The details of an Oxbridge admission interview 

 May 22, 2022

The answer to the most popular questions regarding an admission interview with an Oxbridge tutor 

Imagine: you are now very close to successfully fulfilling your dream and getting admitted into Oxbridge. Tutoring sessions have been finished, subjects have been learned, documents have been prepared, a motivational letter has been written, and you are now eager to meet with Oxbridge tutors to begin your Oxbridge tuition. But, now, the admission interview stands in your way. So let’s disassemble the most mysterious and exciting moment of the admission – the “terrible and merciless” Oxbridge interview here – and explain the practical issues in the question-and-answer format. 

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What is an Oxbridge interview? 

When will I know if I will be invited for an interview?

Having applied to Oxford or Cambridge through the centralized UCAS system by mid-October, applicants have a little time before they know if they will be invited for an interview (in some cases, there will be tests first). Accordingly, both universities prepare lists of those who have successfully passed the first stage of selection in late November-early December. 

Letters of the invitation usually arrive in early December. However, in some cases, an invitation to an interview is sent only one week before the interview date. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that you are free at this time and ready to go to Oxford or Cambridge for a few days as soon as possible.

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If I am invited, when will the interview take place?

Interviews in Cambridge take place in the first half of December, while discussions in Oxford usually take place in the middle or end of December.

Who is invited for an interview?

Most Oxford and Cambridge applicants receive an invitation for an interview. For example, the Cambridge website states that approximately 75% of candidates are invited. However, at Oxford, the number of interviewees is lower because most colleges and programs first select through tests.

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How many interviews will there be?

The number of interviews varies, but there are more interviews at Oxford than at Cambridge in general. That is due to differences in candidate selection processes at the two universities. 

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Cambridge

For example, a college in Cambridge conducts interviews with all those who submitted their documents to them and selected the strongest candidates for themselves based on these interviews. However, other strong candidates following them would suit the university as a whole, but there is no longer a place for them in the college. 

Such candidates are sent to the public pool, from where students are recruited by colleges that do not have the same number of applicants. Often, such candidates simply receive an offer from another college that has chosen them, and in some cases, they need to go through another interview.

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Oxford

At Oxford, on the other hand, the system is designed so that the candidate is interviewed by various colleges, which then decide whether they want to invite him. The candidate can spend three to four days at the university visiting multiple colleges. When it comes down to the interview itself, it is usually subject-specific, and you will meet with the head of your chosen course and a more general interview with another college staff.

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Where can I stay when I arrive for an interview?

The college where the interview will take place will provide you with room and board for your stay.

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What should I wear?

You can wear whatever you like, but keep in mind that your outfit should be appropriate for the interview format. Wear something that will give you confidence and peace of mind. It is worth noting that the candidate’s appearance does not have to be formal.

Should I have something on me?

Depending on the course item you choose, you may be asked to bring something. As a rule, these are usually copies of your schoolwork, which you indicated when applying. You may also want to get a motivational letter with you, as it is likely that you will be asked questions about it. In addition, it will be helpful to refresh your memory before meeting with a member of the selection committee.

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What exactly happens during the interview? 

Specialized task 

So what happens during an interview at Oxbridge? First of all, it depends on the course you choose. In most cases, the academic part of the interview consists of a conversation and a practical task. For example, a practice task might consist of solving an equation for mathematicians, performing a piece of music for musicians, or translating and analyzing an unfamiliar text for those studying classical civilizations.

Flexibility evaluation 

Such an interview is not only an opportunity for the admissions committee to evaluate the applicant’s candidacy but also an opportunity for the candidate to understand how suitable the university is for him. Besides, it is worth noting that lectures at Oxford and Cambridge are complemented by seminars or “mentoring” sessions. The course leader or master meets with small groups of students to discuss essay writing, study modules, and other issues related to training. 

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At such sessions, interactivity, the desire to conduct dialogues and debates, the ability to think critically and analyze, and find non-standard solutions are very welcome. The selection interview, to some extent, reproduces such sessions and gives the members of the commission an idea of ​​how the candidate will be able to adapt to such a learning model and the Oxbridge environment in general.

The interview is only a part of an overall assessment 

However, you should not forget that the interview is just one of the qualifying stages. When you enter the college premises, the representatives and tutors will already have an opinion set based on your documents. Therefore, your task is to strengthen the positive impression or dissuade the negative one. 

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