How to ace the Oxbridge Interviews

Admissions tutors at Oxford and Cambridge meet a star student everyday, make sure you can stand out with some of these tips.  

Be passionate

The interview is your opportunity to express passion for your chosen subject. The person that interviews you will likely be your tutor at least for the first year. So gelling with them would be important.Tutors want to see that you will be a joy to teach, that you're deeply interested in your subject, and that you're keen to learn. Therefore, the most important thing is to genuinely demonstrate an interest in the subject you’re applying for.

Show your unique strengths

Think creatively, gain relevant work experience and insights to draw from, and read beyond your school syllabus to distinguish yourself from other applicants. While tutors will see many applications, no candidate will be exactly the same as any other. Your subject profile, your reading and your motivation will all be unique to you. Hence drawing on these aspects will allow you to impress an admissions tutor and help them to understand why you are deserving of a place.

It's a conversation, not an interrogation

Viewing the interview as a conversation with an academic about a subject you both enjoy and are passionate about can make the process seem less daunting. Demonstrating interest and coherently engaging in academic dialogue is the crux of the conversation— and honestly, how you learn at these schools. So showing that you can do that in the interview is imperative. 

Don't expect the unexpected

There are crazy interview stories where students have found their tutors lying on the floor while asking them questions but in reality that is not the case. Apart from talking through your personal statement and application material, questions asked at an Oxbridge interview are designed to see your thought process. Whilst some questions may seem obtuse or confusing out of context, they allow a student to demonstrate their unique way of thinking.

Among Oxford University's interview questions in 2015, for example, economics and management students were asked whether bankers deserve the pay they receive, while applicants to the oriental studies course were asked if archaeology can “prove” or “disprove” the Bible.

Practise, practise, practise

Encourage people to ask questions to find out how you can make your explanation clearer about different topics. No matter how bright you are, it is unlikely that your first interview will be better than their third, fifth, or 10th attempt.

Do your research

Talk to current students and graduates about their experiences of Oxbridge interviews and spend some time looking at the university websites. Oxford and Cambridge want to be open about the interview process and the websites are as helpful as they can be these days. 

Be confident, not arrogant

Be passionate, be confident, and be likable. There's a difference between voicing your opinions and assuming you're right. Leave your arrogance out the door as you approach these interviews. It’s unlikely anyone will take you if they find you arrogant or hostile  to work with. 

We hope that tips help you as you train towards your interviews. Contact us with any questions, interview questions, or mock interviews!