Updated: Oct 27, 2020
For students applying for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry, the applications are now in and the waiting begins. It is a tense time waiting to see if the invitation for interview will pop up in the inbox.
We asked our Oxbridge graduate tutors for their advice on what can students do to be as well prepared as possible whilst they anticipate that eagerly sought after invitation…..
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.
Sign up for our intensive Oxbridge Interview Preparation day on
13th 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.
Fiona (Head of Carfax Education) has helped prepare dozens of students for interview and she offers the following tips:
It is vital to be thoroughly prepared, this means revisiting your personal statement and making sure you are familiar with all of the articles or books you referenced.
You need to use this time to read widely around your subject and make sure you are up to date with what is going on in your field.
Practice your interview technique which means listening carefully to questions, answering the question that is asked and formulating your thoughts before you start to speak.
When it comes to the interview:
Try not to overcomplicate things and don’t ignore the obvious.
Be enthusiastic and demonstrate how passionate you are about your subject.
Be confident in your opinions and don’t be afraid to disagree with the interviewer if you can justify your response
Be calm and express yourself clearly and courteously.
Most of all …… be yourself!
Some questions to practice!
Describe a potato and then compare it to an onion? (Natural Sciences)
What is the biggest problem facing CEO’s? (Economics and Management)
Do you believe in free will? How far does it extend to – an oyster for example? (PPE)
What makes a novel or play political? (Modern Languages)
Why would playing sport make you a better economist? (Economics)
What is ‘normal’ for humans? (Psychology)
How do you think the House of Lords should be reformed? (Law)
At what point is a person dead? (Medicine)
How is a city like a cell? (Medicine)
Thinking of applying to Oxford or Cambridge 2020?
Contact Carfax Education at firstname.lastname@example.org
for expert advice on how to start preparing now for a competitive application.
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. Medical Interview Prep Day on Friday 20th November - more information to follow.