Oriental Studies @ St Anne's, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 25 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Interview 1: choice of article or poem given beforehand, personal statement, reading Chinese characters; Interview 2: personal statement, history of Chinese language, philosophy

Best preparation

Kept up to date with subject-related news

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Interviewers want to find out who is genuinely interested in their 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

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between each interview: 1 day

Length of interviews: about 25 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

1st interview: I had to read either and article or a poem, then discuss it during the interview. I chose the article, which I luckily knew quite a lot about (trade wars) and the article was used as an icebreaker for the interview. They asked questions about the article that were quite open, so I could steer the conversation and even if I didn’t really know much about what they asked I still tried to say something that related to it. Then they asked about an author I mentioned in my personal statement and we discussed my thoughts on his writing style. At the end, they made me read traditional and complicated Chinese characters and, although I don’t know traditional Chinese, I guessed what they could be.

I really recommend viewing interviews as more of a conversation or academic discussion (at least for subjects similar to mine) because it puts your mind at ease! The interviewers seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say and gave pity chuckles if I tried making a joke, bless.

2nd interview: This interview was in college, and was mainly about my personal statement. We discussed the history of the Chinese language, as well as philosophy. I remember it being quite informal.

I think the interviews went well because I tried my best to see it just as a discussion rather than an actual interview and also because my interviewers were particularly nice.

How did you prepare?

I asked people who did similar degrees how their interviews went. I also watched YouTube videos.

I went through my personal statement, highlighted every book/documentary I used, and wrote brief notes summarising those resources. Then I went through every sentence and found evidence to back up what I said - e.g. ‘I read this book and liked it so I read this other one’- what about the writing style or content did you actually enjoy and why?

I also kept up to date with news regarding my subject and this came in super super helpful as the article I read related to something I had searched up the day before essentially.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I think I expected the interviews to be super scary, but they were rather informal (perhaps due to my non-traditional subject) I would actually not have done anything differently to be honest. I feel I prepared as much as I could have and tried to stay as level headed as I could be before and during interviews. Maybe I would have socialised more? But that’s not a priority at interviews. I think interviewers are trying to find someone who has genuine interest in all areas of their subject and is able to navigate their thoughts under stress.