History @ St Hugh's, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, across 2 days

Interview content

Interview 1: personal statement; Interview 2: wider engagement with the subject, areas not discussed in Interview 1; No source questions, just general discussion

Best preparation

Practice papers online

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Preparation: read widely on your subject; prepare for interviews before you are invited to them. General advice: don't worry too much about interviews; prepare thoroughly for the <defHat>HAT</defHat>.

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

Interviews spread across 2 days

Length of interviews: 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Interview 1: The interview was largely based on my personal statement. In general I talked about the books that I’d been reading and about some of the schoolwork that I’d been doing. They asked me a variety of questions and it was really about finding how far I could take a topic. They pushed and pushed at answers I gave about events and ideas to try and see what different perspectives I could come up with. All the questions were based upon what I’d already mentioned or talked about, so nothing was out of context or horrific like you might perhaps expect.

Interview 2: This was more based on my wider-engagement with the subject as well as further school work. I was asked about what reading I’d been doing, and I was pushed again on certain observations I made from books. They really wanted me to make links between different parts of history, which was definitely an interesting exercise. They also focused on the part the school course I hadn’t discussed in the first interview, asking why I thought things had happened and how they linked.

Neither interview had source questions, it was more just a general discussion.

I was nervous before going in, but I soon relaxed into the interview. The atmosphere was welcoming and encouraging, and by the second one I was far more confident going in. It’s really important to remember that they want you to be there and to do well, otherwise they wouldn’t have invited you. Have confidence that you can do it, and you’ll be absolutely fine.

How did you prepare?

Preparation was largely based on the past papers available from the faculty website. Don’t be coaxed into paying for advice, it won’t give you anything more than what is already available for free, and success doesn’t depend on spending money!

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

Apart from the HAT test preparation, I spent most of the time reading. Widening your subject knowledge is a sure fire way to impress the tutors and show them you have a real passion for the subject. I found contacting current students was a real use. I didn’t have any particular contacts (I didn’t really know many people who’d gone before), but if you ask your school they may well be able to put in contact with a previous student who can give you advice. The best thing that I did was preparing for interviews before I even knew I had them. It might seem strange, but often you receive very little notice (I found out exactly a week before I had to be in Oxford), so this pre-preparation meant that week was far less stressful, and that I was far more prepared when I arrived. Even if you don’t get an interview, the process of preparing is very interesting and should be useful for any other university when you start your degree course. I genuinely believe that the preparation helped me get my place. My scores in the test were less than I’d hoped for, but I scored highly at interview, which I’m sure helped me get my offer.

I honestly expected the interviews to be terrifying, but they couldn’t have been farther from it. Yes, the tutors are academically minded, and yes, they are trying to work out who has the academic capabilities for an Oxford degree, but if you genuinely love your subject, it should just be a conversation between you and them. They’re genuinely interested in the ideas you have to share, and want to listen. If I were to apply again, I would definitely look to put even more preparation into the HAT test, just to boost my score in that department - finding random sources online and analysing them would, in hindsight, have been a good way to do this. I think the tutors are simply looking for someone with potential. I was told at an open day that they don’t want the finished package, who can’t be taught and moulded. They want students who have views, but who are happy to change them and mould their ideas based on new information. I took this advice to heart and applied it to my application, and it seems to have worked. If this all sounds like you, you will be absolutely fine.