Psychology (Experimental) @ St Anne's, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

3x 20-30 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

Interpretation of data from hypothetical experiments; personal statement

Best preparation

Reading articles and news, taking MOOC (online course)

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read about stuff you find interesting; try not to worry.

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: TSA

Number of interviews: 3

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 2 at St Anne's one day, 1 at Queen's next day

Length of interviews: 20-30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Interview questions and themes:
All three interviews were centred around interpreting scientific data from a hypothetical experiment, being able to explain patterns in the data or think about what conclusions could be made from the data presented.
The interviewers would usually talk me through the data, starting with very little and slowly reviewing more, e.g. ‘These are the results for experiment XYZ, what does the data show?’ Then ‘When variable XYZ was changed, a new set of data was produced, what does this show about the variable?’
These more straightforward questions were the bulk of the interview and I found them quite comfortable. Once in a while, the interviewers would ask a less straightforward question - something like ‘If you had to design an experiment about XYZ how would you do it?’ - or something related to your personal statement.

Interview atmosphere:
I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of the interviews because all the interviewers were very kind and there wasn’t a moment where I felt extremely under pressure. It was very clear that the interviewers wanted me to feel comfortable and do as well as possible.

How did you prepare?

I did the TSA practice papers and tried to find strategies which worked for me, e.g. doing most of the English questions before the maths questions because I was faster at them.

My preparation:
- Reading articles from relevant sources such as Psychology Today, basically news and ideas about the subject which were presented in an easy to understand way and which helped me stay interested.
- Reading books on the subject which I found interesting< br /> - Doing mock interviews with my school
- Doing a MOOC (free online course) on psychology basics

What helped:
- There’s a lot of topics the interviewers can bring up, but generally reading about popular topics in psychology news gave me a broad enough understanding to approach their questions and helped me develop the critical mindset you need to approach all questions in psychology.
- Interview prep was really useful. One of my teachers helped me with prep even though we don’t do psychology at our school. I actually found the mock interview questions harder than a lot of the real questions because they were more philosophical and open ended, however simply being challenged to speak about a difficult topic on the spot helped build my confidence a lot for interviews.
- The MOOC was pretty helpful for me, as someone who hadn’t studied psychology, to get a general idea of some of the basic vocab and concepts of the subject.

What didn’t help:
- Although my book reading was interesting I didn’t get to bring it up at all because I was reading about new neuroscience, which is quite a specific topic.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

- Read as much as you can without feeling bored or overwhelmed. I think staying interested is very important and if you have to take a break that’s ok. I collected and printed articles which I found interesting, and made notes from my MOOC and book, which gave me a reservoir of information to refer back to, even if a lot of it didn’t come up. Don’t be afraid to read about really complex stuff, even if it probably won’t come up, because it’ll help you to think about challenging concepts and have a genuine passion for the subject, just don’t get carried away
- Do try to find someone to do mock interviews with. As with my experience, I’d say even doing interviews which aren’t super relevant content wise is helpful because they’ll develop your confidence in speaking and building your argument, even if you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
- To be honest, I don’t think the interviewers are looking for you to dazzle them with your expertise, they just want to see that you’re passionate. It’s ok to get stuff wrong! My biggest tip would honestly be not to worry too much; the interviewers are human too and I think all they’re looking for is a genuine conversation about a subject you both love.