Music @ Robinson, Cambridge in 2018

Interview format

2x interviews; at-interview test

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, text-based discussion; Interview 2: text-based and music-based discussion, harmony tests

Best preparation

Read around a niche, and do subject-related extracurriculars

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Make your personal statement relevant to your subject

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: An at-interview test

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: a few hours

Length of first interview: 1.5-2 hours; Length of second interview: 1.5-2 hours

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Before my first interview I was given a piece of text, written by a composer, to look at and analyse. Some of my interview focussed on what I thought about it, with the interviewer helping me expand on my answers.

I had also mentioned, on my personal statement, that I had written an essay on women in music, so the interviewer asked me about what I had found interesting in my research, and we also discussed my opinions on information I hadn’t heard.

For my second interview, I was given 2 more pieces of text - this time about different aspects of music - and also a piece of music to analyse. Again, discussing these formed part of my interview, although we also discussed a few things I had mentioned on my personal statement.

In the morning, before my first interview, I had had to do an at-interview test. During the second interview, I was asked about the essay I had written as a part of that test.

Finally, I was also given some harmony tests at the keyboard.

Though I felt very tired and drained by the end of the day, I felt very much that the interviewers were only pushing me because they wanted to get the best out of me and see how I would respond to their suggestions and counter-arguments. They were all extremely friendly and it felt more like they were teaching me than testing me.

How did you prepare?

My advice would be to find a little niche aspect of your subject that you are really interested in (for me, it was women in music and music psychology). Then read 1 or 2 books about it (you don’t have to read loads and loads but make sure you have definitely read it if you put it on your personal statement!), and think about what you learned from them.

I would also recommend doing something other than reading that you’ve done out of school (e.g. entering an essay competition, going on a course or summer school for your subject or getting some relevant work experience) and again, working out what you got from it. These mean that your interviewers can ask you about things you know!

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

Not necessarily related to interviews, but don’t put anything on your personal statement that you’ve done without elaborating on it (don’t just put that you’ve read a book - also say what you learned, why you found it interesting, and if it inspired you to do further research, etc.)

Also don’t put anything that doesn’t tell them why you are the best person to study your subject - being a prefect or playing in the 3rd hockey team doesn’t automatically make you the ideal candidate to read geography!