History @ Brasenose, Oxford in 2020

Interview format

History Aptitude Test (HAT); 1x interview

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, written work

Best preparation

Practised articulating thoughts out loud.

Test preparation

Practice papers under timed conditions

Final thoughts

Set aside enough time in the days before to prepare, just to reassure yourself

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: History Aptitude Test (HAT)
Number of interviews: 1
Length of interviews: 45 minutes
Online interview: Yes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The interview I had was online and grouped together written work, personal statement and general discussions. It started off with a broad question, unrelated to any specific reading I'd done, and then moved on to some specific questions based off reading I'd done and my opinion of the books I'd read. Then the interviewers (there were four) switched and I was asked about my written work before returning to a discussion of my personal statement. The interviewers were very positive and encouraging when I was answering and more than happy to clarify questions/remind me of some terminology I'd forgotten.

The process was slightly less intimidating (I'd imagine) over Zoom and once the interview got going, it was actually really exciting, getting asked different and interesting questions about topics I'm engaged with. Also, you really don't have to come up with an answer to the 'do you have any questions for us' question. Dress/dress code wasn't an issue at all either, I wore leggings and a hoodie, so don't feel stressed about that, it was one of the things I was worried about prior but couldn't have been less important once we started. Similarly they weren't expecting - or wanting even - a list of facts or dates.

How did you prepare for your interviews?

I reread some of the texts I mentioned in my personal statement and looked up some book reviews to refresh myself on what they were about. I was told my written work would be discussed so I reread that and some of the course materials I wrote it from as well. You can get lists of example questions online, which I worked through with family and friends as well as practising answering some questions based of my personal statement with a teacher. Getting that confidence in articulating my thoughts in response to the style of question I was likely to be asked was probably the best preperation I did.

If you took a test, how did you prepare?

I just worked through the practice papers on the Oxford HAT website in the weeks building up to the test - under timed conditions and looking through the answers afterwards. I also watched some YouTube videos about other students experiences and top tips.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

Keep an eye on the time frames (it's basic but you'll be far more relaxed if you make sure you've got the time you need to prepare). Some of the preparation you do might not end up being all that relevant, but having done it certainly made me feel more confident going into the interview, while I wish I'd set aside a bit more time to practise the HAT. Also, let go of your expectations or the expectations people around you have. Focus on the actual process, ie: the interview, not what shoes you'll wear - its far more important and by prioritising what you can control and what you want to achieve, you'll save time and stress.