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  • Do keep on top of the papers and think about the topics that are relevant to your subject. If you are heading for an Economics interview, you might like to think about the impact of the budget on Britain or on your local area.

    Equally you may be interested in welfare reforms or tuition fees for undergraduates. If you are preparing for Law, Politics, Philosophy or History, you could think about Wikileaks and the right/wrong/effects of sharing ‘private’ information with the ‘public’.

  • Read, read, read! Not only does this improve your vocabulary and stretch your grammatical muscles but it should give you material to use as evidence in your Oxbridge interview. Further, you will be an entertaining dinner party guest when you are older!

  • Don’t worry too much about what to wear. Look smart, look clean and look confident. It’s great to make an effort, to show you care. Also remember not to wear so much perfume that you gas the interviewer, or so much jewellery that you could be mistaken for an orchestra!

  • You have been invited to interview because they are interested in you. Focus on yourself and do not get freaked out by the competition. Think about what makes you original and ensure that you have opinions and back these up with examples.

  • Think about what has worked for you in the past and don’t forget the power of breathing out and letting the air flow into your lungs.

If you are still worried about nerves, read Gwyn’s tips below.

Gwyn Day works as a communications expert advising individual students and top UK Independent and State Schools on how to improve sixth form success. He is a Master Practitioner of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Here he gives his top tips on preparing for Oxbridge interviews, with a view to controlling stress.

This section looks at how you can conquer the fear of not knowing what to say so that potential shines through at interview.


Smart studentKnow how to use examples

One of the biggest mistakes interviewees make is giving fluffy, general answers without giving proof or examples to back up what they have said. As a general rule, steer clear of answers that someone with no detailed knowledge of the subject/concept could give. As an interviewee you need to demonstrate that you have understood the idea you are grappling with and your use of examples should demonstrate this.

Understand why you might need to use examples

An interviewee who uses examples helps interviewers to understand what they are interested in, and how they approach their chosen subject. If an applicant is forthcoming with examples (but not over the top), the interviewer does not have to work as hard. Further, if a student is generous with their ideas, it suggests they will be a keen contributor to academic discussions in the course of their studies, skills which might make them seem a favourable addition to a tutorial or class.

Build up a bank of examples, which you can confidently draw upon

This may seem obvious, but the majority of students still don’t do this!  You cannot predict what an interviewer will ask, but if you know what you think about certain topics, you will be much more confident when approaching the interview.


Punching-bag-and-glove-wpCompare and contrast

In an interview, a good applicant will show they can compare and contrast. It is likely that you have already started to do this as part of your normal school work. In English Literature, a range of examples linking themes in A level texts with wider reading  across time periods, for example the use of landscape as an additional character, the importance of animal motifs or the role of science, can be extremely useful to demonstrate effort and genuine interest. You can read more about this in the next chapter.


Know how to roll with the punches

If the interviewer does not question you further on the topics you are interested in, this should not matter. The bank of examples you have made should serve to allow you to create logically structured argument on the spot!

Understand what type of question you may be asked
Too many questions

Your answer will depend on which of the three main types of question is asked i.e. factual, opinion or linking.

A fact-based question

If it is a fact-based question, designed to test your memory, pause to allow your brain, which will already be moving quickly because of the adrenaline rush of the situation, to gather up the salient points. When you start speaking, slow down to give you more gravitas. The Admissions Tutors understand how important the interview is to you and know that students often rush. The more in control and demonstrably focused/interested you are in the ideas under discussion, the better you will do.

An opinion-based question

If it is an opinion based question (including ethics) your ‘answer’ will not be simply to reel off facts but to answer: ‘I think XYZ because REASON 1, REASON 2, REASON 3, although I appreciate ABC counterpoints’.

A linking question

The most searching question type is the ‘linking,’ for example ‘Tell me about a banana” OR “What did you see on your way here today that tells you about the state of the British economy?”

Many students make the common mistake of immediately jumping into too much detail. For example, I saw rubbish bins were full, I saw buses and a lot of people. They fall into the trap of telling a story. Instead, the best way to approach these types of questions is to think about the big picture. For example, what do I know are the big issues in the UK economy (weak pound, immigration, public deficit/austerity measures) and then demonstrate how those issues are manifested by things you saw.

Practice is the key to confidence. Interviewers have different styles and the more opportunities you take to practice your moves, the more confident you will become.


old robot  toy‘Well I’ve always been told that I just need to be myself – so why do I need advice on that? I don’t want to be a robot.’

I counter this with the challenge: think about your behavior in different scenarios. Do you behave in the same way with your parents, a group of friends, your sports/music/drama peers, in a part time job or on work experience? For most people the answer is ‘no’.  You will have your own personal interview style and as in any new situation it takes time to learn the rules of engagement and how you as an individual can show yourself at your best.

Remember….now is not the time to read every book under the sun. Take time to reflect and digest what you have read. The quality of your reading is as, if not more, important than the quantity of reading you have done. Can you the arguments in the books you have read? Do you agree or disagree with the points made? Have you got your own opinions on the subject?

For further preparation have a look at attending one of our Interview Preparation Days.

Good luck! Make sure you enjoy your interview, whatever happens! It is a great experience to have.

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