History @ Balliol, Oxford in 2013

Interview format

2x 45 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Interview 1: written work; Interview 2: unseen source

Best preparation

Looked at past papers online

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

They're not looking for a finished product

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: HAT

Number of interviews: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between each interview: 1 day

Length of interviews: about 45 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In my first interview, we talked about the written work I had sent in. For me, this was an essay on Stalin's rise to power. My interview was six years ago now, but I do remember having a really interesting conversation about how authoritarian rulers gain widespread support.

In my second interview, I was asked to analyse an unseen source. It was nerve-racking and I felt like it didn't go very well, but my interviewers were reassuring. Looking back, I think they were interested not in how much I knew, but in the way I thought and if I could think flexibly in a tutorial environment. They definitely weren't there to trip me up or catch me out - it was about trying to see me at my best.

How did you prepare?

I had a look at previous exam papers online.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

Be kind to yourself and don't stress about not knowing everything there is to know. I think the aptitude tests and interviews are about seeing if you have the potential to flourish in the Oxbridge environment (in a tutorial system). They are not looking for a finished product, so don't worry about that. Instead, focus on showing them that you are passionate about your subject and enthusiastic about learning. Let them guide you at interview and allow yourself to either change your mind or come back with an evidence-based rebuttal.