The Cambridge and Oxford University interviews start this week. Many students find the prospect daunting, especially as all interviews are online this year. Read this short guide to help you prepare for your online Oxbridge interview.
Your Oxbridge interview online:
Arrange a practice Oxbridge interview with a friend, tutor or parent. It is vital to practise speaking confidently and articulately prior to the interview, especially within academic contexts and in an online setting. Ensure you are sitting in the room that will use for your online interview, so you get used to it. Get your friend to ask you questions based on your personal statement or more general questions about the subject and your personal attributes. It is useful to research past interview questions online and write out possible answers. You can stick notes on to your desk as a reminder of what you want to say. Don’t try to learn your answers word for word, but do have a general idea of what you could say before you enter the room. Record your practice interviews on your phone. Playing them back will give you an idea of how fluently you speak and serve a memory aid.
Don’t be unnerved:
Don’t be unnerved if the interviewer asks a question that you don’t know the answer to. It’s fine to say you don’t know. If you feel yourself becoming anxious, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Be creative and try to think around the question they are asking, perhaps relating it to something that you can speak confidently about. The interviewers will push you to think outside of your academic comfort zone, beyond what you have learnt at school. They won’t mind if you make the odd error. What they want are students who can think critically and creatively. Whether you are being called to interview for Economics, English or Latin, what the interviewers are looking for is enthusiasm, passion and willingness to learn. Oxford and Cambridge university are seeking students who are engaged and honest, open to new ideas and enjoy being academically challenged. And being academically challenged can mean being asked questions about an unfamiliar area.
Once you the names of your interviewers, a great way to prepare is to read up on their specialities and research interests. Simply search online the subject and Oxford or Cambridge college where you will be interviewed. It should come up with a list of staff. This might give an indication of what topics or themes could come up in the interview. It is also a good idea to research in detail the course specification and first year reading lists to develop a general sense of what modules you will be studying.
As Oxbridge interviews are being held online this year, there is less pre-interview reading. However, for some subjects – Sciences and Humanities – you may still be given a pre-interview reading. It is essential to practice how to read academic texts quickly and thoroughly. To do so, try reading several short academic articles a week within a 20 – 30 minutes time-limit. During this time limit, it is recommended to read the text three times. The first time read quickly to get a general overview of the text, a second time to highlight key points/details and a third time to write notes that might be important. The interviewer may ask you to summarise the text and your opinion of it. When practising at home, write short bullet points to summarise the text and consider whether you agree/disagree.
Revisit your personal statement:
There are many misconceptions over what will be asked at your Oxbridge interview. Generally, the interviewers are not there to ‘trick’ or ‘catch’ you out. They will use your personal statement as a basis for the interview. Make sure you re-read your personal statement several times before your interview. Annotate key points or readings mentioned within it and consider any counter-arguments or criticisms. It is essential that, if you cite any books, arguments or studies in your personal statement, you have read them and can discuss them with confidence.
Reserve a calm space for your online interview:
It is essential that you have calm space for your online interview, where you are unlikely to be interrupted. This could be your own room or another room in your house. Surround yourself with positive messages, perhaps a photo or lucky mascot that makes you feel calm and confident. Whilst you won’t want to learn your answers to anticipated questions word for word, a few post-it notes with reminders on your desk or table will help you feel more relaxed. Ensure your computer is set up and connected to the internet well before the start time and that your camera and audio are working. This sounds basic, but working IT and internet are essential and will help you to feel well prepared.
Wishing all Oxbridge candidates every success in their online interviews.