Here below is a adhoc series of answers given by some of the BYT tutors over the years on theirOxford and Cambridge entrance experience.  It is not comprehensive but merely a snapshot. We hope you find it useful.


More details will be found at one of our revision courses




Course and year

College(s) and Interviewers

Questions and content of the interviews.

Advice for future candidates


Engineering 2006

Clare, Aylmer Johnson, Prof Moloney, Adrian Travis

Must be done face to face

Relax, have a good technical background, and most importantly listen to the advice they give you - they're trying to find out if/how you learn in a tutorial environment.


Geography 2005

Hertford (external interviewer), St Johns (J. Langton), St Hildas (L. Wild)

Given an article to discuss in the interview. Was then asked basic questions which got progressively more difficult and challenging.


A-level work/coursework questions.


Questions on personal interests in the subject.


'What do you wish you had been asked in the other interviews you have had so far'

Be as relaxed as possible. Don't be afriad to ask questions if you are unsure.


Read around areas of the subject that you are interested in. Find something that you are passionate about as this will show through in the interview.


Expect to be asked questions that you can't answer. The interviewer will intentionally push these. I think what they are looking for is how you takle this, your ideas and how you think around the question.


Be friendly. An interview is similar to a tutorial and so the tutor will to some extent be looking for someone that they enjoy teaching.



Peterhouse. Prof Simms, Dr Lunn-Rockcliff, Dr Berry, Mr Mandelbrote

For the first interview I was simply asked about the three essays I had submitted, and tested to see whether I could support my hypotheses or amend them where necessary. I was also asked about the books I had mentioned in my personal statement, and questions were focussed on whether I could summarise each author's arguments concisely.


Next, I had a History Aptitude Test, which was essentially a source paper on a period of history I had not studied.


Before my second interview I was given a primary source extract on a period of history I would not have reasonably studied. I was asked questions on when I thought it was written and had to make guesses as to what it was roughly about. The second half of the interview was then extremely similar to the first, focussing on the books I had read and the essays I had submitted.

Any book you claim to have read must have been read thoroughly, and arguments noted and understood.


Essays must be chosen carefully on topics you have a strong knowledge of, as this normally forms the backbone of the interview



2006 Education English and Drama

Homerton College - Paul Warwick, Steven (ex-drama coordinator)

*I was not given anything before the interview to think about but I had to submit examples of my work

*I had three interviews. One for Education, one for English and a Drama workshop. See below for a summary of each:



*Four of us were invited into the room and given a play script which we knew nothing about. We were expected to read the script in character and answer questions about the characters/play based on the extract. The play involved 4 soldiers discussing the war. Questions included the following topics: character building, suggestion of how to play the characters, what they might be thinking, giving a back story for the character, making suggestions for how to direct the scene, considering proximity, levels, staging, costume etc.



* Discussion on why I wanted to study English

* Examination of essays submitted and questions on the context of these essays

* Discussion of literature, favourite book, current book. Any specific areas of literature which are of interest.



* Why I wanted to study Education

* What I thought the course would involve

* Whether or not I wanted to teach and why

* What I thought made a good teacher

* How my past experiences would influence my own career in education (i.e how past teachers had influenced me for the better/worse) - I discussed a teacher who had an inappropriate relationship with sixth formers (she was overly friendly and blurred the boundaries between teacher and student). The majority of this interview was led by me talking and the interviewer asked questions based on what I spoke about.

*Make sure you know the background of the essays you submit. My essay was on Brecht and they asked me about Brecht's religious orientation! Choose work you are passionate about as examples because you will be able to communicate your love of the subject better through this.


*Read a couple of highly respected novels (mine at the time of interview was The Kite Runner). Ensure you have opinions on these books and sophisticated reasons for reading them - I said "I see books as a tool for education. My interest in different cultures leads me to read particular books". That seemed to get a thumbs up!


*Be confident and be yourself. By the third interview I had relaxed but was a bit up tight during the first two.


*They tend to play good cop bad cop so if your first interviewer is fierce, don't panic. It is likely the next one will be a lot more friendly.


Medicine 2007

St Johns (Z Molnar, S Campbell, A Parker, J Pandit)

Prior to interview: Informed was having 2 academic / personal joint interviews



Photograph was taken for record

- Acceleration/ Speed of pendulum at different points of motion

- Rate gas flow into balloon whilst bloing it up

- Physiological changes at altitude- with reference to exercise at altitude

- Personal questions: why I enjoy skiing


Interview 2

- What is medicine, and why study it

-Ethics question- life support

- Shown picture of hemiplegic face- asked to describe strokes/ Bell's palsy


Colleges are not allowed to ask "why this college"- don't prepare


Smart clothing- slacks etc


Do not listen to other candidates- interviewers are looking for you to explain your own thought processes, not the correct conclusion


Natural Sciences, 2002/03

St Johns, ??

No preparatory material. Two interviewers - good cop, bad cop. One didn't say anything but I remember trying to engage with them both.

They could tell from my personal statement that I was more interested in physics than anything else. We talked about my understanding of the quantum model of the atom and the astrophysics I had done in my last year. For example, the energy levels in the atom and atomic spectra. One specific question was about what it would tell you if the star's light was blueshifted. They led me through the reasoning a bit but eventually it clicked that it would mean it was travelling towards you (ie. opposite to a red shift which is covered in the Alevel syllabus).

Other things - it came up in conversation naturally, but they asked me why ice floats on water so I explained about its density reducing on freezing, unlike other solids, due to the hexagonal form of the bonds.

Contrary to popular belief, I didn't get the feeling they were trying to catch me out. I got a place.

Research your college and subject (eg. first year courses, which particular module are you looking forward to?) well. Go visit, know which colleges are going to make you sit exams and look at the state to private ratios. Read around your subject so you're ready to tackle the challenging questions, or at least not be scared to even try. Don't rely on the formulas you've parrot learnt to get you through the exams. Practise speaking the concepts out loud and have an understanding of the bigger picture rather than getting bogged down in the mathematical detail. If they ask a question you don't know, don't panic, in my experience interviewers are supposed to help guide you through it, just as they would in a tutorial.


Read a newspaper and get some opinions. Have some interests that are more than shopping or going out with my friends or your subject.


I'm sure there were things I could have done better but afterwards all I remember is sitting in a coffee shop feeling relieved and satisfied that I'd done my best. I think my interview was fairly easy compared to some of my friends but its importnant to relax and try and be someone that they would want to teach.


English Literature 2004

Downing College, Dr. Cathy Philips, Dr. Marcus Tomlison, Dr.Will Poole.

We had a 45 minute unseen prac crit at the beginning of the interview day followed by one interview with Dr. Philips and one with Dr. Tomlinson and Dr. Poole.


At the interview with Dr. Philips we were given a excerpt from a poem and one prose at the beginning and then asked to comment on each. The interview was largely centred around this and then she asked some more personal questions to do with my personal statement and extra curricular activities.


The interview with Dr. Tomlinson and Poole was more informal but more intellectually rigorous; I was invited to talk about books I loved and why but the interview was very wide-ranging and they weren't afraid to question my views.

Doing some timed prac crit before my interview would have helped, as would some practice interview sessions as they would have helped with build my confidence in speaking under pressure.


Brushing up on my vocabulary and reading around the texts I mentioned in my personal statement would also have been helpful.


French, 1994

Trinity College

I had passed the entrance exam and found the interview much more challenging! I remember the majority was course focused. I also had to read and analyse a French poem on the spot aswell as discuss some of the literature I had studied as part of my Alevel course.

My school had prepared me well for the entrance exam but I wasn't given any practise for the interview. Research as much as poss on the content of the course and rehearse outloud QnAs with a tutor or equivalent.


Chinese 2005/ Geography 2007

Trinity College/ Chinese - Dr Daruvala, Dr Steryx/ Geography - Dr Spencer, Dr Mawdsley


1st interview.

- Asked to look at a sheet of Chinese characters and pick out a selection of characters to prove recognition skills

- Probed in depth about books I had mentioned in my application. Interviewer tried to trick me several times to check I had read and understood the content. Then we discussed the region in which the book was set at length, including ethnic tensions, natural resources, domestic/ foreign policy.

- Asked me to encapsulate in thirty seconds what I think summed China up.

- Asked me to imagine what my existence as a factory worker in the cultural revolution would have been like.

- Asked me to justify in detail why I wanted to take a gap year. Was I going to visit China? If so, why and how would it help me with the course.


2nd interview

- My rationale for choosing Chinese and Trinity College

- Where did I see myself in 10 years time

- What I thought I could contribute to college life

- When in my life, outside of my academic career, have I put all of my energies into a challenge to achieve my desired result

- Which dynasty or period of history most interested me and why.

- Why did I choose to read the books I mentioned in my letter; what did they teach me about the subject matter.

- If I was going to write a book, what would I write about and why.

- What are my interests outside of academics and how do I justify spending time on them.



- What did I understand by the word Geography.

- Is there any justification for studying the subject

- Identify and explain a significant example of conflict over resources in the last hundred years.

- What is a tribe and am I a member of one

- What are the ethical arguments against being a vegetarian

- If I was a British colonialist in 19th Egypt and wrote a travel diary, what sort of observations might I make.

- How do people find directions in the Arctic and what are the potential effects of global warming upon their ability to find their way.


Be up to date with current affairs, the news etc. (The Economist, New York Times, Guardian are great places to start)


Know the content of your personal statement back to front.


Actually read the books you mentioned in your personal statement.


Don't be too smart and don't lie whatever you do. They will catch you out.



Kings - Sonenscher/Stedman - Jones

I was interviewed by Dr Michael Sonenscher (French 18th Century) ad Gareth Steadman-Jones (Political Thought). I was firstly questioned on the three essays I had submitted. Then asked about what I had recently studied - so that was essentially probing my understand of the topics. Then I was given some theories about the periods eg: how significant do you think social factors were? What is the link in history (broadly speaking) between politics and religion etc. Lastly I was asked; why this college?

When we graduated they told us that mostly we were judged on written work and whether we were bearable human beings at interview!

Be prepared to challenge and question yourself in the interview.

Don't leave long pauses - they get bored.

Don't try and be whacky - just be alert.

Be able to make links - think of the bigger picture.


Modern History 1969

Merton. Sir Martin Gilbert, Dr J R L Highfield are still alive.

They asked about the school library and the quality of the Latin teaching, and about a book I jad tread on late 18th century history.

Read more widely.



St. John's College

All were subject related - nothing personal at all.

If it's a language, know your grammar backwards. I imagine the same goes for the sciences: know your facts and try and apply them to the questions you are asked. They want to see how your mind works - they're not interested in everything you know.

Don't lie about what you've read - worst mistake you can make.



LMH, Helen Barr, Christine Gerrard

Two interviews, one with Helen Barr was very focused on the personal statement - asked about the texts I had mentioned, including what recent performances I had attended of Hamlet, which I'd referenced in my statement. Asked about my gap year, and how I chose what books I read.

The second was much more abstract - asked about my views on film adaptations of literature; why I liked reading; the benefits of literature; my favourite critical theories of reading.

Think about EVERYTHING you have written on your PS - that loose reference to a book or show or theory that you threw in because you had 10 extra words going spare is the thing that's most likely to crop up at interview.


Law 2007, started Oct2008

I applied to Keble and eventually got into Hilda's.

The interviews at Keble and Hilda's were very different. At Keble, they asked lots of hypothetical questions about the difference between what society considers to be good and bad, and the difference between a mental state, and actual conduct (ie mens rea/actus reus)

for example- if A shoots B, intending to kill him, but B was already dead, is A guilty of anything? should he be?


At Hilda's, they gave me a case study to read for 45mins, and they asked me questions about the judgement, and reasoning in the case.

Try to think about what aspects of your A-levels you enjoy and why, and consider your non-academic activities. They asked me what my favorite book was, and I was so surprised, I just said 'The Godfather'!


Say what you actually think, don't just say what you think they want to hear.


Try to read the paper or watch the news, and keep update on current events. They don't ask you specifically about this kind of thing, but its handy to know.


Classics 2005-2009

Balliol - Oliver Lyne, Osmind Murray, Rosalind Thomas, Kinch Hoekstra

I was not given anything to read or prepare before my interviews. My first interview focused on literature and philosophy. My Greek set-text was the Illiad, and much of the conversation was focused in this text - I was asked my views on particular scenes, e.g. bk 9, and 24, and characters (both divine and mortal and the differences between these groups) e.g. Hector, Hera, Thetis etc. They clearly wanted to see if a had a good grasp of the text both at a macro and micro level, so general themes (e.g. war, mortality, the human condition, morality, tragedy etc) were discussed as well as very specific questions - e.g. asking me to name and analysis an analogy in the text that I could remember - I couldn't remember any, completely froze, and had to move on, but it didn't matter in the end fortunately.

Then because I had no experience of studying philosophy we discussed a current affair, the Iraq War, that brought up issues that might be touched upon in an applied philosophy class - e.g. were we right to go to war etc.

My second interview was a mixture of history and literature - I had done modern history for A-level so some of this was dscussed, as well as my historical set text, Thucydides.

I was lucky because the interviewers' approach was friendly and gentle, unlike many other people's experiences for the same subject at different colleges, yet I still managed to freeze at one point. I don't feel that I answered any of the questions particularly outstandingly, and I think the best preparation one can do is to know one's set text very well (and to have read the rest of the work thoroughly) and have previously discussed the big themes of the work so you are comfortable talking about them.

Balliol in particular is interested in linguistic skills, and the main reason I feel I was accepted is because I had really focused on my language skills and did very well in our language tests.


History 2006

Oriel College - Dr Cattow, Leif Dixon

Before the interview I sat the History Aptitude Test and handed in a piece of writing for the interviewers to look at. I was not given anything immediately before the interview (such as sources to look at).


I had two interviews. In the first the questions were based on what I had written in my personal statement. The subjects were broadened out considerably though. For example, the interviewer referred to the fact that I had studied the Civil Rights movement of the 1950/60s and then went on to ask my my views on current American politics and the role of Condoleeza Rice.


The second interview I had was based much more on the piece of written work I had handed in in advance. The questions were about my topic of study for that academic year, the Russian Revolution. I was asked about what I had read on the topic and discussion developed from there. I was also asked about other periods I had studied at school such as the Crusades. The interviewers seemed keen to find out what I was interested in specifically within history.

I could have thought about the books I had read in more detail. The same goes for what I had written in my personal statement in general.

Cambridge and Oxford

2004 and 2005 respectively

Head of Clasics at Peterhouse, Cambridge; and Head of Classics at Jesus College, Oxford

At my Cambridge interview, whilst applying for Classics, I was given an unseen Latin translation which I had 10 minutes to prepare for. Two interviewers then went through my own verbal translation and corrected me as I went along. The second half of the interview was spent talking about the subject and the particular aspects which interested me. I then had a further interview at another college in Cambridge which generally revolved around competency based questions and interpersonal skills.


I had a total of five interviews and an exam at Jesus College (Oxford) the following year. The exam consisted of an unseen translation of Latin and Greek text, and comprehension questions afterwards. The following day I had an interview with the Head of Classics at Jesus. This interview was formulated around a four word Greek sentence which he gave me upon entrance. I had to decipher what it said, what it was about, and who may have written it.


After being pooled into an inter-college system whereby I could be interviewed by other colleges I was invited to St. Benet's College on the next day. I had three interviews here; one based on Classics as a subject, another about my personal statement (focusing on a text which I had mentioned), and the final interview concerned the nature of the college and whether I thought that I would suit its environment.

Prepared more with regard to unseen translations (such as vocablary and grammar)and researched a bit more about the various colleges which I had applied to. I would have also taken more interview practice sessions at school by asking teachers to give me additional 'mock' sessions and advice.



Pembroke. Raphael Hauser and Anne Henke

Easy question about relative velocities to start with to make you not feel nervous. Then some curve sketching, which is very important. Functions, chain rule. Differentiate y = x^x is pretty classic (take logarithms then product rule) . If p is the the probability of winning a point, then what is the probability of winning a game in tennis (you need to sum an infinite series to work out the deuce advantage bit, winning a game before deuce is easy). A number theory question where you do it by induction (i.e. prove (4^n)-1 is a multiple of 3).

If there are n dons and they each have a unique piece of gossip, then how many phone calls would it take for every don to every piece of gossip? Answer is 2n-3. How would you prove this?


Your curve sketching must be amazing. Don't worry if you can't get the last questions right, or need to ask for a hint. They don't expect you neccessarily to just say the answer.

There are millions of sample questions on, or Do as many as possible. More important to do practice questions than any revision.


2004 - Undergraduate English

Merton College - Professor Richard McCabe (head of English), Dr Jennifer Nuttall (tutor in Medieval literature and literary theory, now at St. Edmund's Hall), Dr Catherine Paxton (Senior Tutor)

2 interviews: one practical criticism of an unseen poem, and one questions on authors/texts mentioned in personal statement.


For first interview, with 2 interviewers, I was given the Milton sonnet "When I consider how my light is spent" (although without name/title) and asked to comment on it - asked questions on form, diction, historical period, themes. Later I was asked questions on why I wanted to study English, and how my A-Level subjects interrelated.


In my second interview I was asked about things I had mentioned in my personal statement - Modernist writing and contemporary poetry. Ranged from 'talk about your favourite contemporary poet' to 'how can poetry be written after the Holocaust' and 'what are the different approaches to dirt and disgust in Joyce and Eliot', 'what are the different uses of allusion in Joyce and Eliot'.

1) Make sure you are conversent with literary critical terms and are used to doing practical criticism.

2) Look up the tutors at the colleges where you are interviewing online and read about their interests.

3) From the experience of others who interviewed in my year, do not dwell on authors you have covered in your A-Levels rather than in your own reading (Jane Austen a particular problem here), and avoid certain clangers such as Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, Poe and Russian novelists, unless your reading of them has gone significantly beyond the usual teenage interest.

4) Do not spend too much time talking about things not on the Oxbridge course (I'm thinking of a friend who had to reapply after talking exclusively about American novelists).

5) Do bring up (briefly) relevant extra-curricular activities and anything that's happened since you wrote your personal statement - e.g. creative writing, drama, editing of a creative writing magazine.

6) Relax - the interviewers are extremely friendly. You should imagine it will be something like a very intense version of the best conversation you've had about literature with your favourite English teacher/friend.


History; Applied 2005

St Catherines College; interview by Tom Pickles and Gervais Rosser together and by Marc Mulholland and another professor who did not teach at St Catherine's.

My first interview was with Gervais Rosser and centred around the Italian Renaissance, one of his specialist areas and a subject I studied in my final year at school.


His first question was simply, 'What do you think the most important things you have read? My response was what he summarised as a 'lightning quick tour of the Italian Renaissance historiography,' as I simply rattled off a range of works without commenting much on any of them. I began by referencing Jakob Burkhardt and progressing through to writers of the mid-twentieth century such as Gombrich, Baron and Holmes before spending some time on Quentin Skinner's analysis of the city republics in the quattrocento.


He then asked me what I made of the period as a whole, did it really constitute a 're-birth' so to speak? I responded that in terms of culture, art and architecture, I believed it did, citing the fact that the duomo in Florence had lain unfinished for somewhere in the region of two centuries as no-one possessed the requisite knowledge to complete it. Brunelleschi's undertaking the work, under the patronage of the Medici, represented the notion of 're-birth' of the knowledge and skill of classical art and architecture. I also discussed the clear portrayal of christ and his disciples as human figures by Massacio in his frescoes in Santa Maria del Fiore and Santa Maria del Carmine as reintroducing a more realistic depiction of man and how after that point we see an almost complete halt to the 'Byzantine' style of painting that had previously characterised the work of the region.


He then asked, 'Do you think there was also a Renaissance in terms of the politics of the era?' I, rather foolishly, said that one could also perceive a 're-birth' here, with writers such as Leonardo Bruni and Pico della Mirandola, and later Ficino then Machiavelli using the classical texts of authors such as Livy to extol the virtues of republicanism.


Gervais was rather dismissive of this view, and suggested to me that the period, in practice, represented the dominance of oligarchical government rather than republic given the influence of significant individuals in both Florence's and Venice's 'city republics' at that time. I tried to respond by suggesting that by the time Machiavelli was writing his infamous 'The Prince,' which I said was an almost satirical text designed to demonstrate the corrupt nature of dictatorial government, that the virtue of republicanism was well established, even if it did not always apply in practice. Gervais then rather more firmly dismissed my point by noting that Machiavelli had been exiled from Florence for failing to capitulate with the Medici regime.


I had some discussion with Dr. Pickles over the crusades, in particular on why they represented an attractive endeavour for so long and for such a great number of people. The conversation was somewhat basic on my part, as it was not area I had studied recently, though in general Dr Pickles was rather sympathetic to this and didn't take issue with anything I had said. This portion of the interview really was more of a 'conversation,' as we simply talked about the relevant issues, one of us expanding and developing what the other said.


My interview with Marc Mulholland and another professor (whose name I cannot remember; he did not teach at St Catherine's during my time there) was much more abstract and theoretical. Almost the entire interview stemmed from a question along the lines of 'Why do you think the concept of Kingship developed in early medieval England?' I was rather foxed by this question, never having studied the period in question nor any English history. I began by tentatively suggesting that it provided an effective societal focal point; a common allegiance to one individual had the effect of unifying a community. I said that in conjunction with the trade off of offering services in return for protection and a degree of government, that we might say Kingship developed in England as it did because it represented the most expedient way of organising society which benefited the majority of those concerned in some way or another.


Marc and his colleague then spent some time teasing out that idea; posing questions such as 'what constitutes a good King?' I suggested that someone who was perceived as strong enough to repel invasion and provide a degree of government would likely be seen as an effective King by his subjects. This interview was similar to the portion of my first interview with Dr Pickles, being more a two way conversation than a 'question and answer' format.


Toward the end of our discussion, Marc asked if there was anything else I would like to talk about. Simply because he was Irish, I suggested the troubles in Ireland as a topic; I was at that time completely ignorant to the fact that he is one of the most highly regarded authorities on that particular topic.


He asked me, 'Why do you think the troubles in Ireland carried on as long as they did?' I approached this question by dividing the issue into two parts; I began with the plantations of Ulster and the development of penal laws against Catholics, suggesting that where a people are marginalised in their own country that does much to embed notions of division in a society. I moved on to consider the nature of the troubles that reached a peak prior to and just after WWI, suggesting that where so much bloody was spilt over an issue where both parties were convinced the other was in the wrong that the very notions of division introduced by the plantations of Ulster could only be more firmly entrenched. Marc then expanded on this a little, bringing in political analysis to my rather basic portrayal of the issues before concluding the interview.

In general, I would advise future candidates to make sure they are comfortable and calm; do not concern yourself with putting on a suit or 'smart' clothes, wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.


The situation is very different from a normal interview and they are concerned only with how you think and how you engage with an issue, not how you present yourself. I wore a suit to my first interview and felt very self conscious indeed. I had thought my second interview was the following day and on returning to the college that evening was called for interview just moments later. I was much more comfortable and confident in the second interview, wearing some terribly ripped jeans and a t-shirt. In short, do not concern yourself with your appearance any more than you normally would.


Probably the most important piece of advice I can give is for candidates to say what THEY think about a topic, not simply recount a historian's views. Even if you're asked about an area you've never studied, just take a moment to consider what sort of issues may be involved and simply respond with what comes to mind. This, I believe, was crucial in my second interview when I had no knowledge at all of the areas I was asked about, but was still able to respond, even if speculatively. The tutors would much rather have you offer an opinion, really go out on a limb, so long as you have a reason for doing so and a little evidence to back up a position you take (though this will obviously be somewhat difficult if you are asked about an area you haven't studied).


In general, simply be confident in what you are saying; there will be a degree of disagreement from some tutors regardless of the position you take on an issue. They do this simply to see how you respond under a little pressure, and to test your reasons for taking the view you have. Do not worry if a tutor seems to disagree with everything you say; the harder the interview, the more capable the tutor likely thinks that you are. Just explain why you've taken a particular view on an issue and be prepared to disagree. I can say from three years at Oxford that if you're prepared to disagree with a tutor, and can support your view with evidence or even theory, they will be much more impressed than if you simply agree with everything they say. Of course, I wouldn't suggest going in looking for an argument, only that if they disagree, do not be afraid to argue your view on an issue.


Mathematics, 2008

Selwyn, Dr. Button, Dr. Harding, Dr. Nikiforakis

How many solutions are there to x1 + x2 =n, x integers>0?

How many solutions are there to x1+x2+x3=n, x integers>0?


How can we evaluate the integral of x^-2 between 0 and 1 if it is not defined at 0?

Try to learn things from first principles where possible, really understand the inner workings and basics.


2006 (with a deferred place)

Lincoln College, Oxford

Interview One: Professor Stephen Gill

Twenty minutes preparation time for a set piece from Dickens 'Bleak House'. Then questions relating to this prose, e.g. structure, syntax, register, what did I think it meant, what did it remind me of.


Interview Two: Dr Peter McCullough

Twenty minutes preparation time for a set piece, a 16th century poem. Similar questions about the structure and especially the archaic language. Brief questions about my reading and course.

Ask questions from the tutors - you are there to prove you have the potential to be an interesting student not that you are already perfect.


2007 PhD

St. Peter's, Edith Sim and Dariuz Wojcik

Well, since it was for a PhD, it was more to do with my proposal and what does Oxford have to offer in terms of resources in the context of my research.

Need to have focussed replys. substantial grip on the topic to research. knowing a few key researchers and writers in the particular field.



Pembroke college. Dr Adrian Gregory. Dr Stephen Tuck

Modern history interview:

When I arrived I was seated outside the interview room for 15 minutes where I was given five pictures to think about. I had to choose one image that I then was asked to analyse. The pictures ranged from a photograph of a man on a boat in china to first world war propaganda posters. I chose the latter because I recognised one of the images as that of 'rosie the riveter'

the interview was fairly short, roughly twenty minutes. I spent about 4/5 minutes talking about the picture. That was fairly lacklustre. It was basically a source analysis akin to what you are taught to do for a-level. They asked where I thought the image had come from, who i guessed it was directed towards and what I thought the message was. The exercise wasnt about knowing exactly what the image was but rather what interpretation you could give on the spot.

The interview then moved on. I had had to send in an essay with my application. They spent abotu 5 minutes picking this to pieces and asking me very specific questions about some of the most minor points in the piece. Luckily I had really spent a lot of time going over the work before so I knew it inside out. They even asked me to comment on my 'use of adjectives' in the essay.

Throughout the interview the interviewers functioned as a team, alternating questions at a pretty quick speed.

After questions about the essay we moved on to more conceptual questions. They asked me, for example, what we might be able to tell about a period in history if we only had one surviving piece of music from the whole time. I responded with an answer about the puritans and iconophobia and ideas that the artistic output of a given period was often tied closely to the context in which it was created etc. but that of course the partial nature of survival and the limited audience for specific artworks reduced the relevance of such forms if the goal was to make general statements about a given period as a whole. Looking back on it these questions were of exactly the same spirit as the problems that I would be faced with in my first year of studying history at Pembroke. i.e. 'approaches' to history.

Not all questions were strictly history-related. They asked me what I had done in one of the work experience placement that I had listed. I focused on the most interesting sounding bits and glossed over the parts about making coffee. They also asked me what place in the world I would visit if I had an unlimited amount of money. I applied for a deferred place and was worried afterwards about my answer. I had said in my interview that I would go to st petersburg but on my personal statement it clearly said I was going to south america fo 6 months. Obviously it didn't matter though. Maybe because I explained my russia choice by talking about the history of communism

My interview went well and I actually enjoyed the process. The most important advice would be to try and enjoy it as much as possible. Before the interview about ten of us had been summoned into a room by the tutors just to explain what the process was going to be. I remember everyone looking really nervous and hardly any one even spoke. It was bizarre. Also there were these really pretentious characters who came in carrying loads of history books. None of them got in as far as I know.

The tutors really are looking for someone that they can imagine teaching. Obviously it would be a mistake to be over-confident. But I think it is essential to act as though you are happy to be there and are going to enjoy talking to these people whose subject you have professed to have such an interest in. It is important to appear open and friendly even if you are nervous.

Before my interview I prepared alot. I made sure that I was thoroughly prepared for anything that I might be asked in relation to my personal statement and the essay. In fact this meant that I had prepared answers for about half of the questions I was asked. It is a good idea to make sure that you can back up all of the material that you have provided the interviewers with, and with interesting answers.


2004 Classics

New College: Robin Lane-Fox, Paolo Crivelli, Jane Lightfoot

Classics standard:


Two or three interviews split:

1. Literature

2. Ancient History

3. Philosophy


In each case if previous knowledge of the subject has been included in the personal statement then questions on that topic may be asked. Questions may not refer to the specific material read, but could include:


1. The style of the author (whether poet, writer, historian or philosopher).

2. The ideas of the author (possiblty compared to others that you have read).

3. A comparison of the author with modern authors (in any discipline).

4. A comparison of the subject matter with modern/ historical examples.

5. The influences on the author (those who came before).

6. Those influenced by the author (those who came after).



There will likely be a short passage for translation in addition to the university wide exam. After that school texts or outside reading will be discussed. The literary content of the passage for translation may also be discussed.


Ancient History:

There may be a short passage for translation. School texts or current affairs may be discussed. Tutors will test on ability to analyse causes of events, key players (seen or unseen) and key factors in influencing one outcome over another. There will also be questions on historiography: the influence of the author on our understanding of events, their work compared to other accounts, their bias and their credibility.



If any philosophy as been read at school or outside then this may be discussed (as above). A test on logic is possible, but this will depend on the specilisation of the tutor. a philosophy interview is not guaranteed.


Archaeology and Art:

There may be some questions on artefacts (pictures or real objects such as coins, rings, statuettes) or art. These will be focused on making the candidate think beyond their current knowledge base and use sound analytical skills. Things like style, period, location, purpose and quality/ cost should be considered.


Make sure to have a dedicated topic or author of interest. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to stand by your argument. Think before you speak. Do practice translations (ask me for examples). Shake your tutors hand. Introduce yourself by name. Try not to fall back on knowledge from school or reading, instead think hard about the questions asked and answer on the basis of your thoughts at the time. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification on any question asked. Do not be afraid to ask questions in order to enter into a dialogue with the tutor. Do not sit silent for a long time structuring a very long answer. Present your points in succint, structured, individuals sentences.


2006, I am a 4th year

St Peter's and Lincoln, Dr Dorigatti, Mr Southworth, Dr Conde, Dr Nitschke

I applied for Spanish and Italian. I had to do grammar tests for each language. I now study Italian and Linguistics.


At Lincoln for Italian I was given a poem of about 20 lines in 19th language to prepare 15 minutes before interview. It concerned Adam and Eve's fate after the Temptation. I was asked who I thought it was written by, what I thought the significance of it was, and whether I could relate it to any contemporary poets.


At St Peter's (where I now am), I was also given a poem 15 minutes before the interview. It was by Neruda, and dealt with the contrasting theme of love for women and love for God. However, after a few initial minutes, Mr Southworth concentrated mainly on what I had written for my personal statement.


For my Italian interview at St Peter's I was asked to speak about my families, my hobbies, and my impression of Oxford - in Italian. I was then asked about Umberto Eco, a novelist who I had also mentioned in my Personal Statement.

Make sure your grammar for each language is faultless. If the tutors are undecided on 2 candidates, they will often look at your grammar scores because this shows which person is more willing to study the 'nitty-gritty' aspects of Modern Languages.


Ensure that you have read at least 2 novels in the target language. The course at Oxford is a literary course and so the tutors very much want to see your passion for the texts you have so far encountered. Being fluent in the language is not enough....


Have a few questions up your sleeve for the end of the interview. Most tutors will finish the session by asking you if you have any quiries at all.


Be confident and don't be afraid to express your own views on a certain topic!


PPE, 2005

Christ Church and Somerville, interviewed by Hugh Rice,

At ChCh, was given a question on Sikhs being required by law to wear motorcycle helmets (individual liberty vs. societal welfare) for politics, discussed factors which could affect prices in a market for economics, and asked to discuss a topic of my choice for Philosophy (I discussed Descartes and A priori arguments for existence).


At Somerville, I discussed globalisation and the nation state for politics, game theory for economics and again, a topic of my choice for Philosophy (i discussed Humean Scepticism).

The best advice is to have a topic in mind for each subject in case you are allowed to chose - I didn't and ended up discussing topics that were not my strongest because they were the first that came to mind.


2004 for Classics

New College. Dr Lightfoot, Dr Crivelli, Mr Lane Fox and Mr Raeburn

In my literature interview we discussed my submitted essay and general questions on tragedy. In philosophy, we did simple logic questions (they were given to me at the beginning and I had about 10 minutes to think about them). In ancient history, we discussed the places of archeological interest I had mentioned in my personal statement. In language, we went over the grammar and translation tests I had taken the day before in New College.

Really be secure on everything you mention in your personal statement, and your essays. Take your time in delivering your answers and don't panic.


Classics 2006

Emmanuel - Dr. Nigel Spivey and Dr. Jeremy Caddick

Interestingly, when applying for Classics at Cambridge, you get interviewed at two colleges - the college to which you applied, and a random second college - because the subject is such a small one that if the college you apply to only accepts one candidate, you might be offered a place at the second college if it has a larger intake that year. This meant that I, in effect, had a practice run at the second college before being interviewed at my chosen college, Emmanuel: a rare treat! Both interviews followed a similar plan - I was asked what it was about my subject that I enjoyed, and what it was about the course at Cambridge that particularly attracted me. At Emmanuel, we got into several really interesting conversations about the place of Classics in modern education, art, and literature. I was asked to think carefully about what texts I enjoyed reading, and why - the interview was effectively an examination of my interest in Classics.

I spent a lot of time leading up to my interview worrying about what it was going to be like and how I was going to come across. Although nerves are inevitable, this fear was at the end of the day entirely pointless. What my interviewers were looking for was indication that I could communicate, convey interest and an intelligent approach to studying Classics. They wanted to know that I was genuinely enthusiastic about my chosen subject - the test wasn't so much what I knew, but what I thought about it and what my approach to tackling new ideas would be.



Corpus Christi

The questions asked related to two sample texts. The texts were related to the regulation of tobacco in the US and the definition of 'performance,' under copyright law.


The key to a successful outcome is to: ensure that you read the whole text, being aware of the time pressure, which is considerable; in conjunction with giving thoughtful answers to whehter certain situations fall under legal definitions. Be prepared for your answers to be challenged. It is acceptable to ask for a minute to re-read a passage before answering the interviewers questions. The academics that I encountered were looking for students who would be flexible enough to evolve their answers where the evidence was justified.



King's Pippa Berry, Pete de Bolla


Asked to read a Donne Sonnet, 'Go catch a falling star'

Shakespeare Sonnet


Do a lit crit on both. Asked about double entendres, how today some words have sexual meanings which didn't in the renaissance. How does that affect how we read it today. Asked 'what is poetry' and then made to defend my answer (I quoted Wordsworth's definition). What i thought was good literature, what I thought was bad. Again made to defend such statements.


Asked to summarize the entire Aeneid with a single phrase in the original latin. My answer was 'Pius Aeneas'.


How did i think Latin and the study of classics aid the study of English Literature.

I answered references, traditions and infulences.


No questions on my extracurricular activities, current affairs or set school texts.






Don't try to tell them what you think they want to hear, you'll get it wrong and they can spot an imposter a mile off. Don't make yourself vulnerable by telling them you've read books you haven't, or by stating an opinion, just because you think it sounds good. They want to see what happens when they disagree with you and put you under pressure. Don't buckle; engage, and if they're clearly winning the argument, it's better to acknowledge their point of view and say you've learnt something new, rather than be stubbornly arguing. Keep answers brief, and get to the point quick, they cut you off after a few sentences.Sometimes a very effective answer, is simply to rephrase the question back at them. A good trick when you're really stuck!


Mathematics 2008

Christ Church/ St. Hilda's

Christ Church: I have an exemplary question which they asked me which was: prove that for a three digit number if the addition of the digits is divisible by 3 then the whole number is divisible by 3. He taught be about numerical congruence, guided me through some simple proofs about congruence and then waited to see how I would continue. I managed to prove it (in the end). Another interviewer, told us to think of our favourite bit of maths and explain why we like it (for only a few minutes). I talked about my extended essay (I studied the IB), which was on the formulation of Complex numbers as an idea in 16th Century Italy. A third interviewer had us drawing graphs and integrating (basic ideas such as integral of Lnx).

St. Hilda's - I had one interview here which had me deriving the infinite summation description of the exponent using integrals.

I was admitted into St. Hilda's so I've often wondered why I didn't get into Christ Church. In the interviews I managed to prove all the theorems which they gave me so perhaps they wanted a bit more. Perhaps, I should have read more widely around the subject. I only read one book in preparation for the interview (the Music of the Primes), but I did do alot of mathematical preparation.


Law, 2005

Downing, Girton; Virgo, Odudu, Feldman, Cherry Hopkins



Two interviews

First with Graham Virgo revolved around five criminal law problems

With preparation this would be quite straightforward, it was not so much a cae of knowing the areas of criminal law as the actual concepts of actus and mens rea. This is covered in most introductory books, e.g. Learning the Law (overrated), or Understanding the Law (much more enjoyable, and rewarding).

Second with Odudu and Professor David Feldman was a nightmare, revolving around an extract of licencing law and an extract of competition legislation and whether a local council prohibiting bars from setting prices below a certain level was price fixing. The questioning was hostile, good cop / bad cop style and the feedback my 6th form head received indicated this was intended and the key was to assimilate the information received (and the additional facts that were added), but to also think more laterally; e.g. what is the purpose of the legislation. In hindsight, an adept interviewee would have steered the conversation away from law to the purpose of the legislation, and sought to distinguish the local authority's actions from those competition law is concerned with.



This was a pool interview, and thus quite different. There was little hostility here, and instead the emphasis was on stressing that there were 20 of us chasing at most 2 places. Questions were thus more predictable and standard, such as discussing moral issues and reading.

Research the areas of law of your interviewers; all of my interviewers focused on these areas (particularly at Downing). I think it is difficult to appreciate the importance of principles to these interviews, but they are pervasive.


Other areas for improvement are more obvious; smile, relax, realise it is not a one-way process, it's actually (i) very boring, and (ii) quite stressful for your interviewer. The interviewee who makes them smile (for the right reasons) really will stand out from the crowd.


BA Biological Sciences, 2004

Christ Church: Professor Sarah Randolph and Dr Stephen Harris. St Hilda's: Dr Sarah Watkinson and Dr Petros Ligoxygakis

When I arrived at Christ Church I was set some work to be completed before my interview the following day. This was a single sheet of paper comprising an explanation of an experiment (involving mice) and a table of data derived from the experiment. My job was to represent and analyse the data in the best way I saw fit - i.e. to draw some graphs and write a few paragraphs. I then had to present the data during my interview, justifying my choice of graphs and the conclusions I had drawn.


I was also asked what interesting Biology-related books I had read recently. I answered that I was currently reading Richard Dawkins' 'The Ancestor's Tale', so as to spark up a conversation about evolution. I was asked questions such as 'What evidence is there for evolution?' and 'Have you heard of the molecular clock?'. I could not give an affirmative answer to the latter question, so the molecular clock was then explained to me before I was asked about its potential uses. I think I replied that it could indicate the age of DNA.


The final part of the interview involved Dr Stephen Harris presenting a tray of unusual seeds and asking how they were most likely to be dispersed. I had to explain all my answers - e.g. small spherical red seeds are likely to be dispersed by birds which can spot them from the air, and which use visual cues more than other taxa.



My interview at St Hilda's was more closely related to my personal statement. I had written that I was interested in the social as well as purely scientific aspects of Biology, which led to discussions on genetically modified organisms and stem cell research.


I was also shown a type of fungi growing on top of a toilet roll by Dr Sarah Watkinson (whom I believe has now left Hilda's). I was asked to explain what type of nutrition was responsible for the fungi's growth (saprophytic), and what substrate the fungi was utilising (cellulose). This lead on to a more molecular-oriented set of questions concerning the structure of cellulose.

Don't worry about knowing all the answers: tutors are more interested in how you arrive at your answers. To this end, it's a good idea to explain at least some of your thought processes to the interviewers.


If you write about a specific area of your subject in your personal statement, be sure that you can talk about it in some detail. It's also easier if you're relatively specific in your personal statement. My mention of the social dimension of Biology was a little broad, and led me to talk about issues I wasn't particularly clued up on. It would've been better to say that I was interested in the social implications of stem cell research, for example.


Let your passion for your subject shine out! You may absolutely love Biology, English, Law etc. but if your interviewers can't see that they're less likely to offer you a place.



St Annes, St Hildas

They asked me in depth about my essay and questions about my A Level texts, personal statement and random texts that they put in front of me.

Keep calm and don't worry - I was sent to be interviewed at Hilda's because I didn't speak enough first time round.


Engineering 1994


I went for the interview rather than the entrance exam option. The questions were vaguely some Mechanics type questions and I had to solve them on a piece of paper in front of two examiners. As I had not covered (or prepared) a lot for Mechanics I didn't do well but the examiners did help me solve the question step by step. I had prepared mostly Pure Maths. It was pretty nerving for me at the time as it was my first experience living outside home for the evening of the interview in their halls.

I suspect that looking at the entrance exam papers would've helped. Not really sure how useful this feedback is but here goes nonetheless!


I think in retrospect I could have shown clear confidence and determination to have wanted to be there rather than just get bogged down by the questions they were asking. I think on top of the academics they were also looking for how I coped with pressure.


Classics I, applied 2006

Balliol - Adrian Kelly, Rosalind Thomas, Bob Cowan, Kinch Hoekstra

During the first interview - a combined Latin and Philosophy interview - I was initially asked about certain claims I'd made in my personal statement, namely my uncertainty (bordering on dislike) of the. Aeneid. I defended myself by explaining that so far in my studies of the poem I found the, in places, overt flattery of Augustus and the notion of the principate and imperial programme somewhat unsubtle, and said that it detracted attention from the beauty of the verse, constrained as it was by such considerations; I focused a great deal of this criticism on book 8 and the list of Roman leaders to come in the Underworld, as well as on the depiction of the native Latins and Italians which was designed in such a way so as to emphasise, on the one hand, their positive qualities and thus their suitability as ancestors to the Romans, and on the other to highlight their lack of sophistication, in comparison to the civilised Roman descendants, and yet in positive contrast to the charges of effeminacy laid at the Trojan's feet in book 11. However, I was careful to emphasise that this 'dislike' of the poem was more disappointment with certain elements that let down an otherwise enjoyable work, and that I'm sure I would change my mind once my horizons had been broadened by further study.



I was then asked more closely about the relationship between the imperial family and the characters of the poem, particularly Aeneas and Augustus. I can't remember the exact details of my answer, but I ended up concluding that the characters were symbolic of certain attributes and values which the poet wished to signal were to be associated in some way with Augustus, but that in other areas there was no straightforward parallel, particularly taking into consideration the negative light in which his brutality on the battlefield is set; it may well be that such violence was not intended to illuminate a specific facet of his character or actual behaviour, but rather the violence inherent in any kind of expansion into new territory, such as the expansion of the Roman Empire would currently be creating. I was asked a number of other questions about the poem which I can't quite recall, but the ones above dominated most of the interview.


I was then asked to think about a philosophical conundrum: A shoots B, what questions do you ask? I gave a range of answers, including: why does A shoot B, is B pregnant, is this a war, has B done something that merits A's shooting of him, is this onstage/ on film, is this 'shooting' in terms of film making, does B die, does A mean to shoot B, is A in his/her right mind, is this a game, is B human...? and so on...


Right at the end I was asked if I had any questions. My teachers at school had told me that on no account was I to answer no in the event of this question, so I asked about opportunities for singers at the college.


In my ancient Greek interview, I had written an essay on the causes of Agamemnon's death and Clytemnestra's motivations in Aeschylus' Agamemnon. Most of the interview was taken up with them picking this apart, asking me to defend my argument, which I did (though detail escapes me). They asked me about the nature of the Athenian democracy; I answered wrongly at one point, when asked about those eligible to vote, and promptly blamed it on the limited nature of the material we were given for A level Greek background. I was asked about how I would stage the play, and about why Greek drama was still important. In response I discussed the transcendental nature of the themes at issue in Greek drama, particularly such things as family tensions, death, government and rule, and argued for their relevance today; I also talked about the continuities between drama today and ancient texts, looking at such things as the figure of the protagonist, the use and subversion of the Aristotelian unities, as well as the development of the chorus - it's use in musicals and opera, the use of certain characters in modern plays that are seen to play a similar role, in questioning/supporting a central character.


I was then asked about any books that I'd read lately, and I discussed Tom Holland's Rubicon for a very long time. I explained why I liked it - because of its straightforward handling of different possible explanations for historical events, and its exciting narrative style - and whether I agreed with its conclusions - can't remember what I replied, probably a qualified 'yes', having raised doubts something or other.

Have known the Aeneid, Homer and Agamemnon just that little bit better, so as to have been able to select any number of pertinent examples to back up my points. I could've read more Greek tragedy in order to have broadened my discussion about Greek drama. I'd have learnt my Greek history better, particularly the political developments in 5th century Athens.


BA Philosophy and Theology (started in 2005, applied end 2004)

Pembroke College, Peter J. King, N. Mehmet, Christopher Tuckett

* Theology Interview: I was asked why I wanted to study Theology and why at Oxford, and to talk about any theology books I might have read. I was then given a short passage from the New Testament (Mark I think) to comment on and discuss with them.


* Philosophy: We were given a short passage from Genesis about good and evil to read and prepare. in the interview, I was then asked to discuss the passage and the problems it posed in terms of ethics and philosophy of religion. The conversation then moved on to more general philosophy questions: the mind/body problem, discussing the notion of bad taste and good taste, etc.

I think as a whole the best thing for candidates is to be quietly confident - by which I mean do believe in your own value and that you have interesting ideas to bring, but also do keep in mind that, during interviews, your potential tutors also evaluate whether they're going to enjoy teaching you or not.

So be attentive, not to arrogant and do not hesitate to say when you're not sure you understand something for example - it shows confidence and maturity, and also that you "teachable" and trying to learn something as opposed to being so desperate to say something that you're not actually paying attention to what the interviewers saying.


Biological Sciences 2005

St Catherine's College (Angela Mclean, Henry Bennet-Clark, Peter Markov) New College (no idea what the guys name was)

St Catz Interview:

Basic statistics questions key to Biology eg relating probability to statistical procedure. The one example I can remember well was if he tossed a coin and bet me (with great odds) it would land heads every time when would I think that he was cheating / the coin was rigged. Chance of heads = 50% two heads in a row = 25% etc In Biostats we take 5% as the cut off for thinks we expect to happen by chance so after 5 consecutive heads results I would accuse him of cheating. Required knowledge of basic probability and basic knowledge of statistical principals. (I got this one pretty quickly, think they would expect you to)


Graphs to interpret: suggesting how they would differ in different situations


More practical, given an object (an asymmetrical cross section of a piece of wood and asked to explain what it was and interpret what was unusual about it) - The rings were asymmetrical and the bark edge was sloped (i talked about different concentrations of nutrients and water access and stuff, they said it could be but its not to all of my answers turned out it was a branch not a trunk and one side was fatter as it was taken from near the trunk and had effectively grown that way to support the weight of the branch.


New College Interview:

Lots of graphs and data to interpret and then get a little deeper and extrapolate from.


Few random curve-ball questions: EG "are humans still evolving and how?" and "Why do people die (evolutionary reasons rather than obvious ones)"

As far as i can remember i said something along the lines of "our environment is always changing, we need to evolve to keep up with this by producing new genotypes the only way we can do this is by reproducing as meiosis and gametes are the only way we can mix up genes. If no one died they would soon become "outdated" and the world would become over run as sex is essential to creating new variation so people have to die off. The individual is really not important its about the perpetuation of the gene which is much better achieved in a new naturally selected individual...." evidently there were a couple of holes in my theory.



Both interviewers asked the basic stoke questions: Why Oxford? Why this college? Why biology? good to have genuine and original if possible answers prepared for these. Only one question from my personal statement in each. One was about one of the books I had read.

Interpreting graphs and data are classic questions which you get a lot better at with practice so might have been better off doing a few more of them so you can pick things out and explain what things mean more easily.


Basic knowledge of underlying statistical workings and procedure would be crucial and there will most likely be a question relating to it as its so important in biology. this is something I could have been much better prepared for and will really impress interviewers as is the tricky part of the subject. This is also something I know a lot about now both from my undergrad and postgrad in Public Health which is basically a statistics course.


Making sure they know it's ok to ask for a minute to think about something or arrange thoughts before jumping straight into an answer.


Prepare good answers to the questions you know they will ask, one of the only good ways to ensure you can help distinguish yourself in preparation.


If you say you are interested in something on your personal statement make sure you not only know about it but have something to say! EG The book I was asked to talk about, all very well knowing it cover to cover but when they say did you enjoy it not just saying "yes" being able to bring about some quirk or something more interesting from it. Did you enjoy it is not the real question its just a probe to get you talking.


Try and be a bit up to date and have some recent articles to talk about or know about the biology in the news (they love more topical questions when they can find them). This will help demonstrate your interest.




1hr exam followed by interview assessing the exam

practice STEP


Modern Languages (French and Spanish) 2005

FRENCH - New College - Professor Ann Jeffereson (New College), Wes Williams (St Edmunds Hall), SPANISH - Merton - Dr Jonathon Thacker (Merton)

I went to Oxford to stay for 4 days. I arrived on the first morning and everyone involved in Modern Languages sat their various grammar exams on that afternoon - one exam in each language (I can't remember how long). The exams were certainly harder than I had been led to believe, and harder than the sample papers from the website. I didn't do particularly well in either French or Spanish, and went on to acknowledge this fact in the interviews themselves - I think they appreciated that I knew I hadn't been particularly strong. The second day, a day before my French interview, I was given a passage to look over - the opening section of Annie Ernaux's 'La Place'. I read and annotated it and subsequently it was the first thing we talked about in the interview. I was given free rein to talk about it for about 15 minutes, and made my comments about how it worked as a passage, what I felt about the characters, and the style. But it transpired that I had misunderstood the age of the protagonist (calling the young woman an 'old lady'). The mistake was pointed out to me, but rather than derailing the interview we spent the rest of the time reworking my ideas in light of this correct reading. I feel that the way in which I handled this revelation and adjusted my ideas accordingly was the most successful part of my interview. There was little time left so we simply talked briefly in French about my latest holiday in France - an extremely untaxing part of the process, in which I probably neither excelled nor appalled.


The next day I had a Spanish interview, at Merton because New College doesn't have a Spanish tutor. There was no passage to prepare. We talked a lot about the books on my personal statement, and especially about one phrase in which I mentioned my interest in feminist literature. This was pounced upon and I spent a considerable time fielding questions such as 'Does a feminist author have to be female?' and 'Could Shakespeare be considered a feminist writer?' Essentially my answers were 'no' and 'yes' - feminist concepts are universal not inherently female, and interpretations of Shakespeare have as much to do with the sympathies of the actors/actresses/director and audience as they do with the playwright. Obviously the topic is much larger than this! I was also asked why I chose to read what I read, and what I wanted to read next. The talk in Spanish was equally brief, and about my holidays.


I remained in Oxford for one extra day, in case I was called to another college, but this didn't happen.


I was successful and went to New College the next year.


Both interviews lasted longer than expected (and advertised), about 30-35 minutes.

I definitely could have prepared a lot better for the grammar, as I was quite caught out by the level they were expecting.


One of my main strengths was that I read unusual books (in particular, for French, Marie Darrieusecq's 'Truismes') which helped me to stand out. As the Oxford language degree is based hugely on literature, this is the area in which a candidate has to appear best prepared, most insightful, and most enthusiastic.


Showing this enthusiasm and ability to evolve your ideas was, as usual, the key. I could probably have benefited from keeping my answers still closer to the questions being asked of me, especially in the Spanish interview.


History, 2007

Brasenose College, Martin Ingram and Rowena Archer

My first interview was a general one with Dr Martin Ingram. He asked me broadly about history, its relevance to society and application in the world of academia. He also interrogated me on my somewhat iffy personal statement, which was a useful opportunity to show that I could think on my feet. This is clearly the most crucial thing for prospective candidates to master, and one that can be easily developed by teaching.


My second interview was with Dr Rowena Archer, a formidable tutor who still terrifies me to this day. She grilled me on the reign of King John, which I had cited as my A-level topic. More preparation would have been helpful for me, again something easy achieved through good teaching. Somehow I managed to get offered a place, but more interview practice would have been helpful!

There is a huge amount that can be gained through tuition for interviews. The most important is the manner in which you conduct yourself. Tuition could help iron out nervous habits that really diminish the impression that is put out. Simple practice of being put on the spot, rather that rote-learning answers is necessary.


Paticularly for history, being taught how to think differently about various subjects and offer a fresh persoective is important. Often the way people prepare for these interviews by over revising is detrimental to how they come across.


Making arguments, rather than stating bland facts, is important. It really is not about what you may have read, but how you have read it.


Modern Languages (French and Spanish), interviews end of 2003

Keble College

Assessment of poems, discussion of the literature I was reading in the languages.

Be yourself! Don't try to say anything 'clever' or 'different'; just be honest, calm and friendly.


English and French, 2005

Wadham, Robert Young, Bernard O'Donoghue, Christina Howells


i. Given a short piece written by Sartre, asked to summarise what he was talking about, what he was referring to through his metaphors.

>I think I rushed through the piece too quickly, I should have slowed down. I got a few things wrong about what was going on in the piece.

>I explained all the things I already knew about Sartre, I think I asked a few questions about him.


Asked various questions about why I wanted to do french, why I chose to do it over any other languages.

>Preferred french culture, french literature. Doing french would only open opportunities to do other languages, not close them.


+ French grammar test.


English: (this interview I do not remember so well!)

Given a Thomas Hardy poem, asked what was going on the poem.

Asked whether there was anything I didnt understand.


Talked about my personal statement, and what poems I enjoyed.

>I think I talked more about enjoying writing poems rather than reading them, an answer they seemed to like.

In retrospect, I would have liked to have talked to people who had been through the same process. My school gave us no practice beforehand. It is important to achieve a balance between talking in a mature, passionate way and also maintaining composure and being relaxed.


I would liked to have 'read around', i.e. achieved a good grasp of other fields that intersected with the subject for which I was applying. For this, reading lists or again, getting help with research would have helped.


In terms of French, I would have benefitted from going on a short course or taking a booster session for French grammar (which, indeed, Oxford offers students who gain admission but whose grammar is not up to scratch). Developing a passion for grammar by sheer virtue of being good at it is often overlooked but is absolutely critical.


The French literature curriculum at schools can also be narrow and tired; it would have been good to get a sense of live debates that are going on in the field of French studies and tried to discover a few niche and unusual french authors to discuss at interview.


Music 2006

Kings Nick Marston, Ian Fenlon

Nick Marston gave me a short Beethoven piano sonata (1 page A4), a passage from Dahlhaus 19th century music and I had to comment on both. The Dahlhaus was quite dense and literally translated so that was mainly an exercise of wading through it with gentle prompting from him. The Beethoven piano sonata was mainly trying to get that it was sonata form and talking about the interesting aspects of the music. It's basic analysis which is about being as perceptive as possible and noticing as much as possible even if you think it's obvious. We had a general chat and had already met at the open day. Fenlon was slightly confrontational and presented me with several unseen scores from the middle and I had to make educated guesses about what the works were, who the composers were (nationality, time period etc.) I argued with him slightly over a piece which I thought was Britten and he claimed was obviously Stravinsky (I didn't think it was as obvious as he seemed to). We also discussed the Rite of Spring.

I didn't think the interview went particularly well, I wasn't great at identifying all the works that Fenlon gave me to look at. But nevertheless I got in - I think you probably stand a good chance if you're really passionate about music and have an enquiring mind and seem willing to learn. Also there is normally a 4 hour theory/dictation test but someone moved the piano so it got cancelled my year.



Corpus Christi. Dr John Watts (head of History) and Dr Jay Sexton.

Why do you want to study History?

- Always enjoyed subject. Want to achieve a rounded sense of the past - understand how different periods connect.


Tell us about your History coursework.

- On Henry II. Can't really remember what I said.


Why did you apply to Corpus?

- Strong in History. Erasmus studied here so should be good enough for me!

Just be yourself. Don't wear a suit! Know you're CV and coursework well. Don't say History is important because knowing the past helps you predict the future!


Law, 2003

Worcester College

My interview in Oxford was over 4 days and had 3 components.


1) Interview with two Oxford law tutors about myself and my personal statement.

- This mostly involved talking about why I wanted to do law, about myself, my personal statement and my education so far. It also had a small problem solving exercise at the end which the 2 tutors walked me through and which I found quite easy to work through.


2) Second Interview with 2 different law tutors

- This entirely consisted of a problem solving exercise in which I was given a fact pattern which involved a legal question. At the end of fact pattern there were a number of different choices and I had to choose which one I felt was correct and tell them why. The problem was on theft and criminal law and it was quite complicated. The tutors were a lot stricter than my first interview but they did walk me through the fact pattern, explained the law and explained the consequences of each possible answer. They also did try and help me to get to the correct answer and then I had to explain what I found difficult and easy to understand.


3) Written test

- This was in two parts, held in the main dining hall. There was a multiple choice questions part (similar to the LNAT which I did the following year) although it was based on a newspaper article and then I had to write a small essay in about half an hour. I think the test only lasted around 2 hours.

1) I feel that I could have really thought about my personal statement more and also thought of alternative questions of why I didn't want to do anything else apart from law. They wanted to see serious committment and that I'd really thought about why law was different to other subjects.


2) Read more newspaper articles on law-related topics - this is always good to talk about in interviews and also good to learn to analyse and understand the repercussions of legal decisions/court cases.


3) Looked at some basic law concepts - such as contract principles, criminal principles - they are likely to test these with problem/analytical questions and therefore it would be useful to have some grounding in these often complicated concepts!



Jesus college and Hertford college

i had three interviews at Jesus college and one at Hertford college. i was not given any material prior to the interview it was all just in the interview.

I was offered a place at lady margaret hall and sat in on some interviews for biochemistry in the subsequent years that i spent at the college. They really look for people who can apply what they know and show a thought process, it doesnt matter too much if they are right or wrong.

dont be afraid to be wrong. think things through logically.


Music: 2004

St John's and Clare: Dr. Castlevecchi, and Timothy Brown



involved preparation of a score, keyboard tests, and optional performance on your main instruments. Discussion ranged from particular interests, to a chat about the Disney film 'the Incredibles', to wine stains on the carpet.

Have had a much more detailed knowledge of the course on offer, and been prepared to argue my own viewpoints more effectively. At times, during one of my interviews, I was made to feel very small and as if everything that I answered was wrong in some way. I wish that I had been able to defend my point of view more effectively, in such a way that demonstrated clarity of thought rather than presumption.


English 2002

Balliol, Seamus Perry & Carl Schmidt

Wallace Stevens poem, Coleridge etc.

practical criticism exercises, relaxation


English Literature, 2002 (for entry in 2003)

Lady Margaret Hall

There was no material to prepare before the interview, although I did have to submit a piece of writing on a subject of my choice.


The interview focussed on my essay (which I wrote on Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience). They asked me what it was that interested me in Blake's poetry. What other poems of his I was familiar with and what I would like to learn about them. They then asked me about poetry more generally, about how to study a poem, who my favourite poets were and why I enjoyed their work. We talked about the history of poetry and other poems I was studying for A-Level. We disagreed on the significance of Chaucer's work.


I had a second interview in which I talked about other forms of literature. This was much less formal and it felt more like a chat about books that I liked. The conversation ranged from modern contemporary novelists that I read in my spare time, to the classical authors that I had studied.

I would have read more about the people that were interviewing me. I can't remember who interviewed me but the first interviewer had incredibly different tastes in literature to me. I should have researched his interests so that I could have steered the conversation away from the writers that we disagreed on into the more comfortable territory of contemporary novelists which I later discovered we had in common.


I would also have made sure that I had a wide ranging taste of 'extra-curricular' literature to talk about. A huge amount of my conversation focussed on my studies and I don't believe that they got a real sense of my love for literature. I came across as someone who read because they had to rather than because they wanted to and overall they want someone who cares and is passionate about their subject. If you can display how much you want to study your subject then you are half way there.



Worcester - John Parrington and Derek Terrar

Why oxford?

Why worcester? - beautiful grounds, sports pitches, location, well recommended, healthy balance of work and play. If you can make personal comments about the tutors' areas of research then that would be impressive.

Why medicine? - varied, helping people, satisfying, academically interesting, constantly changing working environment, communication skills and teamwork are key and those are my strengths

What is different about oxbridge? - tutorial system, academic, challenging, change the way you think so you can address any problem

Why are you a strong candidate? - teamwork, used to a busy life, communication, deal with stress, fascinated in subject, good at taking broader picture

How have you dealt with stress in the past? - exams, integrating sport with work and other commitments. Deal by setting timetable, organising, communicating with relevant people, taking breaks to read/chill out

Tell me about a science book you have read which you haven't mentioned in your personal statement. These sorts of questions will filter out those who have no knowledge/preparation beyond those topics mentioned on the PS

Stay relaxed, be yourself, think before you speak and say more not less!

Don't worry if you feel like it's going badly - some interviewers will want to see how you deal with a 'bad' situation and whether you keep your cool.

Have set topics that you have prepared - many interviewers will give you a chance to steer the conversation onto that.

Don't wear casual clothing and turn your phone off.


2003, Human Sciences

New College,Boyce, Mansfield, Odling-Smee, St Catherine's,?

I was asked about the course and skull dating in one interview. The way social divisions divide society in another and about religion and how it plays a role on genes - linked into the nature vs nurture debate.

Have an opinion but be willing to admit your opinion might not be right rather than dig yourslef a hole.


Archaeology and Anthropology 2000

Trinity College

In advance of my interview I was asked to read at least one book from a reading list on Archaeology and Anthropology. One thing that I would recommend is that when reading it, don't get too hung up on reading everything, but try to read one or two chapters in detail and recall the main arguments and theories. As this is a subject that you will not have studied in the past, the interviewers are not expecting you to have an expert background knowledge. They just want to ensure that you can read something and absorb the key points. It is better to know a few topics in details than trying to absorb a lot of facts that hang together loosely and will not enable you to form any arguments in an interview.

In addition to speaking about the books I had read, I was asked about my school work. I remember being surprised and unprepared for this and with hindsight this was short-sighted of me. The interviewers asked me about a novel I had read in my English lessons - I had mentioned it and they had taken me up on it, but I could think of nothing to say about it. Make sure that if you drop any texts into conversation that you can make some points about them! It is the same as when you write an essay - prepare a few key arguments about one or two texts that you have been reading. Look for strengths and weaknesses in an argument as well as arguments for and against a theory.


I was asked about my extra-curricular activities. This was always my strong point at school, having taken part in sports teams, music, theatre and CCF. Here it is just important to show that you are enthusiastic about trying out different things and that you have some get-up and go.

If I were to go back on my own experience, I would have made key notes on the arguments in the papers that I was asked to read as well as on my own school texts (rather than thinking that they were irrelevant to this new course - they aren't - all knowledge is relevant).


Know all arguments FOR and AGAINST. When you are asked a question, make sure that you make an argument, stating both sides, but conclude by picking one side and give your reasons for this.


If you are asked to write an essay, be prepared to talk about it and perhaps argue against your original ideas.


Don't try to quote a professor back at themselves. They want to see if YOU can think. Not that you can read their books.


Don't be afraid to take time in the interview to think. They would prefer you to think about the question and answer succinctly and with analytical thought, rather than manically regurgitating a few ideas that either do not answer the question or are unrelated to one another.


From my own perspective, if you have a parent or grand-parent who went to the college that you are applying for, I would avoid bringing this up. I have done so in the past, sometimes it is appreciated by interviewer and at other times it has, I feel, held me back. At the end of the day, you want to be there on your own merit.


The most important thing, in my opinion,is to be relaxed and confident in the interview. You will obviously feel nerves. What I did not realise then, however, but do now, is that the interviewer wants you to do your best. They are not trying to catch you out, they want you to succeed just as much as you do. Remember that they are on your side. Do not doubt yourself.


Natural Sciences 2005

Trinity Hall, Interviewed by Florian Hollfelder and Nick Bampos

The admissions tutor (Richard Miles) and Senior Tutor (Nick Bampos) both made it clear that they were looking at HOW you thought and solved problems, not WHAT you knew. The idea of the interview was to push you out of your comfort zone and find out how you dealt with complex new material, not test you on what you already knew.

The first interview was a subject interview and was mainly about biology (I was applying for biological Natural Sciences) - I was asked to draw an amino acid and consider how it would react, then I was asked what I thought the biggest discovery in biology of the 20th Century was and why. I chose antibiotics and was then asked to explain how I thought they worked - something I hadn't previously learned.

The second interview was called the general interview although after a cursory chat about my personal statement it quickly became a technical conversation about chemistry - It was about the shape of orbitals.

There was also a Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) which was a critical thinking test.

Listen carefully to what you are being asked - they will start with some facts you should know to relax you, then start to stretch you with stuff you shouldn't know - make sure you realise when this is and think logically, critically and imaginatively. DON'T interpret the question as something you should already know and waffle about stuff you learned at A level. The idea of the interview is to see how you cope with new, complex material.


Theology and Religious Studies 2004

Jesus - Tim Jenkins and Janet Soskice, the Arts Tutor, Corpus Christi - Ana Williams

Corpus Christi - Given an extract from the Old Testament to read before the interview. Interpretation asked of this, and details discussed.


Jesus - Asked questions about the main book I mentioned in my application - Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard, and what it contributed to theology and why I thought it was important. Asked about work experience I had mentioned at The Spectator.

More research into what the interviewers' areas of interest were


History - 2006 entry

King's - Michael Sonenscher, Stephen Alford

Before: upon arrival given exam. 6 questions of which I had to answer 2 in 90 minutes. One specific question - which I answered - was: What is Religious history? I formulated an answer beginning with the traditional theme of ecclesiastical History - religious history as the history of the (Christian) church, written by those in power (monarchs and bishops) and controlled by them. I balanced this with the idea of history 'from below', and the more recent attempt to shift focus away from the centre into the localities (and indeed other - 'world' - religions). A concluding point hinted at the wider definition of 'religion' (rites/rituals etc).


Then forty minute interview. Two interviewers sitting on opposite sides of the room. One friendly and engaging - fired a barrage of questions, the other stared out of the window, occasionally interjecting with a cutting remark.


Questions initially focused on the two pieces of work I had previously submitted. Not in depth but on the general themes. One essay had investigated the link between Hitler and the composer Richard Wagner, and I was asked if other political leaders had been influenced by music, and did I think social-context could be separated from political leadership. Then more general questions, such as 'What areas of History interest you most and why?' - my answer, I think, revolved around the Reformation, and it's seminal importance for the next few centuries.



Read far more. Look at the Cambridge first year HAP reading list and read as much as possible. Whilst doing so, think of examples from the areas you have studied which can be applied to the concepts and arguments explored - you will be surprised how the subject of, for example, oral history can be explored using examples as diverse as counter-reformation preaching and 9/11. Don't be fazed - whilst reading list may at first appear daunting, step back and think how the topics you have studied relate to the general historical arguments being espoused; whatever you have studied can be used as material to mould an interesting argument.


Above all - be someone they want to teach. Someone who is interested, keen, says something different, but also who isn't an upstart.


English 2003

St Edmund Hall, Lucy Newlyn, Jane Griffiths and Sharon Achinstein and a fourth whose name I can't remember and who wasn't a tutor when I arrived

For the first interview (with Lucy Newlyn and Jane Griffiths) I was asked to talk about my personal statement: they asked me questions about King Lear which I had studied and performed in at school as Albany. They asked me to give them a feminist reading of it, (which is very hard to do, really Cordelia is the only sign of female virtue though she does create the catharsis..) then they asked me about Nabokov which I had mentioned was in my PS is a passion; we talked about Humbert Humbert and the notion of a literary villain (if such a thing can still be said to exist or it it is an outmoded model: I said that I thought such a thing did exist and they seemed to like that a lot!). In the second interview (with Sharon Achinstein and another tutor whose name I can't remember who had left before I arrived as I was applying for a Gap year place) I was given a piece of Wilfred Owen to close read and most of the discussion focused closely upon close-textual anaylsis. In a third interview I was asked to close-read another poem by Sylvia Plath with all four tutors. The poem dealt with the disintegration of a female conscious which I said reminded me a lot of John Bayley's writings about his wife Iris Murdoch's mental decline. They liked that association I think, or that kind of associative thinking. That's as much as I can remember!

I think that the tutors I came into contact with were interested by my ability to see connections between texts, non-chronologically and sometimes non-generically. I think you have to be prepared to take a leap of faith: it may not always be a perfect 'fit' but sometimes allowing yourself to make what might seem an audacious connection can get them to sit up and take notice. Often they are just interested to see if you can follow it through convincingly and I would say one of the more exciting and rewarding aspects of the experience was finding out that I could follow my own trains of thought, no matter how spurious they at first seemed. I think it's about trusting your instincts but also enhancing and expanding a knowledge-base that you are genuinely passionate about; that gets you excited, in other words, that gets you wanting to talk about it and share it with someone else. Even and especially if that person turns out to be an Oxbridge tutor.


Biochemistry 2006

University and St Hughs (ended up going to Merton)

-Why biochemistry? Why Oxford? Why University College?

-Large focus on biological chemistry of DNA, dipeptides, sugars.

-Broad discussion of genetics

-About my work experience in Microbiology Laboratory, Oxford.


The main part of the interview revolved around the Biology and Chemistry syllabuses which I had not revised properly, instead I had read a lot of Biochemistry (namely 'The Cell' by Alberts et al).


I was on the verge of failing my interview when I was asked how the interview was going and replied, "Not very well at all, you are only asking me questions about Biology and Chemistry, not Biochemistry". From then on I was able to lead the interview discussing topics I was interested in; zinc fingers, gene therapy, cancer, DNA repair etc.


The most important thing at interview is to come across confidently and honestly. That way you avoid spending time on topics you know little about and can lead the interview.


Law 2006

Jesus, Peter Clarke and Peter Mirfield

By way of introduction, I had one interview, lasting 20 minutes. I wasn't given anything to prepare or to think about before the interview.


Firstly, the tutors briefly worked through my application, asking why I wanted to study law. I thought this to be such a difficult question to answer in a unique manner, despite being one of the most obvious. I answered that, as my exam results had consistently shown, I took a lot of pride in my work and really enjoyed to be challenged and stretched academically, that I had very little prior experience of the law - just enough to know that I would be sufficiently challenged.


I remember vividly a debate over the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants. I was asked for my opinion, and I came down heavily in favour of the smoking ban, citing the dangers of passive smoking and how it could be quite unsociable. The tutors allowed me to finish, and asked as to whether people should be allowed to smoke in their own home, and I argued that they should. They then posed the difficult question - if I believe the smoking ban was justified to preserve the health of people in pubs and restaurants who I don't know, why am I against a ban on smoking in the privacy of my own home, where I live with my children. Shouldn't I be more concerned with their health?


The second and final issue we discussed involved intention in criminal law. The tutors spelled out a scenario of two would-be murderers, one of whom was planning the murder, with the evidence strongly suggesting that he was soon to attempt it, and one who had actually attempted murder. I was asked to assess their culpability. How should we punish them? Should one be punished more harshly than the other? I didn't know the legal meaning of the term at the time, but I used the word 'intention'. One of the tutors immediately picked up on this, and stopped my previous answer to focus the remainder of the interview entirely on intention and what it meant. I realised I had hit upon a key word, but equally realised I wasn't sure what I would argue on it! I suggested that there could conceivably be different levels of intent, and explored that theme further. This was the most difficult part, as I was asked a series of quick fire questions that demanded longer answers, such as how to measure intention, how can we really know what the parties intended, could there possibly be a measure of self-deception involved, etc. This debate on the meaning of intention concluded the interview.

I was fortunate in that I had already formed a strong opinion on the smoking ban, and was able to defend it with reasonable success, but any number of topical issues could have arisen where I was less well-informed.


I remember rushing too quickly into an answer early on in the interview, and I hesitated slightly too long before backtracking and changing my mind. The tutors were more than happy to accept this, but if I had another interview I would definitely pause for a while longer to think about the answer!


Finally, given the strength and persuasion of their arguments, I was probably too easily convinced on one or two occasions, and should have stuck with my original opinion! Although they may well have disagreed with it, they were much more concerned with my ability to argue from one standpoint.


2006 Education Tripos with English and Drama

Homerton College

I had two interviews: one for Education and one for English & Drama.

Each of the interviews consisted of a short discussion about my current studies and interests relating to the course, my expectations of the course and reasons for applying and an academic discussion. For my Education interview this was discussing an issue of educational debate, for my English & Drama interview I examined and discussed a short dramatic text I had been presented with in the pre-interview 'workshop' (a glorified script reading).


The purpose of the interview is to get a sense of your personality, to see if you are the kind of person who would benefit from the course and the college environment, and to also guage your personability, social competence and confidence.

Relax - it is very important to be relaxed so that you can respond genuinely and sensibly to your questions and so that you can have a human conversation with your interviewer(s) who, after all, is just another person.


Research - it is important to know as much as you can about the course so that you can ask insightful questions and are aware of the different modules and components of your tripos. If you are given the names of your interviewers in advance it is worth googling them to see what their specialism is, just so you know a bit about them and the kind of things they might be likely to discuss with you. Also think ahead to the kind of questions that might be asked - why do you want to do this course? What have you most enjoyed about your A-level subjects? Why have you chosen this college?


Be honest - the interview is about getting to know you so don't be someone you are not. There is no point second-guessing and trying to give off the impression that you are the platonic "ideal candidate". Cambridge are looking for people who really love their subject, if you do then talk about why you love it, be honest about what motivates you, what you dislike and what you enjoy - you need to show that you are an independent mind who is developing its own interests and tastes (If you don't really love your subject then Cambridge might not be the place for you, the workload is unbearable if you don't enjoy it and you are more likely to be happier at a different university). Independence is key to success at Cambridge: you need to be strong to manage the demanding workload and make the most of the extra-curricular opportunities, you need to be original to be a high-flyer academically. Being independent also means being confident enough to be yourself, to be honest, to admit areas of yourself or your knowledge in need improvement, to ask questions as well as knowing your strengths and advocating your competencies, and developing beliefs and opinions about your subject.


Biological Sciences, 2004. I also applied, and got accepted to study Law at St Edmund Hall in 2003

Jesus college and Christ Church Collage. Intervied by George McGavin (and another chap who's name I forget) at Jesus, and Sarah Randolph and a big cellular biology chap who's name escapes me at ChCh for Biological Science. St Edmunt Hall for law, although I can't remember the names of the interviewers

I'm afraid I don't have time to fill this in - busy day and all that. I do remember they were good fun though!

Ah, well, if I gave this much away I wouldn't have my experiences to sell, now would I?



Christ Church- Dr Christopher Haigh, Dr Brian Young, Dr Katya Andreyev, Dr Susan Doran

2 interviews.

1st interview was based on the essay I had previously been asked to submit. Much of what I had written about was based on Dr Haigh's work and so we had an interesting conversation about what sources he used to base his theories on. It was very relaxed and more like a 'high brow chat' than a formal interview.

2nd interview was much more challenging. I had to pick up a written source and I had 20 mins to read through it. I was then asked where the source came from and what it was telling the historian. The second half of the interview was based on my interests in history and what I was studying at A level. The questions became increasingly hard but it went well as I had been told always to attempt to answer the question and then the tutors will help you.

Read a few more general history books to show that my interest extended beyond the classroom.



Worcester- two interviewers

I had to sit a maths paper, then I had two interviews. One was in psychology about the different impairments that would be bought on by damaging different parts of the cortex. I had to describe how different injuries to different parts of the brain would commonly manifest themselves. The other interview was about general physiology, including being asked to describe how the optical nerve fires messages to the brain.

I would have polished my maths. I could have done with admitting my ignorance about certain features of the optical nerve rather than making a bit of a hash covering up the parts that I didn't know.


Philosophy and Psychology


I was given a psychological study about motherhood and was asked to analyze it. The interviewer then asked me questions relating to it.


For the philosophy interview, we discussed whether or not computers could think.

Prepared more. Read more.


History 2005

Clare, Polly O'Hanlon, John Guy, Hubertus Jahn, Elizabeth Foyster

First interview: John Guy and Polly O'Hanlon


Short piece of preparatory reading, given to me about 20 mins before. Concerned with 'heritage' and the nature of history. Discussion focused on nature and purpose of history, with reference to my personal statement and motivations for studying history. Books I mentioned in my personal statement (A People's Tragedy by O. Figes, In Defence of History by Richard Evans) were discussed, I was asked to criticise/explain my choices.


Second interview: Hubertus Jahn and Elizabeth Foyster


Interview was based on previously submitted marked essays. These were on something to do with Kerensky (Russia 1917) and British democracy in the late nineteenth century. I recall questions about female Chartists, and about whether Russia would always be authoritarian. These seemed quite specific to the arguments I made in my essays, and were followed by further probing designed to test out how I thought about history and the depth of understanding that accompanied my submitted essays. This was quite similar to an actual Cambridge supervision.

Read plenty of history. Proper academic history books, not just textbooks. Try to gain a feel for historical debate about issues. Read review articles about topics you are interested in on Jstor etc; this is a good shortcut to understanding the historiography of topics.


Really, genuinely, want to study history. The criteria are basically 'can you do it', which most people with the A level results to apply can, and 'do you really want to do it', which not everyone does. You need to show them you will make the most out the opportunity of going to Oxbridge.


However, it isn't good enough to say that you want to study history simply because you like it. Sure, mention it, give evidence of it, but think carefully about the place of history in society, the nature of truth and memory, what constitutes 'history' for you, how different methods of studying history affect outcomes and conclusions etc. If you are doing AEA History, they probably won't care directly, but the curriculum will help you think about these questions.


Nobody cares about your grade 8 French horn, your gap year travels, D of E gold award or your Young Enterprise company. The people interviewing you (at least at Clare) will be historians who care about how good you will be at doing history.


Modern and Medieval Languages 2005

Trinity College, Emma Widdis (Russian), Emma Woolerton (Latin)

I was asked to send two essays prior to my interview, one in Russian on a Russian topic (I chose Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman) and one in English on a Latin topic (I chose Tacitus).


For Russian I was given a short passage on Eugenics by Osip Mandelstam. I had half an hour to read through it in the library directly before my interview.


My interview began with about ten minutes of questions on the passage. The questions were asked in Russian. I got myself into a muddle because, knowing little about Mandelstam, I presumed the passage was serious (it was, in fact, very ironic).


I was then asked about my interest in Russian cinema, and we spoke for a while about Sergei Eisenstein. I again made a blunder when I presumed Eisenstein's films had mass appeal (I cited their visual panache), when they apparently left the majority bemused. We also talked a little about Pushkin's "Bronze Horseman", but this was more as an afterthought from me, to try and show Dr Widdis I knew a lot about literature.


For Latin I had an hour to prepare a passage from Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. A translation (in verse) was provided.


In the interview I was asked what individual words meant, was asked to pick out various parts of speech (perfect passive participle etc) and was asked to comment on the passage itself and on the effectiveness of the translation. I talked about the difficulties of translating poetry.


I was then asked about Tacitus and my essay, and about my other wider reading in Latin literature. This was more of an opportunity for me to speak, be passionate and tell the interviewer what I knew (whereas in the Russian interview the questions were, very much, perscriptive).

Read whatever you're given to read really really well, and think about all possible interpretations. If they give you something to read, you're definitely going to be talking about it.


Be prepared for anything. Have a good sense of the general literary background of your chosen subject, and learn a bit about most of the country's famous authors (one of my stumbling blocks was that I'd never heard of Mandelstam).


Don't go in with a specific agenda, you might not be allowed to talk about the thing you know most about, but don't let it frustrate you. Go with it.


Offer an opinion, and back it up. The interviewers seemed like they'd rather hear something intelligent, eloquent and wrong than something clumsy and correct. Don't worry about getting things wrong, they may well try to put you in a position where you have to talk about things you don't know much about in order to see how you cope. Be calm and answer logically.


Physics 2006

Balliol, Dr Lucas, Dr Palmer, Dr Reichold, Prof Lukas

- Nothing on my personal statement

- Nothing about why I applied to Balliol or why I applied for Physics

- Lots of mathematical problem solving questions, such as:


- Differentiate a function from first principles

- Estimate the solar mass, given some basic parameters

- Estimate the force on a moving object, again with some parameters


Have a thorough knowledge of basic physical equations and methods, and know when to apply them. The tutors are helpful if you don't remember exact formulae, but they expect you to use your initiative and problem solving skills to work out most of it for yourself. They are interested in the process you go through to get an answer, correct or otherwise.



Fitzwilliam, Dr Subha Muherji, Dr Rosemary Horrox, and an unknown.

Subject Specific Interview:


We started off by talking about what I was studying at A level, and spent some time discussing King Lear, which I was doing at the time. We then moved on to some topics that I had discussed in my personal statement. I had mentioned liking the metaphysical poets, so we talked about John Donne and about why I liked him. I said that I liked the playfulness of many of his poems and the simplicity of their conceits, but my interviewer argued that this was not true of all of Donne's poetry. I said that I thought that this was open to interpretation, and that even Donne's religious poetry could be read in this way, if you interpreted it like that. I implied that I thought that all poetry was open to interpretation. She then asked if I knew anyone contemporary to Donne, outside of metaphysical poetry. I was confused and said that I couldn't think of anyone. She pointed out that Shakespeare is the obvious example. We then spent some time examining Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 and discussing issues of interpretation. I analysed it and explained what I thought it meant. I think I said something about its being a celebration of ordinary beauty as a symbol of extraordinary love, or words to that effect. She asked if I thought the poem was misogynist, and I said no, because I felt that Shakespeare was arguing that love overwhelmed physical characteristics. She then pointed out that my argument meant that the poem did not seem open to interpretation, and I attempted to defend my previous suggestion by offering an alternative reading in which the representations of beauty where criticisms of the woman in question. I think this was quite weak. Then the interview ended.


General Interview:


In this interview, we mainly discussed my gap year and what I intended to do with it. This was not especially intellectual and was quite relaxing and interesting. We then moved on to discussing why I had chosen English, and as my interviewer was a historian, she was particularly interested in what I saw as the conjunction between English and History. I suggested that I thought English could be useful to History and that it is possible to treat novels/poems etc as historial artefacts. She disagreed with me, perhaps because I didn't express myself very clearly, and argued that literature is too subjective. We argued about this for some time before the interview ended quite abruptly.

It is so important to thoroughly know all the details about everything you mention in your personal statement. I felt very silly for not making the connection between John Donne and Shakespeare, and although I don't think it made any difference, it would have made me feel better about the whole interview if I had been able to answer that question. It is also useful to be able to defend yourself but not when it becomes unrealistic, you need to be able to show that you can learn. I think I was too keen to defend my point about interpretation without noticing that I had trapped myself in a corner. I should have been able to accept that I had simplified an extremely complex point, and thus shown my ability to learn from my mistakes. This does not mean, however, that it is not vital to argue your case. You are also demonstrating that you are an independent thinker and that you can express yourself clearly and tackle complex issues. It is a fine line to tread, but it is what many interviewers are looking for: a conjunction between strong opinions and a capacity to learn.


2005 Mathematics

Christ Church,Prof. Vaughan-Lee, Prof. Howison,Dr. Breward. University

Professor Vaughan-Lee;

5 mins was spent on the Entrance Exam. Then I was asked about a piece of mathematics that I had read about and found interesting. I replied that I had read Nash's proof of the minimax theorem and that its application to economics had interested me. This was really too complicated and I don't think that much credit was given to this. Keep this bit simple.

I was asked some questions on Number Theory and ultimately led to Fermat's Little Theorem.

The other interview I had with Prof. Howison and Dr. Breward was largely on Applied Mathematics. I was asked to prove the divisibility by 11 rule and to solve some standard differential equations from the Further Maths syllabus. The key was to understanding why you can come up with a Complimentary Equation. This was then extended to provide a solution to the following equation: x^2f'' + xf' + f = g(x)

Have a bit of maths prepared as evidence that you have taken the time to explore mathematics beyond the constraints of the A-Level syllabus. Do not make it too complicated! Choose something that you really can understand and explain clearly.


Mathematics 2005


Sat an exam on topics that were in A-Level Maths, mainly pure, but the questions were far more tricky, and required greater problem-solving skills.

The interview was quite easy, the professor sat me down and we talked about sine and cosine graphs, and how to manipulate them.

Must have complete understanding of A-Level, top to bottom, know that shit. And also test yourself at some more difficult problems set on the A-level content. Some really tricky buggers, these could be found in various text books.

For Maths, the test is the most important part of the interview process, I found.


Physiological sciences (2006)

Brasenose, Balliol, Exeter

Other than the BMAT test before interview there was no specific reading prior to each interview.


Questions asked mainly focused around the ability to undertand and explain various graphs with a physiological significance. (redrawing graphs if variables changed and discussing the importance of these)

Other questions involved naming molecules, attempting to list the ways in which drugs can be applied, explaining what was going on in a 19th century picture of a surgery, describing how antibodies are formed and talking generally about aspects of the personal statement

Think carefully before you speak, don't be afraid to be wrong. Think as laterally as possible and always attempt to answer the question logically even if you don't have a clue.


French and Portuguese 2007

St. Peter's College, Professor Earle and Professor Southworth

Firstly I had to do a Spanish grammar test which was an hour long and consisted of various difficult and obscure aspects of Spanish grammar.

I was given a Philip Larkin poem before the Portuguese interview and was asked to say who it was by and analyse it. I was then asked to translate some sentences from Portuguese into English and we briefly discussed the nature of grammar.

In the Spanish interview we discussed a commentary I had written about Lorca. I later found out the Peter's professor is a Lorca specialist so I was very much out of my depth.

Because I had done French A-level and the Spanish course was over-subscribed, I was given a palce to read French and Portuguese

Revise grammar well; I don't feel I was very strong on this front. make sure you have read and show an interest in some foreign texts but don't worry about not having read that much.


History - 2005

Peterhouse, Scott Mandelbrote, Professor Brendan Simms, Dr Roman Roth & Dr Mark Berry

I was given two interviews and a written test. Pior to one interview I was given a short passage to read which was then discussed. One interview was quite relaxed and the other quite aggressive. The interviewers tend to play off one another. In the more agressive interview, I was asked several questions about the samples of work I had chosen to submit and to defend the arguments I had made in them. In the more relaxed interview I was asked about extra-curricular activities and how I beleived they related to my love of history. I was also asked more genral questions on a number of issues such as my gap year plans and what I was reading.

I very much got the impression that it didn't matter so much what you said in your interviews, but whether or not you were willing and able to defend it with logical arguments. For example the passage I was required to read prior to my first interview was clearly not about what I said it was, but I was able to defend my argument that it could have been. It might mean being a pedant, but I think it is essential to show you can have and defend your own ideas. I believe I made a mistake in viewing one interview as less important because it was more relaxed and appeared to be about my life more generally. A candiate needs to show that whilst their academic life is not their entire life, that there is a strong connection between the two.


Law 2002

Corpus Christi College - David Ibbetson

Given a problem question to look at beforehand and asked questions on that.

Prepared more!


Modern History - 2007

St. Catherine's College, Marc Mulholland, Gervase Rosser

Questions revolved around hypothetical spin-offs of the essays i submitted.

nothing was given to me before or during the interview.


Answers were thus equally hypothetical and far off the remit of any A-level syllabus: ie, what did the Irish aristocracy think of the English Civil War? what would they have thought if...?


A secondary interview considered on the role of kingship.


Thus, interviews were non-factual in their nature and thematic in their approach.

As soon as I looked liked formulating a cogent answer, i was interrupted and moved to problem. Frustrating at first, until you realise that this must be a deliberate tactic of theirs.

Turn up in good time.

Take your time with answers when and as they require. Asking for a minute to consider a problem can be impressive, so long as you don't take this approach every time,

Think about where you sit in a room: it can have the effect of excluding one of the interviewers (there will early always be two, often sitting at challenging angles).

Support answers with reasoning whatever the situation: if the reason for it is intuition, say so and go onto to say how you would test that - ie., I would look 'here' for evidence and might find...

it is preferable to evidence reasoning with actual examples, especially if you have been provided with an extract or are discussing a topic you are studying/claimed you have studied.

Respectfully assert that argument if you think it holds; modify it if you think it was a limited/wrong line of arguing - something which can be done as, if not more strongly.

A smart casual attire is always recommended (regardless if other interviewees feel the need to wear suits/highly scruffy wares.


2002, 2003

Trinity Hall (2002), Fitzwilliam (2003)

I applied to study Spanish and Portuguese at Cambridge twice, and was 'pooled' both times. In 2002 I applied to Trinity Hall, and had two interviews. I wasn’t given anything to prepare. My first interview was conducted by the admissions tutor, and by a doctoral student who studied medieval Spanish. I was given the opening on 'El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba' (No One Writes to the Colonel) by Gabriel García Márquez and asked about the grammatical structures used. They asked me 'how important is context to the reading of a text?'. I said that a book could be read out of context, although this is something I would never ever argue now! They quizzed me on Spanish film, and asked me to compare the structure of Amores Perros with Pulp Fiction. Although I had seen Pulp Fiction, I couldn’t remember it in enough detail to answer the question. During my second interview I was interviewed by just one person. We discussed freedom of speech issues. He asked me whether a member of the BNP should be allowed to give a talk at Cambridge. I said I that they should have the right to speak, but that the university should ensure that their views were properly scrutinised and challenged. He also asked me why I hadn't studied French at A2. (I took English Literature, Spanish and Chemistry for A2 and Art for A1). I said I hadn't studied French because I thought I might apply for medicine and wanted to keep my options open. I should have given more positive reasons for studying Chemistry.


I decided to re-apply to Fitzwilliam college in 2003. I was asked to do a written essay before my first interview. There were two people present, and a portion of the interview took place in Spanish. The conversation revolved around my recent travels in South East Asia. My second interview was conducted by one man, who asked me detailed questions about my A1 English Literature texts. We discussed jealousy in Othello. I was never asked about my interest in Portuguese.


If I could do the interviews again, I would have done far more preparation. I naively thought that the interviewers would see raw potential. However, I now see that one needs a detailed knowledge of texts in order to have an in-depth discussion that shows of one’s strengths. I would have revised the plots and themes of all the texts that I had studied at A1 and A2 level, as well as books I had read in my own time. In addition to this, I would have found out more about the historical and literary context of the texts that I had mentioned on my UCAS form. I would have revised more complex grammatical points, spent more time listening to Spanish radio, and signed up for Spanish conversation lessons. I wouldn’t try to discuss a film that I could barely remember. I would also recommend that students come up with good reasons justifying their choice of A-Level subjects.


Medicine - 2005

Lady Margeret Hall and Christ Church

I wrote this report on my interviews for school:


Oxford Medical Interviews 12th – 13th December 2005


Despite applying to Christ Church I was offered accommodation in my automatically assigned second choice college, Lady Margaret Hall (LMH). On arriving at LMH, the day before my first interview, I was informed that I would have the privilege of attending four interviews, two in each college.


Interview 1: Lady Margaret Hall:

This interview had just two interviewers, a man and a woman, who were both very friendly and made me feel very relaxed. We just sat on easy chairs around a coffee table which added to the informal atmosphere. The interview started off with a question about my trip to Romania, which was known territory and so got me settled in before the scientific grilling began:

o          Describe what would happen if a mole pellet of sodium ions was dropped into a beaker of pure water (in terms of bonding) – This was simply testing my knowledge of diffusion from AS-Biology and my ability to apply my AS-Chemistry bonding theory to explain it: including how the solution is in dynamic equilibrium when the pellet has completely diffused, since the intermolecular bonds are constantly breaking and reforming.

o          Similarly, what would happen with a mole pellet of caesium ions?

o          Which would diffuse faster? – We talked about ionic radius, and I agreed that it would be sensible to assume that the sodium would diffuse faster because its ions are smaller. He then asked me represent this information on a graph, ie plotting ionic radius against rate of diffusion. I wasn’t sure if the graph was exponential or not but he just wanted a simple positive or negative relationship.

o          The caesium ions actually diffuse faster than the sodium ions? How would you explain this anomaly? – This could again be explained using simple AS Chemistry bonding theory. The sodium ion has a smaller ionic radius, yet the same effective nuclear charge as the caesium ion, so the ion-dipole attractions between the sodium ions and water molecules are stronger than with caesium. This means that the sodium pellet takes longer to diffuse since the bonds between the ions and the water harder to break, ie the pellet gets surrounded in a ‘cushion’ of bonded water molecules.

o          Outline the structure of the plasma membrane. – Again this was simple AS Biology knowledge.

o          How do sodium ions get across the plasma membrane? – I briefly explained the process of facilitated diffusion and how the trans-membrane proteins act as ion channels. He then asked why the ions couldn’t simply diffuse across the bilayer (ie by simple diffusion) and I explained that only lipid soluble molecules could diffuse directly across the bilayer. We then went on to talk about the hydrophilic heads and hydrophobic tails of the phospholipids in the bilayer.

o          How can the channel be in contact with both the hydrophobic tails of the phospholipids and the sodium ions? – I didn’t really get this, since I talked about how proteins weren’t soluble in water, they formed colloidal suspensions, but he cut me down saying that some were very soluble in water. He then said it was simply to do with the structure of the protein being different on the inside than on the outside.

o          How do ion channels specify between different ions, since sodium channels will not aid the diffusion of calcium ions? It took me a while to get this. I started suggesting it was to do with different ionic charges (though that was only really applicable to this one example) and then different ionic radii. He asked if I happened to know the ionic radii of sodium and calcium ions, and I assured him that I didn’t! The radii are very similar so I went on to suggest a link between enzyme active sites and protein channels, ie that they have a specifically shaped binding point. He confirmed that this was the right idea and then went on to ask how an ion that has bound to the top of a channel then makes its way through that channel and across the membrane, ie how the channel works. I tried to continue the link with enzymes and said that it could have something to do with non competitive inhibition, but he explained that it was much simpler, and that the charges on the ions repelled each other, thus forcing the ions through the channel.

The second interviewer then took over and we talked about stem cells. Thankfully I had read up about this and so had quite a good understanding of the topic.

o          What is a stem cell?

o          What triggers a stem cell to differentiate into a specialised cell? How does this happen?

o          What are the main differences between somatic and embryonic stem cells and how can they be manipulated?



Interview 2: Lady Margaret Hall:

This interview was on ethics. Instead of being asked direct questions, I was given a number of scenarios to discuss:

o          Arthritis: I was shown two photographs of arthritic hands, one belonging to a teenage girl and the other to an elderly woman. I was then asked say what should be done in each case to help the patient. This varied from drugs such as pain-killers and anti-inflammatories to physiotherapy and support group referrals.

o          Embryo Screening: I was again shown photographs. This time it was three genetic diseases of varied seriousness, from a cosmetic disease to one where the baby, once born, would only live a few days (in great pain and distress). After each case was outlined, my task was to decide for each whether a pregnant couple, who already had a child with the particular condition, should screen for the disease, and then if an abortion would be appropriate.

o          Criteria for transplant cases: Despite being assured there were no yes or no answers to ethics questions, I had to decide which criteria should be taken into consideration when deciding whether a patient qualified for an organ transplant…e.g. lifestyle (smoking and drinking), age, sex etc.

o          Liver transplant: I had to decide which of the three critical patients should get the one available liver. The patients were: a baby who would lead a healthy life with a new liver, but could develop kidney problems; a 48 year old man who was an alcoholic; a 68 year old woman who had worked overseas for a charity her whole life and apart from the liver problem was perfectly healthy.



Interview 3: Christ Church:

Unlike at Lady Margaret Hall, this interview featured questions on all aspects of

medicine…scientific, social and ethical, asked alternatively by a panel of three interviewers. Before entering, I was given an article from a medical journal to read. It was about how memories are formed and manipulated (particularly erased) and the difference between short-term and long-term memories. I didn’t get the article finished before I was called in but I was assured that was okay.

o          The Article: The interview began with questions on the article. It was obviously a test of how much I remembered from just reading something once. After being asked to give the general jist of the article I was then asked more detailed questions, for example outlining the experiments carried out in the research and even the names of the drugs mentioned (which I didn’t get!). I was then asked what I thought the social implications of erasing memories and I talked all about the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’…it seemed like a good idea at the time.

o          Why do you want to be a doctor?: The notorious question was asked to ease me into the more difficult ones, though I find it quite hard. I didn’t realise until afterwards that I pretty much recited the first paragraph of my personal statement…not a good idea if you want the answer to come across as heartfelt and spontaneous.

o          Ethics – HIV: In this role-play situation I was a GP with a female patient who had recently tested positive for HIV. I had to make decisions on her treatment. Firstly I was to decide what to do, apart from actual treatment. This included support groups etc. Then the situation become progressively more complicated and I had to make ethical decisions like whether I should / could tell one of my male patients, who had been sexually involved with the woman, about the positive HIV test. Finally I was told that my patient (the female one) was pregnant, but not eligible to give birth on the NHS since she wasn’t an EU national. I then had to make a case to my bosses on why she should be allowed to have her baby on the NHS.

o          Qualities to be a doctor: I was asked what qualities are required to be a good doctor and how my musical commitments might prepare me for such a profession. I was also asked to describe an individual case that I had seen whilst on work experience.

o          Enzyme-substrate equations: To end this interview I had to work through the basic principles of enzyme-substrate equations with the main tutor. This activity was a combination of biology and chemistry and some maths. Unfortunately I really didn’t understand what was going on, despite it actually being very simple. The tutor was very patient and helped me through and after the interview I was glad to hear that no one had really got a firm grasp of what was going on.


Interview 4: Christ Church:

The final interview was similar to the third. It was held in what seemed to be a tutor’s study, which was small and cosy with four arm-chairs around a small table. Again there were three interviewers who took turns to ask me questions on all aspects of medicine.

o          NHS: To start the interview we discussed the social side of medicine, particularly the issues that were currently in the news. I was asked how I thought the NHS should be funded, and who should decide where the money goes (ie doctors/politicians etc). I was also asked my views on whether people who smoke / are alcoholics / are obese should be denied treatment or made to pay for it.

o          Atherosclerosis: Firstly I was asked if I knew what atherosclerosis was and what caused it. Then I was told to imagine that it was caused by different strains of bacteria, instead of the non-contagious life-style causes. Based on this assumption, I was shown a series of four graphs which linked the presence of different strains of bacteria with the degree of thickening of the artery walls (ie atherosclerosis). After studying these graphs I was asked to say what each of them showed, and whether they proved that the bacteria caused atherosclerosis. This involved spotting flaws in the experiment. During this part of the discussion I was asked how you could determine the degree of thickening of the arteries…e.g. an angiogram etc. After discussing the flaws in the experiment I was asked to devise an experiment to prove that the bacteria caused atherosclerosis.

o          Kidneys: Despite not having studied the kidneys since GCSE I was informed that we were going to devise a first-year physiology experiment. I had to give a brief outline of kidney structure and function. We then built on my limited GCSE knowledge by talking about the kidney function in A-level terms…e.g. water potential, carrier proteins and channels. The physiology experiment was determining the rate of kidney function. The tutor took me through everything step by step so nothing was above my level of understanding. We looked at what leaves the blood at the kidneys, ie urea and other substances like penicillin. We then used these to determine the rate of filtration of the blood by the kidneys [by looking at the concentration of urea in the blood before and after filtration and the same for penicillin]. The time factor required was simply the time interval between two consecutive excretions.


Make sure you are up to date with current medical stories in the news (BBC health is probably sufficient) and maybe think about some of the controversial ethical issues (i.e. rationing of healthcare resources, euthenasia etc). In general, just go into the interview with an open mind, and don't be afraid to say what comes into your head, even if it sounds stupid- it's better to say the wrong answer than not speak at all. Another important thing is - if you have highlighted an area of interest on your personal statement, ensure you have read up about it because they will ask you!


2004, English Language and Literature

Worcester: Mr Edward Wilson, Dr David Bradshaw, Dr. Patrick Hayes, Dr Katharine Craik

My interview process consisted of two interviews, with four interviewers in the morning interview and two interviewers in the afternoon interview. For the second interview I was given a poem by Robert Frost called 'Design' to analyze for ten minutes before the interview. Questions were asked about the form and meaning of the poem, and I responded with reference to my knowledge of religious debate and the sonnet tradition. For the morning interview, I was questioned on one of the two essays I had submitted, as well as academic interests I had mentioned on my personal statement. I emphasised the debt to classical precedents when asked about the keynotes of a talk by Jonathan Bate on Elizabethan literary history. I also mentioned the reformative function of certain novels when asked to define the purpose of the Victorian 'Condition of England' novel. I was asked about what I had been reading recently and one of the interviewers asked me to name a few characters from the texts I mentioned.

My application was successful, but I could have improved in a few areas. I was unconvincing when responding to a point I made in one of my essays which referred to a text I hadn't read in full. Of course, having read this text would have helped me in the interview! In hindsight, I also would have revised more rigorously my personal statement. My knowledge of a few of the extra-curricular academic events I mentioned was a little hazy, and I was inevitably questioned on the details of these events.

Oriel, Oxford

Classics and English, 1999

Magdalen, Oriel, Oliver Taplin, Glenn Black, James Methven, Chris Kraus

Magdalen English interview: I was given a poem before the interview which we discussed.


Classics: I had to do a Greek and a Latin translation beforehand, and in the interview I was quizzed on my personal statement (the texts I had read) and asked to think deeply about them (eg, what is anti-Augustan in Virgil?)


Oriel English: I was given a Shakespeare poem beforehand, which I analysed in the interview, and then I was quizzed on my personal statement.



I could have had more preparation on analysing unseen English poems.



Christ Church, Sue Dorran, Katya Andreyev

I was given a passage of intellectual history by Braudel to discuss which criticised traditional event and narrative driven-history. I had a wide-ranging discussion on this passage about the layers of causality in historical events, and the nature of "good" and "bad" historical study, and to what extent the individual (kings, dictators etc) drove change and to what extent individual actions were irrelevant against the tide of broader social and economic forces.


I remember arguing that history was too complex, fluid and uncertain for either system of study to be preferably 100%of the time, and that we needed to treat different subjects or eras on a case-by-case basis, and I used wide ranging and contrasting historical examples (including WWII, the Reformation and the Roman Empire) to illustrate my point. Even though my factual grasp of these different periods was limited at the time, they were impressed by my ability to think in broad conceptual terms and make those kinds of quick intellectual cross-connections, which I believe secured me my place at Oxford.

What they are primarily looking for a candidate is NOT primarily raw knowledge, but rather the things that give you real potential as a student and scholar, namely proof of passion and the way you think. They are quite likely to ask you conceptually difficult or broad-ranging questions about your period/author/field. If you are intellectually confident and ambitious in your responses, this will impress them even if you get some of the details wrong - they are looking for potential in you, not a finished product. My biggest mistake was to be too timid in the ideas and opinions I expressed, because I found the environment a little too intimidating. Also, I should have spent more time researching a few specific factual examples to use in discussions about history - for instance, if questions about the individual and history, or warfare and history come up, have a few examples ready in your head to discuss. Also be strong on the broad outline of themes for your period, as you may be required to discuss or explain them.




Fitzwilliam College

2 interviews: both scientific, but one more focused upon biology, and the other biochemistry.

Biological interview: presented with a micrograph of artery. Asked to identify, and name pathological conditions/causation. Ethical questions relating to abortion. 2nd part, presented with a humerus and told to talk about it (no prompts).

Biochemistry interview: discussed adaptation of camels and sweating. I worked through a simple A level chemistry calculation. 2nd part, look at the structure of proteins. Asked how I thought perms work!

You are not generally assumed to know anything other than easy principles at A-Level. I feel they were just seeing how you respond to questions you will not necessarily have heard of before. I would exaggerate the need to not panic. When I was asked the question about perms, I had no idea. However, I was able to use a combination of both existing knowledge, and that which had been provided in the interview. The interview helped me to show my potential, as opposed to catch me out. The best piece of advice I can give is to take a few seconds to think over the question before answering it; a well thought out answer is far more respected than a rushed idea blurted out straight away.


Modern and Medieval Languages, 2003

Trinity Hall

Why is it important to study languages?

Why this college?

Grammar test in French: subjunctive

Analyse a literary passage in Spanish: what is going on, interesting language

Why did I continue Chemistry A Level if I wanted to study languages?

I could have read a lot more literature in the language.

Have interesting, original and specific examples for why you applied to that college.

Show lateral thinking by linking different of examples from texts to support your arguments.

Be able to expand thoroughly on anything mentioned in your personal statement.

Use concise and technical terminology.


French and Italian. 2004

For French - Wes Williams and Ann Jefferson (New College). For Italian, Giuseppe Stellardi (St. Hugh's.)

I had a factual article for the French and a poem in English translation for the Italian.

In French they asked me what I had studied at school, commented on an English essay I'd sent in and discussed the article in French. In Italian I had to talk about the poem. I mentioned my motivation for learning Italian and how I'd go about learning it.

Had a list of books on the course and known a bit about more of them.

Revised more grammar for the French entrance exam.



New College (Craig Raine), Merton (Jonathan Thacker), Merton (Panel Interview with Prof. Richard McCabe and a Junior Researcher)

My first interview with Craig Raine, Tutor in English at New College, focused largely on my essay submission. The essay was about feminist readings of Thomas Hardy which I think stood out as an unique topic for a young male to be writing about. We also had a constructive disagreement about one character in 'Far From the Madding Crowd' - I felt confident that he would remember me when he actually made the effort to get the book from the shelf. He has since said that he always remembers out interview.


My second interview was at Merton with Jonathan Thacker, Tutor in Spanish for Merton, New College and Jesus College. I had read up about his research speciality, Spanish Golden Age Literature, so we discussed that and some plays in translation from the period and talks I had attended. We then discussed my opinions on translation and whether it's possible to produce a good one. I brought in the writings of a German philosopher who wrote a famous essay on the topic, which showed outside reading. At the end we had a brief chat in Spanish for five minutes about whether I had ever been to Spain.


My third interview was for English, again at Merton. This one was different, as I was given a poem five minutes before and was left to formulate some thoughts on it. I recognised that it was a Shakespearean sonnet, so I said that then went through it line by line, talking about poetic effects, word choices, etymology, rhythm, reminiscences of other poems. Professor McCabe led this part of the interview then asked me why I wanted to do a joint honours in English and Spanish and if I saw any connections between the respective literatures. I was able to talk about the fact that Shakespeare and Cervantes had lived at the same time and I knew that Cervantes had travelled to England while Shakespere's plays would have been on stage. The Junior Researcher then came in to ask me more about William Blake and some Victorian writers I'd mentioned on my personal statement. In particular, he asked me to discuss their different portrayals of London.

Well, I've mentored students for Oxbridge application both in my second year as an E-Mentor as Access Officer and since graduating with Oxbridge Applications, and what I always stress to the students is that they should:


*make an effort to find out what their interviewer's areas of interest are

*have a pretty watertight understanding of the course structure and why they think it would suit them

*show interests beyond their current syllabus, both in their chosen subjects and extracurricular activities

*give some real thought to what they would contribute to tutorials and how they could convince a tutor that they will actually enjoy spending at least an hour with them a week for three or four years

*avoid saying yes to a question just because you think that's what tutors want to hear.

*often they will play the devil's advocate and even when they don't they're not looking for people who can't show independent thought.

*Body language, tone, and a varied register are all really important for keeping an interviewer engaged.


Physiological sciences (applied: 2008)

St Peter's Nick Talbot, Huw Dorkins. Brasenose Dr Richard Boyd

Questions they asked:

how would a filter work to differentiate between k+ and na+ ions?

how would you measure the volume of blood in a human body?

how would you measure the volume of tissue fluid in a human body?

how would you measure the volume of cell fluid in the body?

what methods do your ears use to tell the location of a sound?

how does sport help you?

genetics of albinism?

why dihybrid inheritance works? (linked to reactions with several enzymes controlling them)

how do you test a new drug for effectiveness?

ethics of (in this case) a drug that enhances mental performance?

why physiology?

read an article and answer questions


they help you with all the questions


hope this is helpful

Be confident; pretend that you are just talking to someone who knows a similiar amount as you so don't be overawed. Don't pretend you know something just say perhaps it is this...or this. The questions are designed so that you have to think and you will almost certainly not know the actual answer so they will help you and prompt you to find the correct answer, so you need to listen to their hints carefully. Finally be enthusiastic and that'll probably give you the best chance of passing the interview.



University College, Chris Pelling & Barbara Kowlazig; Wadham

I had three interviews and one language exam. The first interview was at Univ, and centred around why I was applying for Classics, and the areas I was most interested in. This was quite basic, with two tutors from Univ.


My second interview was a Philosophy interview. This included the questions 'If there was an omnipotent God, could he create a stone that he couldn't lift'. This was with two different philosophy tutors.


My third interview was at Wadham, and was difficult. It centred around my submitted essay, but the two tutors would hand me books in Latin to contradict my point. I would have to translate and then argue my case.

Be overprepared, especially in the areas that interest you and relevant extra-curricular activities. For example, I had travelled extensively in Rome and Greece, which was of great interest to them. Prepare language skills.


Modern History 2003

St. Edmund Hall, Nicholas Davidson, David Priestland

First interview (with Nicholas Davidson and another from All Souls who was also a Medieval/Early Modern specialist) was on the two essays I had submitted on Henry VIII and Wolsey and the second on the Counter Reformation - it was quite relaxed, general questions, some historiographical, some on my own views from the reading I done.


Second Interview (with Davidson and David Priestland) I was given a passage to read an hour before on the different (historiographical) theories of colonialism (I think!) It was very complex and difficult to understand and of a much higher level than anything I had read before. They asked me to define the terms/theories that I understood (there were about 6, structuralism, post-modernism etc) and to define difficult or challenging words or phrases. They then asked me to apply some of the theories to the periods of history that I had studied.

If you don't know the answer, admit it and say you want to make a guess/try. They want to see how you think and how you come to your conclusions.


Ask to repeat/reclarify the question if you don't understand.


They want to get on with you, see if they want to spend the next three years teaching you. i.e There is more to it than be intellectually impressive/arrogant.




English 1995

Girton Prof. James Simpson Dr Jane Moody

The interview with Dr Moody was focused on Shakespeare and about 10 mins beforehand we were given a soliloquy by Richard 11 to look over. In the interview I was asked how the language compared to other Shakespearen characters I had come across. I talked about Othello, my A-Level set text, and focused on both characters tendency to self-dramatise. I was also asked about my favourite Shakespeare and at the time I chose Hamlet and also talked about his use of language and how that made me feel great sympathy for him as a tragic hero.

In the interview with Prof Simpson I was given a poem by John Skelton to his mistress in the interview and was also asked to discuss the language. I talked about the use of animal imagery and the role of women in Tudor courts generally. I was also asked whether I really thought Creative writing was just a game; this is because I had mentioned producing a small literary pamphlet in the sixth form in my personal statement. I defended Creative writing and we went on to talk about Play in literature.

The main thing is to convey your passion for your subject and the desire to want to channel that passion and develop it through the academic exposure at the university-through lectures, particularly the supervisions etc


History 2006

Peterhouse, Professor Simms, Mr Mandelbrote, Dr Berry, Dr Lunrotcliffe

I had a source- based test on something about King John who I had never studied and was asked to critically discuss the sources in an essay. I also was given a source and ten minutes to prepare, and then asked about the source, when I thought it was written etc. The other parts of the interview were discussing two essays I had sent in previously and my personal statement.

Make sure you read history books that are not part of your A-level or GCSE course and have opinions about other historians viewpoints on key points in history. Don't try to be overly pretentious. Don't be worried if your view point is challenged or you are told things about history you didn't know and asked to comment on them, this is all part of them assessing how you think. There are no wrong answers if you can back up your opinions with evidence.


2003 English

New College: Craig Raine & two others, individually

The initial interview was with Craig Raine, who was the head of English, and he quizzed me on the essays I had sent in, as well as various questions about why I wanted to read English etc.

The seocnd interviewer asked me about what I liked and why, and we discussed my other A-levels, ending up talking a lot about my Latin and Greek and the ways in which they informed my study of English literature.

The third interview was the critical analysis. I was presented with a piece of poetry- I think it might have been Spenser or someone, given a few mintues to make some notes and have a think, and I then gave my impressions and opinions, asked some questions, and we went through it.


I think the place where I fell down, which was really stupid and sounds really obvious, but in the flurry of Oxbridge preparation is actually quite easy to forget, was in my lack of preparation on the essays I had submitted. I wrote those essays at least six months to a year before, and I simply forgot to revise them. So definitely read over any material you have submitted, and refresh your knowledge of that subject, as they may well use it as a springboard for discussion. You do not want to find yourself in the embarrassing position of not being able to remember the name of Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby's narrator, having proudly offered up an essay on the novel with your application.

Apart from that, I would advise people to try not to be too nervous. School and parents sometimes do not help, as everyone gets worked up into a real orgy of anxiety over the interviews, but really the universities can expect no more than someone who has clearly done lots of intelligent wider reading and has some well-thought-out opinions, and good questions. Make sure you come across, in an articulate way, as having a real love for your subject (and if you don't, you probably shouldn't be applying!) It is useful to be eloquent about your other subjects, and to be able to show how they contribute to your understanding.

Interview practise is valuable because at school one is often so comfortable that one rarely feels put on the spot in a challenging way. I would advise going to some drama audtions as well, even if you know you are not a great actor, just to give yourself some practise at the sensation of discomfort and of performance, an element of any interview.


2005 Classics

Trinity Hall - Dr Richard Miles, Clare College - Charlie Weiss

Why did you choose Classics? - Breadth of the subject, interdisciplinary skills, general enjoyment

Particular areas of the subject I'd like to pursue - ancient history (did A2 history but not Class Civ so would like a chance to study a different period (Richard Miles also specialises in Early Imperial History...!)

If you could display a museum exhibit to demonstrate the relevance of Classics, what would it be? - A talking doll showing the evolution of Romance languages (he laughed at that - not the brightest answer I imagine)

We discussed a translation of the Aeneid, and how interest was sparked at A level (from Latin) - what did I like about it, why was it influential in the decision to take Classics? Clinical construction of the language mixed with its fluidity and beauty, but more about the social and political concepts of its composition and the period for which it provides a political commentary.

- Advice on specific reading for preparation - better to attempt an indepth reading on one topic/book to show an outside interest in the subject rather than to cover too much too vapidly.

- Better knowledge of specialisms of interviewers - always handy (even if they are topics to avoid!)

- Be advised that however much you prepare, the chances are questions will come up that you haven't accounted for - confidence not to panic, to take your time and answer them as best you can - these are the ones where they learn how you think and of your potential rather than your parroted knowlege



Emmanuel College - Lord Wilson of Dinton (Master)

I was sent a chapter on black letter law, and I was given an article before I went into the interview of Jewish heritage and painting stolen during WW1, and now the descedants wanted the patinings back.

Why law?

Why Emmanuel College?

Direct questions in relation to my personal statement - references to quotes mentioned e.g. Aristotle

What extra-curricular activities I would be interested in

2 friends, A & B, A plant cannabis on B, and B is charged - should he be found Guilty or Not Guilty?

Should the age for criminal responsibility be 10yrs old?

What should constitute as a defence to murder?

Pause if you need to, then fully explain how you have come to your answer.

Go with your instinct it will be usually be right

Be aware that they will often play devils advocate, so don't be throw by this and if you have an strong opinion on something don't presume it to be wrong because of this.

Maintain good eye contact

Try not to fidget



Dr McHenry, Oriel; Dr Hewstone, New.

Philosophy interview:

Problems presented before the interview, then solved them during the interview, including:

Omnipotence paradox:

Interviewer states that if God exists, he is omnipotent. Given the

following, how would you argue that God DOES exist?

(1) Either God can create a stone he can lift or he cannot.

(2) If he can, there is something that he cannot do, i.e. lift the stone.

(3) If he cannot, there is something he cannot do, i.e. create the stone.

(4) If there is something God cannot do, it follows that he is not omnipotent.

Thus (5) God is not omnipotent, and as such, does not exist.


I argued that perhaps God is beyond the rules of logic, which was

along the right track.




Discussed personal statement, opinions regarding the books I had read,

and talked about in my statement. Discussed extracurricular activities. Very nice, un-Oxford interview.



"What is consciousness?"

Also various other questions regarding social psychology which I really didn't answer so well - the tutor is a social psychologist and I think gathered I was more into the neuroscience side of things.


Exam: The EP exam is quite simple, the only way you can prepare for it is by learning how to analyse data and draw conclusions from the information given. No previous knowledge is needed, just an understanding of the different ways data can be represented, which is easily learnt from an A level science.


I got a place at my first choice, Oriel, but, as I found out from Hewstone later, failed to get a place at New! Its often really as random as that.

Read as many books as you can and really know what you are talking about with them. Its a really good safety net: if you can't talk, they get time to ask you more questions. So if you can really contribute then you have the upper hand. Another thing, is that this tutor is looking for someone they want to teach for the next three years, so they have to like you as a person. Arrogance, overconfidence and equally, excessive shyness, do not go down well. Being friendly, personable and exuding a real passion for the subject is essential. If they see that you adore what you are planning to study they are much more likely to accept you, as these are people, who after all, have devoted their lives to this area.


Earth Sciences 2008 entry

St Peters (Prof. Hesselbo, Dr Waters), Exeter (Prof. Das, Dr. McNiocall)

My interviews were mainly based on the fundemental sciences: Maths, physics and chemistry with only a small component of geology.


Two tutors were seated at a table while I was given a marker and a white board to use equations and diagrams to explain things.


Questions included:


- How would you weigh the atmosphere?

- What is the equation for a circle? Prove it.

- If I move a pencnil across the desk does its mass stay the same? Why?

- Why would the global temperature decrease after a large volcanic eruption and why would this effect end?

- Why are the oceans salty?

- Differentiate and integrate sin^2x and e^x

- What is differentiation?

- Discussion on the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on ocean chemistry


- How would you measure permeability of a rock? How would a pressure of the fluid change with time through the experiment?

- Series of discussions based on a phase diagram of CO2

Read through all your AS notes so that you are familiar with basic principles which can then be applied to more complex problems.


Speak your thought process, the tutors cannot judge your mental potential is you do not say anything.


Do not be afraid of silence, there will be pauses while you think - use them.


Try not to relive your interview over and over in your head afterwards as you will undoubtably conclude that it went far worse than it actually did.


Be confident, you are being interviewed because they think you have the potential, you just have to show them that their suspicions are right!


English Literature, 2006

Trinity Hall, Alison Hennegan and Jan-Melissa Schramm

I was not given anything unseen to look at and analyse before the interview. The questions focused on my personal statement, expanding discussion on the works that I had made reference to. I talked about what I enjoyed in the books and made suggestions of my interest in wider theoretical debate.

My second interview went less well, partly due to the lack of adrenalin once the first was over. Could have had a greater grasp of the contextual interest that was important to the books I was interested in discussing.


Modern History 2001

University College. Sandy Murray, Pogge Von Strandmann, Catherine Holmes, Leslie Mitchell

I had two interviews. The first was 'purely' history. I was given two sources to read upon arrival and asked to choose one of the two, I had to pick one from a period I had not recently studied. There was a medieval source and a 20th Century source and so I picked the medieval one having studied a lot of modern history for A-level and GCSE. It related to some monks on a journey and was only about 5 sentences long. After 15 minutes 'reading and thinking' time I was called in to be interviewed by Pogge Von Strandmann, Leslie Mitchell and Sandy Murray (all quite old-school). They asked me what I had understood from the source and then probed to see where my observations led me. They made it clear that they understood I wasn't expected to have a great deal of background knowledge on the topic, it was to see how I reacted to the questions and how I could put together a theory based solely on the information at my disposal. It was in essence a more advanced version of the kind of source analysis you are taught at GCSE and A-level.


My second interview was more 'relaxed' - two younger interviewers (Catherine Holmes and a man I don't remember the name of). It was a brighter room, as opposed to the first interview which had been in more of a stereotypical 'Oxbridge' environment (ie dusty low-lit room, three old gentlemen reclining in assorted armchairs, books everywhere all over the floor). This interview looked at my interest and motivation in studying history, and also spent some time looking at my other interests non-academic skills. Both interviews were 15 minutes long.

Make sure that you can answer lucidly (and honestly) the one question you can guarantee they will ask - "Why do you want to study history at Oxford?". Make sure that it is a good succinct answer, not the time to be rambling and fumbling for an answer.


Don't lie. It will be very tempting to try and embellish in order to impress, but they will catch you out. It will then be muchy harder to make them believe everything else impressive that you are telling them that is true!


My experience was that I was given ample opportunity to show why I was a good candidate. They don't expect you to be a genius who knows everything about his/her chosen subject, they are looking for potential and an enquiring mind. Therefore if you have looked at some extra reading in preparation and the chance arises to bring it up - TAKE IT. Be honest though, if you have looked at a theory book and understood the central theme but not read the whole thing, then say it. Don't pretend you've read more than you have, they will be impressed that you have read and understood a theory and if you say that you are intending to look further into it they will believe you.


Sounds easy, but there is no need to be overly-nervous. I was made very at ease in both interviews, and really did get the impression that they want to see the best of you in order to make their decision easier. (Talking to tutors during my course around admissions time I can confirm that this really was the case!).


If you accept that they are looking for enquiring minds and interesting students to teach then it all becomes a lot easier to approach. If you are discussing a source as I had to, and they something that you think can be questioned then QUESTION IT. Don't be argumentative for the sake of it, but if you believe it should be questioned then it probably should be.


Essentially these tutors are very aware that they are going to be the ones teaching you for the next three years and so will pick students that they can look forward to debating and having interesting tutorials with!



St Edmund Hall - Robert Wilkins. Brasenose - Prof William James

At both colleges I had two interviews.


St Edmund Hall:

1) Interpreting a graph and explaining the results it showed- can't remember the detail

2) Ethics and other questions relating to my suitability to be a doctor. The only question I can remember being asked about was "If there was one event in history that you could have prevented happening, what would it be?" I asnwered this really badly as all I could think of was the 2nd world war and then followed it up with reasons why WW2 was actually really necessary and why I shouldnt have chosen it, before saying something pretty pathetic about the number of people that died. Needless to say I didn't get into Teddy Hall (but did Brasenose).



1) Working through a problem about the expression of genes, ie a mock tutorial. It was something about identifying that there was a problem in that women have two copies of the X chromosome and men only have one, but men and women both have the same amount of protein produced from genes from the X chromosome. Then you had to suggest mechanisms of how this might happen.

2) I was asked "why medicine" questions again, and about the books I had put on my personal statement.

I was really thrown by the "event in history" question having not expected anything so broad. So my advice now would be not to worry about which event you pick too much, but to take your time and come up with sensible reasons for whatever you picked and back it up as best you can.

I would also say prepare for all the questions you are likely to be asked, because you can predict a lot of the ones on the books you read and "why medicine" - there are lots of websites with past questions on them. Think about your work experience and pick out things you can use to answer those questions.

Most of all my advice would be take your time and try to make sure that you can back up what you are saying in answer to problems before you answer - its better to answer something wrong but well-reasoned than right for no reason. I think I would have improved by relaxing a bit more so its easier to think clearly and logically, which is ultimately what they are looking for over factual knowledge.


2004 Theology and Religious Studies

Corpus Christ - Ana Williams, Jesus - Tim Jenkins and Janet Soskice

Corpus interview - given an Old Testament passage to read beforehand, then discussion of my interpretation of it, the imagery used in it etc. Questions asked about what I thought about the relation between the old and new testaments.


Jesus - apart from the obvious questions about why choose theology, they asked about my interest in Kierkegaard which I had mentioned on the form and why I thought he was important. Asked about the work experience I had done, why I found theology more interesting than philosophy. Asked about my other interests eg sports.

Been more informed about the interviewers' own subject areas and work


Modern History, 2005

St Edmund Hall, David Priestland,Nicholas Davidson

My interview with David Priestland was based on an essay I had written about Soviet Russia. He asked me a number of fairly routine questions and then expanded the discussion to include other European countries and generalisations about why certain economic and political trends could be seen to have occured across the whole geographical area.


Nicholas Davidson interviewed me about a source that I was given a morning to study. I wasn't expected to know anything about the period of history or individual from which the source was derived, rather he asked me questions similar to the ones asked by the HAT test.

Be yourself. Ultimately the tutors are working out who they would like to teach for the next three years and personality and character can really count.


Engineering and Computing Science, 2001, on Oxford overseas student scholarship

Pembroke Collge, Unconditional acceptance on full scholarship, with no interview.

I do have some useful experience participating/ preparing other students for Oxbridge interviews even though I was fortunate to be offered a full scholarship without an interview. During my first three years at Oxford I voluntered as JCR student aide during interview week. This meant I was able to gain alot of information about interview experiences of candidates immediately before and after their interviews for several subjects. Post Oxford I have tutored and prepared 5 students for Oxbridge Mathematics interviews. Two were successful for Cambridge and two were successful for Oxford. One had a conditional offer which they did not meet so so could not take up their place. I think I could be of help especially for someone applying to Pembroke as I spent 7years there.