History @ Emmanuel, Cambridge in 2017

Interview format

HAT; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: Personal statement and discussion; Interview 2: Pre-reading discussion

Best preparation

Past papers and practise answering questions.

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

You have the right to be there, don't be nervous.

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: History Admissions Test (HAT)

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between interviews: They were on the same day

Length of first interview: 20 minutes; Length of second interview: 20 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

One interview was personal statement based, but largely ended up centering around a shared area of interest. They didn't expect much knowledge of every single thing in my personal statement. The other interview was all about a reading given before hand. Found this way more challenging, but that's not necessarily bad. Read it and make notes on your thoughts, but don't be surprised if you're led in a direction you didn't think of yourself.

How did you prepare?

I used past papers for the comprehensive multiple choice bit of the HAT. Even though it is technically meant to be strategy-less, I looked at past papers and tried to develop a strategy for answering the essay bit otherwise I knew I'd panic more. Essentially try to figure out what the question is really asking you. Past papers will be on the faculty website. There's also a website called Cambridge HE+ for some reading and questions about various topics you might find interesting which might help get you in the right frame of mind! I was really lucky to have a history teacher who took her own time to go over past papers with me, but friends and family or anyone you trust could also help!

Interviews: just try to sound passionate and try your best to answer any surprising questions thoughtfully, but also don't be scared to ask for a question to be repeated or clarified. Anyone who will practise an interview with you is good, you can give them a list of potential questions found online and even if they're not the kind that come up there's almost no such thing as a wasted interview!

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

The biggest surprise for me was learning that the interviewers are themselves really nervous! They want you to do the best you can! So don't think they're trying to trick you, they just want to see how far they can stretch your potential! Getting blindsided by nerves is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Even if you're terrified inside you have as much right as anyone else to be there. Know that you never have to read a whole book you talked about on your personal statement, but I do wish I'd read more of them so I wasn't as nervous about being caught out (think intro, conclusion, chapter of interest). I expected them to be longer and more painful than they were, actually they were okay and went quickly!