Oxbridge Interviews Blog

One for Psychologists

by Laura on


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

Our interviewers… Interviewed!

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


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


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.


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
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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Oxbridge Alumni – David Attenborough

by Laura on

1037280e / Sir David Attenborough

A broadcaster and naturalist with a remarkable career stretching over several decades, Sir David Attenborough is responsible for bringing the wonders of nature to a global audience for over 50 years.

David was the middle of three Attenborough sons, his elder brother Richard later going on to become an actor, whilst his younger brother John became an executive at an Italian car manufacturer. From an early age, Attenborough was fascinated with animals and the natural world. He attended a grammar school in Leicester before winning a scholarship to study natural sciences at Clare College, Cambridge in 1945. Whilst at Cambridge he pursued his interest in geology and zoology.

young attenborough

After graduating, Attenborough was initially rejected from a position at the BBC, but rather fortuitously forged a career there after Mary Adams, head of factual broadcasting, saw his CV and offered to give him a chance. He was initially discouraged from presenting and appearing on camera because Adams felt his teeth were too big… It was here that Attenborough started making the nature programmes that would come to define his career.

In the 1960s, Attenborough left the BBC to study a post-graduate degree in social anthropology at LSE, but would soon return as the new controller of BBC2. The channel had been established in 1964 but had struggled to take off, so Attenborough quickly overhauled it, establishing a new set of programming that would come to define the channel’s identity for many years to come. In particular music, experimental comedy, travel, history and archaelogy all featured on BBC2. He also took advantage of the switch to colour TV by introducing live Snooker. Attenborough’s success in the role prompted many to throw his name into the ring for the BBC Director General job, but he decided he had not appetite for it, and so resigned in 1972 to continue with full-time programme-making.


He continued to work on several nature documentaries throughout the 1970s, but it was in 1979, when he began work on Life on Earth, the first in his famous Life series, that Attenborough really captured a global audience. The series would become the benchmark in quality in wildlife filming, and lasted for over 30 years, culminating in Life in Cold Blood, broadcast in 2010. Each programme documented a different aspect of life on earth, with the latter programmes covering the major groups of terrestrial animals and plants.


Attenborough has worked on numerous other documentaries, and has won an array of awards and accolades, including honorary awards from BAFTA and the royal society, and his knighthood in 1985. He also enjoys the unusual distinction of having had several species named after him, most notably a fossilised armoured fish discovered in West Australia, now known as Materpiscis attenboroughi. Attenborough is widely regarded as a national treasure (though he dislikes the term), and, at 88, continues to lead the field in nature programming.

“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”


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”


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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