Last week we looked at how to prepare for an Oxbridge interview, and this week we’re looking at how to succeed in the interview itself. It can be daunting but don’t let it overwhelm you. You should be very proud of yourself if you get invited to interview – it means you’ve done extremely well already. Treat the rest of the process as an exciting opportunity to try out for one of the best universities in the world.
It is entirely normal to be nervous before your interview. In fact, it would be unusual if you weren’t. Just remember, nerves can actually help you perform at your best. Have you ever noticed how you can recall things in exams that you never normally could? That is because your brain is working over-time, fuelled by nerves and adrenaline! So don’t be afraid of nerves – they can be a bit annoying but they are there to help you. The other thing about nerves is that they are usually worst in the lead up to the interview, but once you’re in there they tend to disappear.It’s worth noting too that you are not the only one who is nervous about the interview. Many interviewers themselves have admitted to being more nervous than the students. This shows that they aren’t there to catch you out and that they really do want you to succeed – thinking of the interviewer in this light should help to calm your nerves.
Your interview will no-doubt consists of many questions, as the interviewer will want to give you ample opportunity to show them how you think. The questions are supposed to be challenging and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to answer every question perfectly, and that’s fine! If you do feel like you’ve made a mistake or even messed up your answer completely, put it out of your mind and approach the next question with confidence and composure. Interviewers are very forgiving of little mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself.
It might seem like a contradiction in terms, but work on being humble and showing off at the same time. Of course interviewers are looking for knowledgeable candidates, so don’t be afraid to show them how much you know. But remember that what they really want to see are candidates who are open-minded and ready to learn. Show them that the reason you want to go to Oxford or Cambridge is not because you know everything already, but because you are passionate and want to learn more.
Even if there is a right and wrong answer to the question (and there often isn’t), getting to the correct answer is not the most important thing. What is important is your ability to reason effectively and talk through your reasoning, showing your interviewers how your mind works and how you arrived at your conclusion. Speak slowly, reason logically, and show them that you are capable of in-depth analysis of difficult questions. Don’t be too pre-occupied with the final answer, it’s all about how you got there.
By Tom H.