History @ Jesus, Cambridge in 2018

Interview format

HAT; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, interests within the subject; Interview 2: thoughts on pre-reading material

Best preparation

Read works by historians with different points of view on a topic

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Try to demonstrate your enthusiasm for your subject

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 Aptitude Test

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: 1 hour

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

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In my first interview, I was asked general questions about my interest within history, before talking to me about my personal statement. The interviewers asked some questions about the specific topic I had written about before going on to ask more general questions about the practice of history and how a historian could make use of evidence and sources to further their argument. I was also asked about my EPQ and the research I had done for that. Initially, I was really nervous but after a few questions I relaxed more into the interview and could respond to questions more comfortably.

For my second interview, I was given an hour in the college library to read some source material before I went straight into the interview. The source material was on an obscure topic that no interviewee would have studied before, meaning that the interview was asking solely for my opinion of the source and its usefulness. They asked questions about what I thought the weaknesses and flaws of the source were, as well as general themes that the source spoke about. I was also nervous before this interview; sometimes I had to ask if I could think for a moment before answering a difficult question.

How did you prepare?

In preparation for the admissions assessment, I did a lot of practice papers from the Cambridge website. For my interview, I prepared by familiarising myself with the content of my personal statement, so I could expand on parts of it if necessary. The best thing I did was read works by historians who disagreed with each other on a topic I was particularly interested in, so in my interview I could show that I had thought about both sides of the argument before reaching my own conclusion.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

My expectations of the interview were that it would be really frightening and the interviewers would be trying to catch you out. However, while the interview was still really nerve-wracking, the interviewers were really relaxed and were interested in what you had to say. They are looking for someone who is genuinely interested in their subject and who, outside of the A-level syllabus, looks into areas that they are enthusiastic about. I think it is important to show that you are passionate about your subject.