Human, Social And Political Science @ Newnham, Cambridge in 2015

Interview format

2x interviews (+ 20 min reading time for 2nd interview); 1x test (1 hour)

Interview content

First interview: general archaeology questions, EPQ; Second interview: unseen text discussion, personal statement

Best preparation

Speaking to current students/those knowledgable about the subjects; practice interviews

Final thoughts

It's not about knowledge, but the way you think through answers

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 was taken from the porters lodge to the student bar to wait for my first activity. This was a one hour essay based exam - I was given 5 possible essay questions and I had to pick one to answer. I was nervous and restarted my essay a few times, and included some information I wasn't confident about, but was able to use examples from things I already knew - I hadn't done a lot of prior research. I was then taken back to the bar to wait for the first interview, and when it was my turn a student took me to the right room. There were two interviewers; one from sociology, one from archaeology (I'd written mostly about archaeology in my personal statement for HSPS). I then returned to the bar, before being taken to my final interview. I was given a piece of text in a room separate from the interview room, and given 20 minutes to read it. There were two interviewers again, one from international relations (the subject of the text), and the Admissions Tutor.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In the first interview, I was asked general questions about an archaeological site I'd discussed in my personal statement. We discussed why study of the past is important and relevant in the modern day, and the differences between natural and social sciences. I was asked what reading I'd done that I'd found interesting - I talked about accounts I'd read as part of my extended project about the miners' strike.

In the second interview, the first part was based around discussing the text - they asked me questions about what I'd understood from it, and while I didn't understand all of it I gave a brief summary, and then answered some further questions on it. We then discussed more things I'd mentioned in my personal statement - archaeological and political topics that I was interested in.

How did you prepare?

Speaking to current students, as well as speaking to people knowledgable about the subjects I wrote about in my personal statement (e.g. archaeology, politics). I didn't overly prepare though, mostly I spoke about things I was already knowledgable about from studying (especially my extended project), or from watching documentaries/reading news articles about my subjects. I also did a practice interview at school which was helpful in terms of feeling able to talk well.

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

For HSPS interviews I don't think it is important to have a huge amount of knowledge in the subjects, rather to be interested and to just think through your answers. I'd also say, while it's a little cliched, it's quite good to just talk the interviewers through your thought process. It's not important to have slick, eloquent, well presented answers - it's okay to change your mind or challenge your own points as you discuss your thoughts.