Cambridge’s Preparing for Interview and Interview videos

Interviews at the University of Cambridge give applicants the opportunity to show their ability to think critically and independently, to engage with new ideas and to think conceptually. In turn, this gives the university a greater insight into how the applicant might respond to the teaching methods used at Cambridge.

Cambridge interview

“People are understandably apprehensive about the interview as it is something that few have any experience of,” says Dr James Keeler, senior tutor and admissions tutor at Selwyn College, Cambridge. “Also, it is sadly the case that despite all our efforts, there remains a lot of misinformation out there.”

In order to tackle those myths, and show potential applicants what an interview is really like, the university commissioned two films from award-winning film makers Contra.

The university was determined to make the films as authentic as possible. Dr Keeler, together with admissions colleagues from other colleges, interviewed four student volunteers as if they were applicants in the current round.

Three of the student volunteers were unconditional offer holders: they had already taken their A-levels, but had not yet started at Cambridge, bringing them as close as possible to the level of academic knowledge of a typical interviewee.

The interviewers reviewed the real application forms submitted by the candidates, just as they would in preparation for an admissions interview.

Perhaps surprisingly, the videos show each of the applicants stumbling over questions.


“It's a common misconception that to be successful a candidate has to answer every question perfectly and give a very polished performance”

Dr James Keeler
Senior tutor and admissions tutor at Selwyn College, Cambridge

“The interview is designed to make the candidate think,” explains Dr Keeler. “As much as anything else, the interviewers want to see these thought processes in action. So going back over something, working through something which is not quite right, or giving hints, is all part of the process.

“The key thing is that candidates should not give up if they get stuck, but should listen to what is being said and try a different track.”

Tips given in the films include:

  • Do re-read your application and think about why you want to study at Cambridge
  • Wear something comfortable and arrive early
  • Don’t be influenced by what other applicants tell you they have been asked.

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