What did you talk about during your interview?

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vyu
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#1
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#1
Obviously, I understand that no interview is the same.

I'm just curious as to what some people talked about. We often learn of the questions that start the conversation off but not where it drifts or where it ends.

As an additional question, what was the biggest jump from the start talking about Ancient Greece to like the HS2 railway?
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Inister
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#2
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This is very subject-specific (particularly the contrast between, say, a maths interview and a history interview)

So what subject are you looking to apply for? Or, if you're not sure, is it science or humanities you're interested in?
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Doones
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#3
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#3
(Original post by vyu)
Obviously, I understand that no interview is the same.

I'm just curious as to what some people talked about. We often learn of the questions that start the conversation off but not where it drifts or where it ends.

As an additional question, what was the biggest jump from the start talking about Ancient Greece to like the HS2 railway?
Just to note that current applicants/offer holders can't discuss specific interview questions

But there are a number of videos showing "what to expect" at a Cambridge interview and - as Inister mentioned - it also depends on the course.

e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUwN6GI-0EQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujK0W-K0qc
CompSci https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7XwKVCBPfM
MML https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDCbD1BSg0c
Emmanuel College mock interviews: https://www.emma.cam.ac.uk/admissions/video/interviews/

Edit to add: and keep in mind the interview is just one part of your application. It's no more important than other aspects of your application and everything is reviewed and assessed holistically.
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vyu
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#4
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#4
(Original post by Inister)
This is very subject-specific (particularly the contrast between, say, a maths interview and a history interview)

So what subject are you looking to apply for? Or, if you're not sure, is it science or humanities you're interested in?
I am hoping to read History.

But really I am just curious to see how other people's interviews went. Essentially if it was more of a debate, or conversation touching on a wide-ranging series of topics or if the tutor encouraged you to go on tangents.

I'm not looking for techniques or a cheat sheet as I know whatever is talked about during your interview would never come up again. I'm just interested in what content was discussed and how you got there.

If it makes sense if can try and demonstrate an example:

perhaps talking about Napoleon, then how he obviously obsessed over Rome and the Classical civilizations, then mention Ancient Greece and democracy, potentially talking about referendums - which would get you onto talking about the EU referendum say.

I'm just interested in how great the leap was from the original question to the final talking point. If that makes sense?

Thanks

PS Doonesbury - Il check out those links - They seem really good! Thanks so much.
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Reality Check
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#5
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(Original post by vyu)
I am hoping to read History.

But really I am just curious to see how other people's interviews went. Essentially if it was more of a debate, or conversation touching on a wide-ranging series of topics or if the tutor encouraged you to go on tangents.

I'm not looking for techniques or a cheat sheet as I know whatever is talked about during your interview would never come up again. I'm just interested in what content was discussed and how you got there.

If it makes sense if can try and demonstrate an example:

perhaps talking about Napoleon, then how he obviously obsessed over Rome and the Classical civilizations, then mention Ancient Greece and democracy, potentially talking about referendums - which would get you onto talking about the EU referendum say.

I'm just interested in how great the leap was from the original question to the final talking point. If that makes sense?

Thanks
I can't talk specifically about History, but I can Law, which isn't a million miles away.

The academic interview takes the form of a supervision - this is the way you are taught at Cambridge and basically involves a guided academic discussion. Usually, you have an essay which you've previously prepared to form the basis of the supervision - in an interview, often a test or case study stands in lieu.

It's all the things you mention: debate, discussion and conversation. Tangents are fine, so long as they're logically connected and develop an argument or line of thought - tangents for the sake of it are to be discouraged.

Essentially, it's an opportunity to have your thinking ironed out and stretched. There's usually no 'right' or 'wrong' answers, and it's much better to venture an opinion on something and try to develop your answer thinking on your feet than either rehearse some standard arguments or 'interview prep' you learnt (always the very worst thing to do) or, worse, just to not fully engage with the interviewer and appear thoughtless or sullen. I advise really throwing yourself into the conversation and engaging with the matter in hand.

You will often find your interviewer questions your line of thought, or throws extra information in, or contradicts you. This often worries applicants - they take it as a sign that they're not doing well, or they're saying the 'wrong' answer. Quite the contrary - involvement like this from your interviewer is a very good sign, and shows that he wants to stretch you further to see how far you can take your thinking

Hope that helps a little.
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username1865079
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#6
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#6
(Original post by vyu)
Obviously, I understand that no interview is the same.

I'm just curious as to what some people talked about. We often learn of the questions that start the conversation off but not where it drifts or where it ends.

As an additional question, what was the biggest jump from the start talking about Ancient Greece to like the HS2 railway?
It's because it'd depend on how an interviewee response to the question and how an interviewer develop the interview from the responses, and so on and so forth. Their interviews are very organic. Its not like an exam with a fixed set of questions and a checklist of correct answers. They're looking to find out how you think/how you deal with unfamiliar questions/how you develop your thinking from given information, so that they can get some indication on how/whether you are suited to and get benefit from their unique teaching style = supervisions.
Even at a same college and for a same course in a same year, an interview develops in different ways with each applicant.

What they want to see is a glimpse of you in the future at Cambridge, not what you've learned so far in the past. (They already know the latter from your exam results/PS/reference). They will enevitably take you outside your comfort zone and see how you deal with unfamiliar/unpracticed questions, perhaps with some helping nudges from the interviewer, because that how supervisions will be like.
so there isn't much you can do to prepare and practice for it.

So don't worry too much about what they may or not ask you at interview. Won't make much difference if you know it or not.


Edit:
Lol so many additional replies while I was typing this.....

OP, one important thing.
There isn't a such thing as 'final talking point' .
What they're interested is your thinking process. Not your conclusion.
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Mrkingpenguin
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#7
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#7
(Original post by vyu)
I am hoping to read History.

But really I am just curious to see how other people's interviews went. Essentially if it was more of a debate, or conversation touching on a wide-ranging series of topics or if the tutor encouraged you to go on tangents.

I'm not looking for techniques or a cheat sheet as I know whatever is talked about during your interview would never come up again. I'm just interested in what content was discussed and how you got there.

If it makes sense if can try and demonstrate an example:

perhaps talking about Napoleon, then how he obviously obsessed over Rome and the Classical civilizations, then mention Ancient Greece and democracy, potentially talking about referendums - which would get you onto talking about the EU referendum say.

I'm just interested in how great the leap was from the original question to the final talking point. If that makes sense?

Thanks

PS Doonesbury - Il check out those links - They seem really good! Thanks so much.
Here are a few things:

For history, the interview will almost always start from sources given to you during the process or your books on UCAS.

Read these books, *understand* the argument they make and the primary sources they use to make this argument. Understand the counter argument and the logic and evidence behind that. Which one do you find most convincing?

Have a new twist on something, like how Napoleon was moulded by historical memory or about how the post-French Revolution France in the early 1800s pined for the medieval catholic france of chivalry, then say that, *and* give evidence for it.

The first thing they're likely to say is - 'so you read x, tell me about it'. Read your interviewers bio on the hist.cam.ac fac website to see if what you've read is in their specialist area - if not, try and not dive in deep straight away.

Finally, they are looking for interesting people. Interesting people do well in Tripos. Be interesting.
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Rattie
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#8
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#8
My Cambridge interviews were pretty sane, although I did start singing at one point, but my York interview went on for 45 minutes when it should've been 30 and we had a long conversation about Godzilla movies (none of which I've seen).
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alcibiade
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#9
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#9
My daughter was interviewed for archaeology in 2012. They started out grilling her on her essay (the Bible as an archaeological source) until they exhausted her knowledge base, testing not just what she had read but to see her thinking processes. Then, they switched the subject to WWI forensics, about which she knew nothing specific and pushed her into methodology, very much to see how she would think on her feet, but also whether they would want to work with her. She left discouraged, feeling she had blown the test and that admission was unlikely.
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