History @ Somerville, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, over 1 day

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement, written work; Interview 2: text given beforehand

Best preparation

Practised source analysis and essays; discussed with other applicants at sixth form

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Do what you think will help you feel prepared; read around the subject; fully concentrate on what the interviewers are asking.

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: 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview was half on my personal statement and half on the written work I had sent in. The personal statement questions weren’t really about the content of the personal statement, but more using it as a starting point for a wider discussion about how to approach history. The written work questions were about the topic of written work, but not really about what I’d written - they suggested theories about the topic, which I had to evaluate, and asked how new information changed the argument (again, more about applying patterns and historical examples, rather than requiring any specific knowledge).

My second interview started with a 1 hour pre-reading of an article by a historian about a random period of history. Questions were mainly about following the historian's line of argument (how they built on other historians’ views, etc.) and about the sources used by the historian and their limitations. This interview started off really badly because I got a few obvious questions about the text wrong, but as it progressed I got more relaxed and was able to calm down and refocus. The interviewers were really friendly and the atmosphere was quite relaxed, and they didn’t try to throw you off or argue with you, they just wanted your perspective.

How did you prepare?

I practised analysing sources and planning answers in 15 minutes, as well as writing some full practice essays, and discussing and practising source analysis with other people at my sixth form who were also applying.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

The more prepared you feel, the more confident you’ll be in your ideas, so do whatever you think will help you - I found it really helpful to go through the books on my personal statement and write notes on them, and go over my A-level topics.

For history it’s really helpful to read around the subject and engage as much as you can, because it helps you with applying concepts, noticing patterns, and understanding lines of argument. While a lot of what I prepared for didn’t come up, it was still helpful as I felt more relaxed and was able to apply examples I knew to new scenarios.

The best advice I was given was to fully concentrate on what the interviewers are saying when they ask you a question, as it means you won’t miss any information and it stops you from panicking.