Human, Social And Political Science @ Newnham, Cambridge in 2014

Interview format

2x interviews (40 mins each + 10/15 mins reading time for second interview); 1x test (1 hour)

Interview content

First interview: general, some specific subject areas; Second interview: discussed book extract and recent reading

Best preparation

Practice interviews; podcasts; reading; debating

Final thoughts

Do extra reading and prep beforehand on things you find interesting

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

I arrived the night before (I only live in London but the interview day started early and I didn't want to get myself stressed out getting there on time - ask for accommodation!). On the morning of my interview day, I had an entrance exam (not sure college does this anymore since the introduction of the standardised entrance tests) where I had an hour or so to write an essay from a selection of quite broad questions which covered all the topics in HSPS. I then had my first interview which I think was about 40 minutes and was a discussion of my personal statement/questions about motivation and the subjects with two academics. I then had a couple hours break which I spent getting lunch from the canteen (pretty sure they gave us vouchers?) and talking with other interviewees and the college helpers in the college bar. I then was taken to a reading room and being given an extract from an unnamed book and pen/paper to make notes for about 10/15 minutes. I then had a 40 minute or so interview with one academic discussing the extract mostly and questions about my recent reading. Sorry about this being hazy, it was 4 years ago now!

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

I felt like I was writing complete nonsense in the entrance exam and never got any feedback on how it was, so who knows! In my first interview, they asked me a few questions to start on things from my personal statement. We discussed why I was applying to HSPS and about sociology and social anthropology in general. The main other thing I remember is them asking something about conduting ethnographies.

For the second interview, beforehand I was given an extract from a book. I had about 10/15 minutes to read it and make notes. I was then asked a series of questions about the text, including when and why it was written and how it related to the current political climate. I linked it to some ideas I had read in another book so she asked some follow up on that. We then talked about what I had been reading recently that wasn't on my personal statement.

All the academics who interviewed me were women (yay Newnham!) and super lovely and reassuring.

How did you prepare?

Having a practice interview, reading Politics by David Runciman (and rereading it the night before!), listening to LSE and Oxford politics podcasts, doing some wider reading, practicing talking under pressure (I did this by debating).

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

Do extra reading/prep that you find interesting and refresh it before interview, your enthusiasm will show!