How to survive my Oxbridge interview?

The main difference between Oxbridge and other universities is the unique tutorial system. These are weekly sessions between a tutor (who is usually an expert in their chosen field) and up to three students. Your interview, then, will most likely be a sample of this tutorial environment. Your interviewers will be tutors who want to see how capable you are of adapting to and thriving in such an environment. It is NOT a test of how many facts and figures you have memorised, but rather whether you can confidently respond to challenging questions on topics which you may not necessarily be familiar with.

Now that we have established what an interviewer is generally looking for in a successful applicant, here are some general tips on how to prepare:

Read through your personal statement

Different interviewers place varying degrees of importance to an applicant’s personal statement during an interview. Nonetheless, it is still very important to know your personal statement inside out and to be able to confidently back up and expand on any statements made.  Going through it again will also help you focus on why exactly you want to study your subject and why you think you are the best candidate to do so

Read around your subject

As well as reading your own personal statement, I would also advise reading more generally around your subject. This enables you to better respond to unexpected questions, as well as demonstrating your interest in and enthusiasm for your subject. By having a more generalised view of your subject, beyond what is compulsory for your A Level/IB course, you will be able to more easily guide your interview and pick up on various aspects in certain topics

Talk aloud

When the interviewer asks you a question especially one which requires a lot of thinking, it is a good idea to explain your thought process aloud and show the interview how you came to your conclusion. Even if your final answer is incorrect, the interviewer just wants to be able to judge whether the methodology behind your answer is sound

Interact with your interviewers

Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewers to repeat or clarify a question. Interviewers understand that you are nervous and oftentimes a question may need clarification in order to be analysed and answered more accurately. Also, posing carefully selected questions to your interviewer indicates that you can think critically and are motivated to learn

Arrange mock interviews

The best way to learn something is to do it. This is also true of interview prep. You will feel much more confident during your interview if you have already been through a similar experience. Try and arrange a mock interview through your school or college; you could ask a subject teacher to help you. If this is not possible, you could ask a family member or even a friend to ask you some basic questions relating to your subject area, in order to practice verbalising your thoughts clearly and coherently. 

Lastly, I would advise you not to spend the time leading up to your interview frantically googling about what to expect as there are a lot of myths and misinformation flying around in the internet which would only serve to stress you out. Try not to worry and, as cliché as it may sound, just be yourself. Remember the interviewers want to know whether you are the candidate they are looking for, not what you think an “Oxbridge Candidate” is. At the end of the day, Oxbridge interviews are a great opportunity to be challenged and discuss your field of interest with leading experts in that subject. Remember that getting an interview is a fantastic achievement in itself!

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