me towards understanding the text and justify my points.

From here, they would often move on to my personal statement, either asking about a particular book I'd read individualy or connecting a theme with the poem if it was relevant. Here I usually got to discuss my own opinions and sometimes talk about what else I had read after I wrote my personal statement. This would sometimes be in the language the interview was targeting, but other times they asked me more general questions about if I had been to France or what interested me most when I visited Berlin.

I felt quite intimidated at first during the interviews, but I settled into it after having a few. The atmosphere varied quite a bit - in one interview there were four people interviewing me, whereas there were only two in the others. One interviewer was quite stone faced and cold throughout the interview, whereas most others made more effort to be smiley and come across as warm.

How did you prepare?

I did lots of practice papers as well as general grammar exercises and general vocab revision, particularly words or grammar patterns which were often repeated.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I was lucky to have two language teachers at my school who gave me plenty of practice speaking in my languages and discussing my personal statement in both informal and formal settings. The best thing I did was try to vary the material I had to discuss whilst keeping it somewhat linked together, for example listening to the opera of one of the plays I had read which allowed me to develop more of my own opinions in a way I enjoyed, and reading a different short story of an author I had already mentioned in order to make comparisons. I believe this preparation had a great impact on my interview performance as it gave me a lot to discuss and also practise on how to discuss it in a confident way whilst also being able to take on the knowledge of my teachers.

Looking back now, I would say my expectations were quite spot on as I had expected to find the interviews quite challenging and to feel out of my comfort zone. If I were to do them again, I would have had more belief and confidence in myself, since I had already gotten to this point and had really enjoyed learning more about the subjects I wanted to study in the future. I think this enjoyment of a subject and having a positive reaction when the interviewer gives you new information or a helping hand is something they look for.