Oxbridge Interviews – How to prepare

The applications are in and now the waiting begins…. For students applying for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry it is a tense time as they wait to see if they will be selected for interview. So what can they do to prepare whilst they anticipate that eagerly sought after invitation….. We asked our Oxbridge graduate tutors for their advice.

Prepare ahead.

James (Natural Sciences, Cambridge) advises that you should not wait for the invitation to arrive- you need to start preparing well in advance, just in case. The timeline between getting the call and the actual interview can sometimes be less than 10 days.

It’s all about the practice

Carl, (Chemistry, Oxford) says, practice, practice, practice. The more mock interviews you can do the better as you will get used to thinking out loud, exploring different concepts, and getting more confident in your presentation skills.

Be prepared

Oliver (Natural Sciences, Cambridge) says it is vital to be really prepared, revisit your personal statement, refamiliarize yourself with the articles or books you have referenced, read widely around your subject to make sure you are up to date with what is going on in your field.

Sign up for our ‘Ask the Experts” Oxbridge Interview Preparation day on

22nd November. Click here for more information.

Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong

Adam (French & Arabic, Oxford) says that often there are no right or wrong answers and the questions are designed to see how you think. He advises exploring a balanced answer, analysing both sides of an argument. Don’t worry if your thinking takes you down a dead end, acknowledge it and then keep going. The Professors are not expecting students to know it all at this stage – after all that is why you are applying to go to University to learn more! They are interested in seeing if you are teachable.

Thinking out loud

Duc (Natural Science, Cambridge) remembers how nervous he felt but once he got into the interview he really enjoyed being asked to think differently. Although it was challenging to work through a problem out loud, he knew that the only way to impress was to draw on his existing knowledge and see how he could apply it in a new situation. He would advise just plunging into answering the questions and think out loud so the interviewers can see your thought processes.

Answer the question

Lewis (Natural Science, Cambridge) points out it is important to listen carefully to the question and make sure you answer the question you have been asked, not one you prepared for earlier. Try not to overcomplicate things, don’t ignore the obvious. Most of all he says, be enthusiastic and show them how passionate you are about your subject.

Final Advice

Fiona, Head of Carfax Education, has helped prepare dozens of students for interview and she offers the following tips.

  • Be prepared

  • Be calm

  • Make sure you are up to speed

  • Ensure you are well rested ahead of the interview

  • Be confident in your opinions and be polite.

  • But most of all be yourself!

Some questions to practice!

  • Why are big, fierce animals so rare? (Natural Sciences)

  • When an ice cube melts in a glass of water, does the water level increase, decrease or stay the same? (Natural Sciences)

  • Differentiate between power and authority (PPE)

  • What makes a short story different to a novel? (Modern Languages)

  • Why haven’t there been many French Operas (Modern Languages)

  • Are there too many people in the world? (Economics and Management)

  • Why would playing sport make you a better economist (Economics)

  • Where does honesty fit into Law (Law)

  • How would you describe a human to a person from Mars (Medicine)

  • Should someone sell their kidney? (Medicine)

Thinking of applying to Oxford or Cambridge, contact

Carfax Education for expert advice.

For Oxford and Cambridge the interviews will take place in early December and you can expect to receive up to 10 days’ notice.

Medical and Law interviews can take place at any time and individual universities will publish likely dates on their website.



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