Oxbridge Interviews Blog

Top tips from The Oxbridge Interviews Team

by Laura on

The time has come, and interviews are now in full swing. For those still anxiously waiting for their interview, our team each have one tip to offer to you…

“Read the news right up to the day of your interview. In my interview I was asked a question about something that had been in the news only that morning. Interviewers like to throw in those kinds of questions to test how up-to-date and engaged you are with your subject, so make sure you stay on top of current issues in your field, even on the day of the interview itself!” – Rosie – Geography graduate from Jesus College, Cambridge.

“Sort out all the logistics so you don’t have to worry about the details on the day. Make sure all of your clothes and any other items you need are ready the night before. Leave plenty of time to get to the interview, just in case there is traffic or delay in public transport. The last thing you want on the day of the interview is to be stressing about logistical details.” – Toby – HSPS graduate from Robinson College, Cambridge.

“Many applicants will try to project a very stage-managed, artificial version of themselves, in the vain hope it will be what the interviewers are looking for. This does not work. What the interviewers are really looking for is authenticity. So don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Just be yourself and give the best account of your personality and interests that you can” – Georgina – Music graduate from Pembroke College, Cambridge.

“Regardless of whether you are successful, the Oxbridge interview is a fantastic experience, and one that is an immense privilege to take part in. Few people can count themselves lucky enough to have spent an hour discussing the subject they love with academics who lead the field. Bearing this in mind, the interview is an experience to be savoured. So above all else, enjoy it!” – Rebekah – English graduate from Magdalen College, Oxford.

From the Oxbridge Interviews team, we wish you all the very best of luck in your upcoming interviews.

One for Psychologists

by Laura on

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Women who take the pill experience a change in attraction to their partners, a new study claims. Find out more here. 

Our interviewers… Interviewed!

by Laura on

Ollie Guest graduated with a 1st Class degree in Classics from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he was a scholar. 

Ollie

Why did you choose your degree subject?

Different; challenging; diverse.

What is the best book you have ever read related to your subject and why?

Courtesans and Fishcakes by James Davidson – it was very helpful when studying for my Prostitutes and Saints paper during Finals.

What is your top tip for applying for your subject to Oxbridge?

Know your grammar!

Best Oxbridge moment?

Maybe not ‘the best’ but one of the most memorable was when six of us capsized our canoes in the river Cam, to the delight of the Japanese tourists taking photographs. Playing football across Old Court was also entertaining, albeit not wholly advisable if the Porters are awake…

What are you up to post-Oxbridge?

Training to be a lawyer; I am currently undertaking the GDL and tutoring in my spare time.

Feedback from the weekend

by Laura on

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At the weekend we worked in one of our many partner schools, interviewing their students and advising them on how to improve. Below is a selection of some of their feedback:

“It was challenging intellectually but very useful for giving an authentic interview experience – I feel much more prepared. We talked about ‘crimes of humanity’ and whether they should be tried/ whether they can be tried.”

“Very beneficial and enjoyable. The personal statement interview made me think about structuring my answers more clearly, and the subject interview stretched me intellectually.”

“Really informative. The interviewer was well prepared, and I learnt some great interview techniques. They were not afraid to let me know where to improve which was very helpful.”

“Challenging but definitely worthwhile. It allowed me to think differently and pushed me to justify my ideas.”

“My interviewer gave lots of detailed feedback, which gave me a good sense of areas I need to improve and areas I did well at. She also suggested some good ways to prepare for the real interview.”

“Great fun and interaction: loved it!”

“Very helpful; I now have an idea of what to expect, and feel much better prepared.”

“Very useful and intellectually stimulating. I feel better prepared for interview now and very lovely interviewers.”

Our interviewers… Interviewed

by Laura on

Alex Newton studied Ancient and Modern History at Wadham College, Oxford, and graduated in 2012.

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Why did you decide to study Ancient and Modern History?

I was more of an arts student, and history seemed “real”, in that there seemed to me problems historians would try to solve (such as how societies worked), while at the same time acknowledging room for debate like all arts subjects. But I really don’t know with hindsight – in all likelihood, my 17 year old self was probably motivated by some Sherlock Holmes-ian quest to find the “historical truth” behind events…

What is the best book you have read related to your subject?

If I had to pick, one of my favourites was G. E. M. de Ste Croix’s “Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World”. It isn’t necessarily the “best” in being the best written/researched/most scholarly, but even if you disagree with a lot of it, it’s much more fascinating and thought-provoking to read than so many others. Plus I think it’s a pretty good example of what history-writing is like in practice, with all its good qualities and its flaws.

What is your top tip for applying for your subject to Oxbridge?

Be critical in your reading – don’t see history books as a means of obtaining more facts but think critically about the viewpoints they represent. Then show an awareness that you’ve done this in your application – place books within the context in which they were written. Eg. why was a book like Niall Ferguson’s Empire written in 2003, and not 1983? Think about questions like that so you can use the material you’re given in the book but also think about it more critically.

Best Oxbridge moment?

Watching someone walking down the street reading a Loeb bumping in to other pedestrians was pretty funny.

What are you up to post-Oxbridge?

I spent a year working for Oxbridge Interviews as Student and Parent Support! Now I am at the charity Stonewall, in charge of its campaign against homophobic bullying in schools.

Good luck for tomorrow!

by Laura on
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Many students will be taking their admissions tests tomorrow and we want to wish you the best of luck. It’s important to realise that the tests are designed to test the way you think, and how you respond to unseen material, rather than quizzing you on what you may or may not have studied at school. Bearing this in mind, it’s good to enter the test in a positive frame of mind, and simply try to enjoy yourself!
Tonight, just make sure you get a good night’s sleep, stay hydrated, and take time to read the questions and passages carefully tomorrow.
Good luck!

One for Geographers…

by Laura on

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The BBC series Wonders of the Monsoon explores life in a world shaped by Monsoons. It is a fascinating documentary for any aspiring Geographers. You can access it on iPlayer here.

Oxbridge Alumni – Clement Attlee

by Laura on

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A humble and reserved man, and a far-cry from the character politics of today, Clement Attlee was prime minister between 1945 and 1951, during which time he quietly set about building modern Britain.

Atlee was born in Putney in 1883, and was educated at Haileybury College before winning a place to study at University College, Oxford, during which time he also played football for Fleet Town. He graduated with a second class honours in Modern History in 1904, going on to train as a lawyer. Having previously held conservative views, Atlee’s outlook was affected profoundly by the time he spent managing a charitable club for working class boys in Stepney. The poverty of the slum children he worked with convinced Atlee that only direct action and income redistribution by the state could alleviate poverty.

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First elected to parliament in 1922 as MP for Limehouse, Atlee rose quickly to a ministerial position in the minority government of Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. 4 years after labour suffered a humiliating election defeat, Atlee became leader of the opposition in 1935. After reversing Labour previous policy of appeasement and pacifism, Atlee took his party into Winston Churchill’s wartime coalition, serving as deputy prime minister for the last three years of the war. Once the war ended, the coalition was dissolved and Atlee led labour to win a huge majority in the subsequent election.

In government, Labour adopted Keynesian fiscal policies as a means of achieving full employment and established a far reaching network of social welfare and services, underpinned by the Beveridge report which sought to provide a safety net for those dropping below the poverty line, protecting against the five giant evils of Want, Squalor, Ignorance, Idleness and Disease. Atlee’s government nationalised public utilities and major industries, and also created the National Health Service.

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Although he faced initial conservative opposition to Keynesian economics, Atlee eventually built what would be later known as the post-war consensus, and this settlement was broadly accepted by all three major parties until the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Atlee also oversaw the decolonisation of large parts of the British Empire, granting independence to India, Burma and Ceylon, as well as strongly supporting the Cold War against Stalin and the Soviet Union.

In contrast to today’s politicians, Atlee was a reserved and quiet figure. He often struggled with public relations, and when he spoke publicly he lacked charisma. Atlee’s strength was rather in his work behind the scenes, where his depth of knowledge, pragmatism and and quiet demeanour were hugely influential. His modest and unassuming approach successfully kept the many factions of his party together, and allowed him to build the Welfare State.

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Atlee’s influence on modern Britain has been staggering. He is widely recognised as one of the great politicians of his generation, and in 2004 he was voted the greatest politician of the 20th century in a poll of academics.

“Really, really useful – great to have an interview with someone who’s actually been through the system themselves and actually knows what they’re talking about concerning interviews”

Courses

Read more about our comprehensive interview preparation courses.

“The questions themselves were really useful in highlighting areas to research that I hadn’t thought of before. Thank you so much”

Services

Find out about our fantastic range of services, from practice interviews to full preparation courses.

“Very realistic, was made to think beyond what I would normally have to do in a Classics interview, focused in all areas of interview: Philosophy, Language & Literature. Very helpful”

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