Hope you find our Oxbridge resources helpful and our Oxbridge interview tips useful.
Top Oxbridge Interview Tips
- Oxford Interview Guide for Oxford interview tips, Oxford interview advice and Oxford interview content descriptions
- Cambridge Interview Guide for Cambridge interview tips, Cambridge interview advice and Cambridge interview content descriptions
- Oxbridge Interview Guide for example Oxbridge interview questions to discuss and practice with.
Mock Interview examples
University Interview Tips
Every Oxford and Cambridge College is linked to work in various areas of the UK, and may well be running interview advice sessions or workshops either in general for your area or at/with your school. This is not a guarantee but it may be worth checking to see what is on. Sidney Sussex will be running sessions in the North West and Staffordshire.
If someone is interested in applying for the University of Oxford, then there is a massive chance that they will need to sit for an admission test as almost all the education courses there have admission tests as the entrance criteria. One will need to register separately for sitting on an exam and the deadline for the registration are to be kept in mind.
Oxbridge interview tips
Other interview tips
Preparing for your Oxbridge interview
Most parents know how to deal with 11 Plus exams. There’s a wealth of information online, past papers to study and of course hundreds of tutors to choose from. But when it comes to the big interview, information is much scanter. Probably deliberately so.
For example, Latymer Upper School simply says in its guidelines: “We do not encourage children to prepare for an interview but we do expect those we call back to be able to answer the academic questions with ease.”
Some even have group interviews – like mini-lessons – in addition to individual interviews. This makes it even more difficult to prepare.
Application Oxbridge tips for interview
Whether for undergraduate or postgraduate courses, if you’re applying to highly selective universities in the UK, including Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and LSE, you will be in competition with many other excellent applicants.
Work out what you love
Working out what you want to study is the most important part of the process. Academics care deeply about their subjects, and they want to see a similar passion from applicants.
There will be some things you are really good at, and some things you are really interested in. If you’re lucky, these things will overlap, giving you a clear idea of what to study at degree level. It’s important to remember that your degree will take three (and in some cases four) years of your life, and so it’s worth taking time to make sure you’re committed to studying a single subject for that period.
It’s worth researching ‘cognate’ disciplines. Are you interested in religion? Have a look at anthropology, sociology, or philosophy. There are also lots of joint honours courses that might combine two disciplines you would like to study, for example, History and French, or Computer Science and Philosophy (both of which are courses at Oxford).
Lots of university courses won’t correspond directly to your A-Level subjects–so look at the subjects available. Disciplines like Law, Linguistics, and Architecture are rarely subjects applicants will have encountered in school, and yet can be fantastic options.
Test which courses might work for you. This takes effort from you. After you have a shortlist of courses, assess each one by engaging with the course material. Pretend you are an undergraduate student in each prospective course and spend some time researching exactly what it would involve.
2. Know your targets
Do your research: different universities and different courses have different entry requirements. This sounds obvious, but it’s also something that it’s important to be clear-sighted about. Courses at top universities are almost always significantly oversubscribed, and in many cases, the typical offer-holder will have been predicted or achieved significantly higher grades than the standard, advertised offer: for successful applicants to Churchill College, Cambridge in STEM subjects in the 2019 cycle, the average number of A*s at A-Level was 3.4, and 44 for IB. You can find a little more information about your chances here.
Choosing traditional, core, academic subjects for your A-Levels will also tend to be the safest option. Clare College Cambridge has noted that ‘most of our successful applicants over the last couple of years have offered facilitating subjects for most or all of their A-levels.
Oxbridge interview tips
3. Follow lines of interest
Top universities will always look for a demonstration of sustained interest that goes beyond the school curriculum. It tends not to be enough to be fantastic at your A-Level (or IB) subjects, and so the aim should always be to show super curricular development, e.g. an Economics applicant who has encountered game theory in class and has then gone on to read articles and research papers, and begun to think independently about its applications, or an English applicant who has used Shakespeare as a springboard to discover other Early Modern playwrights.
Be as specific in discussing this as possible in your application: in your statement, in your interview. Use examples and evidence to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding, and ability to construct a powerful and coherent argument.
4. Tread the unbeaten path
Admissions tutors for oversubscribed courses read hundreds of statements for the same course, many of which are extremely similar to each other, mentioning the same topics and texts.
Don’t bury yourself among them by relying upon A-Level material: try to give them an idea of independent reading and research you’ve done (things like the EPQ can be a good starting point for discussion).
Equally, don’t be deliberately or needlessly obscure. You’re selling yourself as an engaged, informed and intelligent prospective undergraduate, not someone who already has an encyclopaedic knowledge of your subject. To learn a little more about optimising your statement.
5. Build skills as well as interests
Many university applications feature assessments – admissions tests, submitted work, and interviews. These are generally designed to test skills rather than knowledge. For example, the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) tests problem-solving and critical thinking skills. If your course doesn’t have a pre-interview test, look out for at-interview and college-specific tests, particularly at Cambridge. If the test you are sitting has past papers available, try to save at least some for the weeks leading up to the test. Get creative with how you practice these skills; you can ask a teacher to give you more essay titles or source texts to practice with or use different tests that have similar questions to your test as extra practice.
6. Optimise your school reference
In the competitive marketplace of Oxford and Cambridge applications, UCAS references are increasingly useful to admissions tutors as an insight into whether a student truly excels in their field. As one Cambridge college put it this year, “adjectives like exceptional, extra ordinary, and outstanding were commonplace”. Particularly if you come from a school where it isn’t unusual to get straight 9s and 8s at GCSE, and where A-level predictions are high, admissions tutors are looking to spot the truly unusual students – those who stand out even among their high-achieving cohort.
Whilst you can’t control the content of your reference, you can do your best to make sure that you’re not just meeting but excelling your teacher’s expectations so they have plenty of concrete, quantitative things to say about you. Every student is praised in their reference, but not every student is named as the best in their subject, year group, etc. Be that student and you’re bound to be noticed!
Oxbridge interview tips
Oxbridge admissions tests – Thinking Skills Assessment
- Thinking Skills Assessment Cambridge (TSA Cambridge)
- TSA Oxford (TSA Oxford)
- Thinking Skills Assessment University College London (TSA UCL)
- Thinking Skills Assessment Cambridge also termed TSA Cambridge
- Cambridge Law Test which is to be taken by law students
- Finally, there are other courses that are specific to the subject students are studying.
Private School Interview tips
How to prepare for your private school interview
This is arguably the most important part of the process: where you come face-to-face with the admissions tutors who decide the fate of your application. It’s also the most difficult thing to prepare for: your personal statement might be discussed in depth, or not at all; areas you know about might be the subject of multiple questions, or none; you might be faced with really friendly, engaging interviewers, or more intimidating ones.
Get some private school interview coaching
- As with job interviews, there are several companies that offer both one-to-one coaching and group coaching for 11 Plus interviews.
- That said there are certain questions that nearly always come up.
- These include ‘why do want to come to this school?’ and ‘what are your interest outside of school?’ So it is worth preparing them.
private school interview tips
Our University interview tips
- That means applying early could mean have a University place in time for Christmas!
- Anyone applying through school or College must submit by the end of November regardless. This is to allow teachers sufficient time for checking applications and for including their reference.
- Oxbridge and other course providers may require additional tests/interviews. So, remember that these will have a deadline too.
University application advice
- Give your course prospectus and University Website a very careful final check for any special entry requirements. For example, some work experience (such as nursing courses require), or a portfolio (such as art courses require).
- If you attend an early interview then the above special requirements will be one of the main discussion topics.
Our top Oxbridge interview tips
- Even if it is not a pre-requisite, work experience is a great way to boost your personal statement. It clearly demonstrates a firm commitment to your specialist area.
- A strong personal statement will join up your personal experience with your skills and qualifications to date. Skills can be based on those extra-curricular activities, such as Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and volunteer work.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people meet.
- One of the most interesting new uses for video conferencing has been for virtual college admissions interviews.
- And given the flexibility of scheduling, virtual college interviews are most likely here to stay.
Univeristy Interview tips
Uni Interview Tips
Many selective schools and leading programs require (or strongly recommend) a college interview for prospective students. These schools place evaluative value on in-person conversations with their applicants. When issues like the pandemic or geographic reach make this challenging, virtual college interviews provide a practical solution. With this option, schools and students still get the same interview opportunity, just in a more modern style.
Depending on the school and its requirements, there are two different types of interviews: informative and evaluative. The differences are significant enough that they should impact the type of support that you offer your students.
Informative college interviews
- These are typically optional and pretty low-key. Informative interviews exist to benefit the student, not the admissions committee.Informative interviews are about 30 minutes to an hour long. These conversations are usually student-driven. In some cases, it can even offer students a familiar contact person to connect with once arriving on campus.
- Evaluative college interviews. Here, the goals are to suss out the student’s interests, academic goals, and reasons the student wants to attend the school.
Students should always show up prepared with meaningful questions to ask.
Students should keep it simple – nothing flashy or garish – but appropriate. Think: what would I wear to my Grandmother’s 80th birthday dinner?
Top private school interview tips
1.Watch the news and read the papers
Most schools will be looking for well-rounded individuals so make sure you have a grasp of what’s going on in the world. Read a paper (it doesn’t have to be The Times or The Telegraph, a free paper will do). Also, watch the news for at least a few days before the interview.
2. Ask your parents and siblings questions about themselves!
Interviewers will be curious to find out more about your background.
3. Cultivate hobbies and interests
Schools like candidates who have plenty of interests outside of the classroom.
Before the interview Two
4. Rehearse standard questions
What is your favourite subject at school and why?
Who is your favourite author?
If you had unlimited money what would you do with it and why?
5. Conduct a mock interview
You don’t need to go to a professional to brush up your interview technique. Once you’ve prepared answers for some of the questions above, it’s a good idea to go through them in a mock interview with your parents to practise your interview technique.
On the interview day One
6. Dress appropriately
Many schools will encourage you to wear your own clothes for an interview, rather than school uniform. However, do check beforehand if you are unsure. As with a job interview, it is best to look too smart, rather than too scruffy.
7. Shake hands
Remember it is ostensibly a formal interview so ‘fist-bumping’ or any other kind of informal greeting is a definite no-no!
8. Sit upright, sit still
There is nothing more off-putting than someone constantly moving around and slouching while you are talking to them. This is especially true for a teacher who will be wondering how you’ll behave in a classroom in a one hour lesson if you are constantly fidgeting during a short interview!
Private School Interview tips
9. Do talk!
It is obviously a nerve-racking situation but it’s important that you try to articulate your answers as best as possible. This doesn’t mean talking too much and rambling. However nor does it mean ‘yes’, ‘no’ answers.
10. Stay calm –
Independent schools will usually set a task during an interview. Maybe a maths puzzle to complete or a poem to read out and ‘analyse’.
11. Keep your digital profile(s) clean. Profile pictures must be appropriate. Ideally, a simple picture of the student’s face is the best choice.
12. Dress for success. Encourage your students to dress for success – from head to toe. Interviewers will appreciate the effort that a student puts into their appearance. It shows maturity and a desire to impress – both of which will help make a great first impression.
In theory, it’s now possible to start University in January. It’s certainly another option to complete your degree in two and a half years instead of three.
Private school interview tips I
For your private school interviews:
- Remember these determine how well are you connected to your roots and students are also judged on where they come from based on the interviews. There are a few things can do and at the same time avoid doing or saying at such an interview. The tips and tricks will come in handy for someone who is appearing for the university application interviews for the first time.
- In recent times, since the pandemic is in full force, all interviews are being held virtually so the below tips will be specifically related to someone who is performing the interview from their smart devices.
- Firstly, an active internet connection is very important, when you’re appearing for such an interview. Even though the internet connection is a dependency factor but a stable internet connection will surely ensure better scores for someone and at the same time an unstable network might bring in a negative impact if not marks deduction.
Private school interview tips II
Since the interview will be judged on the appearance style and how you present yourself, a stable internet connection does help in building the image. The interviewers will always remember a good experience they had with a candidate, so every minute detail counts, even the internet stability. It is always better if you take the interview from a laptop rather than a phone as it looks more professional. However, if one does not have a laptop at their disposal, then a smartphone can be used.
Private School Interview Tips Part Two
As virtual interviews are about presenting yourself, you must look clean and sharp. Once you have set up the webcam, it is important to sit right in front of the camera and make sure that sunlight is coming from the front and not the back, so that you are visible to the interviewees. If you’re using a setup with multiple monitors, then the division should be set in such a manner that the one in front of you becomes the interview screen. Nobody wants to do a side-faced interview.
Sit in a quiet place. If you have multiple rooms at your disposal then chose the quietest one. If you do the interview sitting somewhere where there is consistent disturbance and surrounding noise, then it is relatively evident that it will affect the experience, which in turn will harm your interview results.
Switch off the notifications of your phone if you use your smartphone for attending the interview. Calls or notifications can hamper the network and connectivity of your device and the interview might get paused or even shut down in certain cases. This will lead to a negative impact on the interview results again.
Finally, doing a test run with your current setting is important. You must be aware of all the minute details of your setup. It is better to check everything on the rest run session and then make changes accordingly if something is not right.
Why Are Virtual Interviews Better?
There are some cons of such meetings and interviews and the most important one is that you cannot meet the people in front of you in person. However, some institutes and individuals prefer it more than the conventional ones. Below are some of the reasons why virtual interviews are better:
Virtual interviews provide an interview a good period to prepare for the discussion. The prime motive is to make sure that the interview goes well, so scheduling or booking an interview session using the virtual meeting applications is always better.
University Interviews Prep
A virtual interview always makes a candidate feel more comfortable as they will be able to answer more naturally in this setup. There may be scenarios when the candidate is working somewhere and is not able to travel to the interview location because of his or her strict working hours. In that case, a virtual interview is the best solution that assists in making the whole session done on a remote basis.
Etiquettes Of Virtual Interview
The first and most important thing about a virtual interview is that it should look like an original interview. So, dressing professionally and looking sharp and clean still applies. A lot of individuals do not take this seriously enough and this affects the results of the interview.
Using professional language, sitting straight and maintaining eye contact are something that applicants should remember while appearing for a virtual interview.
For interviewees, it is important to keep the questions before holding the session.
Video Interview Tips
You may have a favourite jobs site, but don’t limit yourself to just one. Some companies advertise on websites that are industry-specific, or may prefer to post vacancies on LinkedIn or their company website (check the “Careers” or the “About Us” section of the site).
More companies are asking candidates to fill out online application forms, and thanks to job sites that allow you to upload your CV and apply for numerous roles at once, the days of posting your CV and a handwritten covering letter are becoming a thing of the past.
While the average job hunter is well practised at using the internet to apply for jobs, there are still pitfalls to avoid. If you’ve been applying without much success, could you have made one of these common mistakes?
Too much waffle
Online application forms limit the amount of text you can enter for each response, so it’s vital to choose your words carefully.
Make sure to answer each and every question that the form asks, and to use your responses to highlight how your skills and experience match the job profile
Before you fill in your online application form, read all the information that comes with it – for example, job description and person specification. If you have limited space, give priority to the ‘must-have’ skills and experience.
Video interview Skills
Avoid buzz words
Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that a candidate meets their key criteria – if your application form doesn’t get a tick in each box, it may be instantly dismissed.
Remember that people ‘scan’ online data more than printed material, so keywords need to be obvious. Use a marker pen to highlight keywords and phrases in the person specification and job ad – these might be competencies, e.g, team leader with strong problem-solving skills, or experiences – editor with five years experience.
Pay attention to detail to avoid online application mistakes
Check and check again before you click ‘send’. You don’t want an unfortunate spelling mistake to land your application in the reject pile.
It is good practise to save the text in any case – you can reference it to help fill out other application forms and will need a reminder of your answers should you get an interview.
Graduate Video Interview questions
Since there is no interviewer to ask follow up questions, each question must be strong enough to stand on its own. When putting together your on-demand video interview, consider these questions to measure the metrics that matter.
Prepare for unconventional video interview Questions
Mercedes Benz’ internship ranks among Vault’s Top 25 Most Prestigious. So when they continue to ask their internship candidates questions like: “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” you know they must be onto something.
Entirely unexpected questions like these are great gaugers of personality and the ability to think on the fly. If an interviewee relishes the opportunity to examine the intricacies of the ostrich, chances are you’re watching a candidate who would thrive in a customer-facing role.
But if the interviewee shows palpable disdain for the experience, how well do you think they would handle incidents in the workplace? Unexpected questions like those used by Mercedes Benz offer another unexpected upside: they provide much-needed breaks in the monotony of candidate screening.
Oxbridge interview tips
Prepare for scenario-driven video interview questions
Questions that present a candidate with a given scenario and ask how they would respond are incredibly useful for measuring their ability to communicate and think on the fly. During on-demand interviews, HireVue provides each candidate with thirty seconds to prepare their response.
Interviewees who put together comprehensive solutions in those thirty seconds and communicate them in a way that makes sense are going to be your star achievers. When asking questions like these, many organizations use video to present each scenario.
Providing a visual element to these questions makes each scenario seem more realistic, and helps more visual learners align their thoughts.
Do your research
Know the company you have applied to. Find out what their most recent achievements or challenges are. Although this might become a bit tricky if you are preparing for a few interviews. In that case, make sure you set a Google Alert for the company or keywords within your field of expertise. There are many aspects you could find online about a company. A good place to look for information on anything from the interview process to the popularity of the management team is Glassdoor. Showing that you’ve done your homework is always impressive.
Show your passion. Showing enthusiasm for technology is great. Your interviewer might ask questions relating to how you stay up to date with your field. Elaborate if you can on events you have attended. Online courses you have undertaken recently, or even groups or discussions you follow online or in print. This all in order to gauge your level of interest and commitment to the field.
Display your cultural fit. You need to have a feel for the company where you will be working. Not only that, they need to make sure you will be comfortable and happy within the company. Recruiting the best potential employee can be an expensive exercise. They need to make sure you will be happy within the company and its culture.
Show your worth. Get your geek on. Show them what you are made of by impressing the interviewer with your portfolio or examples of previous projects.
Video interview tips
Top tips for a technical interview:
- Focus on the fundamentals. These are where the main questions will be focused on. Make sure you are comfortable with your fundamentals. There will not only be questions on the fundamentals like data structures, algorithmic complexity analysis, class design, and so on. There will also be questions where you will need to use your fundamentals in problems presented. You should be comfortable with things like strings, arrays, basic syntax, data types, linked lists, trees, graphs, stacks, queues, and hash tables.
- Be ready to solve problems in different ways. This is where the interviewer might move away from fundamentals to see if you can apply them. These will most likely involve open-ended questions. A sample question might be something like: You’re given an arithmetic equation as a string…
- Make sure to think out loud throughout. This will give the interviewer an idea of how you think.
- Practice, practice, practice. Imitate the interview environment. If you are doing a phone interview, practice on Stypi or Google Docs. If you are doing an in-person interview, make sure you practice on paper or a whiteboard. Get a friend to ask you questions and explain it to them in as much detail as possible. Make use of prep tools available.
Skill based interviews
Here are a few key things to remember:
- The interview is an assessed discussion, not a verbal exam. This is because they want to see if you would thrive in the one-to-one setting of the tutorial/supervision system.
The interview is largely skills-based rather than knowledge-based. Although for many subjects a certain amount of knowledge is assumed, the interviewers aren’t interested in testing you on facts.
Rather, they want to see how you respond to unfamiliar scenarios or content and think on your feet to demonstrate subject-specific skills like critical thinking. It is therefore very normal to be faced with a question that seems very abstract or a bit daunting. They’re not trying to catch you out – they want to give you enough space to take the question in an interesting direction.
Take your time! Interviewers are looking for considered, rather than instinctive responses. Even with questions you think you can jump straight in on, it’s worth taking a little time to ‘maximise’ your response–to make sure you lead with your most powerful arguments, and structure your thoughts a little before speaking.
Job Interview tips
You might have just graduated or had years of experience with an impressive CV. However, finding the right job can be quite challenging. Companies use different recruitment processes. These usually involve some form of psychometrics and one or more rounds of interviews. For a tech job, you will most likely be subjected to a technical interview to show your work and knowledge base.
Psychometrics would usually consist of a Verbal and/or Non-Verbal reasoning tests and a personality assessment. For more on Passing Verbal Reasoning tests or Non-Verbal Reasoning tests, have a look at Brilliant Passing Verbal Reasoning Tests and Brilliant Passing Numerical Reasoning Tests by Rob Williams. Everything you need to know about verbal or numerical reasoning will be covered in those.
Once you are past the Psychometrics and possibly a phone interview, it’s time for the big day.
What can you expect and what should you focus on? How can you stand out from the crowd?
Tech jobs most commonly hired by UK tech companies
|Tech Job Title||Open Jobs at Tech Companies||% of Open Tech Roles|
|Software Development Engineer||367||3.5%|
Role specific interview questions
- What does a typical day on the job look like?
- So, which are the role’s most important responsibilities?
- Are any new duties being planned in future?
- Which skill gaps on the team could I help with?
- Which other departments would I work with?
- What does the onboarding process look like?
- Who will i be directly reporting to in this role?
- What have previous role holders found to be the role’s biggest challenges?
- Are there work-from-home opportunities for this role?
- So, what are the typical projects I’d work on?
Training interview questions
- What initial training would I be offered?
- How would my work’s performance be assessed?
- What’s the typical career trajectory for someone in this role?
- What kind of development opportunities would be available?
Next steps interview questions
- What’s the timeline for the next step?
- How does onboarding work here?
Culture interview questions
- How would you describe the culture here?
- Is there much automomy in this role?
- How would you describe tour own manager’s style?
School Entrance Tests‘ University admissions tests guides