Applying to Economics at Cambridge University

Economics at Cambridge University provides a sound understanding of core, pure and applied economics. However, while students may study economics in considerable depth in Cambridge’s specialised degree, they will also employ ideas and techniques from many other disciplines too; including history, sociology, mathematics and statistics, and politics.

Cambridge faculty - past and present - include some of the largest names in Economics, including Alfred Marshall and John Maynard Keynes. Notable faculty members have also been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics (Sir John Hicks, James Meade, Sir Richard Stone, Sir James Mirrlees and Amartya Sen)

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*A*A
- IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

How did you decide between Cambridge and Oxford?

I wanted to do straight economics, not economics + management/politics & philosophy. Also, I heard that the economics courses at Cambridge were more mathematical (which I think I would prefer) than the ones at Oxford. (Profile 241)

Wanted straight economics, not PPE or E+M (Profile 171)

Oxford didn't offer pure Economics (Profile 242)

They design interviews so that prep doesn't help, don't stress if your school isn't very good at this kind of thing, or you haven't done any. BUT, if you do prep you will feel much more confident going into the interview, which helps - I'd done so much prep I wasn't at all nervous going into the interview. (Profile 1208)

The best choice for me was cambridge because i liked their teaching style, facilities, general atmosphere and social atmosphere better than oxford. (Profile 50)

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

Oxbridge forms - keep them neat and dont go over the top on the personal statement addition part. Do a lot of reading (financial current affairs) and concentrate on at least one book to read (I recommend Schumacher's 'Small Is Beautiful'). (Profile 50)

Be absolutely on top of the stuff in the A-level syllabus. Read lots of books - I particularly like Paul Krugman's books. Also, there is an archive of his (very insightful) articles at: (Profile 241

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)

Make sure u have a sound grasp of economics and some knowledge of current affairs. My interview was more about thinking on my feet, so dont over-prepare, but dont take it too easy either. (Profile 239)

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

I was quite surprised at the questions- they were pretty standard fare. I was expecting some very scary, very very hard weird off beat questions, but they didn't come. Nothing you woudn't encounter in your standard textbook (Samuelson?). Thats not to say I waltzed through. I certainly messed up quite a few, and most of my answers were pretty unconvincing. To be honest, I felt my performance was pretty ordinary and I was surprised I got an offer. (Profile 241

1st interview with economics fellows, was given data, concentrated on macroeconomics particularly development and trade.

2nd interview with admissions tutor (classics fellow) general problem, which was in fact economic in nature - to do with funding the college. then discussion about deflation and a little economic history thrown in. (Profile 171)

Sketch: (3x-2)/(x^2-3x+2) 

Two train companies running from Cambridge to London (A and B), each has trains running every 20 minutes. Man arrives at Cambridge station between 8-9am each day (random time, all times are equally likely). After a few weeks he notices that he uses company A three times as much as company B. Give a possible train schedule that would explain this.

What would make the man more certain that this was the schedule?

5 pirates (in order of age) have to divide 100 coins between them using the following method; oldest pirate proposes a way of distributing the coins, if 50% or more vote in favour (they can vote for their own proposals), it is settled, if not, the oldest pirate is thrown overboard. This then continues with the next oldest pirate until the distribution is agreed. Assuming all the pirates are rational (trying to maximize their own payoffs) what will the first pirate propose?

Would pirate X accept is the first pirate offered Y instead?

I toss a coin but do not look at it, my three friends all look at it and each tell me whether it is heads or tails. However, 1/3 of the time, they are lying. Given that all three of them say it is heads, what are the chances that heads actually came up?

Had to talk about an economist article about opec overproducing oil, what they did, why they are doing it, and what will happen in the future. (Profile 1208)

Economics questions surprisingly. No general questions were asked, asked me to sketch a rather difficult graph which I messed up a bit, and then other economic stuff. It was mostly application of knowledge, but there was a bit of factual recall.  (Profile 239)


Applying to English at Cambridge University

The Cambridge English course is unique for combining full historical coverage with the chance to specialise and develop your own interests. In the first two years of your degree, students cover the full historical sweep of literature written in the English language from the medieval period to the present day. In the third year, students have the freedom to pursue the interests they have developed, by choosing from a range of specialist topics and undertaking independent, guided research on topics of their own devising. 

The course embraces all literature written in the English language, which means students can study American and post-colonial literatures alongside British literatures throughout; there are also options to specialise in either or both of these areas in the third year, and to study literature in other languages. The course also embraces all genres and periods, including writing by philosophers and essayists, as well as the more traditional genres of poetry, prose, and drama. 

The English course is divided into two parts. The first part gives students a strong foundational knowledge of literature across the centuries. The second allows students to explore their own interests in more depth. Manifold approaches flourish here – for example, in poetic and aesthetic theory, in postcolonial writing in English, in Renaissance texts as ‘material’ objects, in film and its links to literature. 

** NOTE - The structure of the undergraduate English course will be changing for entrants starting October 2020, for more information, please visit: 

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: A*AA
- IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Some people at my school were convinced that Oxford would be easier (based on the fact that they didn't require UMS marks and my school's track record) but I wanted to keep an open mind and base my decision purely on the course. I liked the fact that Cambridge had separate compulsory papers on literary theory and literature in other languages, both of which interested me. The structure - whistlestop tour for 2 years (with no exams at the end of the first year!), and then time in th 3rd year to specialise - was more appealing than Oxford's. (Profile 1031)

I wanted to apply to Oxford and had filled in a mock UCAS form with Oxford on it. Then the 'Oxbridge' tutor at the college where I studied suggested Cambridge due to the differences between studying English at the different institutions ie: not having to start at 1100, but rather 1300 AD (Profile 543)

The course at Cambridge had a more modern outlook. (Profile 451)

I only visited Cambridge and I fell in love with it, so I never considered Oxford. Also the three day interview thing at Oxford put me off a bit. (Profile 522)

I felt Cambridge (the place) to be more inspiring and more distinctive than Oxford, which seemed just like any other city. Also, I got to know a few Oxbridge undergraduates through reading a well-known newsgroup and thought the Cambridge students friendlier and more down-to-earth. (Profile 538)

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

Mock interviews can be helpful, but they're not essential - the important thing is to prepare yourself by reading widely, but not so widely that your head starts to spin, and go into those interviews still enjoying literature. Given that Cambridge asks for a lists of the texts studied at AS, it really does help to go over those. (Profile 1031)

The form: Try and be utterly honest about yourself. Enthusiasm about your chosen subject always helps and go into detail about where your interests lie within your subject.

The interview: Try and be as enthusiastic as possible about your subject, try and look excited when talking about your subject. If you are asked something you don’t understand, always tell the interviewer and they will always help you. Don’t treat the interview as an `interview`, try and think of it as a chat about something you enjoy talking about (i.e. your chosen subject). When walking in to the interview room say to yourself " i am going to enjoy this", that helped me to relax. (Profile 451)

The form: It's not really that much of a hassle. Lots of it is repeated from the UCAS form, so don't worry about it. Be clear.

The interview: Timed essays. Talks with teachers and fellow students. Try to have read a few of the classics and remember them. Be prepared for some verbal testing as well. Try unseen poetry/prose essays. (Profile 543)

The form: Well, keep revising it - I must have rewritten mine 10 times! Start entirely over again and just rewrite it - this is also helpful in cutting down the word count.

The interview: Read alot and be ready with a few authors/genres/movements that you know lots about and can discuss knowledgeably - the interviewers will, generally, take their cue from you, so it's good if you can initiate a discussion. (Profile 494)

The form: I don't see what there is to filling in the Cambridge application form that requires advice, as it just seems to me to be a case of filling in your name, address, grades, etc. That said, I strongly warn all candidates to SCOUR EVERY INCH OF THE FORM TO MAKE SURE WHICH SECTIONS NEED TO BE COMPLETED IN CAPITALS.

The interview: 1. Read lots of poetry, especially pre-20th century material.

2. Have lots of interesting things to say about your syllabus.

3. Have an interesting, slightly anecdotal story about why you applied to that particular college/university.

4. Get people - if your school can't do it, try your family, or even your friends - to ask you questions about your subject. Even if these questions don't come up, being able to answer them coherently and interestingly is good practice.

5. You don't need to choose a favourite book or writer (though keep in mind at least a couple of candidates) but make sure you have a favourite period/group/style. I had a few interesting things to say about Joyce, and so kept making the odd reference to him, but nothing ever came of it.

6. Make sure to focus your preparatory efforts on the subject rather than spending weeks writing an explanation for why you only got a B in GCSE shoemaking and didn't do the Duke of Edinburgh award. (Profile 538)

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

3 English essays. I submitted my coursework, because it was very long and reflected my own interests - I'd chosen the topic. I also sent a timed essay, plus one normal homework essay, both that I'd got As for. (Profile 494)

King's requested two pieces of recent written work, which was lucky, as I only *had* two pieces of recent written work. They were my AS-level essay 'Act III Scene (iii) is a Crucial Scene in Hamlet, Explore its Dramatic Importance on the Audience' (which scored an 'A' grade, I recall) and another essay, actually a practice exam question, about Philip Larkin's Whitsun Weddings. I hoped that they would represent two sides to my writing: the former essay having been weeks in the making, drafted and redrafted a thousand times; and the latter being totally off-the-cuff, penned (it was handwritten) in one hour with no subsequent revision at all.  (Profile 538)

I submitted my AS Shakespeare coursework on 'Othello' and a second essay on Coleridge's poetry. You're meant to submit stuff that's part of your normal schoolwork but, because I took Eng Lit off-timetable by myself, I wasn't really doing normal schoolwork - so the second essay was a bit of a long, rambling free project to be honest, and in hindsight I'm not that impressed with it. Other people in these profiles have submitted personal projects like this as their work - but I imagine it tends to be better just submitting (or tinkering) school essays… (Profile 1031)

I had to give in two pieces of written work. This was a bit of a hassle, since I had done my A level in 1 year and had only written timed essays. I had also completed my A level over two years before. So I re-wrote one of my mock exam essays and added bit in. I was also given an essay question by my old English tutor which I answered. Even thought they were marked, I never got a grade and was unsure if they were good enough. (Profile 543)

I submitted two essays. One was a critical appreciation of a Shakespeare Sonnet (73). The other was an analysis of Iago's speech patterns and contrasting them in different situations. (Profile 451)

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

I made a note of the interview questions I remembered as soon as I got home, specifically for inclusion on this website - hence the somewhat comprehensive nature of what follows... 

Interview 1: It seemed as if the interviewers were playing a bit of good cop/bad cop. Easy enough at first: "Describe your school" "Why King's?” "Why Cambridge?" "Do you have any brothers or sisters at university?" "Did either of your parents go to university?" Tell us about your English classes" "What were some books you have read recently outside your A-level course?" Amongst my list was classic medieval play Sir Gawain and the Green Knight "Did you study that on your own?" Yes, it was a translation "So you haven't read it in the original Anglo-Saxon then?" "What books are you studying currently on your A-level course?" Then the harder stuff, as the tide of conversation turns towards Othello. I studied Hamlet at AS "How are Hamlet and Othello different as characters?" I mentioned at some point about Othello being a noble black man corrupted by evil white men "That's *one* interpretation. Wouldn't you say however it is very much a modern interpretation?" I rambled on about Coleridge and alternative interpretations, but ended up restating that IMO Othello was a noble man who was the victim of Iago's machinations "So you consider Othello the victim then? I would have said *Desdemona* was more like the victim, after all, she was *killed* by Othello” But they're all victims of Iago really "Would you say Iago is a victim?" The unseen poetry is brought out. "What do you think this poem is about?" "What do you think is meant by 'a maiden true, and fair'?" Someone honest and virtuous "And faithful, as well?" "What do you think is meant by 'two, three' at the end?" "That's all. Do you have any questions you would like to ask us?" 

Interview 2: "How do you feel your last interview went?" "I apologise if we go over some of the same ground - what questions did they ask you?" they asked me why I applied to Cambridge, to King's, what my school was like, then they asked about Othello, about a piece of unseen poetry... "what texts are you currently studying at A-level?" Othello, war poets, Songs of Innocence & Experience, I'm writing an essay about Richard Llewellyn and Patrick McCabe... "there's lots of poetry there, but do you read any pre-20th century poetry on your own?" Yes "which authors do you like?" the Romantics, especially Wordsworth and Coleridge. Now we were into the real 'English' part of the interview again, and I felt a lot more confident discussing my particular area of interest than I had Othello (as I'd missed a lot of the reading of that play in class through illness, etc.) "What do you find particularly interesting about Coleridge?" I mentioned the poem The Lime Tree Bower My Prison "Can you remember any particular imagery from that poem? Don't worry if you can't" "You mentioned that Wordsworth writes more about inanimate objects. Now, imagine I hadn't read any Wordsworth, what's of interest to me about inanimate objects? I might think his poems are about stones or something..." "Would you say Wordsworth is religious?" Yes "Would you say Wordsworth is Pantheistic?" Silence "Do you know what Pantheistic means?" "So if Wordsworth is religious, then why doesn't he write about God?" Now, despite all the idiotic things I've probably said by now, all the holes in my knowledge that have been unearthed and the great amount of time that it has been shown that I need to root around in the Mothers' Union jumble sale that is my mind to come up with anything of any value or insight, I'm already feeling a *lot* happier. I've been discussing a subject I like, the interviewers seem genuinely interested in what I have to say and I feel a resonance of sorts with them. The unseen poetry is brought out. "What do you think the poem is about? Take as long as you want, as it's quite difficult" "Where do you think the evidence is in the text that it is all a metaphor?" "Do you know what firmament means?" "What does the cauldron symbolise, do you think?" "What does the breaking up of the island symbolise?" "Do you have any questions you'd like to ask?" And that was it. No questions were asked about my philosophy on life, my political allegiances, my hobbies, anything to do with my UCAS personal statement, anything to do with either of the essays I sent in or anything else I had been told that was par for the course. (Profile 538)

To what extent can all poems be considered fragments (based on something I hadn't considered in my Coleridge essay)? Discuss Shakespeare's representation of Italians (the interviewer noted my Italian name). What are the advantages and disadvantages of looking at and ignoring context when dealing with works of literature? What was the last book you read? (Profile 1031)

'Tell me about your school' was asked at both colleges. The worst question was in my 2nd interview at King's when I was handed a poem and asked to comment. I didn't understand it, my mind froze up, and I just had to make something up! (Profile 494)

How often do you read? I was asked about points I made in my essays. I was asked to discuss recent books i had read. I was asked whether I thought the context of poems was important (i.e. the date the poem was written, who wrote the poem etc.), I was asked about my extracurricular activities, and I was also asked about my lack of an "illustrious" set of GCSE results. (Profile 451)


Applying to Computer Science Department at Oxford University

Computer Science at Oxford University can be studied for three years (BA) or four years (Master of Computer Science). The fourth year allows the study of advanced topics and an in-depth research project. Oxford students do not need to choose between the three-year and four-year options when applying to the course; all students apply for the four-year course, and then decide at the start of the third year whether they wish to continue to the fourth year (which is subject to achieving a 2:1 at the end of the third year).

“Oxford Computer Science concentrates on creating links between theory and practice. The coursework covers a wide variety of software and hardware technologies and their applications. Oxford is looking for students with a real flair for mathematics, which you can develop into skills that can be used both for reasoning rigorously about the behaviour of programs and computer systems, and for applications such as scientific computing. Perspective computer science students can also gain practical problem-solving and program design skills; the majority of subjects within the course are linked with practical work in our well-equipped laboratory.” For more information on Computer Science at Oxford University, visit:

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Preferred the oxford course- more theoretical. At the time i was deciding i didn't like the idea of having to study 50% natural sciences as you do at cambridge. Also, i've lived most of my life just outside cambridge, so wanted to get away to somewhere new, preferably somewhere with a better nightlife! (Profile 134)

Oxford was more convenient, I could get to it easily by car or train. I also liked the atmosphere a lot in Oxford, although i didn't visit Cambridge. (Profile 45)

1. Allegedly best for Computer Science
2. Very attractive
3. I've heard they have a particularly large music scene there. (Profile 82)

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)

Preparation tips for the Oxford Computer Science interview: 

1. Do an Oxford specimen paper
2. Revise identities from maths, especially trigonmetric identities, which are hardest to remember. If you haven't done a statistics module, ask your teacher to teach you about 'combinations', e.g. to number of ways of arranging the letters in 'BIOLOGY' - there are ALWAYS questions like this.Most importantly, make sure you do the integration and differentiation sections from the Pure 3 module as well as Algebra, they asked some fairly hard questions about this in the exam.
3. The best advice I can give is: DON'T PREPARE TOO MUCH. The interviewers are looking for people who think for themselves, and will know if candidates have prepared too much. In your interview make sure you show enthusiasm. (Profile 82)

Brush up on your mathematics and logic. The specimen papers for the Maths test are nothing like the real thing, so be well prepared for anything. A good thing to revise, even if you haven't studied it, is permutations and combinations, these seem to appear a lot. (Profile 45)

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)

What questions were you asked? 

In most interviews the first 2 questions were 'why computer science', 'why oxford', then it went to maths problems: (by interview)

1st - asked to write down 3 consecutive numbers and spot a pattern. minimum number of breaks needed to break a choc bar into single pieces.
2nd - number of rectangles that can be fitted into a n by m rectangle. this was quite complex, and i got somewhat lost on a bit the tutor was explaining to me.
3rd - a worded problem that turned out to be a sorting algorithm with a difference to normal. then some graph problems
4th - logic problems - which of a group of statements are true or false (Profile 699)

Why do you want to study computer Science? Why do you want to come to Oxford? Plus logical problems involving such things as geometric series', combinations and probability. (Profile 45)

In my second interview: * What locus would the midpoint of a ladder make if it started vertically against a wall and slid down to the horizontal (working it out formulaically you get the equation of a circle) * What is bigger, (n+1)^n or n^(n+1). I just took the log of both of them. (Profile 82)

Additional thoughts on the Oxford Computer Science interview:

I had 2 [interviews] at my college and 1 at St Edmund Hall. The first was purely discussing computational/maths problems on a sheet we got the day before. We had a choice from a variety of questions (I think only Worcester has this system) and I chose questions about fitting 'L' shapes on a chess board, the most efficient way to sort a list of unordered numbers and the number of combinations of fitting shopping bags inside each other! (Profile 82)

Apart from a couple of personal statement based questions, most of the questions were maths problems, mostly one easy-ish one to start with, and then one or two harder ones. I had 2 tutors interviewing me in all but 1 interview; mostly one would be asking a question while the other took notes. Most of the time the way to solve the question was to start with simple cases, and work up. The tutors prompted me if I seemed to be getting lost, and I tried to say what i was thinking in terms of solving the problem - which at least showed I wasn't just staring blankly at the sheet of paper. (Profile 699)

I had four interviews, two for Mathematics (one at St John's and one at Somerville) and two for computer science (again, one at St John's and one at Somerville). All of them, apart from the Computer Science one (because I couldn't find the room and got there late) started off with some general discussion about why I wanted to study Computer Science and why I wanted to come to Oxford, then went on to logic/mathematical problsm. (Profile 45)

What did you wear to the interview?

I wore a blue smart/casual shirt, beige trousers and brown shoes. I purposely didn't want to dress up too much, but didn't want to risk dressing down too much either. All I can say is I can't imagine the interviewers care at all. I personally wouldn't advise wearing a suit because it makes you seem overprepared, and more concerned over presentation than your chosen subject. (Profile 82)

un-scruffy jeans and a nice top - ie not a t-shirt. I didn't feel comfortable in a suit, and all the advice I'd heard was that most people don't dress that smartly. Which was true.(Profile 699)

I wore a smart blue shirt with pen in breast pocket, black jeans with belt and dark school shoes. This outfit combined with neat hair and glasses made me look quite proffessional and well organised without looking like I overdressed for the interview. (Profile 45)


Applying to History at Cambridge University

Cambridge University has one of the largest and best history faculties in the world, and their course reflects the quality and breadth of interest of its teaching staff. A History degree gives students the opportunity to explore the past from many different angles – including political, economic, social and cultural history – and to explore  the interaction between history and other disciplines, such as politics, anthropology and archaeology.

There is ample scope throughout to pursue personal interests and experiment with different historical approaches. Some paper options are shared with other courses, such as Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, and Politics and International Relations and specialist papers allow students to work with a variety of source materials as varied as Hollywood movies and Renaissance art.

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: A*AA
- IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Initially, I was going to go for Oxford as I thought I'd have a better chance of getting in there (dodgy GCSEs and all!) Visited a friend of mine at Oxford and was not as taken with the place as I thought I'd be. Spent some time in and around Cambridge and gradually realised that it was the place for me, so agonised over which college to go for and eventually applied. Very much an informed decision. (Profile 269)

Cambridge seemed more like a 'people's place' (i.e. a lot more friendly), had a better syllabus and Oxford had an awful representative at a 'University Day' in Manchester. (Profile 262)

Aside from everything else, I really want to be highly active in the theatre scene at university and Cambridge is renowned for the opportunities it presents to its undergraduates for Theatre. (Profile 271)

Greater breadth in history syllabus, better reputation for research and MUCH nicer city (Profile 278)

Why did you choose this college/make an open application?

After some careful thought, I decided it was between Peterhouse, Trinity and King's. An odd combination I know, but those were the three that seemed to strike a chord. In the end felt Peterhouse would perhaps be too small for me, Trinity was perhaps a bit too traditional (although I liked the size). It was actually on the day I went to look around Trinity that I passed King's (in the middle of June, birds singing, sun shining) and was absolutely taken with it. I don't think it was a particularly spiritual experience, more a case of the place being absolutely stunning and John Maynard Keynes had been there. (Profile 269)

1- Accepted post-A-Level applications
2- Accepted AAB for History
3- The theatre there is excellent (Sam Mendes is part of the Alumni!)
4- The History department there is excellent and it takes on more undergraduates for History than most other colleges. I learn best through debate and discussion and thought having more Historians in my college would give me more chance to do this. (Profile 271)

It's modern, and seemed both lively and friendly in the prospectus. Also, it was not right in the middle of the town, so there are far fewer tourists.

It is worth visiting the college to which you apply, since this is the best way of finding out whether you might feel comfortable there. Equally, some find differences between colleges almost imperceptible - you find this out by visiting friends in other colleges. (Profile 279)

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

Don't prepare or predict or hope, the odds are that you will answer questions you weren't expecting better than those you were. There will be unexpected questions, but they won't be impossible, just questions that require you to think. You are not hurried. (Profile 269)

Read up on histriographical issues around your topic, feel confident about the essays you sent in and be prepared to answer questions off them and same goes for what you say in your personal statement (Profile 271)

Know a lot! Sounds obvious, but the dons really will expose false claims to be a world authority on 19th century Peckham. I had quite an uneasy moment, when they asked for some listed empirical evidence to support broad sweeping statement I had just made about the Vienna settlement, at which point I had to confess I didn't really know that much about it... Also, try to get genuinely interested in period outside A-level syllabus - I'm doing the 17th century for the exam, but have spent most of the year reading about the 9th - 13th centuries, and could thus talk fairly knowledgably in response to quite detailed questions. (Profile 278)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your interview(s)?

WARNING! King's as of 2002 have introduced tests in all Humanities subjects, these last approximately 1 hour. One cannot revise for these, just trust that if you can think (and write) analytically you will get through it, they will be general questions related to the subject you have applied to read. 'Is political history the history of government?' was the one I chose of three options. (Profile 269)

A test comparing three documents (Profile 271)

Hour long essay question based around three short biographical sketches of monarchs. (Profile 278)

Comprehension of a passage of historical writing from a choice of maybe half a dozen. We were encouraged to make notes and think about date of creation, provenance, etc. (Profile 279)

How was/were in general your interview(s)?

There were four History fellows in all, I had two interviews with two fellows in each.

- The first was initially painless I was allowed to speak for some time on the US Civil Rights Movement and thought I sounded fairly clever until I was interrupted and asked about the class system in Britain. Questions about class in Britain can take 2 directions, one is fairly straightforward where one can talk about class barriers diminishing in recent times, the other will allow you to claim class barriers have broken down, but you will then be asked to elaborate on that. I was asked to elaborate at length. The final question was 'So how would a Marxist view your opinions on class?' At that point I very nearly confused Marxism with Fascism and all of the nerves I hadn't felt (surprisingly) up to that point came flooding in.

- The second interview was however, more intimidating with both interviewers looking like stereotypical Cambridge professors. I was actually asked easier questions, but was MUCH more nervous. (Profile 269)

The first only touched upon my essay and turned into debate on Chartism; the second was more general, as the essay I submitted was not in a time period covered by the interviewer. (Profile 262)

First I had a test comparing three documents. Then I had my first interview, almost totally history based. They asked me about one of my essays, histography based on the essay topic (the Holocaust, excellent to talk about in terms of histiographical debate) then some questions about my British History course and comparing figures from both periods.

Second interview had some questions like this as well, as well as one of my other two essays. I would say this interview was harder as the two guys doing it gave little way as to how I was doing, you have to stick to your guns and believe that you are doing well, even if they don't indicate either way. (Profile 271)

I had 2 interviews at Queens, one about my written work and one general one. I had one interview at Newnham. The interviews were all in offices. When I went to Newnham I got to meet current students as well which was really helpful (Profile 266)

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

The first interview has been mentioned above. The second interview asked all the questions I had been hoping for on International Relations following WW1, but I couldn't answer them properly despite knowing plenty about the period. I saved myself in the end by talking at length about Jews and Blacks in America, obviously a wild question that they thought I wouldn't be able to answer. Thank God I have random areas of interest! (Profile 269)

"What do you think of when you hear the word 'England'?" "Why do you think the west has gained cultural imperialism in recent years?" "Name an academic theory you are interested in and your take on it." (Profile 262)

A lot of different things, some about what I had studied and some more general. Some were a bit weird. Not really at all what I had expected to be asked to be honest. (Profile 266)

The first interview was the 'general one'. I was expecting questions on my interests and hobbies, but apart from one question on voluntary work I have done, it was history-orientated. I was asked (roughly): what does History teach us? why is History important to you? if you could keep objects from the present for the future, what would they be? 

I can't remember the other questions, except I did talk about the uses and abuses of History, so there must have been a question on this! Just before the second interview, which was the 'subject' one, I had to read and annotate a passage of text. I was led by one of the students through the garden and into a house with the widest front door I have ever seen. The interview itself was with the tutors who share the Director of Studies post. I was asked to summarise the work I had sent in, and then was asked specific questions (roughly): did Henry's usurpation in 1485 mark the start of a more modern monarchy? did the participants of the Indian Mutiny look back on history to justify their aims or actions? did you read all the books mentioned in your extended essay? For this, I said 'no', because firstly, I had listed about 12 books in my bibliography so reading them all would have been stupid and taken way too much time, and secondly, I know that's not the aim of the History degree. I said that I was selective, using the books in a reference-type way to counter arguments that I came across. I think he liked this answer :-) Also, I was asked to summarise the argument of the author of the passage I had chosen. I got a bit of it glaringly wrong, although the other interviewer helped me through it. I'm sure I was asked a few other questions, but I can't remember them at the moment! (Profile 279)


Applying to Classics at Oxford University

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees at Oxford, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy, a flexibility which makes Oxford’s Literae Humaniores different from most other Classics courses.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: AAA (with A’s in Latin and Greek, if taken)
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB (with A in Latin, if taken)
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 666 at HL (and an aggregate of 12 in Latin and Greek, if taken)

Why did you choose to apply for Classics at Oxford?

I preferred the course offered at Oxford, and also the city, which does not feel so university dominated. (Profile 293)

Oxford had the better reputation for be honest I didn't think I had a cat in hells chance so I lumped for the one I'd heard more about. I'd visited Oxford once with my cousin just to see the museums and to this day I've never even visited Cambridge; I should make the effort really. (Profile 1067)

Classics has always been my passion, I like the balance of language, history, philosophy etc. on the oxford course and it seemed a course which offered an extremely widereaching range of options and encorporated aspects of many different subjects. (Profile 918)

Supposedly, the Classics course is the best in the country, and I liked the flexibility of the course options with things like linguistics and philosophy thrown into the mix. Possibly also because it was "expected" by the school after my GCSE results. (Profile 295)

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

I'd say practice interviews were probably the best overall preparation. Whatever help your school is prepared to offer, snap it up. Being able to present yourself as confident without coming over as arrogant is also very important.

Equally, I found being fully aware of the application process and the interview process was useful. Knowing deadlines and dates is essential and meeting them critical. It's a bit of hassle getting the UCAS form off early but after you can sit back and relax a little.

In yourself, sometimes it is good to sit back and think a little, asking myself a few questions over a beer in my local pub helped me...not that I'm recommending that of course. It can be good to really ask yourself why you want to study your subject and what you really want.

If you're comfortable in yourself you're much more likely to come across well in an interview and it will only help you.

If you have to sit any form of exam, then find what resources you can from the internet, from the university, or from your school. Do practice and revise because it will boost your confidence if, during the interviews, you're comfortable with whatever written or oral tests you get given. Being fantastic in the interview probably won't be enough if you flunk the tests and the tests (in the case of Classics at least) are less of a variable than the interviews. (Profile 1067)

Don't be afraid to argue your point of view, even if the interviewers are disagreeing. (Profile 293)

You don't need to know loads of esoteric facts or be stunningly articulate as long as you are clear in your head of why you love your subject and show a genuine interest in it. Practise interviews are probably a good idea although bear in mind they most likely won't be like an interview at all, more like an intellectual chat. (Profile 918)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your interview(s)? 

I had to do a Latin unseen. I prepared by revising my vocabulary and grammar. (Profile 293)

Two written essay's pertaining to the subject. It is helpful in the run-up to the application process if you bear in mind you'll need some marked written work. Speak to subject teachers about the best course of action. (Profile 1067)

When I arrived at Oxford I had to do a language translation paper. I had to translate two pieces of latin which they said were standard A-level latin but were so much harder than anything I'd done before! (Profile 918)

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

In my Balliol interview I was asked a question regarding one of my essay's. It was about the nature of Kings and Tyrants in Ancient Greece, I was asked to explain why I had voiced a rather throw away opinion in my essay. I was then asked what impressions I had of a passage from Plato's 'Meno' regarding the desire for good things. My St.Johns interview was reasonably thorough, I was asked for my opinion on a disputed line in Sophocle's Antigone, which I ascribed to Ismene eventually, my thoughts on the Spartan disaster at Pylos and my impressions of a rather ugly statue of an old Greek man. The perfect preparation for the drive home listening to 'Dark side of the moon' if you ask me… (Profile 1067)

Magdalen - Questions ranged from "Why do you think Cicero wrote down the actio secunda of the case against Verres?" to "Do you eat meat?" Christchurch - I've completely forgotten now, it was that dull. Oriel - "Do you think that by applying the methods of music teaching to all forms of education we might bring about social and economic reform?" (gulp) Oriel was the only college to refer to my personal statement at all. (Profile 295)

I had 3 interviews. 1 philosophy interview on the evening I arrived, 1 subject interview and 1 ancient history interview (at Oriel). In my subject interview at Jesus, I was asked why I was applying for Classics and specific questions relating to points I had made in my essay (the interviewers were arguing against my points). In my philosophy interview, which lasted 20 minutes, I was asked how to define living. Unexpectedly I enjoyed it, as I had time to develop an argument, and the interviewer quite often interrupted to disagree with me, which guided me onto another track. (Profile 293)

Loads on an intellectual level, all very unpredictable, things like "In this poem what does the poet suggest is the nature of stars and planets" and "do you think socrates was a sophist". Nothing generic like you why do you want to study the subject and I personally had hardly any mention of my personal statement. (Profile 918)


Applying to PPE - Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, often referred to as PPE, is one of the most popular courses of study at Oxford University. PPE was born of the conviction that study of the great modern works of economic, social, political and philosophical thought would have a transformative effect on students’ intellectual lives, and thereby on society at large. This conviction remains as firm today as it was then. As the world has evolved, so has PPE. The course brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding the world around us, developing skills useful for a wide range of careers and activities.

PPE is a highly flexible degree which allows students to shape their own path: they may choose to specialise in two branches at the end of the first year, or continue with all three. Students can also explore a wide variety of disciplines under the overarching headings of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL

Why did you choose this course?

Want to go into Politics, have always loved Philosophy and was good at Economics at school. (Profile 720)

It just seems to me that all of the disciplines corroborate and compliment one another perfectly! I also really enjoy the study of each of them. (Profile 658)

This is what I really want to do. I think it is worth pointing out I applied for this course at all of the universities I went for. Some people at my interview only applied for PPE because that is what Oxford offered. This way round made writing my personal statement a lot easier. (Profile 602)

I was originally planning to apply for law but then began to really enjoy my politics a-level course. I also developed an interest in philosophy and the economics seemed to add relevance to the package. (Profile 570)

I've always wanted to study Politics (as in, I told people I was gonna be PM when I was 10), decided I wanted to add Economics in my early teens. I was planning on doing two undergrad degrees at the same time (which is possible where I'm from) and was considering taking some Philosophy classes. Then I discovered PPE and it was just perfect for me. (Profile 908)

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

Not much of the prep i did for the interview actually helped but it makes you feel confident which is really important. Make sure you read up on current events and that you can draw graphs and find the intercepts etc. (Profile 720)

If you have named a book of your personal statement, think laterally about what quesitons they will ask you. It won;t be 'What do you think of this book?' This means you have to know it really well. Also, make sure you know a lot of detail about any recent political or economic events, especially if you haven't studied the subject before because they will ask you about it assuming you will know what they are talking about. (Profile 602)

Read the newspapers and ensure you know why you are interested in your subject but don't try and learn much about it unless you have studied it. You just need to be able to explain what it is about it that interests you and appear to have not made up your explanation!! (Profile 570)

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 analitically, so you might try that. (Profile 908)

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

In Philosophy, I had to look at a sheet of arguments and decide whether they were valid or not, then we moved onto my personal statement.

In economics, it was basic theory about inflation and exchange rates but based on current real life issues. Then I was set a problem about imperfect market knowledge. (Profile 602)

Whether "Do not do what is morally wrong" is a good law. To choose a political issue and talk about it. In general about mergers and takeovers. (Profile 720)

I actually had six interviews. At Christ Church I had 2 interviews on the Monday, one with a politics and economics tutor, one with a philosophy tutor. I found out that I had been summoned by 2 other colleges on the day I was meant to leave, Oriel and Mansfield so i went to these. At Mansfield I had an interview with three tutors all at once and at Oriel I had three interviews with the specific tutors, which was very probing.

My interviews were all based around puzzles or challenges. A few economics tutors asked me to draw graphs on the spot, like y= 5x/2. Philosophy had logical puzzles, you had to deduce the correct answer from various statements. Politics was discussions on a certain political event which i had to read about. (Profile 113)

politics- something from personal statement i was asked to expand on a concept.

economics- discussion followed by an AS/top GCSE level maths question. 

philosophy- discussion on moral dilemma/laws. (Profile 658)

Well, economics was the first; I was asked what aspects of my syllabus interested me, so I talked around the submitted assay while the tutor argued with me and also the minimum wage debate. In Philosophy I was asked to discuss a hyperthetical case about identity, which went off to a tandem of the nature of truth. Finally, Politics he asked about any texts I had read, at which point I was able to talk about the dull, yet worthy book I'd been ploughing through. Then there was discussion of coalition governments, domestic power and the difference in left and right. (Profile 116)

For Politics, I got a set of graphs 20 minutes in advance. When I came in, I was just told to talk about them, which caught me off-guard but I managed. I then had to give the argumentation of why those things were correlated. Then for Philosophy, I got a thought-experiment-puzzle-thing during the interview and I had to talk about what people would do and why. For Economics I got a set of questions about game theory 20 minutes in advance. During the interview I had to explain what I had done and why, and when we got to the questions I hadn't done yet I had to do them out loud. (Profile 908)

What was your general impression of the college that you applied to/any others you visited?

Christ Church was beautiful and the dining room was used in Harry Potter!

Oriel is not in one geographical area some parts are in a different place and Mansfield is a little bit out of the city centre and quite small. (Profile 113)

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 908)

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

Read your subject- not because you will talk about it at interview (well i didn't), but because; a) it's your subject you should find it interesting and want to read it anyway, b) it shows through in you're intellegence, analysis and terminology used etc, c) it will make you feel much more prepared and calm before the interview. (Profile 658)

Don't be put off by thinking your GCSEs aren't good enough of that it is too much work. If you think you are capable of getting in, try. (Profile 602)

Know your subject matter. Honestly, don't try and name drop or bluff, they will latch onto anything you say and argue with it...I don't know how I got away with a lot of what I mentioned.

Know your material, don't have your heart set on it (like me) and RELAX. Be very enthusiastic in the interviews, and, if stumped - use the magic words: "Well, I'm not familiar with that subject area but my first thought/instinct would be to say......" It goes down far better than sitting getting red in silence. (Profile 116)


Applying to Computer Science at Cambridge

Cambridge University was a pioneer of computer science and continues to lead its development. There are more than 1,000 specialist computing and advanced technology companies and commercial laboratories in the area (known as ‘Silicon Fen'). A number of local firms and start-ups support our teaching and employ our graduates.

Computer science courses are broad and deep – giving skills to create future technology. At Cambridge, all aspects of modern computer science are covered, along with the underlying theory and foundations in economics, law and business. You will also develop practical skills, such as programming (in various languages, eg ML, Java, C/C++, Prolog) and hardware systems (eg chip design using Verilog).

The following tips come from applicants across numerous colleges including Christ’s, Churchill, Emmanuel, Fitzwilliam, Gonville and Caius, King’s, Pembroke, Robinson, St. Catharine’s, St. John’s, and Trinity Hall.

For additional information about applying to Computer Science at Cambridge, please visit:

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Cambridge was prettier, had a better reputation for my course and was easier to get to from London. (Profile 292)

Cambridge has better rep. for computing. (Profile 103)

Cambridge seems to be better for more science-y subjects than Oxford is. Had an open day at each of them and the computing departments I saw seemed to be better equipped than at oxford, but there probably isn't much difference. (Profile 105)

I never considered Oxford. When I was looking for universities rated highly for my subject, both by word of mouth and newspaper league tables, Cambridge consistently came up. (Profile 127)

Cambridge seemed to have the better courses and the colleges looked better to stay in than at Oxford (Profile 101)

Cambridge was ranked as number 1 for computer science so it influenced in my choice. (Profile 454)

Went round it on an Open Day, so it was the only one I really knew about!

On a more 'serious' note, I liked the fact that Churchill was modern - you could actually walk on the grass. :) I thought it would be good for me as Cambridge's CompSci department is gradually moving itself out towards Churchill. The college had a friendly atmosphere. I think that about sums it up (Profile 97)

The Cambridge course appealed to me more (less theory based) (Profile 99)

Do you have any tips in terms of interview preparation? 

Lads be relaxed. Be well rested. 1 nite of rest beforehand is more beneficial than a nite studying just b4 the interview. DON'T study minutes before the interview, the mind can't think of anything else afterwards and tends to focus on what it just learned. Get a friend or family member to go with you, they calm and support you. Do some reading into your subject. Better still find out what books are compulsory reading for undergrads. e.g. 'an introduction to computer science' by Les Goldschlager.

Have a list of 3 or 4 reasons [about] why you want to go to the college. DON’T lie, unless you lie well. Find reasons you believe in. It's much better to find real reasons, you have them, you may just not know it.

STEP 1/2/3 mathematics papers can help you understand the possible level of question you could be asked. - STEP 3 is really hard, don't be put off.

Computer science is mostly pure mathematics so ensure those areas of your maths are well revised - that is what you'll be tested on. (Profile 100)

Well try and get at least one practice interview with someone, just so you get to experience having to make reasonably intelligent and coherent conversation on the spot. If you have relevant work experience then be prepared to discuss what you learnt from it. Expect to be asked some sort of Maths-related question/problem - you can't really revise for this, but remember to take your time and think about it and if you don't understand it, ask the interviewer to explain it more thoroughly. It's better to work it out eventually with help, rather than trying to bluff your way through it! (Profile 97)

What questions were you asked? 

Lots: Questions about proof and reasoning in the "thinking skills" test. Things like doing jigsaws in your head and working out all the possible solutions. 24 x 7 in the general interview. A series of sort-of-mathematical logic questions in the subject interview. (Profile 455)

5 mathematical questions, 1 3D orientation question, and 1 article reading question; I had 1 interview with 2 people, the admissions and the course tutors. I came super prepared with months of studying about computers and guess what happened, they asked me 0 questions about computers, they set me out with 7 logic questions to work out i got 5 out of 7 and needed help with the other 2 until finally I worked them out. The tutors where very friendly and helpful. (Profile 454)

In the first: Resistance, calculus, probability In the second: How does a router work, show me a sort algorithm, how efficient is it? Show me a search algorithm, how efficient is it? How can it be improved? Whats the efficiency of the new one? What programming have you done? How does this work [choosing one of my examples]. What are you most proud of? (Profile 62)

Additional tips for Computer Science interview:

The informal interview was all chit-chat. What would I contribute to the college if i joined. If i could only do 3 things what would they be. e.g. football, rowing and whateva. The interviewer contradicted me at one point and though I was warned of this it hasn't occurred to me until now, that this could have been a test. My response was amicable and I simply explained why I thought I could do something which he said there would not be time for. I also explained how. Think of your own scenarios to practice. Why did I pick Churchill? etc etc. like any uni interview. The formal interview was about my subjects. They asked me my favourite A-level. I replied Maths and explained why. They asked me about the subject specific reading I had done + what I thought. Then the other teacher (there were 2 in the formal interview, 1 in the informal one) gave me the problem. It was testing, but the teacher guided me through whenever I got stuck. The bad news was by this point I was quite tired already and my mind occasionally wandered. (Profile 100)


Applying for Chemistry at Oxford University

Teaching and research are closely linked on the course: Oxford has one of the leading chemistry departments in the world with state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories and world-class research in a broad range of areas including: synthesis and catalysis; medicinal and biological chemistry; sustainable energy; advanced materials; innovative measurement; and theoretical and computational chemistry. Students starting in 2020 will be taught an exciting new practical course in our recently-built lab. The department has an outstanding track record in commercialising the innovative work of research staff, which has raised millions of pounds for the University.

The MChem is a four-year course and is not modular, in the sense that the subject is taught and examined as a whole, enabling us to explore the links within the subject. The core material is taken by all students, with opportunities to specialise later in the course. The fourth year (Part II) is devoted exclusively to research – a distinctive feature of Chemistry at Oxford since 1916.

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: A*A*A (including Chemistry and Mathematics) with both A*s in science subjects and/or Mathematics. A-level students applying to study Chemistry at Oxford would be expected to achieve A*A*A. The A*s must both be in the following science subjects: Chemistry, Mathematics (with either Statistics, Mecanics, or Decision Mathematics modules)
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB (including Chemistry and Mathematics)
- IB: 40 (including core points) with 7 in HL Chemistry and EITHER 6/7 in HL Mathematics, OR 7 in SL Mathematics (Analysis & Approaches) plus a second science with 7 in HL

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

Thoroughly revise all your current A-Level content. Don't think you are going to have an interview that asks you about your hobbies and why you chose the university, because from my experience that just ain't gonna happen. It will be technical, and you guessed it, will be all chemistry. As you will be hoping to study chemistry for 4 years there, they don't want someone who doesn't know their stuff, they will ask you testing questions. The basics are essential, know all your bond angles and stuff like that. It is likely you will be asked organic mechanisms and you may have to draw them. Also know about bonding. Chemistry is not all you need to know, you need to be able to think logically, as you saw in the door question I was asked. Be prepared for everything, I know that is not possible but it is a true statement! (Profile 72)

I learned the parts of the syllabus we had not yet covered in class (in my case Further Organic). It is difficult to prepare for as the questions are designed to be unfamiliar. It came in useful learning the top half of the periodic table; I was asked to give the electronic structure of Boron and Nitrogen. (Profile 732)

Know AS chemistry really well, and the A2 stuff you've done so far. I wouldn't bother learning stuff off the syllabus - they are testing how you deal with new info and concepts, and how you apply what you know in other areas, not how much you've learnt. It's not like an exam where you have to be able to just recite some things parrot fashion - they really are looking for understanding. (Profile 909)

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

I actually had two interviews, one at my first choice college, Balliol and one at Christ Church. I stayed at Balliol College for 4 days and as you can imagine alot of the time is spent doing nothing (unless you use your time productively!) Both my interviews were of a technical nature and purely about chemistry. I can't remember being asked anything about my personal life at all.

My first interview was at Balliol and I was interviewed by 3 people, once from each branch or chemistry (organic, inorganic and physical). They were very friendly and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible, even though I was nervous as hell. It was impossible not to look at one of the interviewers, as they sat in an arc around me. The room was nice and cosy, this made me feel better. My second interview was at Christ Church. Yet again, 3 interviewers, one from each major branch. Again, 3 very friendly blokes who made me feel comfortable. The room was nice, like a living room in fact.

Both my interviews were of a technical chemistry nature. At my first interview I was first interviewed by the organic chemistry tutor. He asked me about alcohols, aldehydes and ketones and the way in which they can be distinguished between each other both chemically and physically. I think I also had to write some oxidation of alcohols equations down on a piece of paper too. i can't remember if I had to do a mechanism or not but I think I did. The first thing the inorganic tutor did was hold up two molecules in front of me (models obviously). At first sight and to a none chemist they would appear the same but infact they were optical isomers (one being the mirror image of the other - a chiral centre). He asked about the effects this has in nature and pharmaceuticals. That is all I can remember from the inorganic chap. I was only asked one thing by the physical chemistry tutor and in my opinion I made a serious cock up and I didn't get the grasp of what was being said. I found out afterwards that the same thing had been discussed on some TV lectures (I wish I had seen it!) Anyway I was posed this scenario: There are 3 doors in a line and behind one of the doors is a sports car which you can win. Initially you go and stand behind the middle door and choose it. At this point someone opens the left hand door and you see that there is no car behind it. To maximise your chance of winning the car do you stay behind the middle door and choose it or do you move to the door to the right and choose that??? I had absolutely no idea what he was getting at, I knew it was something to do with probability but I knew there would be a catch. Anyway after I finally got the scenario worked out in my head I said the door to the right. He asked me why and so I jokingly said that if is was behind the middle door then you would have seen the bonnet stick out in the left door when it was opened. This gained some quiet chuckles from the other two interviewers. Anyway moving to the right is the correct answer, I don't quite understand why still. The reason is something to do with initially the chance of it being behind any door is 1/3. When you choose the middle door the chance of it being behind there is 1/3 and so the chance of it being behind either of the other two doors is 2/3. However the door on the left is opened and there is no car behind it. So the probability of it being behind the door on the right remains 2/3. I still don't get it, LOL. My second interview was also totally technial, I can't remember it as vividly as my interview at Balliol though. If I can remember rightly it was mostly inorganic. Alot of stuff asked about the shapes of molecules. Everything seemed to flow quite well in the interview too, we moved from one thing to the next slowly. I can remember we talked about BF3 quite a bit and co-ordinate bonds came in to the conversation alot as well. (Profile 72)

Topics: Shapes of Molecules, Electronegativity, Maths - Calculus & Graphs, Moles Calculations, Mechanistic reasoning, Physical Chemistry

I was asked about the shapes of molecules. Firstly NH3, then BH3, then NH3BH3, then N3B3H6. I was asked to draw the mechanism of bromination of cyclohexene, and about geometrical and optical isomers of that molecule. I was asked to determine the number of water molecules in a given cup of 180ml, stating my assumptions (temperature & pressure, dissociation, ions, relative mass of O=16, H=1 etc.). I was asked to differentiate progressively harder equations. I was given an equation and told to draw it, with it ending up being the equation for an energy curve relating to internuclear separation. I was then asked to differentiate and suggest what the curve would look like for different diatomic elements. (Profile 732)

One question was "does it take longer for an egg to boil up a mountain" in my interview at Trinity they asked about IR and UV waves and the greenhouse effect.  They asked how many molecules in a glass of water qu, the answer is 6.022^23 because 18 cm of water means n= m/mr. Had to draw phosphoric acid in inorganic

Questions about cis-trans and optical isomers. Question about a mass on a spring and if you took a picture where was it most likely to be in relation to x (a line that he drew) and it was the opposite of what you'd expect because it travels faster in the middle. (Profile 861)

I had 3 interviews, 20 minutes each, each with 2 people (either 2 tutors, or 1 tutor and 1 postgraduate student). 1 organic, 1 inorganic, 1 physical. We were all called in to a room together beforehand to meet the interviewers, and were told what was going to happen to settle our nerves. They said all the interviews would be purely about chemistry, as they didn't have time to ask about personal statements/ other interests etc. Having said that, in my first interview (organic) he asked a quick question about work experience and my gap year plans, which was really good in settling nerves.

What did you wear to your interview(s), and why?

Chinos, loafers and a shirt (no tie). I took a casual jacket and scarf to my interviews as it was very cold, but took them off before starting. (Profile 732)

A suit and heels and a silk blouse. I feel more confident wearing a suit but other people were wearing a variety of clothes including jeans... most medics were in suits however. (Profile 861)

I wore smart black jeans, flat shoes, striped blouse and big cable knit jumper. I didn't want to do the whole suit thing, but didn't want to do the totally casual thing. To be honest, people were at both ends of this spectrum, and I really don't think it matters at all. (Profile 909)


Tactical Tips for the Oxford and Cambridge Interview Process

Okay, so you’ve made it to the Oxbridge interview rounds, congrats! Everyone knows the interviews are one of the most stressful aspects of the entire Oxbridge application process, but luckily for you, we’ve compiled some practical tips from applicants that survived the interviews! These general tips come from both Oxford and Cambridge interviews, so please click through the Profile links to find out more about each experience. Remember, each respective college has its own idiosyncrasies, but to start things off, here are some good general interview tips. 

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

(1) Look up all deadlines and course requirements well in advance, and comply with them as soon as possible. (Profile 665)

(2) Make sure you've got some ideas about the subject! be able to say what interests you and demonstrate some evidence of thought beyond your a-level course. (Profile 246)

(3) If possible, arrange a mock interview with someone you don't know well personally, perhaps a head of Sixth Form. This will prepare you for the format of the interview and should make it easier to deal with the real thing. Unless your mock interviewer has specific knowledge of the Oxbridge admissions system, the actual questions will probably be nothing like the real thing, but it should get you into the right mindset. (Profile 665)

(4) Read around the subject; for science, journals and magazines are more useful than books. know your alevel stuff, if you don't you will suffer! (Profile 208)

(5) Set generous margins for error in all travel arrangements to avoid panic. If you have a long journey it may be best to travel the day before and stay overnight. (Profile 665)

What did you wear to your interview?

(1) I wore smart-casual clothes, as they were comfortable but also gave me confidence. I would say that as long as they're comfortable, and you're happy with the impression they give, it's not a big issue. No one seemed bothered about it. (Profile 665)

(2) In my first interview I wore jeans and a smart but very thick pink jumper (because it was cold!) and to my second I wore trousers and a blue smart V-necked top (because after the terrible interview the day before I wanted to try and impress a bit more!). (Profile 817)

(3) Brown cord jacket, white blouse, dark navy blue trousers and dark shoes- smart/casual i.e. suits were a bit formal, trousers/skirt and jacket bit more relaxed. (Profile 208)

(4) Plain black dress, tights, black boots, denim jacket and a scarf. Smart, comfortable but not over the top. (Profile 641)

(5) I wore a suit because I feel comfortable in a suit. I only saw about 3 other applicants, and suits seemed to be the thing, which made me a bit more comfortable. (Profile 41)


New Oxbridge Admissions site is up

After over a dozen years of running on its initial design since back in 2006, we're happy to announce that the new Oxbridge Admissions site is now available in beta.

The site is still quite rough around the edges, but hopefully you'll already benefit from better filters, simplified profiles, and a site that actually works on mobile. The new app also lacks UI/UIX polish, which should be coming later this year. 

In the meantime, please bear with us as we fix some of the teething issues that will inevitably come up. If you experience any bugs or see profiles that seem to be migrated incorrectly, please let me know at