History @ Somerville, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

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

Best preparation

Know your personal statement and submitted work through and through

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts


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 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The first interview was a discussion of both my submitted written work and areas of my personal statement. They asked me to explain parts of my reasoning for the argument I had presented in my submitted essay, as well as questions about an online course I had taken and mentioned in my personal statement. It was rather nerve wracking, but the discussion was really interesting and the interview felt like it went by really quickly.

For the second interview we were given an unfamiliar historical source to study and make notes on. Then, the interviewers asked a series of questions in order to prompt a discussion of the source and its contents. They asked questions about what sort of inferences you could make from the source and my personal interpretations of the material, but the questions were definitely quite open ended so as to allow for a very open discussion. The interviewers were very patient, even when I asked them to repeat and explain a question as I didn't know quite what they were asking. It didn't feel overly pressured and the interviewers were very friendly!

How did you prepare?

I did lots of past papers, which I then asked my teachers to mark and provide feedback on. I would say one of the best things I did was extra reading and extra learning outside my course in the form of short online courses. These provided material for me to discuss in the interview, as well as broadening my perspective beyond what was in the syllabus being taught at school. Volunteering where you can in your area of interest, especially if you're taking a gap year, I also found to be very beneficial as it gives you real world experience and demonstrates enthusiasm. My school was incredibly helpful in preparing me for my application, mainly in the form of practice interviews and talking through the material in my personal statement. I would wholly recommend practising discussing talking points about your personal statement with anyone you can, even if it's just out loud to yourself!

The biggest piece of advice I could give would be to know any submitted written work and anything mentioned in your personal statement through and through. You never know what they might pick to ask a question about and, if you're unprepared or haven't actually read that book that you said you had, it'll be hard to answer questions about in the interview. I had this happen somewhat in my first interview, they asked questions about a tiny part of my personal statement that I hadn't gone over too well and I struggled to answer the questions as fully as I'd have liked to.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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