Map Oxbridge Applications, 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR

Why do Oxford and Cambridge Interview?

Oxford and Cambridge Universities are known (perhaps even notorious) in part for their detailed and difficult application process. One very important aspect of this process is the interview. Perhaps the most talked-about part of the Oxbridge application process, the interview, involves attending one or several interview sessions with admissions tutors at the college or department you’ve applied to (or the college into which you have been placed) so that tutors can get a better idea of who you are, how you’re likely to interact with the course, and ultimately whether you deserve a place on their course.

There are a lot of rumours surrounding the Oxford and Cambridge interviews - you may well have heard tales of interviewers throwing their shoes out of windows or asking students to stand on their heads - but, in reality, these interviews are nothing more than a brief opportunity to talk with some world-leading experts about the field you’re interested in studying. Understanding the nature of the interviews and remaining calm in the face of their, perhaps, unpredictability, is an important stage in becoming properly prepared for them. The first step in preparing for interviews and figuring out what tutors want from you is to understanding why the university is using them in the first place.




Our Private Consultations provide in-depth evaluation, strategy and next steps to achieve results. Suitable for those aged 14 upwards.

Assessing Potential

Probably the main aim of an interview at Oxford or Cambridge is to assess the potential abilities of the applicant on the course they’re applying for. This involves not only understanding how good they are in strict academic measures (i.e. by looking at their predicted or already achieved GCSE and A-level grades), but also how they perform in the unique academic environment of an Oxford or Cambridge college. The interview itself is set up to replicate a ‘tutorial’ (Oxford) or ‘supervision’ (Cambridge), a unique part of the Oxbridge education system in which one or two students meet with a tutor to discuss an essay they have written or topic they have been studying in academic depth. A good deal of the teaching at Oxford and Cambridge is conducted in this way, and the interview replicates this to allow your potential future tutors to assess your ability to study, think, and learn in this way. Tutors are looking for your potential to study to a very high level, engaging with ideas that are newly presented to you and responding to concepts in an interesting way.
It’s important to remember that tutors want to see a demonstration of your self-motivation and enthusiasm within the area you’re applying for. Tutors will not factor in your mannerisms, appearance, or background, but instead your ability to think independently and to engage with ideas beyond the scope of your school syllabus. You will not necessarily be asked to show specific knowledge of your subject, but rather tutors want to see your abilities with unseen content.
It is, however, worth noting here that STEM subjects tend to have more questions relying on prior knowledge from your GCSE and A-Level courses than do humanities subjects, but both use the principles and techniques you will have learned in class. Therefore, for all Admissions Tests, in particular STEM subjects, it is definitely best practice to make sure that you have the fundamentals of your subject down (think about the main formulae or methodological practices you covered in GCSE and A-level) and ensure that you can carry them out in different situations, since this is what the test is really designed to examine.



Expanding on your application

Another important aspect of the interview process is the chance for applicants to expand on their application, such as the knowledge they demonstrated in their personal statement or admissions test, and discuss their interests in a more in-depth manner with a like-minded academic. Students attending interviews at Oxford or Cambridge are likely to have very similar grades (i.e. the very top ones!), so picking between them just on these criteria is difficult, and with such a short personal statement, using just the UCAS application can be limiting. Therefore, the interview is designed to give applicants a little more time and space to express their interests, enthusiasm, and thinking abilities to their tutors first-hand. Again, tutors won’t necessarily be looking for you to demonstrate how much knowledge you have, but instead to show just how much you are willing to engage with the kind of material the course is likely to throw at you, and how flexible you will be in applying your existing knowledge to it.
Ultimately, the whole point of the interviews is to make sure that you get the best possible chance to demonstrate your passion and abilities in your chosen field, and to show your potential future tutors how well you’re likely to fare in tutorials or supervisions at the university of your choice. Think of the interview as an opportunity to put your best foot forwards, and you’ll be nicely placed for success!

Read more free Oxbridge interview resources here

Mock Interview Package

Our Mock Interview Package helps you to prepare for these through four one-hour, subject-specific, formal mock interviews with four different Oxbridge-graduate interviewers, with constructive, detailed feedback.

Mock Interview Package x4

The interviews for Oxford and Cambridge are, arguably, the most important part of your application. The package gives candidates four subject-specific mock interviews, designed to recreate the real interview environment, and help candidates gain confidence in the process of how to get into Oxford or Cambridge.

Oxbridge Applications Logo

Our Oxbridge-graduate consultants are available between 9.00 am – 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday, with additional evening availability when requested.

Oxbridge Applications, 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR

Added to cart

View Cart