Spanish and Portuguese Cambridge Interview

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A BYT Tutor’s interview questions for Cambridge Spanish and Portuguese undergraduate course:

Cambridge 2002, 2003 Trinity Hall (2002), Fitzwilliam (2003) “I applied to study Spanish and Portuguese at Cambridge twice, and was ‘pooled’ both times. In 2002 I applied to Trinity Hall, and had two interviews. I wasn’t given anything to prepare. My first interview was conducted by the admissions tutor, and by a doctoral student who studied medieval Spanish. I was given the opening on ‘El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba’ (No One Writes to the Colonel) by Gabriel García Márquez and asked about the grammatical structures used. They asked me ‘how important is context to the reading of a text?’. I said that a book could be read out of context, although this is something I would never ever argue now! They quizzed me on Spanish film, and asked me to compare the structure of Amores Perros with Pulp Fiction. Although I had seen Pulp Fiction, I couldn’t remember it in enough detail to answer the question. During my second interview I was interviewed by just one person. We discussed freedom of speech issues. He asked me whether a member of the BNP should be allowed to give a talk at Cambridge. I said I that they should have the right to speak, but that the university should ensure that their views were properly scrutinised and challenged. He also asked me why I hadn’t studied French at A2. (I took English Literature, Spanish and Chemistry for A2 and Art for A1). I said I hadn’t studied French because I thought I might apply for medicine and wanted to keep my options open. I should have given more positive reasons for studying Chemistry. 

I decided to re-apply to Fitzwilliam college in 2003. I was asked to do a written essay before my first interview. There were two people present, and a portion of the interview took place in Spanish. The conversation revolved around my recent travels in South East Asia. My second interview was conducted by one man, who asked me detailed questions about my A1 English Literature texts. We discussed jealousy in Othello. I was never asked about my interest in Portuguese.

Advice for future candidates:

” If I could do the interviews again, I would have done far more preparation. I naively thought that the interviewers would see raw potential. However, I now see that one needs a detailed knowledge of texts in order to have an in-depth discussion that shows of one’s strengths. I would have revised the plots and themes of all the texts that I had studied at A1 and A2 level, as well as books I had read in my own time. In addition to this, I would have found out more about the historical and literary context of the texts that I had mentioned on my UCAS form. I would have revised more complex grammatical points, spent more time listening to Spanish radio, and signed up for Spanish conversation lessons. I wouldn’t try to discuss a film that I could barely remember. I would also recommend that students come up with good reasons justifying their choice of A-Level subjects.