In November we assess applications and invite applicants for interview (we interview the vast majority of applicants). When you come for interview, we will encourage you to talk about your academic interests and ideas. We are looking for intellectual ability, aptitude for the subject, curiosity and commitment. So expect interviewers to ask a range of questions relating to the work or reading you have done, both at school and outside it. Do not be surprised if they ask you to justify or elaborate on what you say.
If they introduce issues that are new to you, they are not trying to catch you out, but to discover how you would deal with new ideas or an unfamiliar topic. They will not expect you to know all the answers: simply to think hard and have a go. Similarly, any test we ask you to take while here is designed to show us your academic potential and aptitude. Apart from the small number of subjects that require some preparatory reading, the interviews and at-interview admissions assessments or tests require no specific preparation.
If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!).
Make sure that you find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more. Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions, but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful.
Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments.
Give yourself time before the interview to think about the 'obvious' questions that you will be asked. Why have you chosen your particular subject? If you wrote that you have specific interests or passions on your application form, why do you enjoy them? What have they taught you? Are there items in the news that are connected with your chosen subject? What do you think about them? And so on. Of course you will probably find that you are not asked precisely these questions, but preparing yourself in this way may help. If you can, get someone to give you interview practice. If not, spend half-an-hour asking yourself questions - you will probably ask much harder questions than your interviewers.
In general, we are more interested in how you think when presented with new ideas than finding out exactly how much you already know. This means that you are likely to find yourself being asked questions about subjects which you have not thought about before. Don't panic. Say if you don't understand the question, since you may well get more questions on the same or related topics. We are not trying to make you feel ignorant; it is just that we learn very little from asking questions about subjects you can discuss without having to think.
If you are asked questions about your activities, opinions or attitudes, remember that there is no 'correct' answer. Don't try to guess what the interviewer wants to hear, and don't assume that he or she will be impressed if your opinion is the same as theirs. Expect to have your answers questioned and be prepared to defend your point of view.
In most interviews, you will be given a chance, usually at the end, to ask questions or to say something about yourself that you feel is important and which has not been covered in the interview. Think in advance whether there is anything that you would like to say or ask at this stage. Don't invent something just for the sake of it - most candidates do not ask anything - but be ready to take advantage of the opportunity if you have a genuine concern.
Almost all candidates are nervous in their interviews. We expect this, and make allowances. If you get so nervous that you cannot think at all, say so. It usually helps, and doesn't count against you; we know this is the first interview that many of you will have. Remember that many of our successful candidates come out of their interviews thinking that they have done badly - and some of our unsuccessful candidates think that they did really well! Be on time, relax, be honest, be awake, look your interviewer in the eye, and good luck!