English @ Christ's, Cambridge in 2017

Interview format

2x interviews (20 mins)

Interview content

Both interviews focussed around an unseen text, personal statement also mentioned

Best preparation

Know personal statement; mock interview

Final thoughts

Speak to interviewers to relax yourself; don't over-analyse after

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

The day was structured into two interviews, both involving 2 interviewers, scheduled 1 hour apart and lasting around 20 minutes each. Once arriving in college and registering, I had the option to meet other applicants in the JCR but decided to explore the college grounds instead and find the two different rooms my respective interviews were due to be held.

Both interviews involved around 10 minutes of poetry analysis and discussion (unseen poems) and a following 10 minuets of personal statement discussion and general questions about the subject.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Both interviews followed a very similar format; two interviewers attended each, I was given a poem (without being told the poet or period of composition) and 3 minutes to read before being asked various open ended questions about the poem, pushing me to engage in close reading and practical criticism.

The interviewers prompted and revealed contextual information about the poem if I stumbled or ran out of things to say. I was then asked to read the poem out loud before being questioned about selected extracts of my personal statement, mostly being requested to elaborate or defend an assertion I had made.

How did you prepare?

I found it invaluable that I had memorised my personal statement and was prepared to back up everything I had said, otherwise I would certainly have been caught out. The other major help I received was a mock interviewwith my A-level English teacher a week or so before the real interviews, as it allowed me to practise both articulating my thoughts about my subject and navigating large and difficult topics verbally.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

A small amount of proactive engagement in the conversation was very helpful in relaxing me, producing a better rapport with the interviewers and allowing more nuanced demonstration of subject knowledge and passion. Asking the odd question in the right place can be a big benefit - for example I spoke to the interviewer about his favourite chapter in the book we were discussing!

It's completely natural to over-analyse the interview afterwards, even if you know that its very unlikely you'll be able to tell how it really went - and that analysing can't change any mistakes you made - so don't worry that you're worrying! The post-interview anxiety will pass by itself with a little time as you accept that everything is now out of your control (and that you probably did much better than you thought you did!)