OxbridgeAdmissions.com in 2019

Last year, roughly 25,000 different people used OxbridgeAdmissions.com to learn about applying to and studying at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

If you applied to one of these universities in the last few years, please consider submitting a profile describing your experience so that those applying in future years can benefit from your experience. You can get started here.


Daily Life at Cambridge University

Congrats to all applicants that have persevered and made it through the Cambridge interview process. That is no easy feat, and you should be proud of yourself for making it this far! 

If you're wondering what life is like at Cambridge University, make sure to browse our archive of Cambridge specific information. Learn from current and former students from Trinity College, Queens' College, Homerton College, St. Catharine's College, and numerous others.

Another worthwhile read comes from this Cambridge Admissions blog which showcases the diverse stories of Cambridge students:

The Fetcher who became keeper to millions of books


To view more Cambridge stories, click here.

Interview Tips Direct from Oxford Faculty

December is officially upon us, which means INTERVIEW SEASON! Students around the globe are preparing for their Oxford interviews. If you’re looking to get an upper hand in your quest for Oxford admissions or Cambridge admissions, remember to browse our full archive for first-hand accounts from applicants that have already gone through the process.

And for additional tips, directly from Oxford faculty, check out this post from a blog dedicated to Oxford admissions:

“We look for potential wherever we can find it, whether in excellent exam results, a really good performance in an aptitude test, a great reference from a teacher, or interesting submitted written work. A student who’s really good on paper but then underperforms a bit at interview due to nerves is still a really good student, and they might still get a place at Oxford and go on to do really well here.” (Andrew Bell, Senior Tutor at University College)

“We go to great lengths to try and ensure that the interview process gives each candidate the best chance to show their ability, whatever their background. We agree on questions that will provoke interesting discussions, similar to a tutorial setting, and try to make students feel comfortable and at ease. We always start the interview by outlining how it will work and what we expect candidates to do” (Helen Swift, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Modern Languages and a tutor at St Hilda’s College)
Read the full story here: Oxford Interview: 5 Tips from Oxford Faculty Members

Applying to Jesus College, Cambridge University

Jesus College is on a single large site on a quiet side street in the centre of Cambridge. It was established between 1496 and 1516 on the site of the twelfth-century Benedictine nunnery of St Mary and St Radegund whose buildings, which included a huge church, were adapted to house it. These buildings remain at the College’s centre, and beyond them there are 24 acres of sports fields and gardens. 

Jesus College works with a range of international partners to support cutting edge research and innovation in its state-of-the-art West Court development. Initiatives include the Intellectual Forum, the Cambridge Peking University China Centre at Jesus College and many other academic conferences and events.

Why did you apply to Jesus College?

Was asked by school what i'd like, replied medium size, old and new, good facilities, off tourist route large ground so they suggested jesus because it met that and seemed strong for arch and anth (Profile 155)

The Theology faculty at Cambridge is one of the best in the world. Also, the way the course is structured means there is a lot of flexibility with room to explore pretty much whatever most interests you. Jesus is well situated and is a large, friendly college. I know some people that go there and it was recommended to me. It is also consistently one of the most applied to colleges for theology. (Profile 767)

Jesus is the best college! It's absolutely gorgeous. Visited it and knew it was the one - I love the incredible library and modern accommodation, and the location just out of town is great. (Profile 719)

Neither too big nor too small; lovely spacious site; relaxed, unpretentious feel to it :) (Profile 310)

What was your general impression of Jesus College and any other colleges you visited?

Nice, large, friendly college with beautiful, expansive grounds. Really helpful admissions staff who were always happy to answer my questions and were patient when I was late with submitting written work and other forms. (Profile 767)

Clean, tidy and larger than i expected. very pretty. (Profile 155)

Jesus is gorgeous, and the people are great. I also visited Fitz, which is very friendly but not so visually impressive and the location's a bit awkward. (Profile 719)

Thought Jesus was quite grand looking untill I met up with my friend who was applying to St John's and had a look around there- it's huge and feels like a palace. Definitely prefer Jesus. (Profile 735)

The college is beautiful and picturesque, and though it is traditional, I didn't feel like I was an imposter or that everyone was pretentious, so it's a good mix I think. (Profile 165)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: The room I stayed in was big and had a nice view over one of the quads. Not en-suite but had a sink and the showers and toilets were close enough. 

- Food: Coffee was good, didn't really have the food. (Profile 767)

- Accommodation: Jesus has huge rooms that are the envy of the other colleges! They're modern and furnished well. Most are en-suite with gorgeous views of the college grounds.

- Food: Great! A big choice - I had a huge jacket potato with beans and cheese, obviously. (Profile 719)

- Accommodation: My room was twice the size of my bedroom at home, had loads of storage, a huge desk, coffee table, comfy chairs, bookcases, sink, mirror with light over it, windows all along one wall and loads of floor space left over. I was very impressed, but apparently these are the cheapest rooms and the others are all far better. Shower next door, seemed to be shared with only one other person although other corridors may not have had a shower so not sure, nearest toilet on the floor above, which was a bit of a pain. Room got quite cold in the middle of the night although I realised in the morning that the radiator was switched off so presumably this is not usually a problem. 

- Food: Much like good school dinners only you get three times as much.Choice of two hot meals in the evening, and cereal/pastries for breakfast. (Profile 735)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at Jesus College?

- Tutors: Only spoke to one (in interview) but was extremely nice and kind. (Profile 767)

- Students: Didn't really speak to the helpers there as I was always in a rush but one or two always willing to help out, all friendly. (Profile 767)

- Tutors: relaxed, easy to talk to and seemed to want me to do my best. they were very likeable and made me keen to get into the college. (Profile 155)

- Tutors: I was told my first interviewer, Professor Dowdeswell, was a very friendly man - he was, incredibly! And helped me through all of the questions, especially when I got stuck. I was told that my second interviewer, Dr Keans, was cold and unhelpful, that he played the 'bad cop', so I thought 'Right, well if he won't talk, I will' and just charged right into my answer after he asked the first question. But soon we were chatting comfortably and he was recounting little anecdotes and we were laughing quite a bit! 

- Students: They were very friendly, though I wasn't with them long. My friend, who does Economics at Selwyn, said that the people from Jesus are renowned for being intelligent but down to earth, and he said they're all really nice. (Profile 719)

- Students: Really friendly. Chatted to quite a few while hanging around for my interview (we were using their common room, so they came and went quite a lot) and they were all welcoming and took us to dinnerand sat with us even though it wasn't their job. Students from different years and subjects all seemed to get on well. (Profile 735)

Do you have any advice for future Jesus College applicants in terms of preparation?

[Music] On Cambridge Application Form: Well mine was quite succint, so I would avoid being pretentious, express yourself well and say why you want the course you've applied for.

Interview: Have a general overview, and concentrate on learning about the Classical period as most of my interview focused on this, even though I stated on my form that my main interest was in later music. Also, brush-up on what you've studied at A-level, and try to have an idea of how many symphonies etc prominent composers composed as I was asked how many Haydn wrote and didn't know! (Profile 165)

[Theology & Religious Studies] When preparing for interview make sure you practice articulating your thoughts, maybe every day if necessary. You only have half an hour to prove yourself so giving clear reasoned answers is very important. Read a few books and familiarise yourself with basic concepts such as good and evil etc but what you should get from this is the ability to think about all new ideas not just specific ones that you have read about. For me, the most important preparation was learning to answer questions clearly and intelligently without going off on random tangents that took up more time and that the interviewer does not want to hear.

Also, make sure you know your submitted work inside out, not only because you might get asked on it, but because you may be able to use some of the content in these essays to answer different questions, and if one of your interviewers haven't read them, then an extensive knowledge of something can be impressive. (Profile 767)

[Economics] Don't write down books you've supposedly read on your PS before you've read them. I had to quickly read Wealth of Nations because of this. Find a topic in Economics you enjoy or find most interesting, and read up on that. It's more pleasurable than reading a massive Economics tome and more productive. It also means that you can show a real passion for the subject in the interview, by displaying an in depth knowledge of a specific area which interests you. (Profile 242)

[Mathematics] The practice interviews really are useful, but only if you prepare for them as if they are the real thing. It doesn't matter how good your interview skills are if you can't remember the formulae for circular motion or whatever the question is on. Revise all your AS work becuse this is probably what the interview questions will be based on- they don't know how much of the A level course you will have studied. I think I made the mistake a couple of times in my interview of trying to do things the hard way when all the questions required was basic C1/C2 knowledge. Most interview questions involveapplying old knowlege in new ways so maths challenge/BMO questions are quite useful preparation for this. Trying out STEP questions can also be a good thing and Oxford admissions tests are good because they are theright standard and questions aren't too long. But the best preparation is definitely practice so badger your school/teachers/family friends/anyone you know who is already at oxbridge to give your a sort of mock interview. Even if you just try to solve a problem in front of a few friends this can be useful as it gets you over the barrier of being embarrassed to say what you're thinking (not sure if boys have this problem but most girls seem to). (Profile 735)

What questions were you asked during your Jesus College interview(s)?

[Engineering] Tutorial: Why engineering Why Cambridge Math: SHM Calculus Derivation of golden ratio other equation formation and manipultion Physics: Projectiles up a slope mechanics of a pull-string car zero gravity combustion (Profile 405)

[Geography] Physical - focused on climate change and the mechanics of it.

Human - focused on the book on global politics I had read, talking mainly about terrorism and religion. Then some questions focused around my human essay, which was about development and culture. Then a little discussion about our favourite authors! It was so funny, Dr Kearns asked me who my favourite modern author was, and I told him thinking he won't have a clue as he's not very well known, and turns out he loves his books too! (Profile 719)

[Mathematics] First Interview (with two maths fellows: one who spoke, one who wrote):

At the time, felt fine about it. Actually after waiting for 3 hours in the Marshall room (JCR), I quite enjoyed it just because it was something to do. The interview went really quickly and I was worried about how few questions I answered and also some of the stupid things I'd said/done, including twice missing a incredibly obvious answer and doing things a much harder way. However, was reassured that I could see the notes one of them was writing and although I only dared take brief glances, I saw he first word was "excellent". So all in all, went to bed feeling quite happy. 

Second interview (with Dr Siklos, director of studies or some other important title):

Was quitely confident after the first interview had gone OK, and even more so after I'd seen the problem we were left to do beforehand and found I could actually do all of it, which I hadn't been expecting. But when I got in, Dr Siklos gave me quite a hard time, questioning everything I said. I couldn't tell if this was because he was trying to push me or because I was getting everything wrong, but it did stress me out more than I would have anticipated and I spent a particularly panicked 2 minutes trying to explain why a straight line crossed the graph y=sin x only in the twice in the range 0-pi/2 when all that was in my head was "because that's what sin x looks like". The only thing I could say was "because it bulges up a bit" which he repeated back to me in a slightly sarcastic way and then let me sweat for a few minutes before saying "I think the word you were looking for is convex". He also asked me one question about Music of the Primes, which I'd put on my personal statement, because apparently everyone does. Annoyingly, I've read the book several times and still didn't answer the question very well. Overall, didn't enjoy that interview as much as the first. (Profile 735)


Applying to Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge, was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, when he combined two existing colleges (King’s Hall and Michaelhouse) and seven hostels (Catherine’s, Garratt, Gregory’s, Ovyng’s, Physwick, St Margaret’s, and Tyler’s). Since then, Trinity has flourished and grown, and is now a home to around 600 undergraduates, 300 graduates, and over 180 Fellows.

If you are interested in applying to be a student at Trinity, visit Study at Trinity, where you can find information about the admissions process (for both Prospective Undergraduates and Prospective Graduates).

Before we jump into tips across all courses at Trinity, we wanted to highlight one intrepid applicant, who was kind enough to share a very detailed account of their Economics interview: 

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Oxford did not offer straight Economics. That was the main reason really, I have no problem with Oxford and was considering applying to Merton for a bit. Also my Head of Sixth Form said that I would be "better suited to Cambridge." (Profile 01)

I like the city of Cambridge more than I like Oxford. It's smaller, everything's close together and everything's really beautiful. Besides, Oxford only offered PPE or E&M and I wanted to do Economics; anything else means you only get to do the basic modules (ie Macro/Micro and maybe a bit more) and I really wanted to do the more interesting stuff we get to in 3rd year. (Profile 189)

I changed my mind several times but eventually the location of Cambridge (it's slightly closer to where I live) and the more varied options in the third year of the course persuaded me. Also, Cambridge interview a higher proportion of candidates. (Profile 247)

The Cambridge maths tripos generally seems to be faster and more advanced than the Oxford maths course. I also prefer Cambridge location-wise, due to its smaller size. (Profile 339)

I took to Cam; better reputation, nicer surroundings. I thought that because of my dodgy GCSEs i would have a better chance at Cam, because they wouldnt REALLY look at my potential rather than grades (which i was sure that Oxford would do) (Profile 365)

Why did you choose Trinity College?

I had several criteria in mind for a college - central, old, big, pretty - and there were several colleges that I liked. However, when I went to the General Open Day, I felt I had the friendliest reception at Trinity, and decided to go for it. (Profile 247)

Well it was one of the few that did not require a Thinking Skills Assessment or written work. The history surrounding the college also greatly appealed to me...Newton, Byron, Marvell, Nehru...what more could one look for?! Also, Trinity admits a large number of students (around 15) for Economics. Students in the past have performed very well there, and I saw that as a reflection of the College's high standards. (Profile 01)

I wanted to be at a big college, and Trinity takes lots of mathematicians. Also a very beautiful and grand college. (Profile 339)

I first decided that I wanted to go for one of the older colleges in town, mostly because I love the architecture there, and then I got the impression that Trinity was the most famous of those, and very beautiful indeed, so I went for there. (Profile 624)

Largest college (size matters). Very impressive, beautiful buildings. Rich (although I didn't know this at the time...). (Profile 235)

What was your general impression of Trinity College and any other colleges you visited?

Trinity: big, grand, beautiful, friendly. 

Fitzwilliam: More modern, lovely chapel, friendly students but it wasn't for me.

Newnham: lovely grounds & nice atmosphere.

I saw lots of other colleges, but these ones I actually officially visited. For me, the best way to find out what colleges I liked was to run round madly at a general open day. I went for Trinity because the people I met there were friendly. (Profile 247)

Grand. Spacious. Impressive. Go visit them yourself, you can't really describe Cambridge colleges in a few lines of text. (Profile 339)

Trinity seemed to be the most beautiful and impressive college. Some others had really nice aspects, often very beautiful too, but Trinity won for me at the end, lthough I did initially have a tough time choosing from my college "shortlist". (Profile 235)

It felt like really grandiose place, especially in daylight. Everybody I met seemed nice and friendly. (Profile 624)

Trinity is grand, and Cambridge itself has a very good student atmosphere. (Profile 503)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: Rooms vary enormously, but are seemingly bigger and better than at other universities; speaking from personal experience, since I have seen rooms in Nottingham, London, Leicester and some others. Some is in new halls, some in medieval buildings. All rooms (I think) will have a wash basin, some have fridges, all have access to cooking facilities that are half decent. Showers and baths generally shared between 5 or so people, but there are also en-suite rooms. At Trinity, college accommodation is guaranteed for the entire duration of your course, and is among the cheapest in Cambridge.

- Food: Good. I don't eat in hall (except the social gatherings that are formal halls) as I like cooking and cater for myself. (Profile 235)

- Accommodation: I was provided accommodation by the college. The bedsit I had seemed okay.

- Food: I actually thought it was quite good. Many people I spoke to said that Trinity's food is generally not so good, but that was not my impression from the food in the days of my interview. (Profile 624)

- Accommodation: The accommodation is basic, but ample. Good-sized desk (could be useful!). The room I stayed in has a shared bathroom, but I believe an en-suite is available. (Profile 503)

- Food: It was okay, I guess, not as nice as the food they provided at the Open Day though! Although, I felt sick with nerves this time, so maybe I can't judge. (Profile 1051)

- Accommodation: Seemed similar to accommodation in halls in other universities. 4/5 individual rooms on a floor, with shared kitchen, bathroom, toilet. Room had a sink, bed (seemed uncomfortable), desk, seating...

- Food: Edible but not great. Runs on ticket system. Ticket for 3 course meal, orange juice counts as a course. (Profile 95)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at Trinity College?

- Tutors: Friendly and seemed keen to meet me and find out what I knew, rather than what I didn't know.

- Students: I didn't really meet many of the college students, but the other applicants I talked to were all approachable, normal people. (Profile 247)

- Tutors: Well, I only met my two interviewers and then only during the interview, but my impression from there was that they were nice and friendly people.

- Students: Just like any all other university students, I guess. None of the stereotypes I've heard about Trinity students proved true. (Profile 624)

- Tutors: Well, I only met one, my interviewer! e seemed like a real thinker and I remember saying to myself, I wish I could have him teaching me. 

- Students: Very academic, seemed a bit like me! (Profile 01)

- Tutors: Generally very helpful, some really go out of their way to assist you.

- Students: Didn't see any at the time of my interview, but now I'm here, we are great! (Profile 235)

- Tutors: They put me at ease and were very friendly. They even offered me tea and cake when I came in (but I declined)!!

- Students: Helpful, friendly, everything they should be. (Profile 503)

How was your interview, in general?

[Economics] I had two interviews for Economics. The first one involved reading and analysing an article which I received an hour prior to my interview. The article was largely concerned with an analysis of the impact of price listing websites e.g. Kelkoo on consumption patterns. The article contained a screen shot of a list of prices and a graph. Although no prior knowledge was assumed, the questions did give you the opportunity to use any economic knowledge that you might have had. 

However, the questions that my interviewer posed were very searching. One of the questions I was initially asked was "What factors do you think influence consumption patterns?" I began by listing the typical factors which affect demand e.g. income, tastes and fashions and the prices of substitute and complementary goods. However, my interviewer, a PhD student, did not appear particularly interested and so I decided to move away from the mundane and discuss some other factors that perhaps would not appear on the first page of a textbook. At this point I received several vigorous nods. At numerous points, my interviewer threw maths questions at me which were related to the article, but which required a more novel approach. I was asked at one point "How much do you think that consumers would save by using such websites?" My initial response was "200 pounds", since this was the difference between the highest and lowest prices listed. I argued that consumers, who would now have access to such websites, would be aware of the high prices that some firms placed upon identical products. I went on to say that price-listing websites would provide consumers with greater knowledge, thereby helping to reduced market imperfections. However, I also stated that perhaps the figure consumers could save would be even higher since they would no longer have to pay for transport, e.g. from the high street shop to their home, and would instead be able to carry out their purchases online. This led my interviewer to comment very favourably, which set an enormous grin on my face!!

I was then asked a question about whether or not I felt it would be correct to state that the existence of such websites led to greater competition in the market. I replied in the negative, citing the article which stated that only 7% of consumers used such websites. I commented that 93% of the market either had no access to such websites or were not interested in using them. By the end of the interview, my interviewer was grinning like a Cheshire Cat, and appeared pleased!!

The interview concluded with an opportunity for me to ask questions. I declined. However, there was a VERY embarrassing final moment, when I failed miserably to open the door, and succeeded in locking myself in!! Nonetheless, I was very pleased and I remember being quite dazed.

However, my second interviewer had something nasty in store for me. This supposedly general interview was with one of the teaching Fellows at the College. He was young-ish. This interview was an utter nightmare, mainly because the interviewer chose to grill me for the full 25 minutes. No questions were asked about my personal statement. I had anticipated a discussion on general economic issues, as Trinity had informed me before hand that this was to be the case. However, my interview was far more technical. I'm not sure why this was, but it could have been because I had specified I was doing AEA Economics on my UCAS form and my interviewer wanted to stretch me. I was first asked "Why Economics?", a question I had anticipated would come up and consequently had prepared a good answer for. This was followed by some questions relating to efficiency and equity, the main microeconomic objectives of the government.

We then went on to discuss whether government intervention was beneficial in the economy. He asked me to cite examples. I decided to talk about whether it would be beneficial to split up a natural monopoly, e.g. coal company owned and operated by the government, given that productive efficiency would not be achieved since a natural monopoly would already be producing at the lowest point on its Long Run Average Cost Curve. In the vast majority of the questions he posed, however, my interviewer seemed far more interested in the "how and why" rather than he what. He asked me what I thought were the main reasons for the market failure caused by monopolies. I replied that I thought it was mainly a problem of information, but he didn't let me stop there, replying "a problem of information on the part of whom?", a rather tricky question since under pressure one may be tempted to say "consumers", when in fact the problem lies, I think, with the government as it possesses inadequate knowledge about consumer tastes. It would therefore fail to achieve allocative efficiency. 

There was also quite an in-depth discussion on the theory of the firm (price/profit maximization, the goals of firms, divorce of ownership from control - manager and behavioural theories - William Baumol). We then moved on to discuss the US current account and fiscal deficits. However rather than allowing me to regurgitate information I might have heard on TV or read in a text book, he proceeded to ask a number of strange questions: "You have just stated that a fiscal deficit is undesirable because it is unsustainable, but people often take loans to finance their education, thereby creating a deficit for themselves; why is that not considered to be a negative thing?" I was stumped here, and proceeded to give a very daft answer "If a person obtains a good university education, then they can get a good job and pay back the deficits that they have created for themselves." This was a VERY stupid thing to say, especially since the interviewer seemed to want to stifle a laugh. (In hindsight I should have seized the opportunity to talk about the importance of savings, consumption and expenditure in the economy.) He then stated that my theory would collapse if he were to cite another example. However, I retorted emphatically, citing my own examples. Strangely, here my interviewer seemed pleased.

The final part of my interview concerned a discussion on externalities. I got the distinct feeling, however, that at this time, he had already reached his decision about me, but didn't want to send me out early in case I took that as a sign of failure and burst into tears. (Profile 01)

What Questions Were Asked During Your Interview?

[Mathematics] Graph sketching, relationships between primes and other number, integrating things like 1/(1-lnx) (Profile 511)

[Medicine] Something about hyperventilating affecting the pH of blood, I was asked to give proof of semi-conservative replication of DNA in an experiment, whose results were drawn out for me by my interviewer. Another question on bacteria and a bowl of soup (sort of weird). Something about furry animals on islands in the pacific, and how would I investigate if there was any relationship between them, and how they might have got from one island to another.(the other weird question). Then my next interviewer asked me something on membranes and the passage of substances across, and an experiment to measure the speed of transmission of nervous impulses along a nerve. Then I was asked something about the HIV virus, in response to something I wrote in my personal statement. Throughout all of this I was actually very much at ease(which surprised me and continues to do so, especially because I was worried they might not understand my accent, but they did), the interviewers were very nice and actually guided me along and got me out if I got a little blank. It was invigorating when it was all over. (Profile 350)

[Medicine] I see you've written a paper on xxx (in my personal statement), tell me more about it. What ways do we have of looking inside the body? (I waffle incoherently so she moves on). Here's a graph of rates of two forms of an illness in a certain area. Describe them. How would you tell if this point was significant? (More incoherent waffling). Why might the rate of this form have increased while the other stays constant? How would you test this? What genetic diseases can you name? What would be the chances of you getting xxxx if your dad had it? Here's a drawing of a microbe, what's this? What does it need it for? When someone's hyperventilating, what do you get them to do? Why? What would happen to blood pH then? Asked to describe the experiment which proves that DNA replicates semi-conservatively. If you were an explorer and you found the same animal on two islands, what might you conclude? Any questions you would like to ask us? (Profile 247)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[Mathematics] I think it is a good idea to rather focus on get an idea on how to solve all the questions on the test, rather than write out perfect solutions to a few of them. The reason being, that unless you really mess up the questions you think you have solved on the test, you'll be asked on the questions you didn't solve. And, no matter how nervous you are during the test, you'll be much more nervous during the actual interview (okay, that might be too broad a generalisation to make, it depends on what kind of person you are I guess, but at least it was so for me), so it will be much harder to think properly during the interview, and thus it will be better if you have at least looked through the question during the test when your mind was reasonably clear. Just my two cents! (Profile 624)

[Mathematics] Make sure you're comfortable with the applications procedure, it makes everything easier if you know what you've got to do when. Also, interview-wise, practice a bit of maths (STEP, AEA, whatever) in the few days before, to get your brain into gear. (Profile 339)

[Medicine] Pay attention in year 12 - make sure you know your AS syllabuses inside out. Look up what the BMAT involves and have a little practice before you take it. Also, before the BMAT I think it's advisable to get a GCSE science revision guide covering all the exam boards, because there are topics included in one course but not in others, etc. (Profile 247)

[Mathematics] Practise doing tests and talking someone through it. This can be daunting so the more practise the better!! If you come across something you haven't covered in school; tell them. They won't expect you to know everything! (Profile 503)


Applying to University College, Oxford

The history of University College, the oldest of all Oxford colleges is not without intrigue. Most people believe that University College, colloquially known as “Univ”, was founded in 1249 by William of Durham. However, there was a long standing rumour that the college was founded long before that, all the way back in 872 by King Alfred. Regardless of its true finding date, Oxford college remains the oldest college in the Oxford system. 

For those wanting to find out more, A History of University College Oxford, written by Oxford archivist Robin Darwall-Smith and published by Oxford University Press, can be found on Amazon

Why did you apply to University College?

I chose Univ because it's one of the larger colleges, I liked the fact that it's the oldest college, and one of the tutors is an expert on Shelley. (Profile 798)

I had visited it a couple of times and felt comfortable there. I liked the location (High Street), the size, the people and the facilities. (Profile 1089)

Supposed to be one of the best for PPE; central location; and it's mid-sized so hopefully won't be too claustrophobic or too impersonal. (Profile 147)

I went to the open day, which helped immensely. I had made a list of those colleges I wanted to visit in advance, based on the website and advice of a family friend who works in Oxford. I visited all of them, there were a couple I really liked, then back home I re-read all prospectuses and picked one. (Profile 1071)

Nice size, location and feel (Profile 207)

What was your general impression of University College and any other colleges you visited?

I really liked Univ - it's a beautiful college and the students were friendly and helpful. However, despite the fact that I was initially upset about being interviewed at St Catherine's (I didn't realise it was a good thing being interviewed at multiple colleges) when I got there, I loved it. Once I got over my initial reaction to the architecture (not the prettiest college), I realised that the atmosphere was actually much friendlier than Univ, the JCR was nice and big, and I got on well with the tutor who interviewed me. (Profile 798)

I really liked the atmosphere, right from when I first entered on the Open Day and during the interview period. I'm very happy with my decision. (Profile 1071)

Nice (but not impressive like Magdalen etc), quite a historical feel though - apparently it's the oldest college. Which is cool in a way. (Profile 147)

Friendly, a number of activities like watching movies were put on by the JCR. (Profile 1085)

A nice, impressive couple of quadrangles with a very convenient location. I didn't see anything of the JCR as I think it was closed when I visited. (Profile 464)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: The accommodation at Univ was fine - large room with a sink, desk, cupboards, chairs etc. An en suite bathroom would have been nice and the room was quite cold at night, but it wasn't too bad.

- Food: Not very nice. I'm a fussy eater, though, and at least there was a decent range of food. (Profile 798)

- Accommodation: Larger rooms then I expected, all rooms have a sink and a fridge plus standard stuff. Kitchens were okay, there were plenty. Shower and toilets were fine as well and again enough.

- Food: Food was better then I expected, plenty of choice and good quality. (Profile 1071)

- Accommodation: I had a large large room during interviews - it was a bit of an anomaly but I was lucky, not all rooms are that size at all. In general, rooms are a fairly good size at Univ.

- Food: I seem to remember it being fine while I was there… (Profile 1089)

- Accommodation: Room was big (compared to London Uni rooms anyway) but so cold I woke up shivering every morning (I think my heating could have been messed up though). Had a washbasin, desk, couple of chairs, standard stuff really.

- Food: Edible but not great (Profile 147)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at University College?

- Tutors: I liked the tutors at Univ but I don't think I got on as well with them as I did with the tutor at St Catherine's. Which is just as well, really...

- Students: I didn't talk to many of them, but they seemed friendly and willing to help. (Profile 798)

- Tutors: Fairly pleasant. I was too nervous myself to really interact with them, but in general they were understanding and co-operative during the interviews.

- Students: The only students around were the JCR helpers as the students had gone home for christmas. They were very pleasant and very helpful, and helped you settle in quickly. Most useful was asking them where the nearest Pizza Hut was of an evening :) (Profile 464)

- Tutors: The tutors were nice during interviews, not at all intimidating. During the talk with all PPE applicants they gave us plenty of time to ask all questions and they really tried to make us relax a bit.

- Students: Those I met were great, as were all other applicants. (Profile 1071)

- Tutors: Really friendly and approachable. They organised a meeting for all of us with as many of them as could make it the morning of the first interviews so we could see their faces beforehand which I think put a lot of us at ease.

- Students: Friendly as well and eager to be of assistance. They looked after us well and were keen for us to enjoy the experience. (Profile 1089)

- Tutors: Friendly, approachable, clever, enthusiastic. No wonder Univ has such a good rep for PPE.

- Students: The students that stuck around to help us were called "sea-daddies" which was a bit off-putting and just seemed like the typical Oxford weirdness I was hoping didn't exist - but they were all nice enough , so I can't really complain. (Profile 147)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[English Language and Literature] READ READ READ. Know the writers you've mentioned on your personal statement as well as possible (ie: don't mention Virginia Woolf if you've only read Mrs Dalloway) and read widely. Don't stick exclusively to certain genres or eras, because you'll feel silly if they ask you what Victorian novels you've read and you can't answer. 

Enthusiasm - you may feel the need to restrain yourself at school or at home because you're worried about looking like a nerd, but Oxford want people who are genuinely enthusiastic about their subject. Don't worry about getting carried away or digressing a bit if it means you're showing your enthusiasm.

Be prepared to justify your arguments. Some critical reading might help to give you a few ideas (although remember to avoid regurgitating someone else's argument), but if you have a strong opinion on a certain text or writer, consider /why/ you feel that way. I struggled in one of my interviews when I tried to justify liking Heathcliff. (Profile 798)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] For PPE specifically, prepare for the TSA test! Practice really helps, it made a huge difference for me. For interviews, try to relax a bit (I know it's hard) and just explain what you're thinking. I found my debating experience came in really handy because it had trained me to explain thoughts analytically, so you might try that. (Profile 1071)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Read widely around your subject and, most importantly, read actively: what is the author trying to say and why? are there holes in the author's argument? what is your own view?

For the TSA: practise, practise, practise...find as many past papers as you can and do them timed. Some of the question types will begin to seem familiar. Do a couple of the essays in one hour to get a sense of how long you have and then I recommend jotting down some ideas for the others or doing essay plans timed (say, five mins?). (Profile 1089)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[English Language and Literature] The first interview (poem analysis) was all right, the second interview (general interview) was slightly stressful because the tutor didn't seem to respond that positively to my answers, and the third interview (poem analysis and general interview at St Catherine's) was really enjoyable.

In the second interview I was asked what I'd read recently - I started rambling on about Victorian literature, and for half the interview I talked about Wuthering Heights. I was asked a rather challenging question on Middlemarch, but then the tutor asked me about my thoughts on Shelley, and we discussed Ozymandias and a few other poems, before finishing with a discussion of Eliot's The Waste Land. (Profile 798)

[Law] Not going to lie, it was HELL I think that they tried to get the best out of me. I cried buckets afterwards, but it was those of us who had the bad experiences that were offered places and not the over confident ones. Some were called for secondary interviews which we thought at the time was a good sign, but it wasn't, one of my friends (us interviewees all made friends and keep in touch) had a second & third interview and was rejected. DON’T PANIC, BE NATURAL

Only questions on the case study I was given, quite in depth, wanted recall and analysis I think. (Profile 207)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Two interviews, one on economics (4 interviewers) and one on politics/philosophy (2 interviewers). In each interview we were given some questions or a passage 20 minutes before the interview to prepare. Asked about the questions/passage. In the case of economics it was game theory. With politics/philosophy we had a discussion on the passage in relation to politics (about jingoism) and then talked through an informal logic problem. (Profile 1085)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Politics: Given an article 25 mins before and I had to discuss the author's opinion and why I thought this. I had to then come up with a potential solution to the problem and state what some of the issues with this would be.

Philosophy: Given a problem in the interview concerning a group of people. I had to reason what the best course of action for a particular person involved would be and then discuss any assumptions I had made and how the situation could be different.

Economics: I had to work through a game theory style questions 25 mins before concerning two people. The interview consisted of me discussing my answers and the ones I hadn't done yet I did on the spot, with guidance where it was needed. (Profile 1089)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

[English Language and Literature] I tried to come across as willing to learn, and aware of my limitations particularly academically. I made a joke with the interviewer about my spelling and tried to set a relaxed tone. Don't be over confident, be humble!! However bad or awkward it gets (and it might do as they push you harder) stay calm and DON'T CRY IN FRONT OF THEM!! (Profile 798)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] I really liked the atmosphere, right from when I first entered on the Open Day and during the interview period. I'm very happy with my decision. (Profile 1071)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Be genuinely interested in all that PPE has to offer and read introductory texts to any of the subjects you haven't studied before, and try to read some more in depth texts as well, there are plenty of appropriate reading lists on the web. You want to show them that you are passionate about these subjects, and reading up on them off your own back, doing it actively and forming reasoned opinions, can only help at interview.

Don't set your heart on it: that way you feel less pressured so are more likely to perform well in the interview.

Be genuinely passionate about the course and do lots of reading (ideally the two should go hand in hand). (Profile 147)


Applying to St. Catharine's College, Cambridge University

Founded in 1473, St Catharine's College is a welcoming community of students, staff and Fellows in the heart of Cambridge. As a College of the University of Cambridge, we are dedicated to academic excellence and to recruiting the most able students, whatever their backgrounds, to join our teaching and research community.

St Catharine's is committed to academic excellence and success, while maintaining a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. We are fortunate to be located in the centre of Cambridge - within short walking distance of most University departments and numerous historic buildings and collections.

Click here for more information about St Catharine's vast number of clubs and societies.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Only Cambridge offered straight economics and all economics people in the past from my school had applied to Cambridge. Furthermore, I had visited Cambridge a few times and really liked it (Profile 255)

I was attracted to the individual teaching provided through the supervision system, and I think that the average intelligence and enthusiasm among both lecturers and students there will be greater than other universities. I wanted to study natural sciences rather than pure physics. (Profile 984)

I really liked the atmosphere of the university and the town when I looked around. The Cambridge Nat Sci course offers an unusual amount of flexibility and I liked the idea of the college system (Profile 246)

Why did you apply to St. Catharine’s College?

Because I knew someone who went there, it was really friendly and pleasant to visit, and its close to the engineering department! (Profile 395)

It was a bit random really. It's middle sized, mixed, in the centre of town, did not ask for 'Step' papers, had an even balance of state/private school boys/girls. It also has nice old buildings! Although I still think I have made a good choice, with hindsight, I would have looked around a few more colleges, found out about accommodation and eating arrangements. Catz also has a really cool prospectus. (Profile 246)

Great location - right in the centre of town. Friendly atmosphere and nice building. Also knew someone there already who was doing Economics and had formerly been at my school. (Profile 255)

It's got a good reputation for music, it's medium-sized, on the riverbank and in the centre. Mainly though, I looked up the directors of studies for ASNaC and matched my interests with the director at St Catz (Profile 107)

Location - central cambridge; Size - Small, community feel; Specifics - Very good for Economics (Profile 637)

I had visited the college and met my potential tutor and liked him. I also thought it had an informal atmosphere and it is opposite the English faculty. (Profile 451)

What was your general impression of St. Catharine’s College and any other colleges you visited?

It was small but friendly, just what I was looking for (Profile 395)

I didn't actually go into Catz before I applied, but i really liked it when I went up for the interview. I looked around Corpus Christi, which was a bit too small and antique. I thought that Kings was too big and austere. Clare looked really nice, but i was told that it's a popular college. St.Catz has a very small site which makes the college seem really cozy, and it is very pretty from the front. The road that it is on looks lovely in the dark with all the colleges lit up. (Profile 246)

St. Catharine's was not too big and was very nice overall. I had also visited Selwyn but I thought that it was too far away from the centre of the city. (Profile 255)

It seemed very friendly and the students were lovely. It was also really clean in the rooms that I saw. It is overshadowed a bit by Kings, Queens etc but in some ways I think that's a good thing! (Profile 277)

From what I saw of St. Catharines (I didn't go to an open day there) it seemed really friendly and welcoming - not at all intimidating. Everyone, including the other applicants seemed really nice. I also went to an open day at Peterhouse which I didn't really like - it seemed really traditional and the other people there at the open day didn't seem as friendly. (Profile 234)

Friendly, slightly old-fashioned, but I'm used to that! (Profile 620)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: Saw one room on open day, it was above average and looked more cosy than some other student rooms I'd been in.

- Food: Edible but not great. Both times I visited I was given the same meal - Chicken with new potatoes and gravy! (Profile 395)

- Accommodation: A lot of the rooms in the main St. Catharine's building have en suite bathrooms. The rooms themselves are not that big and probably measure about 4 x 4 metres. (Profile 255)

- Accommodation: I have a very small room at home, so even though I was allocated the one of the smallest rooms in the college, it was still comfortable to me.

- Food: Fairly standard although not amazing. (Profile 546)

- Accommodation: Didn't see any unfortunately. I would advise all applicants to stay in college accommodation if it is offered - I didn't and I wish I had. (Profile 234)

- Accommodation: I stayed in modern accommodation. Ugly but en-suite and good facilities.

- Food: Edible but not great. Curious and fairly unidentifiable. Apparently they recycle the same stuff day after day. (Profile 259)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Catharine’s College?

- Tutors: they were friendly and made me feel relaxed - mostly.

- Students: only met 2, but they were both lovely. (Profile 395)

- Students: I know one person there already so I can't really comment on them but I did meet another student there. He seemed pretty normal - just a run-of-the-mill guy. St. Catharine's doesn't tend to have many snobby students apparently. (Profile 255)

- Tutors: I found my first tutor very talkative, charming and likeable. The second was a bit shy and didn't talk much (however that could have been deliberate).

- Students: Casual, friendly and helpful. (Profile 451)

- Tutors: Distracted but like they could be nice. They seemed really interested in their subject and in thinking deeply into things.

- Students: Really nice and a bit less geeky than those I've met in other colleges. (Profile 277)

- Tutors: The ones that I spoke to were very friendly, although my second interviewer was really tired!

- Students: Nice, friendly, normal people. They didn't have 'I'm a genius' writen all over them and made me feel at home. (Profile 246)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic] The form: Write as much as you can in the extra information box - it makes them feel special.

The interview: Try and relax, it is an enjoyable experience, particularly for such an obscure subject, as it's hard to find someone who is interested in and knows what your talking about, but these people do. Also they're really encouraging and not out to get you. Know your personal statement back to front and be prepared to discuss any books you mention in depth. Get the booklist and read as many as you can. Show enthusiasm, as its the main thing they're looking for. Oh and go to an ASNaC open day. (Profile 107)

[Economics] Definitely read The Economist as often as you can and a daily newspaper. Try to read one, two or three books about an area in Economics you are interested in and be sure they know about this so they ask you about it and you can show off some of your knowledge. (Profile 255)

[Engineering] The forms: Try to have something different from everyone else, especially when writing about why you chose the university/course.

The interview(s): There's not much preparation you can do, but mathematically you need to be on the ball, so make sure you are well awake and ready to think! (Profile 395)

[Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic] Don't underestimate the importance of the interview, if your grades aren't all As it's still worth applying. Also go to an open day (did I mention that already?) (Profile 107)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic] I had two 20 minute interviews. In the general one I got all the obvious ones like why my subject, why cambridge etc etc. Also a basic review of everything i'd written in my personal statement, such as detaield discussion of a book which i had studied at AS level English lit. Current affairs came up (the firefighter's strike) as well as questions about my hobbies, like what do you think you've gained from being n an orchestra and what's better about classical music than the charts?! In the academic interview I had 2 professors who were both really nice and encouraging. They asked me so much, about how French and German relate to the subject and why dead languages are relevant today. Also discussions about books I'd read, like Beowulf and icelandic sagas and something about archaeology. (Profile 107)

[Economics] How do interest rates affect exchange rates? Is globalisation a good thing? Apply game theory to an economic context? (I brought this up) (Profile 637)

[Economics] In the general one I was asked about various things on my personal statement such as my extra curricular activities. Was also asked about rail privatisation, tackling Cambridge's traffic problems and, strange as it may seem, how water boiled! That last one caught me off guard and there was no way I could have prepared for it. In the economics interview, I was asked various questions about globalisation (such as a definition for it and the issues surrounding it - I had said I was interested in globalisation in my PS). I was also asked: why are rich countries rich and poor countries poor, would more doctors or more lawyers be better in the world, how do you measure happiness, what role should the state play in the economy, what is the political stance of The Economist and what are the arguments for and against the minimum wage? In neither interview was I asked why I wanted to go to Cambridge. Also, in the economics interview, no questions were asked about current affairs (which I thought was quite strange) or about the books I had read (again strange considering one was on his desk at the time and another on a reading list the tutor usually gives out to his undergraduate students). Oh yeah, I was also given a passage to read right before the interview but wasn't asked a thing about that either! (Profile 255)

[Engineering] I was given an article beforehand on telescopes, and asked some questions on the article, mostly mathematical things. Was also asked some questions about my school, my A-levels and the Engineering Education Scheme (which I did in year 12) (Profile 395)

[Natural Sciences, Physical] The 'general' interview was actually completely subject based. I was asked mostly mathematical questions. In the second interview, I was asked to choose an area of maths to talk about. (Profile 984)

[Natural Sciences, Biological] In my general interview I was asked about novels that I had read, and the historical background to the books. I was also questioned on scientific articles that I had read. A few general questions about, why Cambridge, why Catz etc. My second interview really surprised me as it was so short, but my interviewer seemed really happy with it. I was asked about evolution and various causes and results. We didn't really get on to anything very difficult, and I felt that I wasn't really given the opportunity to show what I could do. (Profile 246)


Applying to St. John's College at Cambridge University

St John’s is one of 31 Colleges at the University of Cambridge. Colleges are where students live, eat and socialise, and where they receive small group teaching sessions called supervisions, which are regarded as one of the best teaching models in the world. Colleges are also self-governing; while they are part of the University (subject to University regulations) they select their own students and have their own internal procedures. Although students receive the same outstanding education whichever college they attend, each has its own unique history, environment and identity.

St John's was founded in 1511 and is one of the largest Colleges in Cambridge. Its former students include Nobel prizewinners, Prime Ministers, scientists, artists, and leaders in business and industry. Today it has more than 150 “Fellows” (resident academics who teach and research at St John’s), about 900 students (a mix of undergraduates and postgraduates), and about 250 staff. 

For more information, visit: St. John’s College, Cambridge University

Why did you apply to Oxbridge?

For Law, an Oxbridge education means a lot, given the degree of competition for the top jobs. Cambridge topped the Times league table for Law as well, so it seemed worth a try. I was in two minds about applying though, because it does affect your applications to other institutions when you're applying for the most popular subjects. (Profile 232)

Size and its beautiful settling, considered Trinity but heard that it loves mathematicians where maths isn't the subjects I really like though I'm okay at it. And because they do a written test at interview. So St. John's was chosen at last. (Profile 1081)

Cambridge appears "better" for maths than Oxford. I'd done well in my A/S UMS marks so felt that I would be able to apply to Cambridge. If I had lower UMS I would have applied to Oxford, as they cannot see UMS marks. (Profile 702)

Why did you apply to St. John’s College?

All the usual reasons - big, old, rich, central, large number of Law students. Actually it was pretty much a random choice, made the night before I sent off my form, but it's probably worth thinking about carefully since there is a great deal of difference between the colleges. (Profile 232)

Size and its beautiful settling, considered Trinity but heard that it loves mathematicians where maths isn't the subjects I really like though I'm okay at it. And because they do a written test at interview... so St. John's was chosen at last. (Profile 1081)

It's a big friendly college, I went on an open day and really liked the students at the college, and the tutors. It's well located, brilliant accommodation, loads of facilities and looks awesome. Also it has a really good college spirit. (Profile 702)

Highest number of economics fellows, big, pretty, liked it at open day. Also had very good accommodation and food and was rich (Profile 172)

What was your general impression of  St. John’s College and any other colleges you visited?

On open days I got the impression that the students were friendly, and I genuinely just liked everything about it. It was a little intimidating to visit, but I'm glad I did! (Profile 702)

I saw most of the colleges while I was in Cambridge. The ones in the centre were all fairly similar.

- John's: Gorgeous, old, lovely architecture. The friendliest when I came to look around (I didn't go to an open day). Large - but that's what I wanted. Attracts a lot of tourists, which can be a pain.

- Caius: Beautiful again, and friendly when I went to an open day. Decided it wasn't for me because you have to eat in hall 5 times/week or something, which didn't appeal.

- Queens: Stayed here for a week. Lovely - very friendly, the right size, next to the river. Lots of things going on there, beyond academic stuff. (Profile 232)

It looked really nice, the students were very accommodating and although the porter gave me the wrong key to my room initially, everyone was very helpful. (Profile 87)

I found that St. John's was very pretty and the people were all incredibly friendly. I liked the fact it was so big. I also stayed in Gonville and Cais for a week for the Sutton Trust summer school which also seemed friendly. I wasn't keen on Trinity when I looked round though. (Profile 185)

I really liked my college. It seemed big but friendly which was what I wanted. (Profile 172)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: 

- First year - Cripps. 1960s building but you learn to love it. 4 rooms on a landing (usually single sex with opposite sex on the adjacent landing) sharing kitchen (well 2 hobs, sink and fridge), toilet, shower and bath (all separate). Some of the best accommodation in Cambridge - very big rooms but also quite expensive.

- Second year - much less predictable. If you want to stay in college (as in within the actual walls) which most people do you have to share. You can be a jammy git and get separate bedrooms and sitting room and kitchen (smiles to herself) but you will more usually have to share bedroom and sitting room with one person sleeping in the sitting room. All rooms have kitchens. Some are ensuite. You pay according the the facilities offered. If you don't want to share you have to live out of college but generally only about 5 mins at the most outside college gates and it's college owned accommodation so there's not water rates or electricity bills to pay.

- Third year - Second year accommodation is balloted. Some tutor's reverse this ballot and some don't. Ours does. Basically the majority of people chose to have single rooms in college (3rd years or returning 4th year language people have preference on the ballot) which range from lovely ensuite palaces to penthouses (at the top of and two levels) in Cripps to bedsits above the chaplin. People choosing to share get better double rooms than in the first year but are not guaranteed two bedrooms. You can also live out of college in your third year if you wish.

- Fourth (+) years - accommodation is outside college but in college owned accommodation and I think most people chose to share a house with friends.

- Food: Good. Meant to be some of the best in camb but a bit stody for me so I cook for myself (Profile 172)

- Accommodation: 1st year, big rooms, sharing bath, shower toilet, kitchen with 3 other people. Not the prettiest building, but warm and you're with all the other first years. 2nd and 3rd year, awe inspiring accommodation, a ballot, often shared (if you choose to) in New Court or other places around the college. Option for houses.

- Food: Lovely, got a Christmas dinner on my interview day. (Profile 702)

- Accommodation: The rooms were huge compared to bristol, they were comfortable and had a great view.

 - Food: Excellent. Perfectly edible, quite a wide range available... but you couldn't understand the cooks. (Profile 87)

- Accommodation: My accomodation for my interview was great - sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, but that was a third year room! I stayed in a first year room on the open day, and these were fairly big, especially in comparison with what I'd seen in other universities. 

- Food: Good (Profile 185)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at  St. John’s College?

- Tutors: Enthusiastic, seem to really like teaching, and are passionate about their subjects. Brilliant tutors.

- Students: Friendly, a strong college spirit, very jokey. Generally outgoing and fun. (Profile 702)

- Tutors: Quite informal, accommodating and since i was nervous at first, they accommodated for this and i was soon at ease.

- Students: Brilliant guys and gals. The were very truthful, although they didn't slag anything off really. One or two were paid to stay in the JCR and tlk, but others stayed too and were nice. (Profile 87)

- Tutors: Very friendly, the physicist was a little eccentric.

- Students: I didn't see many students, but those I met seemed very down to earth. (Profile 185)

- Tutors: My personal tutor isn't really interested in your welfare which isn't too much of a problem as the senior tutor's great. Basically they're just a mix of people some nice and some not.

- Students: Sporty. Argh. But there are a significant number of people who play no sport. Then there are the people in my year I still haven't seen (Profile 172)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[Classics] Parse 'rebus'? How many declensions are there? How many latin cases are there excluding the vocative? Hence deduce how many were in Proto Indo European? Give a few meanings of the word 'Quibus'? What peculiarity does this word possess in the respect of its relation to a certain preposition? Which personal pronouns share this wonderful property? On the subject of personal pronouns, name two intensifying enclitics affixed thereto? Why shouldn't we stack enclitics? What detrimental effects does this have to our Latinity? What do you feel about the lack of distinct aorist form in Latin? "Latin is far from the pristine, perfect, sanctified tongue it is portrayed to be" - using your knowledge of defective verbs, obsolete particles and lack of perfect active participle, comment on this statement? Compare the use of Chinese particles, particularly "ma", "ba" and "le", to that of Latin? Iulius Caesarne invented a particular form of "sum"? Hence deduce this formerly wanting form? Why did you pick St. John's college? (Profile 292)

[Computer Science] My first interview was very informal, he was tired and we just talked about where i was from, why i chose cambridge, extra-curricular activities and the odd thing off my personal statement. The second interview was based on fairly simple P2 maths... such as logs and sequences. I was then asked to spot a pattern and that was pretty much it. I was asked lots of questions which got progressively harder - which is apparently a very good thing.

log(base 2) of 8 = ? + some other equally unchallenging questions. Mathematical induction style qu. Logic/sequence spotting qu'. (Profile 87)

[Economics] In my first interview I was asked to talk about an area of Economics that I was interested in, and to explain an argument from an article I had been sent beforehand. I then had to do a logic question. In my second interview I had to answer all the usual 'Why Cambridge?', 'Why St. John's?', 'Why Economics?'. Then about what I read, what I do in my spare time, and how my friends would describe me. Finally I had to describe a mug! (Profile 185)

[Engineering] Got the 'set' question (a question which was sent out a week prior to interview; for students to solve and show and explain to the interviewers at interview) WRONG!! I was able to get it right after a few prompts however but the fact i got it wrong in the first place does show that they do allow for mistakes (Profile 1063)

[Law] First interview was with two Lawyers. Firstly they wanted to know why French and English were good subjects to prepare for he study of Law. I didn't know. After that we moved on to Law - who should get compensation for the Hillsborough disaster. I made a few comments, they built on that, and I made a few more inane remarks. Then we talked about land rights for natives - e.g. whether aborigines should be compensated for the land that was taken away from them. I went down the wrong track completely, but they took me back and sent me in the right direction. Again, more waffle. Finally they asked a question about the law of homicide, which was legal reasoning - no knowledge assumed. That one was probably the easiest of the three, but in all cases they led you into a trap - watch how they use your words in replying, and think before you speak. The personal interview wasn't informal, but was more relaxed. The tutor (Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic) asked me about why I wanted to do Law, and my future plans. I didn't actually have many so I waffled a bit more about how a Law degree is excellent for a wide range of careers, etc. We also talked about the hobbies I listed on my UCAS form, and my interest in languages, which was fine. We then moved on to some legal/political issues seen from a layman's point of view. I think I was asked what is the greatest injustice in the country at the moment - things like that. I was also very unlucky in that my interview was on the day which the Guardian chose to launch a legal attack on the laws of succession based on the HRA - my first priority that morning had not been to buy a newspaper, so I had to think very quickly. (Profile 232)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

[Engineering] Become as confident and passionate about the subject. Read lots about it and make the interviewers centre about what YOU like within what you wish to read. Enjoy the time there and don't hide in your room all day revising. I looked at the computing departments website and found something interesting and wrote about that on the form.... but it didn't come up in the interview so it didn't do me any harm... (just make sure if u do this, you know what u wrote down and can expand on it in an interview!) (Profile 1063)

[Computer Science] Know your maths! Although it wasn't too difficult (for someone who's done further maths), if u only do normal maths then you might want to brush up on logs, series and proof by induction. (Profile 87)

[Law] Remember Law is very, very competitive. Try reading a few books beforehand, so that you have some idea of what you may be asked. "Learning the Law" by Brian Simpson was recommended to me, and it's worth skimming through. "How to do Things with Rules" is good as an introduction to legal reasoning.

Get lots of work experience, at courts and with lawyers - it's not difficult to organise. I would also suggest applying to some sort of pre-university taster course - many places run them (I think Nottingham does a weekend every January). I went on the Sutton Trust scheme, and spent a week in Cambridge in the July before applying. It was excellent - if you go to a state school, it's worth looking into. (Profile 232)


Applying to St. Catherine's College, Oxford University

St. Catherine’s College, often referred to as Catz, is Oxford University’s youngest undergraduate college and one of its largest and most diverse communities. It treasures the traditional values of Oxford college life, but pursues a distinctly modern agenda.

St. Catherine’s is situated in an ideal location: very close to the city center, yet surrounded by meadows, parks and water. The Science Area and many University libraries and departments are nearby (including English, Law, Economics and Politics).

Catz offers a wide range of subjects, with a broadly even split between science and arts. The college is proud of its place at the forefront of innovation, research and contemporary culture. Its modern architecture (Grade I listed) and restful open spaces give the college a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Cambridge doesn't do history and politics, and I didn't want to do straight history or their social science course because I'm not interested in sociology or psychology particularly. I was all set for Cambridge though, until i went there and realised i really hated it, it was so small and unimpressive and i just didn't like it, so started looking at Oxford instead. (Profile 809)

Oxford does PPE cambridge does an inferior sps with sociology which sounds very boring. Oxford is a bigger city and generally like it more. (Profile 152)

For Comp Sci at cambridge you need to do Natural sciences in the first year, or 80% maths (something along those lines) and i didn't want to do that. (Profile 699)

Both oxford and cambridge courses start out very general in the first two years which appealed to me as i wasn't sure which field of engineering i was most interested in and so thought was best to go somewhere where i could look at different aspects. Modern engineering problems tend to be very diverse and require an understanding of all types eg civil, electronic, mechanical etc, so thought a breadth of knowledge would be useful later. (Profile 751)

Why did you apply to St. Catherine’s College?

I wanted to go somewhere big and modern (so all the plumbing worked!), and St Catz is cool and outside the town, but nice and big. (Profile 809)

St Catz is less formal than the other colleges, it also seemed more international (Profile 1028)

Knew people from my school had been there - i don't mean this in an etonian type "oh we always get in there" way, more in the sense that someone else has done it before so its do-able. plus st. catz has the biggest bar of all the colleges and prob one of the best social scenes, very sporty too which i'm into. (Profile 751)

3 years accomodation, very close to computing labs, and reasonably close to centre of town. (Profile 699)

Modern, forward-looking and very laid-back (Profile 366)

Had spoken to a tutor there and heard that they were lacking german applicants (Profile 286)

What was your general impression of St. Catherine’s College and any other colleges you visited?

Interviews were the first time I had been to Oxford, and when I first arrived I thought, 'Why the hell did I apply to St Catz?'. But once you've been there for an hour, you realise it is an absolutely wonderful place with a great atmosphere. The architecture you thought was horrible starts to look amazing, so I'd recommend it to anyone. I visited certain other colleges when I was there, and they were no where near as friendly as St Catz. (Profile 497)

It was lovely, though i did go to an old college and it was magical St Catz was nice because it was so well set out and organised. (Profile 809)

St Catz - nice, modern, I liked the JCR; St Johns - pretty, but somewhat shabby inside - same for merton (Profile 699)

Very relaxed and laid back (not like most of them i think). All the staff and students, applying and already there, were very friendly. Not as impressive looking as some of the other colleges but the atmosphere is the best i've seen. There were a lot of state school applicants there. (Profile 446)

Really nice place. Some call it a concrete block. I like it anyway it the people who make the place not the buildings. (Profile 152)

I loved St Catz - it has very modern architecture that I couldn't get enough of.

University College (my second college) was also really nice. Very old and big buildings. (Profile 1028)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: My room was really nice, it was quite big and had windows all down one side with very exciting blinds in them. There was a sink in there too. The staircase was nice, there was a kitchen shared by about 10. The common room had a massive TV and a games room with poole and stuff in which was cool.

- Food: Yes, it was very nice, well i say nice, it was standard food considering they were catering for so many people, but obviously some of it was a bit gross. In general though they gave you loads and it was nice. (Profile 809)

- Accommodation: All modern buildings, 1st year accomodation is a bit basic, 2nd year is pretty swish with ensuite showers/toilets and your own fridge

- Food: There is hall, which is a 3 course meal for about 3 quid, which is bloody excellent (where i live in ripoff south london, £3 wouldn't buy half a damn sandwich, so i was well impressed), then there is scaf which is canteen style food where you choose, generally less healthy but decent  (Profile 751)

- Accommodation: Big rooms, with a washbasin in the room (some people had smaller rooms with no washbasin). Lots of storage space, bed, desk, couple of chairs. One wall was entirely a window, which was nice, but cold (I think my heating wasn't working, as no one else found their room cold).

- Food: Pretty good, with a wide choice. Self service breakfast and lunch, and served dinner. (Profile 699)

- Accommodation: Rooms were big. They were built in the sixties and i'm pretty sure that all the original furniture is still in there. the bed was comfy but quite low off the floor, it didn't cause any problems though. They all had internet and phone connections and mine had a sink.

- Food: Good (Profile 446)

- Accommodation: The room was small, but had a huge window filling an entire wall (yes - floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall!) that looked over the quad, which made up for the size.

- Food: Excellent (Profile 497)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Catherine’s College?

- Tutors: They seemed really helpful and approachable, and pretty normal which was shocking!! They were friendly and nice.

- Students: They seemed nice too, very helpful (though they were being paid to be so) and gave us lots of information and help which i frequently needed. They organised a few things to do in the evenings too which were fun. Seemed to work hard though.  (Profile 809)

- Tutors: Friendly, not at all intimidating.

- Students: Somewhat disinterested, but not unpleasant. (Profile 699)

- Tutors: Very friendly

- Students: Very normal and down to earth. No, really! (Profile 366)

- Tutors: The first one (the CompSci tutor) seemed quite scary! But I think that was just his technique.. the others were really friendly and helpful.

- Students: Didn't seem to do much (no offence). At many other colleges, the JCR committee seemed to arrange loads of things for applicants to do, but they didn't. They didn't speak to us either and just sat by themselves watching videos... We didn't really mind though! (Profile 497)

- Students: college has a good vibe, generally always up for a bit of a party or "shirt lash" (Profile 751)

What questions were you asked during your St. Catz interview(s)?

[Engineering Science] all applying maths and physics to problems, writing expressions for things a bit of circuit analysis- there was no chit chat, just hello- sit down, now solve this.(Profile 751)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Cold War questions, democracy, human rights, do we have free will, morality questions. Game theory. (Profile 152)

[History (modern) and Politics] In the history interview they asked me about the essay I'd submitted (about Germany) and the period in general and in its context, and linked it to the rest of Europe and the future of Germany. It was ok, felt good because it was about something I was comfortable talking about. For politics they asked everyone about the same two areas, world government and why we obey the law. I thought this was hard and kinda harsh, it seemed more at home in a law or PPE interview. But everyone was in the same boat so it wasn't so bad.

They asked about the ways leaders try to unify people (I started talking about politics and Sarah Palin and then realised it was a history interview), and about why communism is so repressive. For politics they asked me about the EU which I've never studied so that wasn't too good, and about traffic lights, should we go through red ones. The questions didn't seem too bad which made me think they were going easy on me and no way would i get in. (Profile 809)

[Modern Languages] I was given a piece of literature, either in English or the target language, given 20 minutes to read it and then asked questions that tested my analysis of it. Then we had general conversations in the target language for about 10 minutes, and discussed other literature I’d read, either in english or a foregn language. (Profile 286)

Do you have any advice for future Catz applicants in terms of preparation?

[Engineering Science] Have all your A level game down - thats all there is to it. The interviewers are not trying to "catch you out" they want to find out how good you are, which they can only do by asking questions based on what you know. So all the maths problems will start with something based on A level material and then build on it. Dont worry about slick answers to stuff like "why do you want to study engineering"- the tutors are academics, ie they don't care about banter/chat just how well wire up your neurons are - stick to the maths and physic theory. (Profile 751)

[Computer Science] Make sure you have answers for the obvious questions - why Oxford, why this course. Try lots of maths based questions - look at the ones on the oxford computer science website, as i think one of them actually came up in my interview. (I didn't do this much, but it would have been much easier had I done so). (Profile 699)

[History (Modern) and Politics] Read around your A level topics for history, particularly if you send in a school essay. Make sure you've read all the books you mention in your personal statement and know at least something about areas of interest you've mentioned. Think about arguments and counter arguments for things you read and research. Don't worry too much!! (Profile 809)

[Modern Languages] Write down any foreign literature you’ve read/studied as this gives thyem something to talk about in the interview, approach the foreign language speaking part as u might do a oral exam - show off how fluent you are. (Profile 286)


Applying to St. Anne's College, Oxford University

St. Anne's College - Oxford University

Since its founding, St. Anne’s College has been about widening access to an Oxford Education. St. Anne’s allowed women from the UK, and numerous other countries to study at Oxford University, whilst living more flexibly and affordably at home or in lodgings across the city. 

Earlier this year, the Governing Body of St. Anne’s reaffirmed the College’s purpose to be a diverse and inclusive community contributing to the University’s commitment to lead the world in education and research, while maintaining the College’s legacy and future. St. Anne’s aims to be the home of choice for the brightest and most ambitious students, including those from underrepresented groups and believes that difference should be respected, promoted and celebrated as the diversity of people is a rich source of learning for everyone.

Please click here to read about St. Anne’s purpose driven mission.

Why did you apply to St. Anne’s College?

(a) My school had sent someone to St Anne's two years before me.

(b) It was supposedly one of the best for English.

(c) Tutors sounded cool. (Profile 386)

Absolutely loved the college - although obviously not so aesthetically pleasing as some of the more traditional colleges, it had a really great atmosphere and everyone I met was so friendly. Also pleased that there is enough accommodation for everyone to live on site for three years (student house hassle didn't really appeal), that there are small kitchens if you don't fancy hall food and a very good chance of an ensuite in the second and/or third years. (Profile 656)

Location- in the suburbs, so near country and city centre.

Size- allows for a large diversity of clubs, and societies.

It was personally recommended to me by a friend. (Profile 37)

Modern, friendly, a bit more cosmopolitan than the others. (Profile 69)

It's modern, so not as stuffy & showy-offey as some of the other colleges, and doesn't have as many archaic traditions. It's also quite big. (Profile 454)

Recommended it by several friends from Oxf; reasonably cheap; very chilled out and down to earth people; chances were better given my background in the Sciences (this is of course not something you should mention to interviewers!) (Profile 419)

What was your general impression of St. Anne’s College and any other colleges you visited?

I only visited St Anne's. It seemed nice. Quite ordinary and not at all like the older colleges (which in hindsight are absolutely stunning). (Profile 386)

Liked the people, though wasn't fortunate enough to meet any geniuses. Thus I concluded you needn't be one to get in. The library was AMAZING, very big, but musty. Apparently St Johns and St Anne's have the two biggest libraries of all the colleges. It is one of the poorer colleges tho, so it's smaller than some (e.g. Christ Church, St John's) and certainly not as pleasing to look at. (Profile 419)

As I've said previously - really really nice. Not particularly attractive from the outside, but nice grounds and buildings inside. (Profile 656)

Excellent atmosphere, undergraduate helpers really friendly, interviewees not the typical 'oxford type' that are present in the many rumours (Profile 37)

St Annes was very nice - really nice atmosphere, nice people (I made some great friends at the interview - so don't worry about not liking anyone there - you will!) The college was modern, and I liked that. (Profile 69)

I really liked St Anne's. It wasn't very pretty, like some of the other colleges, but everyone was really down to earth, including the people interviewing me. Some people from other colleges had horrible interviewers. (Profile 454)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: My room was quite big. It had lots of furniture in it, and a giant wardrobe. I had to share a toilet and bath with everyone else in my building. There were sadly no showers.

- Food: Good. There was a wide selection, with chocolate cake & yoghurts almost every day. You can't complain - it was edible & free. I don't think I spent any money on food all week! (Profile 454)

- Accommodation: It was a pokey room. The window was stuck open and it was December. But now I'm here (in my final year) I've had some pretty good rooms. If you want to live the life of luxury don't come to St Anne's. But you're only a student once, and it would be a shame not to live like one!

- Food: Edible but not great. Food is food. I mainly cook for myself anyway. Oh, note: St Anne's fry ups are wonderful at the time, but catch up on you later! (Profile 386)

- Accommodation: Room was really nice, although freezing and I was kept awake by the wind banging trees against the window both nights. Heaps of toilets, showers and baths everywhere.

- Food: Awful - I think I'm going to get skinny next year! (Profile 656)

- Accommodation: Size of room was moderately big, with large window and a gorgeous view of the College grounds. All facilities were good.

- Food: Excellent (Profile 37)

- Accommodation: The rooms weren't that great, but quite clean and liveable, although I had to go down three flights of stairs to get to a decent shower!

- Food: Good. It was ok, but a lot of the time I was a bit too nervous to eat! (Profile 69)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Anne’s College?

- Tutors: Two of them were very relaxed and put me at ease. One tutor (who I now know to be really lovely) was quite harsh. The tutors though are not there to freak you out. They want you to be comfortable coz that's when you'll perform best.

- Students: I met a few of them. They were OK. Helpful and informative. (Profile 386)

- Tutors: Fantastic - quite radical and I felt that not getting to be taught by them would have been really disappointing.

- Students: All of them were lovely, but one student in particular (a 2nd year lawyer) really calmed me down and gave me her mobile to tell her how it all went because she wasn't going to be on duty during my interviews. (Profile 656)

- Tutors: Really friendly and really helpful. I treated the interview as more of a formal chat. It is a chance in a lifetime to talk about something which interests you with a tutor who knows so much about it. Just try and enjoy it!

- Students: Mostly friendly, and on the same 'wave length'! Great people who are in the same boat. (Profile 37)

- Tutors: Very nice, I only really spoke to them during my interviews, but they werent as scary as I thought they would be.

- Students: Very friendly and willing to help. (Profile 69)

- Tutors: Very friendly. The modern languages woman was a bit patronising, though.

- Students: They were also very nice. They were being paid £5 an hour to help, though. Some of them tried to give us advice and to say that the interviews aren't that bad. That's all very well, but you can't be lulled into a false sense of security by them; after all, they got in. (Profile 454)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[English Language and Literature] The form: Just be honest, and try to show some passion for your subject. That's what it's all about.

The interview: Relax. Make sure you've read some interesting things recently. Don't over-prepare though. Just open your mind and make sure that your passion for literature comes across loud and clear! (Profile 386)

[Human Sciences] Best advice is to just practise fielding awkward questions, fired at you by a kindly parent! Just practice talking, and thinking out loud. You can never prepare for the actual questions as there are an infinite number you could be asked. But try to prepare for the obvious ones which they usually ask first to get you settled. i.e, why oxford and why this course. Also go through your affirmations in your head, having an air of confidence in yourself and a belief that you can do it is excellent. If the interviewer questions your point, be prepared to defend it, and justify it if you are sure of the point you made. Never back down if just because he/she is an oxford proff.! (Profile 37)

[Law] I read a couple of bog-standard books about the legal system that I had stuck on my personal statement, and also (rather cynically) a book written by one of the law tutors at the college that I had got my Theologian (!) boyfriend to get out of the Social Sciences library. Nothing I did helped at all, or had any bearing on the interview - I felt like I had wasted my time. The tutors were at pains to point out that no legal knowledge was needed to do well in the interviews, which made me relax loads. (Profile 656)

Did you have to submit any written work prior to the interview?

[Human Sciences] 2 essays. 1 from Eng lit. A-level on a book called 'The Great Gatsby' looking at the social context of the jazz age. This showed awareness of other cultures. 2nd was titled 'Jurassic Park;Technically feasible, morally acceptable?'. This weighed up the pros and cons of cloning, bringing the important ethical element into the debate, while questioning the scientific aspect. (Profile 37)

[English Language and Literature] Two essays I think. One was on a little known poet, the other was on Mark Twain. I submitted them basically to show off my written skills. So choose a couple of good uns.

[Oriental Studies] I was asked to submit 2 pieces of written work in any subject I liked. Some friends from Oxford advised that Islamic Studies essays would show motivation, so I wrote one on Quranic Law and another on 'the sunna of the Prophet', and got them marked by the RS Dept of my old school. (Profile 419)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[English Language and Literature] One of them asked me to analyse a poem. The other two were just more general questinos. They want to see how you think. (Profile 386)

[Human Sciences] Is shopping the new religion? How can we tell by looking at stone tools and metal objects from the ancient civilizations and hunter gatheres, that they had a language? How important is a nuclear family in today's society? Is it ethically right to manipulate a feotus? How would this effect the gene pool of society? Many more which I cant remember… (Profile 37)

[Law] I had two interviews with two tutors that lasted 40 minutes each. They both had a 'helper' who were postgrads I think helping them out. They were running late for both interviews - I had to wait 40 minutes outside before the first and 20 outside for the second.

First one I was given something to look out outside about contracts and things like invitation to treat. All legal terminology was explained on the sheet, then we had to prepare responses to 5 different scenarios. This was the first thing we covered, then there were a couple of ethical questions that didn't really have any answers and then I was asked to define 5 pairs of words and explain differences between them. Second one I was given a sheet about the UN and a new country and I had to explain whether I would have allowed it to be part of the UN or not, then we had a debate about the smoking ban. The second one was much harder and I thought I'd done really well in the first but I honestly couldn't tell how the second one went - the interviewers were much more aggressive. (Profile 656)

[Mathematics] I was asked about why oxford and maths, what i enjoyed at A-Level, and about teaching (as thats what I want to do as a career). the conversations were mainly on maths tho, these included integration, differentiation, curve sketching, balls bouncing (mechanics) and a bit of probability (Profile 48)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

[English Language and Literature] If you *genuinely* love literature, come to Oxford, make the most of it and you'll have a great time. It's such an honour to be taught by tutors who are the best in their field. (Profile 386)

[Human Sciences]  Enjoy it, and live your subject for about 4 months before, by background reading and news items. Create a cuttings file, with every useful bit of info you may have gathered...it consolidates everything. (Profile 37)

[Oriental Studies] Start planning early. If you don't get in, it's not the end of the world. At the end of the day, success usually depends upon how hard an individual tries rather than which institution he ends up in. If you’re doing it for kudos, don't bother. (Profile 419)