Cambridge colleges are looking for applicants of the highest academic potential, and so the best piece of advice anyone can give an applicant is to be yourself, convey your passion for a subject and keep calm during a Cambridge interview, despite all the other myths and preparation tips you hear on the rumour mill.
We don’t ask obscure questions to try and catch students out… we do assess your academic potential and how it can be developed by Cambridge-style teaching, and we do look at your enthusiasm for your chosen subject.
This year, we shared these tips and other ways to prepare for virtual interviews with applicants from state schools across our link areas in our first ever Interview Preparation Day on 30 October, held virtually on Zoom. Nearly 300 applicants attended, and one described the event as the “best preparation for the Cambridge application process that I had so far”. Another noted, “This has made the application and interview process seem far more accessible.”
The day began with a welcome talk, which provided students with valuable information about what to expect from virtual interviews and how they can prepare. Top tips included thinking aloud, approaching questions and material in a critical and analytical manner, and communicating enthusiasm for your subject.
Nearly 300 applicants attended, and one described the event as the “best preparation for the Cambridge application process that I had so far”. Another noted, “This has made the application and interview process seem far more accessible.”
Following the welcome talk, attendees watched demonstration interviews, where Fellows and Research Fellows of the College “interviewed” a current student – you can watch below. The applicants were then given the chance to ask questions of the interviewers about the demonstration. One applicant commented: “I really appreciated just observing the mock interview and not feeling the pressure to come up with answers myself. It was helpful seeing how the student responded to the questions and seeing their train of thought. And after watching the mock interview and seeing what worked, it was a good natural progression to take part in a mock supervision myself.”
The day also included over fifty supervision-style sessions, led by PhD students, so that applicants could talk in small groups with others interested in the same subjects. Students really valued the chance to explore their subject in more detail, and one attendee said, “I especially enjoyed the mock supervision with Alice as I thought she was really nice and knowledgeable and explained things really well.” Attendees also noted that the session helped develop skills useful for their interviews: “The sample supervision was great for prompting analytical thinking”.
As well as exploring the subjects offered at Caius, applicants also spoke to current undergraduate students in small groups about their experiences of interview and the applications process. Great questions were asked in the session and applicants felt reassured that the scary myths of Cambridge interviews were in fact myths after all!
The day finished with a Q&A and farewell session where our Tutor for Admissions and Outreach, Dr Chris Scott, and Schools Liaison Officer, Katy Lewis, answered questions about the running of virtual interviews this year and wished the applicants the best of luck. Following the event, applicants felt more confident in preparing for interview, talking about their subject, thinking critically and analytically as well as using virtual platforms such as Whereby and Zoom. Students enjoyed the interactive small-group nature of the afternoon sessions, noting “It was really well organised and extremely helpful, especially the interactive elements.” We were thrilled that over 90% of respondents found the event “Extremely useful” or “Very useful” in helping prepare for Cambridge interviews.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in the event!
Photo credit 'Caius Cappuccino': Paulina Rowicka