I learned a lot from the Oxbridge Interview Skills session just as the pupils did – full of tips on the whole application process.  The pupils were given lots of practice in answering interview-style questions, tailored to their own subjects. There were activities designed to train them to think about the questions and approach them in lots of different ways.  The pupils came out of the session really buzzing and energised, and I came out with lots of ideas for follow-up.
Catharine Jessop (Gifted and Talented Coordinator), St. Margaret’s School, Hertfordshire.

It was another busy day visiting St Margaret’s School in Hertfordshire. I was once again mentoring and coaching Oxbridge applicants who have been invited to interview in a couple of weeks time, as part of our “Oxbridge Interview Skills” workshop.

The focus of this session was on how to make the best use of the personal statement at interview, to have a look at some past Oxbridge interview questions and to develop strategies to enable students to think more broadly and critically when answering subject-specific questions. We also did a lot of motivational work, looking at the wide range of celebrities and famous faces who have been to Oxford and Cambridge. Students were surprised at the variety of backgrounds, cultures and careers that can be found at these two institutions and be produced as a result of a degree from Oxford or Cambridge. One student summed up the mood when she “promise(d) not to stereotype Oxbridge candidates anymore”.

All of the students were given questions, such as the one in the title for the English Language and Literature candidate, that have been used in interview before and each student really had a chance to consider their response. While the content of the questions differed – obviously – for each subject, students were able to share a range of strategies to master answering questions in an insightful and critical manner. It was great to coach students and to facilitate a range of approaches to thinking more analytically and originally to what are some very broad and open-ended questions. When it came to having a go in a “live” mock interview setting, some of the students produced answers that were simply breathtaking!

To finish, as always, we watched a couple of mock interviews and students were able to put to use all of their work on the qualities and features of a ‘good’ interview to evaluate the performance of the students in the videos. This ultimately led to a lively discussion about who they thought would get in, due to very different performances. Students were ultimately shocked when I told them that all students in the video had secured a place – in fact, they were mock interviews with real first year students! It really reinforced to students that there is not just ‘one’ approach to handling the interview, just as there is not ‘one type’ of student who successfully applies.

Another fantastic day. I wish all of these students all the luck in the world for their interview.

If you wish to discuss hosting our “Oxbridge Interview Skills” workshop next year, please do not hesitate to contact us.