Modern Languages @ St Anne's, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 30 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Interview 1 (German): extract given beforehand (with dictionary), short translation, personal statement, German conversation; Interview 2 (French): English book extract given beforehand, general discussion of literature, French conversation

Best preparation

Prepare hard for MLAT, using Pre U grammar papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

You're (probably) not going to be asked questions about bananas!

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

Time between each interview: 1 day

Length of interviews: 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

I had a separate French interview and a German interview.

For German I was brought into a preparation room with a book extract on the table in German, and a dictionary to look up any words I didn’t know. I had about 15 minutes to prepare, so I made sure I had something to say about structure, language and content. I was then taken into the interview room, where there were 2 interviewers sat in arm chairs by a coffee table, and I sat on a sofa opposite them (it was a very relaxed atmosphere!). We started by talking about the extract, they asked me to translate a couple of lines and explain my thinking behind the translations, asked me to talk about a line I found particularly interesting, and then asked a couple more questions about the characterisation. I then got asked about my personal statement, specifically the German literature I’d read. They wanted to know what I thought the message of one of the books was, why I’d chosen to read it and what I thought of some of criticisms that had been made against it. Then to finish off it was a couple of minutes of chatting in German about my experiences in German speaking countries - nothing too analytical, just conversational and testing fluency.

For my French interview I was given an English book extract and only had about 5 minutes to read through it and prepare some ideas before being brought into the room. The set up there was a little more intimidating with the tutors sat at one end of a long narrow table and me at the other! They again began with questions about the extract, specifically asking about how the author had created atmosphere and how successful I found the characterisation. We then moved on to general discussion about the purpose of studying literature, and given I was very passionate about the importance of reading for pleasure we then chatted about the most enjoyable genres to read, whether short stories can ever be as impactful as novels, and finally whether literature has a political or philosophical function that is distinct from that of newspapers and non fiction texts. Once again the interview ended with a discussion in the target language. I was asked to compare and contrast the different books I mentioned in my personal statement and explain why I chose to read them. After a couple of follow up questions on the reasons I gave, the interview was over.

Overall the interviews were definitely academically rigorous and every answer I gave was challenged until I could improve my justifications, but none of the questions were unpredictable or super out there and the tutors were for the most part encouraging and interested in what I had to say.

How did you prepare?

I prepared very rigorously for the MLAT entrance exam and would definitely recommend spending a lot of time on this. Unlike some of the other critical thinking style tests, the MLAT is purely grammar and vocab, so a lot of repetitive practice of similar questions will really improve your confidence and stand you in good stead. I started revising in around August, working through all the past papers and Pre U papers (their grammar papers are almost identical in style) and it was definitely worth it as my mark was higher than others who were equally grammatically competent but not quite speedy enough to get through all of the questions in the time due to a lack of practice.

In terms of preparation for interview the best thing to do is just to talk to anyone and everyone about the books you're reading, the documentaries you’ve watched, or the foreign films you’ve enjoyed, as you just need to be able to talk confidently and passionately about your subject and show that you really do have an interest in exploring your subject in depth at this university.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I wish I’d known that the interviewers are not setting out to trick you and that they’re not going to ask absurd questions about bananas! Just knowing your stuff on the things you’ve mentioned in your personal statement and being confident in your ability to analyse literary texts is enough.