Thursday, 13 November 2014

Oxbridge Interview Tips

For those of you who are applying to Oxbridge, the prospect of the interview probably doesn't fill you with a sense of calm. In fact, the mention of it most likely plants a weight of cold, hard dread in the pit of your stomach. But even if you're feeling pretty positive about the whole thing, I thought it would be helpful to share a few things that helped me get ready for the dreaded interview date.

1. Do practice interviews with a variety of people. Teachers from your subject, teachers from other subjects, family, friends. Although the prospect of doing an interview with someone you know can be really daunting. It is for exactly this reason that you should. I find it so much easier to come across as confident and knowledgeable in interviews when I don't know the person doing the interviewing. It means that if all goes horribly wrong, you can walk away and never have to make eye contact with them again. But when it comes to people who you know well, it's embarrassing putting on your serious front, opening yourself up to constructive criticism and then having to continue seeing that person after the mock interview is done. In the month leading up to my interview, I had a few mock interviews with different people. The one's that I had with teachers I didn't know went absolutely fine, the one's I had with the geography teachers that I respected and knew fairly well went horrifically. But, after those ordeals, the actual interview went so much smoother than I could have hoped for. You know what they say, a bad dress rehearsal foretells a good opening night.

2. Know your personal statement inside out. Your personal statement tends to be the only reference point the interviewer has about you in the interview. It's the one thing you can really prepare yourself for when it comes to the interview. Don't get caught out. If you've mentioned books you've read, make sure you have something to say about them. If you mention particular interest in a topic, have something to say about it. If you put some opinion in your personal statement, make sure you can back it up if they ask you to justify it. It would be unbelievably embarrassing if you were asked a question about something you'd written and you couldn't answer it.

3. Don't learn reams of information to recite. Interviewers know when you're reciting a pre-prepared piece. The point of the interview is to see how you think on your feet, not to see how well you can remember a paragraph. It is difficult to foresee what the interviewer will ask you about, so there is no point memorising large chunks of pre-planned text. Instead, go through a list of general topics to do with your course and make a few brief points about each. That way, if it comes up, you've had a few thoughts on the issue beforehand and you're not sitting there with your mouth opening and closing like a goldfish in the interview. This brings me back to doing mock interviews. I thought I'd prepared a load of things to talk about in my interview and then I got to the worst of my mock interviews and my geography teacher asked me how long a piece of evidence would last in a particular type of rock. I had absolutely no clue. It completely stumped me, I didn't know much about geology and it scared me, so I sat there like a goldfish instead of keeping a clear head. Which brings me onto,

4. Keep an open mind and stay calm. This ties into the third point well. The interview questions will range in difficulty, but it will be hard at times. There may be questions that you have no clue about. Don't panic. Ask them to repeat the question, this gives valuable thinking time, don't worry about silences, they don't expect you to answer immediately. If there is a hard question, keep an open mind about it, steer the answer towards your strengths. Stay calm, it's the best thing you can learn to do.

So good luck! I hope it goes well, and if not, it's not the end of the world. At the end of the day it's another experience that will make you stronger. It is definitely not something you should ever regret doing.

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