Human, Social And Political Science @ Peterhouse, Cambridge in 2018

Interview format

HSPSAA; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: discussion of a given article; Interview 2: discussion of a source, personal statement

Best preparation

Thought about potential questions and considered possible answers

Test preparation

Reading up on current affairs

Final thoughts

Instead of thinking about what the admissions tutors want to see, do your best to express your passion by answering questions critically

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: HSPSAA
Number of interviews: 2
Time between interviews: 2 hours
Length of interviews: 30 mins
Online interview: No

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Before my first interview, I was given ten minutes to read and annotate a passage from an academic article. I then went into the interview and was asked a few general questions first, mainly about my passion for my subjects. the interviewers then began to ask questions about my perspective/ inferences of the article. After a few questions, the time was up! It had gone really quickly and I hadn't felt unable to answer any of the questions. even when I struggled to articulate myself and had to reword my sentences, the interviewers were patient and let me speak through my ideas until I properly formulated my points.

In the next interview (with different interviewers), they started off by showing me a historic picture as asked me to talk through what sort of questions I would think about/ try to answer if I wanted to know more about the picture. The rest of the interview then focused on my personal statement - they asked me to expand on books I'd mentioned, work experience etc. I definitely felt more relaxed during this interview as I'd settled in a bit more. Generally, I left the interviews feeling ok - although I wasn't entirely confident in my performance, I just felt pleased that I had been able to give a well thought out answer for every question!

How did you prepare for your interviews?

I organised one practice interview with some teachers at my school. They found a website which listed 'typical Oxbridge interview questions' and asked me those. This was good practice for answering academic interview style questions under pressure, even if the questions themselves were a bit general - so I would definitely recommend finding a couple of teachers who will spend one of their lunchtimes giving you a mock interview. I researched online and found that at another school in my local area, someone from an Oxford college admissions team was going to be providing an Oxbridge interview practice workshop. this was open to anyone in my area, so I signed up and attended. I would highly recommend having a look to see if there is anything like this happening near you - the workshop was really useful, and it was also just useful to be around other students in my area who were applying to cambridge, as I was the only one applying from my school.

As I didn't know anyone who had been through the Cambridge interview process, I watched lots of YouTube videos (some on the Cambridge official YouTube channel, some by studytubers who were already at Oxbridge). These helped demystify the interview experience, and made me feel a bit more comfortable about actually attending the interview. a few days before my interview, I rigorously reviewed everything I had mentioned in my personal statement, SAQ and the examples of class work essays I had sent in. I also thought about questions such as 'what would your dissertation be on' which had come up quite a lot as an example of something that gets asked in the YouTube videos I watched. This last minute preparation is just as important as workshops and mock interviews - I found it made me a lot less nervous knowing that I could remember all of my personal statement etc inside out in case I was asked about that!

If you took a test, how did you prepare?

Practice papers from the Cambridge website, reading up on current affairs.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

My advice would be not to overthink things - whilst it is very important to prepare and research things properly for your application, I would really just suggest going with your gut feeling. Instead of thinking 'what do the admissions teams want to see, want to hear, want from the perfect candidate etc' think 'how do I best express my passion." At the end of the day, keeping the passion for your subject at the centre of the application process will mean that you make all of the decisions that are authentic and right for you. The interviewers are not looking for someone who already knows everything about their subject - they are looking for someone with the potential to learn! So if you are able to express your passion by answering questions critically and with thought and care, that will get you a long way :)