Interview format for applications for entry in 2024
The interview process is slightly different for those applicants who are at school or college in the UK (or, if you have left school, are ordinarily resident in the UK) and those who are at school or college outside the UK. For applicants invited to interview, those applicants who are in the UK will normally be offered an in-person interview in Cambridge. As international travel is expensive and often difficult to arrange at short notice, those applicants who are outside the UK will normally be offered an online interview (using the platform Zoom).
The distinction only affects the format of the interview. The type of questions you will be asked and the level of assessment will be the same whether you are interviewed in person or online. Please see further details on the University Interviews page.
Peterhouse will be able to cover the cost of travel for UK applicants who are invited to an in-person interview who are currently in receipt of Free School Meals or who are in care.
We interview the majority of applicants (typically around 75%) each year. Interviews should not be thought of as any more, or any less, important than the other information we collect through the application process, but aim to gather additional information to help us assess your potential and abilities.
Interviews allow us to meet you and assess your ability to think, learn and reflect in a manner similar to the supervision teaching provided at Cambridge. We are looking for candidates with a strong commitment to and ability for their subject, and who have the potential to thrive at the University. The number and length of interviews will vary between courses, but you are likely to have two interviews, each with a pair of interviewers, and each lasting about 30 minutes. The interviewers are usually the Admissions Tutor, the Director/s of Studies, and other specialists in your subject. The interviewers will ask you a range of questions based around your subject and may include discussion of what you have written in your personal statement and any submitted work. The purpose of these questions is to generate discussion, and, rather than testing your knowledge the interviewers are seeking to evaluate haw you approach new information and new ideas. Their ultimate aim is to determine both whether you would be a good fit for the Cambridge system and whether that system would suit you.
Interviews usually take place during the first three weeks of December and you should aim to keep those dates free. If you are called for interview, we will give you as much notice as possible, but this may only be around two weeks or so.
It is possible that the content of a Cambridge College registered written assessment may be used as the springboard for further discussion during the interview (in which case we would provide you with a copy of your answers shortly before the interview, to refresh your memory of what you wrote).
Additionally you may be given ‘preparatory study’ before your interview consisting of a piece of text, data or some questions to analyse and prepare answers to and which may be discussed in your interview. In addition, you may be required to send pieces of written school or college work, marked by your teachers, to the Admissions Office before the interview (in November). This will not be used for selection of candidates for interview, but may be used by your interviewers in their preparation of questions that they will ask you. For further details please check the relevant course pages and the University undergraduate admissions website or seek guidance from your school or college and/or the Admissions Team. We strongly recommend the University’s guide to the interview process which includes videos of several mock interviews.
Once we have interviewed all candidates and when the initial process of assessment is completed, there are three possible outcomes for any one application:
1. A conditional offer is made;
2. Further consideration through the Winter Pool in early January – this is the process by which the University ensures that all candidates have an equal chance of admission to the University of Cambridge, regardless of which College they apply to. It allows Admissions Tutors to compare applicants to their College with applicants from across the University. During this process candidates are considered by other College, for offer, further interview or rejection.
3. The application is unsuccessful.
All decisions are announced at the same time, usually in mid-January.
Decisions will not be reviewed unless it appears, after investigation, that a serious procedural error has occurred. If you wish to pursue a complaint about the admissions process, guidance as to the proper procedure can be found on the University website.