If you have managed to secure an interview at Oxford or Cambridge, congratulations! You are past the first hurdle and, as an applicant to some of the world’s best and most competitive universities, that’s something to be proud of. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels. In order to receive that coveted final offer in January, you need to shine in the interview. Demonstrate your passion for your chosen subject to your interviewer and prove you would be a great fit for the course and the university.
At Varsity Education’s summer programmes in Oxford and Cambridge, we conduct mock interviews and provide students with full feedback and advice on where they can improve. Our aim is to give our students the best possible chance of passing their interview and getting into a top university.
While there’s no substitute for receiving professional help with your interview technique and preparation, read on for some useful tips that can help anyone succeed in an academic interview, whether it’s for Oxbridge or other top universities.
Doing this will prepare you for unexpected questions and show your interviewer just how passionate you are about your subject.
Be prepared to answer questions about anything you’ve written in your personal statement. Re-familiarising yourself with your personal statement will remind you why you want to study your subject and why you’re the best applicant to do so. It will also help you to focus your thoughts and feel more confident and genuinely enthusiastic.
Asking intelligent questions shows you’re a critical thinker and that you’re eager to learn. Interviewers are looking for students who want to develop their knowledge and improve upon themselves, not people who already know (or think they know) everything.
Don’t shy away from challenging the meaning of questions that you’re posed or the assumptions that they’re based on. The ability to take a step back and think out loud demonstrates that you’re inquisitive and logical.
Don’t believe everything you hear or read on the internet: the tales of strange rituals and devious tests involving basketballs, chairs and awkward silences are just that, myths.
While it’s useful to hear about other people’s Oxbridge interview experiences, each interview is different and you’re not likely to get asked the same oddball question that your neighbour’s friend’s cousin was asked.
This simple, seemingly obvious advice could make a big difference to how you perform in your interview. Adolescents need nine to ten hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested. Not getting enough sleep impairs memory, your concentration, and makes you more emotional. So do your best to get a full night’s rest – don’t leave your interview preparation to the last possible minute and stay up all night. If you find it difficult to sleep, whether due to anxiety, insomnia or other medical problems, try out some sleep relaxation techniques and read about sleep hygiene.
The morning before your interview, make sure you eat a nutritious breakfast complete with enough carbohydrates, protein and fibre to see you through the day. It goes without saying that the day before your interview is not the optimum time to start a new fad diet. Hunger can be very distracting and increase your irritability. Going into an interview well-fed will help you focus on the task at hand. So if the interview is in the afternoon, make time for lunch first!
This is easier said than done, we know, but it needs to be said all the same. Remember to smile, make eye-contact, talk slowly and clearly, take regular breaths, and to be as positive and confident as possible.
What’s important is how you come to your conclusion, not necessarily the answer itself. Sometimes there isn’t even a right or wrong answer, often interviewers are more interested in your thought pattern and your ability to think critically.
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