Two students work together in the library

What to expect at interview

The application process can be a little daunting, so knowing what to expect before, during, and after interviews is important. Below you can find information about what to expect from the 2016-17 Admissions Round. Please note that the information below is provisional and provided as a guide. Some of the details may change a little over the next few months. We'll keep this page as up-to-date as we can, but please note that we cannot guarantee that your assessment/interviews will be exactly as described.

There are a number of changes to our processes for 2017 entry, including expanding the use of University-wide admissions assessments and the introduction of a number of new courses.

Note for candidates interviewing overseas: Most of the below applies to interviews in Cambridge only. If you are being interviewed overseas, you should contact the relevant administrator for more information. Please note that candidates attending overseas interview are still required to submit written work and complete paperwork (data protection declaration, fee status questionnaire etc.) and will still need to sit the admissions assessments.

If you are travelling from abroad to an interview in Cambridge you may need a visitor visa - please make sure you apply for the right type of visa, and that you do so in plenty of time for it to be processed (which can take weeks!). Please note that we do not offer Skype, phone or video interviews and all candidates who are invited are expected to attend an interview in person.

Types of interview

All interviews will be academic in nature. In some cases, you will be given some interview preparation immediately prior to your interview. This means that you will be given a passage to read or problem sheet to look at, which you will probably then discuss for part of the interview. Sometimes this takes place on a chair just outside of your interview room so it’s a good idea to bring something to lean on. The contents of the interview prep is deliberately supposed to be something you have not come across before so no preparation is necessary. It often helps to guide the interview such that it is more like an actual Cambridge supervision.

Interviewers may not bring up anything from your personal statement: many candidates have answered questions like 'why do you want to study Law?' quite comprehensively in the personal statement and the interview is a chance to find out new information about you and your potential rather than re-tread the ground from your personal statement. Also remember that there's no need to go overboard on revision - your current schoolwork is very important and we're anxious not to distract you from it. Interviews are designed to be something that you can't prepare for too much (aside from a wider and general interest in the subject) to allow all candidates from all backgrounds an equal chance.

In some subjects, one of your interviews may only have one interviewer. If you would prefer a third person be present in the room, you are welcome to request this by emailing the Admissions Office once invitations to interview have been sent, you have received your schedule and you know that you will have a one-on-one interview.

If you apply for a subject for which written work is requested in advance, this may be used as the starting point for discussion during the interview. Likewise, if you have sat a pre-interview Admissions Assessment then a portion of this may used as the springboard for further discussion during the interview (in which case we would email you a copy of your answers before the interview, to refresh your memory of what you wrote).

In some subjects, you will be asked to sit a written assessment or test in Cambridge as well (more details on this on the subject pages below). Wherever possible we will do our best to arrange all of your appointments (i.e. interview(s) and, where applicable, written assessments, tests etc.) on the same day. If necessary, we will also provide meals and overnight accommodation too. You can find much more information, including videos of mock interviews, on the University website. Specifications and sample papers for the written assessments can also be found on the University website. You can find likely interview dates, more detail on what to expect in interviews for your subject at Peterhouse, on the drop-down pages below.

Please note that interview/test/interview prep times will already be adjusted as appropriate for those who have submitted an Adjustment for Disability/Learning Difficulty form.

What to bring

  • Warm clothes: Cambridge is cold (and often wet!) in December. There is no specific dress code so it is important that you wear whatever you feel comfortable and confident in.
  • Sensible shoes: you may need to walk around a lot so make sure you are comfortable.
  • Something to read/watch: you may spend some time sitting around waiting so make sure you bring something to keep you entertained. You can also use the JCR (Junior Combination Room aka social area) during your breaks, which has free tea/coffee for interviewees, and a TV and free pool table. Regrettably, parents/non-interviewees are not permitted to use this waiting area.
  • A mobile phone: if you have provided us with your mobile phone number then please bring it with you as we do sometimes need to make last minute changes to interview times if people are held up in traffic, etc. But please remember it must be switched off during any interviews, interview prep or tests.
  • Your interview invitation: you will need this so that you know where you are going and when. For all appointments at Peterhouse, the JCR will act as the waiting area, with tea and coffee and a reception desk run by current students - we call these students 'shepherds' because they deliver you to your destinations and look after you while you're here. If you have an appointment at another College or at a Faculty/Department then please make sure you know how to get there, and allow yourself plenty of time to find their Porters’ Lodge/Reception.
  • A pen: the shepherds will have some spare for those with interview prep/sitting tests but it helps if you can bring your own.
  • A calculator? Applicants for Engineering (or Chemical Engineering via Engineering) should bring a calculator to use whilst working on their pre-interview problem sheet. Otherwise, calculators are not permitted.
  • Photo ID (passport or driving licence): we may need to confirm your identity at the interview.
  • An alarm clock (if you are staying overnight): you don’t want to miss your interview!

How to get to the interview

Make sure you have a good look at the maps and directions for Peterhouse before planning your travel. Bear in mind that we are on Trumpington Street, about 30 minutes walk from Cambridge Railway Station, and about 15 minutes walk from Drummer Street bus station. Once you get to Peterhouse, you should report to the JCR about 10 minutes before each appointment, so they can tick you off their list and deliver you to your room and give you any instructions.

Meals/Accommodation

We have a limited amount of accommodation available to use during the interview period but, where appropriate (usually if you have a long way to travel or an early start), we will offer you free accommodation during your time at Peterhouse. Please note it is not possible to offer accommodation to parents and nobody apart from the candidate will be allowed to stay overnight at Peterhouse. We may also offer you some meals if you are staying with us over mealtimes. Your interview invitation email will say what we have offered you, if anything. Accommodation is usually in St Peter's Terrace (first-year students' accommodation) and you will be provided with a towel and basic toiletries. Bathrooms are shared between 3-4 people, and you will have access to a very basic kitchen. We would recommend bringing with you a water bottle and snacks for the evening, as there are no vending machines on the College site. Mealtimes and checkout times can be found below. Hot drinks will be available in the JCR/waiting area - there will be signs from the Porters' Lodge to help you find it.

Meals/Accommodation 2016
Breakfast 8.00-9.00*
Lunch 12.30-13.30
Dinner 18.00-18.45*
Check in 14.00-22.00
Check out 8.30**

*Dinner will be 17.45-18.30 on the following dates: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th December. Candidates with appointments that span the length of the breakfast period will be able to collect a small breakfast before or after that period, just ask a member of staff in the kitchens.

**There is a luggage room available at the Porters' Lodge, so we recommend that you check out on your way to breakfast.

What to do outside of appointments

In between interviews you should do your best to relax and prepare for your next appointment. There are a number of suggestions for how you can spend your time below. If you need help with directions, the Porters and student helpers are always happy to help you.

  • Go to the JCR (i.e. Common Room) in the Whittle building in Peterhouse to relax in the warm with a cuppa on a comfy sofa. The JCR opens at 7.30am, closes at 1.00am, has a TV, board games and a free pool table. It will also be staffed with a team of friendly undergraduates, who will answer any questions you have and take you to your interview, and we'll be providing free tea/coffee/squash for applicants during the daytime.
  • Go to the College Library if you want somewhere a bit quieter.
  • If you have a long break, or have stayed overnight, you can pop into town - there are lots of cafes and shops within 5 minutes walk, as well as the Grand Arcade and Lion's Yard shopping centres and a cinema, all about 10 minutes walk away.
  • I'm afraid we won't have time to give you a tour of the College as we'll be busy making sure the interviews run smoothly, but you are welcome to have a wander around by yourself, using a College map.

Subject Information

The drop-down menu below provides a rough outline of what you can expect as an applicant for your subject.

Important note: details like the number of interviews you will receive, running times of tests etc may change (you will receive full and final information in your 'invitation to interview' email) but the below is intended to give you an idea of how we typically assess candidates in each subject.

Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic (ASNC)

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment for ASNC on 2nd November; submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include two copies of the essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect one 20 minute general interview; one 30 minute subject interview at the ASNC Faculty (5 minutes interview prep).

Likely interview date: TBC

Archaeology

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include one copy of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews and the 60 minute at-interview assessment in Archaeology.

Likely interview date: TBC

Architecture

At your interview: you can expect one 30 minute subject interview, which will include discussion of your portfolio (see Architecture page for details on what this should include); you will also sit the Admissions Assessment for Architecture.

Likely interview date: TBC

Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (AMES)

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment for AMES on 2nd November; submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of the essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: it depends on which language(s) you are applying for, but you can usually expect one or two 30 minute interviews (which may have interview prep beforehand). If you are applying for AMES with a modern language, you will have additional interview(s), and may have to sit the 60 minute MML at-interiew assessment.

Likely interview date: TBC

Chemical Engineering

via Natural Sciences:

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment for Natural Sciences on 2nd November.

At your interview: As for Natural Sciences.

Likely interview date: TBC

via Engineering

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment for Engineering on 2nd November.

At your interview: As for Engineering plus a 30 minute Chemistry interview.

Likely interview date: TBC

Classics

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect one 30 minute subject interview (plus 30 minutes interview prep studying a Latin text for those applying for the 3-year course) and one interview at another College. Candidates for the 3-year course will sit the 60 minute at-interview assesment in Classics. Applicants to the 4-year course will instead sit a Language Assessment session at the faculty.

Likely interview dates: TBC

Computer Science

At your interview: you all can expect one 30 minute Computer Science interview and the 100 minute CSAT test (calculators not permitted, more details can be found on the faculty website). Candidates for CompSci with Maths, with Social Psychology, or for the 75% option will have an additional Maths interview; candidates for CompSci with Natural Sciences will have an additional Natural Sciences interview.

Likely interview date: TBC

Economics

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment in Economics on 2nd Novermber, submit one piece of written work, remembering to include a copy of the essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect one 30 minute subject interview.

Likely interview dates: TBC

Engineering

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment for Engineering on 2nd November.

At your interview: you can expect a 30 minute subject interview; another 30 minute subject interview (with 45 minutes interview prep, calculators are permitted); a 60 minute College-set multiple choice maths test with 10 minutes reading time (calculators not permitted).

Likely interview dates: TBC

English

Before the interview: sit the ELAT on 2nd November, submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of the essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews (one of which will have 15-20 minutes interview prep).

Likely interview dates: TBC

History

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment in History on 2nd November, submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of the essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews (one of which will have 30 minutes interview prep).

Likely interview dates: TBC

History and Modern Languages

Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment in History on 2nd November, submit three pieces of written work - two in English (relevant to History) and one in post-A level language (none if applying for Russian ab initio), remembering to include three copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect one 30 minute History interview (with 30 minutes interview prep) and, depending on language, one or two 30 minute language interviews (one with 15-20 minute interview prep). Candidates for post-A level languages (i.e. not Russian ab initio) will also sit the 60 minute MML at-interiew assessment.

Likely interview date: TBC

History and Politics

Before the interview: sit the History pre-interview assessment on 2nd November, submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews (one of which will have 30 minutes interview prep).

Likely interview date: TBC

History of Art

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include a copy of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect a 30 minute subject interview and the 60 minute History of Art at-interview assessment.

Likely interview dates: 6th-8th December

Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS)

Before the interview: sit the HSPS pre-interview assessment on 2nd November, submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews.

Likely interview date: TBC

Law

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include three copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews (one of which will have 15 minutes interview prep); Cambridge Law Test (60 mins).

Likely interview dates: TBC

Linguistics

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include two copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect a 30 minute subject interview and the 60 minute at-interview admissions assessment in Linguistics.

Likely interview date: TBC

Mathematics

Before the interview: there is no pre-interview assessment for Mathematics applicants.

At your interview: you can expect one 35-45 minute and one 30 minute subject interview, one of which will have a 35-45 minute College-set maths test immediately beforehand which will be discussed during that interview. This test is set by the College and no past papers are available - special preparation is not required, candidates turn up and do their best at the questions they choose. Calculators are not permitted. The test is designed to be taken by people studying a range of qualifications; do not worry about differences in syllabus. .

Maths with Physics candidates can expect an additional 30 minute Physics interview.

Likely interview date: TBC

Medicine

Before the interview: register for the BMAT by 1st October.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews.

Likely interview dates: TBC - remember that interview invitations for Medicine will not be sent until after the BMAT results have been released at the end of November.

Modern & Medieval Languages (MML)

Before the interview: submit one piece of written work in each post-A level language (i.e. only one essay if applying for an ab initio language), remembering to include three copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: it depends on which languages you are applying for, and whether you have already studied them to A level (or equivalent), but you can expect at least two interviews, at least one of which will be preceded by 15-20 minutes of interview prep; candidates will also sit the 60 minute MML at-interiew assessment.

Likely interview date: TBC

Music

Before the interview: submit one piece of written work, remembering to include a copy of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November along with a composition or harmony exercise. You may also submit a musical exercise/piece if you wish.

At your interview: you can expect one 30 minute and one 45 minute subject interview (with 30 minutes interview prep); a 60 minute College-set test.

Likely interview date: TBC

Natural Sciences
Before the interview: sit the pre-interview assessment for Natural Sciences on 2nd November.

At your interview: you can expect two 30 minute subject interviews.

Likely interview dates: Biological: TBC. Physical: TBC.

Philosophy

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include two copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect one 20 minute general interview; one 30 minute subject interview; candidates will also sit the 60 minute at-interview assessment in Philosophy.

Likely interview date: TBC

Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion (TRPR)

Before the interview: submit two pieces of written work, remembering to include two copies of each essay as well as the original, by 3rd November.

At your interview: you can expect one 20 minute general interview; one 30 minute subject interview (with 20 minutes interview prep); one interview at another College; candidates will also sit the 60 minute at-interview assessment in Theology.

Likely interview date: TBC