Many students are very intimidated at the thought of an Oxbridge interview – they feel that they don’t know quite what the tutors are looking for, or they’re intimidated by the grand setting. Some even feel that Oxbridge isn’t quite for ‘people like them’. This piece will offer some advice on how to excel in an Oxbridge interview.
Firstly, try to familiarise yourself with the surroundings before the interview takes place. This will help the whole experience to seem somewhat less daunting. Try to become accustomed to the area and the buildings: it may be worth arriving the day before interviews for this purpose. If you’re not used to studying in a similar setting, remember that it’s talent that the tutors are looking for, rather than any interest in your background or whether or not you’ll ‘fit in’.
Secondly, focus on your approach to answering the questions being asked in the interview rather than the conclusions you arrive at. The tutors are looking for someone they can teach rather than someone who knows all the answers straight away. Their interest is primarily in how you reason and why you reach the answers you do. If the answer you give is not strictly correct but your approach is interesting, this may well be of great interest to them. Also, try not to be thrown off by unexpected questions. They’re aiming to see how you respond to questions you could not have anticipated. Expect the unexpected!
Thirdly, remember that there is an element of competition. All I mean by this is that you should not go out of the interview and tell other candidates what they asked you. It’s important to appreciate that the number of places available is limited – so don’t give an advantage to another candidate.
Fourthly, try to use the experience as an opportunity to interview the university. By this I mean that
you should take the opportunity to explore the city thoroughly and try to imagine what living there
might be like. Similarly, talk to current students about their experiences at the university and what
studying is like. It would be especially useful to talk to people who study the subject you’re applying
Finally, enjoy the experience! Remember that even getting an interview means that the tutors think you’re intelligent and worthy of consideration, so try not to stress too much. It can be a great opportunity to meet new friends – ones who you may even be studying with in just 9 months’ time…