English @ Sidney Sussex, Cambridge in 2018

Interview format

ELAT; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: unseen poem, submitted essay; Interview 2: personal statement, submitted essay

Best preparation

Past papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Refamiliarise yourself with sent in work

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

Test taken: English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT)

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: Immediately after each other

Length of first interview: 30 minutes; Length of second interview: 30 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In the first interview I was asked to discuss an unseen poem that had been given to us to read during the prep time. I was asked about language, structure and the meaning and significance of various sections of the poem. During the first interview I was also asked about one of the essays that I was asked to send in.

In the second interview we discussed various aspects of my personal statement, including some of the books that I had mentioned and things that I had said I was interested in. This part of the interview was conducted by a post grad student and was actually just a really nice quite informal chat. During this interview I was also asked about the second essay I sent in.

How did you prepare?

Practice papers, ELAT preparation day with SEREN network [Editor's Note: This is an access scheme in Wales, don't worry if you don't have this opportunity]

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

First of all I would advise any prospective students to make sure that they have re-familiarised themselves with their personal statements and any work that they were asked to send in, I didn’t know that I’d be asked about the essays, and wasn’t very well prepared to answer the questions I was asked! Because you are asked about your personal statement, make sure that you have read all books you mention, as interviewers will be able to tell straight away if you haven’t! Finally, I would advise that you don’t actually over prepare, there is no formula of how to ace an interview, the interviewers know what they’re doing, and have been doing it long enough that they know if you're not being honest! If you’re over prepared, have done a load of practice interviews and researched a load of things to make you sound smarter, chances are you’ll just sound mechanistic. Be yourself!