So if you didn’t get straight A*s in your GCSEs and you’re not privately educated, you should probably stop reading right now because you’re never going to get a place at Oxford or Cambridge.
LOL, jk… all those stereotypes you hear about Oxbridge types aren’t true!
Before I applied to Cambridge, I heard so much rubbish about the interview process, that I literally painted my nails bright yellow in a bid to be memorable, if not academically interesting. But, I didn’t need to worry because there was nothing scary about it at all.
For most subjects, you’ll have two interviews (one focusing on your subject and one on your other interests) and a written test. And you might have to send a couple of essays off too. The good news is, there’s no way you can revise, so you don’t have to feel guilty about not reading your school text books every weekend. The even better news is that no one’s trying to catch you out.
So, the academic interview. Your interviewer is basically trying to work out whether you’d be fun to teach. And it’s really easy to prove that you are: just make sure you’ve read all the books you mention in your personal statement, you have a few interesting opinions about the subject you want to study and you’re not afraid to ask questions. Your interviewer doesn’t want to make you feel silly; he or she wants to challenge you by pushing your opinions and making you think some new stuff. If you get confused, say so. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a few minutes to gather your thoughts.
The personal interview is even less scary, because all you have to do is talk about yourself. They’ll ask about your hobbies and A levels, and you’ll tell them what you enjoy and don’t enjoy. There’s honestly nothing more to it. Interviewers like it when you ask them questions, and if you make your interviews feel like conversations rather than Q+A sessions, you’ll feel more relaxed too. They don’t expect you to know everything on their syllabuses – that’s what you’re going to university for. They just expect you to be really enthusiastic about the subject you want to study.
Walk into your interviews confidently, make eye contact with your interviewer, shake his or her hand and try to make the most of the opportunity to have a conversation with a really smart and interesting person.
The tests you take differ from subject to subject, but you’re not going to be expected to do anything more difficult than what you’re already studying in your A level classes. In the week before your interview, make sure you brush up on everything you’ve struggled with. Ask your teachers to spend a few lunchtimes with you to make sure there aren’t any aspects of the syllabus you don’t understand, and you’ll be fine.
And if the worst comes to the worst, paint your nails bright yellow. At least you know they’ll remember you…