Student Advice

How to Nail Your Oxbridge Interview

Sarah Jones  · Aug 14th 2023  · 5 min

Oxford and Cambridge, also known as Oxbridge, are commonly regarded as two of the hardest universities to secure a place. Oxbridge have earlier UCAS deadlines and added interviews for prospective students.

How to Nail Your Oxbridge Interview

Oxford and Cambridge interviews have a reputation for being a nerve-wracking experience. But with the right preparation, you'll be set for a great interview! Let's break down the Oxbridge interview process with a bit about what to expect and top tips to help you prepare for the interview.

Firstly, how do you secure an Oxbridge interview?

Submit your Oxbridge personal statement

The deadline for this differs from the rest of the universities, so mark your calendars! For admission into 2024, the deadline is October 16th. Your personal statement is a chance to flex your academic skills and tell the uni why you deserve a place and what it is about the course you’re most excited to explore.

For Cambridge, you’re also asked to fill out your My Cambridge Application by October 23rd. This is a personalised application with relevant questions for you.

Score well on the admissions test

Whether you’re required to sit an admission test differs from course to course. But the majority of Oxbridge courses require students to have sat an admissions test. Things are also different between Oxford and Cambridge; your Oxford admissions test happens before your interview while for Cambridge, it can take place at any time in the application process - before, during and even after.

Meet the grade requirements for your course

Oxbridge are known for their high grade requirements, so it’s good to have predicted grades meet these or are close to the requirements. What it will come down to is results day. If you’ve nailed your interview and secured your offer, getting the results is your final step to walking into to Oxford or Cambridge.

Oxbridge interviews

What to expect from your Oxbridge interview

Interviews are always a nerve-wracking experience. What can help to calm your nerves is understanding a bit more about the process. Let's walk you through, so you can walk in confidently. While every interview will be unique to the candidate, there are some things you can expect to be faced with.

You will be interviewed by a panel of academic tutors

Typically, you’ll be interviewed by a panel of two to three academic tutors from a certain college at the university. The academic tutors will know how nervous you must be feeling, so they’ll be there to help you settle into the interview, explain how it will go and how long it will be. They’ll also offer guidance on the amount of questions they’ll be asking you.

Expect to apply your knowledge to situation questions

Many of the questions will ask you to take knowledge of your existing course and apply it to new situations. You will also be asked to utilise your soft skills. They may also provide you with materials such as texts to analyse or objects to discuss, as they will be looking at how you think critically and approach problem-solving.

They will ask questions related to your application

The tutors may ask you questions about your interests and extracurricular activities to help ease you into the interview. It will be no surprise that they will be looking at your application and may asking you to expand on what you’ve written. These questions will likely be related to the subject you’re studying and offer you the opportunity to share your knowledge and interest beyond what your current teachers provide on your course.

University of Cambridge interview

Cambridge and Oxford university interview questions

The questions you will be asked are meant to challenge you. Every interview is unique, to ensure it’s catered to the individual but also to ensure that the answers to the questions are the candidate's own views and not something that they have pre-prepared. This means that providing examples of Oxbridge interview questions can be difficult as no two questions are the same, but there are some things you can look out for.

How the academic tutors choose to conduct the interview may change from university to university and candidate to candidate. For example, they might have a conversation on a certain topic and invite you to input into the discussion. They may ask you to lead the conversation and debate a topic you discuss in your personal statement. Or it may be like a typical job interview, with questions asked directly for you to answer.
University of Oxford interview

Top tips for preparing your Oxbridge interview

To help you prepare for that all important interview, here are some tips that students and the university offer to help you:

1. Reread your personal statement. This is the information the university will have about you and your studies, so will be the basis for some of their questions. Make sure you know the content of your personal statement inside and out, so you aren’t surprised by any questions about yourself that may come up.

2. Explore the subject you’re applying for beyond your current course curriculum. Go beyond the subject topics you cover in your college course and read around the subject. Whether that’s reading a book, recent articles, listening to podcasts. Analyse what you read to help you think critically.

3. Think about your favourite areas of the subject. If you’re asked to lead some of the discussion or chat about the areas that interest you, this could help you expand on this.

4. Research your academic tutors. If you’re given the names of the faculty interviewing you, they’ll have their own areas of interest. Read about their speciality areas and even into their research or published papers if you have access.

5. Practice talking about your subjects. Whether in a mirror, to friends or family, practising your public speaking will help you articulate your thoughts on a subject clearly and confidently. You could even record yourself speaking to watch back and see if there are any areas to improve.

6. Stay calm. It’s easier said than done, we get it. Look at ways to help manage your nerves and ensure you start the interview as calm as you can. This will help you come across well to the tutors and also help you to have a positive interview experience. Breathe, you’ll do great!

Now you have a better understanding, you can go away and action them. Practice makes perfect!

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