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University Interviews - Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be asked to attend an interview?

There’s no single answer to this – whether or not you get an interview is up to the individual universities and their departments. However, you should be able to find out after a bit of research.

Check out the admissions section in your chosen university’s prospectus or website and you should be able to find out.

My university interviews – will I get one?

This is also difficult to say, but generally the better regarded your university, the more likely you will be to get an interview.

The same rule applies if you’re taking a particularly competitive course like medicine or law. Some other subjects also have a reputation for interviewing, such as teacher training or art and design.

You may also find you don’t get asked for interview if your grades greatly exceed the entry requirements. Many universities won’t waste the time interviewing the best candidates, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get an interview from your insurance choice.

Is Oxbridge special?

Yes, in some ways. As competition is so fierce, Oxford and Cambridge want to know more about you than just what’s on your UCAS form, and therefore interview many more students than most other universities.

Oxford interview around 90% of their applicants and Cambridge state they interview 'the vast majority', so unless your grades or personal statement really let you down, it is highly likely you will get an interview if you apply to one of these institutions.

When will my interview be?

This tends to vary - interviews generally start taking place from early November and continue all the way through the academic year, although the earlier you apply, the earlier you’re likely to be interviewed.

Many universities and departments interview at specific times, but they don’t always publish this information. Try looking at the admissions section of the university's prospectus or website to see if it tells you.

How should I prepare?

  • First, have a thorough look at the prospectus, paying particular attention to the course you want to study. If you’re already familiar with the university and the course, it will show the tutors you’re committed to studying at their university. It will also save you from having to ask simple questions.
  • Go over your personal statement, as it’s an obvious source of questions for admissions tutors, and is often used as a first question in the interview to help put you at ease. Make sure you have answers prepared for the common ones such as 'why do you want to study here?' and 'why have you chosen to study this subject?'.
  • Do some mock interviews with teachers, career advisors and/or parents. If you can, arrange to have the interview with a teacher or adult you’ve never met before, to make it a bit more realistic. The idea of a mock interview is to help you prepare for questions you might get asked in the real interview, and to give you a feel for how an interview goes. If you’ve haven’t applied for a part time job or other position of responsibility, this may be the first interview you’ve ever had to attend, and the mock interview should make your real one a bit less daunting. When you go for your actual interview, you may find it’s nothing like your mock – don’t be discouraged though, it’s all good practice.
  • If you’re applying for subjects such as medicine, biology or economics, it may be worthwhile reading around in magazines for information on the latest developments in your field. You may be asked for your opinion on these during the interview.
  • Finally, get plenty of sleep the night before so you feel refreshed and ready for your interview.

I’ve been asked to attend an open day

Rather than holding interviews, many universities invite you to attend an open or visit day. This is an excellent opportunity if you are able to go, as you will probably get a tour of the university, visit your department, meet and ask questions to the lecturers and possibly even have an informal interview.

What are informal interviews?

Sometimes universities describe their interviews as 'informal', which can often cause confusion, as students don’t know how seriously to take them.

Informal interviews are generally used as a chance for you to find out more about your university and department as well as for the tutor to find out about you. You shouldn’t take them as seriously as formal interviews, though you might still want to prepare some questions and look over the course information.

This is because they are often held before universities make offers, so your performance in the informal interview may influence whether you are offered a place or not.

What should I wear?

It’s probably a good idea to wear what you are comfortable in, but still look presentable enough to make a good impression.

This could range anywhere between smart-casual and a suit and tie. We would advise against trainers, jeans and t-shirt, because you want to show you’ve made an effort, but if you really don't feel comfortable in anything smarter then wear that.

It's far better to be badly dressed and confident than it is to be well dressed and look really uncomfortable in the interview.

At your interview you will see people wearing clothes with different levels of smartness ranging between smart-casual to a full suit and tie - so whatever you end up wearing, there are likely to be people who are both smarter and less smart than you.

Also remember that interviewers aren’t going to dress up for you, so there’s no need to dress up for them.

For a guide with some quick pointers on attending an interview see the interview tips page.