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How to Survive an Oxbridge Interview

How to Survive an Oxbridge Interview main image

You really don’t have to be superhuman to get into Oxford or Cambridge. It’s undeniably a tough process, but if you manage to get to the interview stage, all that’s left is to shine brilliantlyHow? Well, here are my top interview tips for how you can do your best in the days before and during your Oxbridge interview.

1. Prepare: Read around your subject

The more you read around your subject, the better you’ll be at responding to unexpected questions, and showing off just how passionate and interested you are. Don't leave it to the last minute though – I remember having to cram a huge textbook within the space of a week. Very bad idea.  

2. Re-read your personal statement

I recall spending hours writing my Oxbridge personal statement, only to forget all about it until right before the interview. This is not a good thing to do!

Your personal statement is the part of your application where you really get the chance to express your love for your subject. Reading it again should help you focus on why you want to study your subject – and why you are the best applicant to do so. You’ll also be expected to be able to talk about anything you’ve mentioned in your statement during the Oxbridge interview, so make sure you’re ready for that.

3. Ask questions

Obviously don’t just ask questions for the sake of it – that could get pretty annoying! But asking carefully chosen questions shows you can think critically, and that you have a drive to learn. What teacher wouldn’t like that?

Present yourself as a curious and inquisitive student who is open-minded and logical. Don’t be afraid of challenging what the question is really asking, or to step back and think out loud during your Oxbridge interview. Most of the time, tutors are interested in your ability to learn, rather than the facts you already know. Developing the habit of questioning different things about your subject is also a great mentality for learning, no matter where you go for university or future studies.

4. Try not to worry!

It’s useless to waste time or energy worrying about the outcome – easier said than done, I know... One good thing is that Oxford and Cambridge have a ‘pooling system’, which aims to ensure the best candidates will get in, either at their first-choice college or a different one. Personally I learned that worrying simply is not useful at all. It only makes you disorientated and unable to focus.

5. Don't believe the myths 

Yes, some Oxbridge professors are ‘eccentric’, but you’re really unlikely to be faced with anything too strange! And while it can be useful to hear about other people’s experiences, remember that each interview is different, depending on the subject and individual tutors. So even if your friend’s sister’s cousin’s brother was asked an unusual question about aliens invading the earth in his psychology interview (true story), you probably won’t get the same one!

6. Eat a good breakfast 

It’s vital to eat something filling and healthy before your Oxbridge interview. This is not the time to go on short-term diets or crazy binges. My interview was at 9:30am, so I had to get up very early to have a hearty breakfast, drink some coffee (only do this if it’s your usual routine – caffeine can affect people differently!) and travel to the college. Having too many carbohydrates will probably make you sleepy. Make sure you get enough protein and fiber, which helps keep you full and awake when your interview comes. 

Bonus tip: Smile!

I can’t stress how important it is to smile during your interview. No one likes to teach someone who is serious all the time! As someone who has gone through the process, all that's left to say is good luck, have fun, don't forget to stretch those smile-making facial muscles – and try to enjoy the experience!

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Written by Florence Lee

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