Music @ Gonville & Caius, Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

No admissions asessment; 2x interviews

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, music theory; Interview 2: analysis of excerpts, short performance

Best preparation

Listened to the BBC Composer of the Week

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Remember that the interviewers are looking for potential, not perfection

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: none

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: 2 hours

Length of first interview: 30 minutes; Length of second interview: 45 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview felt more like a discussion than an interview. I was interviewed by a music fellow in his office and the atmosphere was fairly relaxed. Looking back on it now, this interview felt similar to a supervision. My personal statement was the starting point for the questions, but we gradually moved away from this. We discussed music during a period I had discussed in my Personal Statement, using this as a starting point to discuss composers’ intentions and influences on a composer's music. We also discussed defining and explaining musical talent. I actually really enjoyed this interview.

My second interview was rather different. An hour beforehand I had to collect a booklet, which contained 8 musical excerpts and a keyboard exercise. I was told to prepare by analysing 3 of the musical extracts looking for "features of interest" as well as the keyboard exercise during the hour. The majority of the second interview was spent discussing the 3 excerpts I'd chosen, focussing on key musical concepts . It was similar to analysing set works at school, but more detailed. I found the questions challenging, but the interviewer would guide me through the questions, giving me help when he could see I was unsure or struggling. I also performed a short piece on the violin and a short song, although this was optional. I was never asked to perform the keyboard exercise and I did not have to do any aural tests. This interview was also held in the fellow's office, which again was a relatively relaxed setting. I felt more nervous in this interview, as I found the tasks more difficult, but the fact that the fellow interviewing me was so helpful made me feel more at ease.

How did you prepare?

I prepared for my interviews by using resources such as BBC's Composer of the Week, listening to BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. In addition to this, I read Howard Goodall's 'The Story of Music' and a few newspaper articles on Shostakovich.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I think that the interviewers are looking for potential - not the finished product. They do not expect you to be perfect and get all the questions right. In my opinion they seem to be looking at how you think and solve problems, considering whether you would succeed on a Cambridge course, so try to keep that in mind.