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How to Succeed in an Oxbridge Interview | 1. Preparing for Interview

In the first of our brand new guide designed to give the inside scoop on the Oxbridge interview process, BYT tutor James Walker looks at preparing for the interview itself.

Bright Young Things’ brand new six part guide to the Oxford & Cambridge Interview ProcessBright Young Things’ brand new six part guide to the Oxford & Cambridge Interview Process

The dreaded interview. Impossible to prepare for and impossible to predict. Or is it?

I’ve prepared applicants for Oxbridge and Russell group university interviews for almost 10 years. Although no two interviews are the same, there are some easy preparation tips that can make the whole process feel much more manageable.

Four excellent preparation tips below!Four excellent preparation tips below!

1. Listen to an expert:

One of the best ways to prepare for interview is to listen to people talk about your subject in an academic environment. It helps get you into the swing of talking about your subject. Give University Podcasts a try and listen to some lectures online. Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Berkeley are particularly good and their range is huge. My personal favourite is the academic radio show Entitled Opinions from Stanford. Each episode is an hour of interview style conversation between world famous academics on subjects as wide ranging as Language Development, Greek Democracy and Quantum Physics. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything, it’s just about getting familiar with a different type of discussion.

2. Revise

Treat your interview like an exam. In the last few weeks before make flash cards or single page note summaries of individual aspects of your subject, practice interview style problems, test yourself against online lateral thinking quizzes on wired.com. Go through your personal statement and write notes on what questions you think an interviewer might ask you. Practice those questions, revise quotes, figures and statistics that you think might help you answer particularly difficult questions. Make sure you check out the resources that the University you are applying to provides, like the sample interview questions from Oxford. Universities want you to feel prepared for interview so there is a lot of information available online to help you.

3. Talk to yourself:

Ok, so this is maybe the weirdest one but I find that it helps applicants the most. In the process of revising and preparing for your interview try speaking some of your thoughts and arguments out loud. Imagine that you have been asked a particularly tricky question and then debate it, out loud, with yourself. By doing this you get used to running through problems out-loud, thinking on your feet and also finding efficient and clear ways to express yourself. Talking to yourself can be a really good way of sorting your own thoughts out — in fact the New York times ran a great article on it only this year. You can read it here.

4. Think Positive

One of the greatest hurdles in having a good interview is getting over your own nerves. One of the best ways to do this is positive visualisation. In the last few days before the interview spend a few minutes each day visualising the interview and imagining it going really well. It might sound funny but it’s a great way to combat the other type of thinking you are doing, subconsciously, that is causing the nerves in the first place: “What if I don’t know the answer?”, “What if everyone is smarter than me?”. Spend a few moments each day imagining a positive interview and those thoughts will naturally become quieter and less intrusive. I promise you will go into the room more confident, eloquent and prepared.

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So there you have it, some quick tips to help you feel more prepared. Stay tuned for some more tips for when you are at the interview itself. Good luck with your preparation.

Watch this space for more in our Oxford & Cambridge entrance guideWatch this space for more in our Oxford & Cambridge entrance guide

James Walker is a Cambridge Graduate (Double 1st in English Literature). A communications and education specialist and tutors Oxbridge Entrance for BYT , James has successfully helped a number of our students gain places at Oxford and Cambridge.

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