Modern And Medieval Languages @ Newnham, Cambridge in 2020

Interview format

Essay in foreign language and literary analysis in English; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: discussion of grammar, short discussion in French; Interview 2: conversation about a Spanish novel

Best preparation

Went over personal statement; prepared answers to common questions about studying languages (in those languages!)

Test preparation

Practise papers

Final thoughts

Be authentic in your application

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: Essay in foreign language and literary analysis in English
Number of interviews: 2
Time between interviews: 1 hour
Length of interviews: 40 minutes
Online interview: Yes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

As a MMLer, I was provided with a page or so of grammar questions (conjugating certain verbs, or changing the gender of particular adjectives) and some sentences to translate. In addition to this, I was given a short passage in the foreign language to read over and think about ahead of my interview. The majority of my first interview was based on going over some of the grammar questions, and discussing the passage. I was asked to read some of it to demonstrate my accent, and then was asked to explain what was happening and what I thought about it. I wasn’t asked much about myself, and my statement wasn’t mentioned at all. There was a short conversation in French (about where I was from, and whether I’d spent any time in France).

My second interview followed a similar format but was much more relaxed, and with more questions about my statement and a book I’d mentioned I was reading. This started a conversation in Spanish about one of the key themes of the novel but I was made to feel comfortable and relaxed (despite my poor level of speaking!).

How did you prepare for your interviews?

To prepare for my interviews, I re-read my personal statement to make sure I was 100% confident talking about anything I’d mentioned in it. Whilst my interviewer didn’t end up asking me much about my statement, I have friends who were deeply questioned on theirs (and on the choices they made while writing). I anticipated a brief conversation in the languages I was applying to study (French and Spanish), and prepared some answers to questions I thought might come up - for example, whether or not I’d visited a certain country, what I did there, why I wanted to study languages, etc. I didn’t have a mock interview (because my school didn’t offer them) but I practiced with online interview questions I found. The questions I practiced with ended up being completely different to my actual interview, but helped me form answers coherently and concisely.

If you took a test, how did you prepare?

I did a few of the practice papers available online to familiarise myself with the assessment structure. I hadn’t had much experience of writing under a strict time limit in a foreign language, but one of my teachers was kind enough to “mark” one of my attempts to show me the level I was working at.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

My advice is to be 100% honest during your interview and application. I hadn’t finished one of the books mentioned on my statement - I’d said at the time of writing that I was still in the process of reading it - but my interviewer was willing to ask me about my thoughts on what I had read, and how I thought it would progress. Furthermore, I’d encourage you to be as authentic as possible. As much as we like to be prepared, there’s no need to read up on ancient French politics if you don’t actually care about ancient French politics. There will be other things to discuss that you might actually enjoy discussing!