Human, Social And Political Science @ Christ's, Cambridge in 2019

Interview format

Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment (AHAA); 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, discussion of A Levels; Interview 2: submitted essays

Best preparation

Made mind maps about books mentioned on personal statement

Test preparation

Practice papers

Final thoughts

Don't feel like you're 'less prepared' than anyone else if you study different subjects at sixth form

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: Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment (AHAA)
Number of interviews: 2
Time between interviews: 2 hours
Length of interviews: 25 minutes
Online interview: No

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The first interview seemed more themed around Politics and International Relations, and a fair few of the questions were centred around content I had mentioned in my Personal Statement, such as my aspirations for what I hoped to do with a degree in something like HSPS, and questions about the books I had mentioned. The interview room was very comfortable (got to sit on a nice sofa with a coffee table in front of me, no interviewers looming over me from behind a desk or anything as I had envisioned) and the atmosphere was a lot less intimidating and formal than I expected. I was certainly very nervous but settled in a bit more as the interviewers started to talk about my English Literature A-Level which felt a lot more in my comfort zone. The conversation ended up feeling like it flowed a more naturally as interviewers would pick up on my responses and ask me further about particular things I was saying, and though I was challenged by some of the questions the interviewers tried to give me particular examples to help me consider the issue in a new light and I never really felt like my points were being dismissed. The time absolutely flew by for me and it felt like I had barely spent 5 minutes in there before I was told the interview was over!

My second interview was much the same and equally comfy, though centred more around the essays I had submitted and more questions pertaining to topics in Sociology and Social Anthropology. Since my essays were written for History and Religious Studies, I ended up talking a lot about US History and Christianity but, again, this made me feel like I had more examples I could recall from my previous studies. Once or twice I seemed to give an answer the interviewers weren't quite expecting or looking for but they emphasised different parts of the question or rephrased it to try and get me to address the problem more directly. I also got asked about topics I felt relatively strongly about which gave me more confidence to speak up, and I tried to 'think out loud' to the best of my ability.

How did you prepare for your interviews?

I hadn't studied Politics at A-Level, so I communicated with a Politics teacher at my sixth form who offered to meet with me and another HSPS applicant weekly and we would read through different articles and discuss them, write practice essays and receive feedback, go through some A-Level Politics content. Another teacher also kindly offered to arrange a practice interview which, although not overly successful, gave me good practice for thinking on the spot. Although HSPS a course that gets such a diverse range of applicants in terms of previously-studied subjects, and therefore I wasn't sure if any revision would be as 'necessary' as it seemed to be for STEM applicants, I found it helpful to look over my notes and resources if only to make sure I had some content I had learned at A-Level more readily 'on hand' to use as examples and such during the interviews, and in the end I did find myself talking a lot about topics from my A-Level studies so it was definitely worth it!

I also made sure to go through each line of my Personal Statement, taking note of anything I had read or done that could be picked up on and questioned further and made sure I was certain about why I included these things in my personal statement, what I got out of doing these activities that might help me in my HSPS studies etc...and I similarly read over the essays I had submitted and made sure I knew the topics I spoke about in my writing well. I also made mindmaps of the books I had mentioned in my Personal Statement with the key points as 300 or so pages of content is a lot to recall anyway, let alone under stressful conditions like an interview! This also gave me something to take with me to look over on the day during the waiting period just before my interviews - no matter how much of that information actually went in my brain it at least helped give me a little more confidence and certainty.

Finally, I tried to follow the news more closely than usual during the weeks preceding my interview just in case I would be quizzed on anything, or there was anything that I could use to illustrate my points!

If you took a test, how did you prepare?

Practice papers, writing one or two essays and asking a teacher to mark them, looking over revision material I had collated for my A-Level subjects to get ideas for essays.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

Don't think too hard about what your teachers and parents say about the applications system and experience - a lot of the practice materials, including practice interviews, I used seem to use as their basis the view of Oxbridge interviews are very rigid, unpredictable, and sometimes even demeaning. There is no doubt that these interviews are challenging but your interviewers will most likely be friendly and understanding and won't condescend you. You also shouldn't feel like you are 'less prepared' than anyone else if you haven't taken particular subjects during 6th form, you'll definitely find a way to include what you've learned in your answers and being able to do this creatively is a great skill.