History @ Peterhouse, Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

History Aptitude Test (HAT); 2x inteviews

Interview content

Interview 1: unseen material, personal statement; Interview 2: personal statement

Best preparation

Use admissions assessment past papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Try to relax and demonstrate your passion 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 (HAT)

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: 1 hour

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

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In my first interview, we discussed an unseen source and a little about my personal statement. When the interview finished, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be rejected. I thought it had gone terribly! But clearly I hadn’t done as badly as I thought.

In the second interview, the conversation focused entirely on my personal statement. I was surprised that my admissions test or submitted work were not brought up. At one point I said something quite stupid (I named a famous city but got its country wrong) and almost cried! Remember that you are a very biased judge of yourself and try not to beat yourself up over it.

How did you prepare?

I used the specimen admissions assessment paper as a practice test and went through the essay section with my history teacher to get a second opinion on how to improve. I also used psychometric tests which contain reading comprehension, much easier than the HAA but worth looking at if you’re feeling worried. I was fortunate in that my history teacher met me once per week to help me prepare for the HAA, read through the essay I was submitting and checked my personal statement. I was given a mock interview which was nothing like my actual interviews as the teachers who conducted the interview were way too nice! When Cambridge say things like ‘send in an unedited essay from class’ you should consider that most shrewd candidates will edit their essay and have their teachers remark it and Cambridge won’t know, so if you send in an unedited essay you will look worse, sadly.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

My advice for the interview is to try to relax. As long as have everything from your personal statement, submitted work and admissions assessment fresh in your mind, then you are as prepared as you can be. The interviewers are looking for people who can cope with Cambridge’s workload and who are passionate about their subject. So just go in, be yourself and if it’s meant to be then it will be.