Interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences. However, effective preparation and practice can give you the edge that makes all the difference. The skills that you require to be successful in an interview environment will likely be important at several important stages of your life: admission to university, your first job, and numerous opportunities after that. The ability to shine at interview stage and to convey your best qualities are therefore extremely important transferable skills that are really worthwhile devoting time and preparation to.
Your interview starts the night before; you need to ensure that you’re mentally prepared! First, check and double-check the venue, the precise time and the route to get to your interview and set off in good time to get there 10 minutes early. This will give you a chance to compose yourself and go over those last minute facts in your head beforehand, as well as immediately making a good first impression. Next, plan what you’re going to wear. You should dress smartly, with nothing too garish or revealing, and make your appearance as tidy as possible. Finally, you need to make the finishing touches to your content preparation. This should have been an on-going task for the last few days – looking over the course details, your own personal statement and preparing a few ideas that you can expand upon in the interview.
Interviews at universities such tend to be unique in that it is very difficult to prepare long model answers. The interview is a means for tutors to see whether you are teachable, smart, passionate, and whether you would flourish in an advanced learning environment. Academic interviews often take the form of a mini-tutorial so there is a greater emphasis on your ability to react to new information and think independently, rather than merely showing off how much you know. It is imperative not only to have a strong opinion and a logical argument, but also to be able to take new information or criticism on board from your interviewer and therefore adapt your argument in light of this new viewpoint, which you may not have considered previously. An interview at Oxford or Cambridge is an interactive experience and an interviewee is expected to react to whatever is thrown at them in a composed and progressive manner.
Equally important during an Oxford or Cambridge University interview, and indeed any interview, is your demeanour and physicality. The courses at Oxford and Cambridge are very intensive and require real devotion to hard work and to the subject. Therefore, interviewers want to see real passion and enthusiasm towards specific elements of the subject or course. In the weeks and months before your interview, you must find components of the course that truly fascinate you and explore them in greater detail. The best way to seem passionate about part of your subject is actually to be passionate about it and your enthusiasm and conscientiousness will come across in abundance if you have a genuine interest. This will also help you come across as a teachable candidate, which is vital for an interviewer to see in order to agree to one-on-one tutorials with this person for the next 3 or 4 years.
There are some predictable elements to the interview process though. You will invariably be asked why you want to study at this particular university and why you want to study this particular subject. These types of question are standard fare for an interview so it is worth trying to find an atypical answer. It is also fairly easy to predict some of the ideas that may be discussed in your interview, depending on your subject. For example, in a science or maths-based subject, you will be expected to show some problem-solving skills and to be able to vocalise the logic of your thought-process. In an arts-based subject, it is more likely to involve exploration of a theme, idea, text or movement and you are expected to show a capacity for independent thought and creativity. It is worth testing yourself with these sorts of scenarios in advance of the interview in order to be as well-prepared as you can be for the challenges with which you will be faced.
There are many things you can do to prepare for an interview but the hardest thing to anticipate is the nature of a tutorial-style scenario. Cambridge Immerse provides students with this invaluable experience through its workshops, and the fact that the academic curriculum includes a two-hour tutorial everyday so that one could be an intimidating tutorial-interview ultimately becomes second nature, and each prospective candidate acquires both transferable skills and advanced knowledge and insights that are so vital in preparing for the interview stage.
Cambridge Immerse is unique in that it is the only UK summer school to offer a focus on academic rigour. Our participants come from all over the world, and are encouraged to really delve into, and understand, the subjects that they’re being taught. A range of subjects are offered- amongst others, our Geography Summer School programme at Cambridge University provides an insight into advanced topics offered at a university level.