For most students applying to study in the UK, once the UCAS form is filled in and sent off, you can sit back, relax and wait for the offers to come in. However, for particular courses and universities this is just the start point of the process. If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or if you have applied to read Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science, or potentially for some Law or Design programmes there will be a requirement for an interview.
So if you are called for an interview what are the things that you need to prepare for?
Be aware of when the interviews are likely to take place and how much notice you can expect. Medical and Law interviews can take place at any time and individual universities will publish likely dates on their website. For Oxford and Cambridge the interviews will take place in early December and you can expect to receive up to 10 days’ notice.
Where to interview
Universities will often offer a range of options as to where you can be interviewed. Some will be able to interview you in country, others will want you to be present at the university and some will be happy to do the interview over skype or the equivalent. If there is a chance to get there in person there is a double benefit of face to face contact and also the opportunity to get a feel for the university and who else is applying to be on the same course.
Style of Interview
In many cases the interview will be more of an informal chat to see how motivated you are about the course and how much you know about the university.
But for medical students you are more likely to go through the MMI (Multiple Mini Interview) which will involve a series of stations assessing different relevant skill sets from your situational judgement to how clearly you give an explanation or how you prioritise making decisions.
An Oxbridge interview is more likely to be one to one or with a panel including one or more professors. Here they will be asking questions designed to see how you think and how you draw on your existing knowledge and use it in unfamiliar situations.
What are they looking for?
The interviewer is testing your ability to think – they are not necessarily looking for right answers. They are offering you scope to show them what you can do and to see how you articulate and work through a problem. In all cases they are looking for potential, so don’t be afraid to plunge in and think out loud as you explore the questions. If you stay quiet they will not be able to see what they are missing!
How should you answer?
It is worth remembering that not all the questions are designed to trip you up – some will be testing things you already know but in a different context, so don’t ignore the obvious and try not to over complicate things. There may not even be an answer but the interviewer wants you to explore a balanced approach to analysing the information. The key is to keep going – if if you take a ‘wrong turn’ do not give up – every step you take is evidence of your problem solving skills. Make sure that you take time to understand the question and answer the one asked not one you prepared earlier….. Be humble, they are not looking for ‘know it alls’ you are going to university to learn. And be enthusiastic!
How to prepare
It is vital to get as much practice as possible. This will help you develop confidence, to get used to hearing yourself talk out loud for extended periods of time and to work out strategies for answering questions. Read up around your subject so you are familiar with relevant current issues and make sure you are completely familiar with what the university offers, what the course consists of and your personal statement.
How to be successful?
Be prepared, be calm, be up to speed and make sure that on the day you feel rested, clear headed and confident. Be confident in your opinions and be polite. But most of all be yourself!
Do bankers deserve the pay they receive? And should government do something to limit how much they get? (Economics – Oxford)
Calculate the distance between New York and London. (General Oxbridge)
Why is sugar in your urine a good indicator that you might have diabetes? (Medicine)
Explain how to tie a shoe lace without using your hands to demonstrate. (MMI Medicine)