Interviews. What are they for?
Interviews play an important part in admissions to Cambridge, but it is important to stress that they are not the only method by which colleges make their decisions on who will be offered places. Applicants applying to Homerton, and indeed to any college in Cambridge, are highly able, and are very difficult to choose between. Most will, for example, have excellent grades at GCSE, good AS results (where available), and either have, or be predicted to get, top grades at A Level. Interviews give us some more vital information. Talking in a relatively structured way with applicants gives us a chance to put the qualities we've read about into a fuller context.
What are they like?
Potential students are interviewed by someone knowledgeable in the applicant's chosen field (often the College Director of Studies) whose job it will be to find out what you know and how you use what you know to think; their aim is to elicit your strengths in your chosen subject. Here you may be asked about a piece of work we may have asked you to send in, if appropriate, or be asked to consider problems in your subject. It is our usual practice to offer two interviews, both academic. There are usually two interviewers in each interview.
We will try to get an overall sense of your intellectual abilities and commitment to your goals. These interviews help us to make fair decisions concerning the candidates. Interviews are therefore in the applicants' best interests; they are certainly not something to be feared. We know full well that some applicants - whether from state or independent schools - are better prepared for interview than others, and we always try to take this into account.
Who gets an interview?
At Homerton we like to interview as many candidates as possible but we do reserve the right not to call for interview those candidates who, on the evidence of their application, will have little chance of success.
In the case of applicants with UMS percentages at AS to consider, significant emphasis is placed on these in our decision whether to call to interview. Results from pre-interview assessments will also be taken into consideration.
What happens? And when?
Most interviews take place in December; your interviews will be conducted by Homerton academic staff in the subject you have chosen to read, usually one of whom will be a Director of Studies for that subject. In some cases, however, candidates are interviewed by academic staff in a closely related subject area, or by a Tutor. Each interview usually lasts 25-30 minutes.
Our principal aim at interview is that candidates should be at their best; so we try to put them at their ease. We are overwhelmingly interested in discovering your academic interests and strengths; in allowing you to show your true potential. We are certainly not out to 'trip you up', nor will you be asked any 'trick' questions. The nature of interviews varies from subject to subject, and we have different expectations, of course, of those applying to read subjects they have studied at school from those applying to read subjects they have not.
What are we looking for?
We do not expect you to know all there is to know about your subject (the answer 'I don't know' is not a wrong answer!) or to have your answers at your fingertips. You are allowed to ponder your response. We do, however, expect that you will have thought seriously and carefully about your application; that you are genuinely interested in your subject (or subjects); that you can think things through with clarity and flexibility; that you are prepared to take part in discussion.
In short, we are looking for applicants with established ability in their chosen subject who have the potential to develop that ability further. Beyond strictly academic matters, we are also keen to find out more about you, your aptitudes and your interests, though our decision will be based solely on what we see as academic capability. We hope to obtain a more direct impression of you than the one we can form on the basis of your school's report; in particular we seek to satisfy ourselves of your commitment and motivation.
Work submitted in advance
Candidates, particularly for Arts and Humanities subjects, are often asked to submit some examples of their recent written work in advance of their interviews. Such work should normally be in the form of essays that you have written and had marked as part of your routine studies at school. The content of these essays may be discussed at interview (though this is not necessarily the case), so you should choose essays on topics that interest you and on which you would be prepared to talk. At the same time, try to make sure that the essays taken together are representative of your work at or near its best; and keep a photocopy of any work you send us, so that you can read it again before coming to interview. You will not be 'tested' on its content, but you should be reasonably familiar with what you have written. And remember what you wrote on your personal statement!
Most applicants are required to take a written admissions assessment either before attending interview in November or at interview itself. See our ‘What are the Entry Requirements’ page for more information. The online prospectus gives detailed information about which courses require an ‘at interview’ assessment.
What if it goes wrong?
Anyone can mess up an interview. That's one of the reasons we give two of them. If you do 'mess up', please remember that we are aware of how stressful they can be and that no one part of the admissions process is seen by us as more key or central than any other. A 'bad' interview is not the end of the matter.
You can find further information about the interview process at Cambridge, including the interview video here:
or via the online University prospectus.