Interviews at Cambridge

Interviews at Cambridge

The right preparation can make your interview an enjoyable yet challenging academic discussion; an opportunity to share your knowledge and enthusiasm for your subject with experts in the field.

The interviewers want to find out how you think and are looking to decide whether you'd be successful on the course. We’ve prepared some advice to help you get ready for and build your confidence ahead of your interview.

“The interviews are modelled on supervisions. So the interviewers are trying to find out what you know. They're not trying to trip you up.”

Rosalind

“You get in the flow of talking, the academics make you feel more comfortable, and you start to enjoy it, I promise!”

Jack

Practicalities

Interviews at Cambridge are all online this year. Take time in advance to ensure you have the appropriate set up and allow time to iron out any issues.

You will need:

  • a quiet location, this could be at home, in school or at a friend's house; anywhere you feel comfortable and will not be disturbed or overheard
  • a fully charged or plugged in device with a webcam, microphone and good internet connection
  • a way of showing your working if instructed by your College - tablet and stylus, mouse to draw with or a pen and paper
  • comfortable clothes – it doesn’t matter what you wear; we want you to be yourself and feel relaxed.

Your College will contact you with details of your interview date and time and what you will need. If you don’t have access to the right equipment, contact your College as soon as possible and they can help.

Preparation

The interviewers are assessing your academic ability, critical thinking skills and intellectual flexibility, so practice discussing your subject in detail, drawing on your own ideas, and making connections between different ideas. It’s useful to do this out loud with a friend, family member or teacher. You don’t need to have rehearsed prepared answers – that’s not what we’re looking for. The interviewers want to discuss your interest in the subject so make sure there are aspects of your subject that you are happy to talk about in some depth.

Useful preparation could be:

  • reading your personal statement, and ensuring that you’re confident with the topics you’ve referenced
  • practicing problem solving (for science and mathematics based subjects)
  • practicing analysing pieces of text and/or graphical information (for arts, humanities and social science subjects)
  • talking out loud and in detail about your subject.

The interview

The content and format of your online interview will be the same as if it was in person. There will be one, two or three interviewers, and there may also be an observer who will have their camera and microphone off. They'll take notes during your interview to help them remember you and your answers.


What will I be asked?

  • You may be asked questions about any pre-submitted work you sent in as part of your application, and about the things you included in your personal statement, so be prepared to talk about them.
  • The interviewer may share information using the chat function, screen share or interactive whiteboard and ask you questions about it.
  • For science based subjects, you'll probably be asked to work through a series of problems.
  • For arts, humanities and social science subjects, you may be given a passage of text to read, or other material relevant to the course you've applied for.

Top tips

  • Make sure you listen carefully to the questions, and feel free to ask your interviewers to repeat the question or clarify it if you don't understand.
  • In all your answers, show your working or talk through your thought process, so the interviewers can assess your critical thinking skills.
  • Even if you are unsure of the answer, talk through what you do know, and the interviewers will give you pointers to help you in the right direction.

What if I encounter problems?

  • If you have technical difficulties at any point during the interview, stay calm and explain what's happening.
  • Try reconnecting and if that doesn't work, call the College admissions team. You should have their contact details to hand just in case.
  • It's a good idea to have a pen and paper available for making notes or to use if the whiteboard function doesn’t work.

And finally...

The main things to remember are to be yourself, talk through your thinking, and show enthusiasm for your subject area.

The interviewers want you to do well. They are not trying to trip you up, and will encourage you to do your best. We wish you the very best for your interview - good luck!

For first hand interview experiences from Cambridge students, visit www.insideuni.org.

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing. For the most up to date information about interviews at Cambridge, visit our website.

Last reviewed July 2021.