Modern Languages @ The Queen's, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 30 min interviews (+ 30 min prep time for each), over 2 days

Interview content

Interview 1: German poem (with English translation) given beforehand, personal statement, short conversation in German; Interview 2: English poem given beforehand, personal statement

Best preparation

Go to Oxford outreach team interview workshop

Final thoughts

Trust in your own abilities; have fun in Oxford!

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: 2

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 1 on day of arrival, 1 next day

Length of interviews: 30 minutes (+ 30 minutes prep time) each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Before each interview I was given a poem and 30 minutes to read through and annotate it. For the first interview, the poem was in German but I was also given a translation. For the second interview, it was an English poem. In both interviews, it started off with discussion of the poem (in the second I was asked to recite it to start but that was just to ease me in I think!) The interviewers asked me to tell them about the poem and then the discussion sort of bounced from what I said. Some questions were challenging but there was nothing too difficult, and although I wasn’t completely relaxed in the interviews, I wasn’t hyper stressed either and the discussion was definitely enjoyable in part.

After discussing the poems, both interviews progressed to aspects of my personal statement. The interviewers had picked out parts that they wanted to ask me about and then we discussed what I had written further. Again, the questions weren’t easy as such, but they weren’t impossible either. I definitely said some things that I thought were ridiculous at the time but it all turned out alright in the end!

At the end of the first interview, there were a few minutes of speaking in German. I honestly completely messed this bit up! The interviewer asked me (in German) if I had been to Germany. I just went completely blank and didn’t understand the question and started rambling about something completely different! The interviewer just asked the question again and the next time I answered it well, but I just thought I would 100% be rejected after that! I suppose that shows that the interviews really aren’t as daunting as they seem and, even if you make a mistake which seems huge to you, it probably isn’t as much of a problem as you think.

I personally found my whole interview experience really friendly and I found that the interviewers weren’t nearly as intimidating as I expected. Obviously nerves are inevitable, but if you just believe in yourself and let the interviewers see your interests and personality, that’s the best you can do!

How did you prepare?

I did a practice paper to find a baseline of where I was and to get a feel of the paper, and just worked from there. In general, I found that the kind of grammar they tested was pretty consistent and certain structures always seemed to get tested (can’t remember which ones now, sorry!) I went through the grammar I didn’t understand with my German teacher and used the A-level grammar book for practice. In the end, I was just doing loads of practice papers. They’re only half an hour and there are so many of them available, so I would say that if you can’t do much preparation then that is the one thing you should do. The thing that you can’t prepare for is the vocab, but I honestly don’t think that’s what they’re looking for, so if you don’t recognise any vocab just try your best to figure it out, or if you are really struggling with a word but know what the structure of the sentence should be, just leave a little gap, fill in the rest of the sentence and come back if you have time at the end!

One of the best things I did to prepare for interviews was to go to an interview workshop put on by the Oxford outreach team. I just stumbled across it online and signed up. It was free to attend and only took up half a day. As it was run by the university, all the advice given was really helpful. Subjects were divided into groups and in my group we had a ‘mock interview’, which was just a discussion about a poem we had all been given and quickly read through. Although it wasn’t exactly like the one on one interview, it gave a feel of the kind of things you would discuss and made me realise that it wouldn’t be as daunting as I may have thought. After the mock interview we spoke to some current students who were also very helpful. I would really recommend going to the workshop if you can!

I also just made sure that I knew my personal statement well and reread most of the books I had mentioned on it, just so I would be able to remember things more clearly. I think that was helpful because it just made me think of things I may want to discuss and I felt more ready after doing that. Just make sure you are flexible with your ideas for discussion, and mould your ideas around what the interviewers actually ask you!

As well as that, I printed off a few poems and practised reading and annotating them. I didn’t do a lot of this and I wouldn’t say it is completely necessary because at the end of the day each poem is different so each one will invoke different ideas. However, the preparation area is definitely quite intimidating when you are first in there, so if you struggle under pressure then practising with unseen poems might be a good way to make it seem a bit less of an impossible task.

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

I would say: don’t get too worked up, and allow yourself to show who you are. Even if you don’t get in, but you have allowed the interviewers to see what you are about, then that is the best you can do! Just trust in your own abilities. The tutors know you are nervous, so they aren’t expecting perfection!

Also remember that although you are there for the interviews, they take up a tiny amount of the 3/4 days that you will be in Oxford. Although you should make yourself feel as confident as possible, don’t spend all your time alone in your room or in the library! Spend time in the JCR, make friends, and explore the city, because that will definitely make your experience a lot of fun!