Modern And Medieval Languages @ Sidney Sussex, Cambridge in 2017

Interview format

2x interviews (30-35 mins each + 30 mins preparation time); 1x test (1 hour)

Interview content

Discussed texts read in prep time; one interview in post A-Level language, one in English; discussed reading and motivations

Best preparation

Grammar; detailed reading; online research; not stressing (watching Happy Feet)

Final thoughts

Don't compare; don't worry about slip ups; don't worry about what to wear; remember everyone's experience is different

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

My interview was in early December, having been invited in mid-November. I entered the college main entrance and joined a queue that led into a registration area where students gave me a college map, circling where all my rooms for interview and at-interview assessment would be. They also circled where the library was for interview preparation time, as well as the JCR if I needed some down time in-between each section of the day. I had a total of 2 one-on-one interviews (one for each language) and an admissions test between the two.The test was for an hour, and each interview was perhaps 30-35 minutes each in duration. I officially had 30 minutes of preparation time before each interview in the library but this is perhaps overestimated as you need 10 minutes to run halfway across the college from the library to some of the interview rooms.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Before both interviews I was given a text (one in the target language for my post A-Level language and one in English for my ab initio language). Naturally, the interviews focused on these texts. For my post A-Level language, this consisted of commenting on my thoughts of the text, translating certain sections on the spot, and small grammar points to test my subject knowledge.

For my ab initio language we still discussed the text but obviously did no grammar or translation. We did however speak about whether I had tried to learn a little bit of the language already, and what I found interesting about it. In both interviews we discussed any reading I had done concerning the two languages and what about them made me want to study those languages specifically at degree level.

How did you prepare?

Consolidation of grammar knowledge, really reading one or two books I enjoyed WELL rather than skimming lots of books briefly, thinking more deeply about the books I did read, especially more literary texts. Reading as much online information as possible from Cambridge and the relevant departments, and not places like the Student Room, which was useful at face value but in the long run was more just a stress fest. I also think some of the best preparation I did was chilling out the night before and watching Happy Feet. I stressed myself out way too much because I was too tired to do any useful work, so Mumble came to the rescue with his singing and dancing penguin goodness. Do not underestimate the power of sometimes just doing nothing. One night of vocab cramming will not determine whether you get a place or not.

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

Don't compare interviews. The content is undoubtedly very different and so just because you found one harder doesn't necessarily mean it went badly. Just enjoy the whole experience and do your best because at the end of the day, if you are meant to get in you are meant to get in. Little slip ups will not destroy your Cambridge dream. I forgot the word for knife, which is pretty much year 7 vocabulary when you talk about "What did you eat for dinner?", and here I am! I also thought I completely ruined my chances with my Admissions Test answers. Again, give it your best shot and don't overthink it too much.

As someone who chose not to wear a suit and turned up in jeans and a leather jacket, don't let the glares from well-to-do parents or students put you off. You don't need a designer trench coat and tailored suit to show you are capable of studying here (if you do choose to wear that, no problem, but honestly, what you wear could not matter in the slightest). Best of luck, and remember: each experience you read will be very individual. Whilst there may be similarities, yours will undoubtedly be unique it its own way, and so there's no hard and fast way to determine how it went. Put your energy into performing to the best of your ability and not into worrying about how everything "should" be.