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Oxbridge interviews: the low-down

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Have you got an interview coming up at Oxford or Cambridge? Here's what you need to know!

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It’s that time of year! You’ve aced your AS Levels (or Year 12 end-of-year exams), passed the pre-interview tests, and now you’re into Oxbridge interview season. If you have an interview coming up, then you’re probably in the middle of psyching yourself up for it – and as someone who went through the process five years ago now, I can definitely empathise with all of you. So read on if you want some tips and tricks on how to best ready yourself for what can be a fun, interesting experience with some of the top scholars in your field of interest!

1. If you have been told who your interviewers are, look them up! Find out what their specialities are, what kind of research they’ve done, and what exactly they teach at the university. That way, you’ll be able to understand more about what they like, which may open up some areas for discussion and prepare you for any topics of interest they may want to bring up. Plus, showing that you’ve taken an interest in the person interviewing you can only work to your advantage – they will at the very least be impressed with your foresight and the fact that you’ve taken into account that there are two people in the interview! If you haven’t been told exactly who is going to be interviewing you, then look up the faculty’s work more generally. Have there been any recent articles or studies published by faculty members? Wow them not only with your interest in the subject, but with your interest in the people who could be teaching you!

2. Know your personal statement inside out. Chances are they will ask you about what you have written in your personal statement — things like what your motivation for studying the course is, and what concepts or books relating to your course you have said you are familiar with. When quizzing you on your knowledge of your subject area, interviewers are likely to ease you in by starting with something you have said you have read around or are interested in — so make sure you know what you’ve said you know, and well!

3. Do some additional reading to put your mind at ease. Interviewers don’t expect you to know everything – they mostly expect you to be able to hold your own and fully engage in a conversation with them. They are unlikely to throw curveballs at you or ask you to pluck random figures and facts out of thin air, but it does really help to thoroughly read around your subject before the interview. This way, you will go in feeling confident and knowledgeable, and even though you may not get to speak about everything you read, you will at least have been well equipped to do so.

4. Chill out before the interview. Whether you arrive in Oxford or Cambridge the night before, or are planning to travel on the day, make sure that you chill out the evening before the interview. Take some time to unwind, relax, and let your brain take in everything you’ve read and revised. Interviewers don’t want you to be nervous, and you’re more likely to have a good interview experience if you let yourself go into it feeling relaxed. So take your mind off things — if you are staying in university accommodation for the night then hang out with the students who are there to guide you through the process, and chat to your fellow interviewees. If you’re at home, watch Friends, read a book, or get an early night!

5. Lastly, enjoy yourself! Although it’s an interview, remember that it’s also a chance to speak to someone who loves your subject like you do. Ask questions, speak with passion, and really soak up the opportunity to gain some knowledge from someone who is an expert in your subject. You’ll problem wow them in return!

Check out these useful Oxford interview tips and useful Cambridge interview tips, compiled by the universities themselves. These pages contain lots of information on what to expect, and helpful videos.

So good luck everyone, and remember that you are bound to succeed whatever the outcome of the interview is!

Blog Post Crafted by Madeleine

Madeleine helps Leticia run our Admin Team. Despite the fact that she read Japanese at university, Madeleine’s main passion in life is opera and she hopes to become the next Maria Callas some day...

Madeleine manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors.



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