History @ St Catherine's, Oxford in 2012

Interview format

2x 45 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Interview 1: written work, general questions on related topic; Interview 2: source given beforehand, comparison with book on personal statement

Best preparation

Past papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read around my subject and discussed books I'd read with teacher.

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 (both at about 09:00)

Length of interviews: 45 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview was about an essay I’d submitted on Benjamin Disraeli’s foreign policy, and the interviewer asked me questions about it and I had to argue my case and explain why I’d composed the argument I’d written. We discussed Victorian politics more broadly, and I talked about some books I’d included in my personal statement that were relevant. The interviewer was friendly and didn’t ask me anything that was too complicated or that I wouldn’t be able to figure out, which made me feel at ease, because I was nervous.

For my second interview I was very nervous because it was an unseen passage from a historical source. I had 15 minutes to prepare outside the interview room. I was invited in and the interviewers were really friendly. They asked what I had been doing on my gap year to help me relax a bit. The interviewers looked at my personal statement and said they’d seen a book on there that would make an interesting comparison with the passage, so we talked about that, and what the passage/book could show about the ways of life of the different people they represented.

How did you prepare?

I looked at past papers and did a practice test.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I read academic books that I would be comfortable to talk about at interview. My history teacher advised me which ones to read, and the ones I liked best I included on my personal statement.

I made notes on the books and debated them with my teacher for preparation, like a mock interview. Knowing the books well was a big advantage, because I was able to talk about them confidently.

Learning the arguments and counterarguments for my essay was very useful to help anticipate the sorts of questions/talking points that might come up. Reading around my subject was important because I was able to show I was enthusiastic and it made me feel more confident with the interview.