Admissions interviews

Undergraduate admissions interviews at Cambridge are not interviews in the conventional sense. Rather, they are interactive aptitude tests, pursued by discussion.

At Churchill, we usually interview between 2/3 and 3/4 of our undergraduate applicants each year. All our interviews are conducted online, using Zoom. Most interviewees have a single interview, typically with two interviewers (occasionally a third person is present as an observer). Our interview slots are normally 45 minutes long, though the actual interview duration tends to be in the range of 30-40 minutes. Some interviews require pre-reading or a preparation exercise, in which case we will assign time for this before the interview proper. To check for any particular details about the interview format in your chosen course, see our Courses webpages.

If you are asked to interview, we’ll advise you to use a computer with a webcam and microphone, though a tablet or phone will work perfectly well. Provided we can see and hear each other clearly, that’s fine. We’ll ask you to have some paper and a pen handy, preferably a thick black “sharpie”-type pen, so you can easily share workings, sketches, and written ideas, particularly for technical subjects including (but not necessarily limited to) Architecture, Computer Science, Design, Economics, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine, Natural Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine. We might ask you to type into a shared document and if you have a device with a touch screen and stylus that you’re comfortable using then we may suggest that you use it to sketch or write ideas or equations. Again though, always have paper and pen as a backup.

We’ll ask you to find somewhere quiet for your interview where you won’t be disturbed, with the fastest and most stable internet connection available to you. For many interviewees, school or college is the best place, in which case make sure to check with your teachers or relevant staff members in advance that an appropriate space will be available.

Although the precise format of Cambridge interviews varies a bit from college to college and between subjects, all essentially have the same two functions. For us, they give our subject experts an opportunity to meet you and assess your academic ability. For you, they’re a bit like Cambridge supervisions, so they give you a chance to experience the way we teach and decide whether you feel you’re suited to it. To these ends, our interviews are typically based around academic problems to which we will ask you to seek solutions, assisted as appropriate by your interviewers, usually via discussion.

To prepare, the best thing you can do is revise, particularly:

  • Relevant content from school or college;
  • Your UCAS personal statement;
  • Any written work we have asked you to submit.

Additionally, it’d be good to become familiar with talking about your subject and academic interests with peers and/or teachers. However, extensive practice in interview ‘technique’ is neither expected nor, in our experience, useful.

See what Churchill online interviews are like

Here’re a couple of videos, showing what you can expect from online interviews and how you can prepare to show your workings in interviews where writing and/or sketching may be required.

The subject shown here is Engineering but the broad principles of how Cambridge interviews work – that they’re collaborative conversations based around problem solving, like the University’s supervision teaching – are transferable to all courses.

There may also be some variations between how different Colleges run their interviews. Again, though, broad principles apply.