Oxbridge English Literature Interview

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A-1234
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I really want to try my luck applying to Oxford/Cambridge to study English (literature). I am concerned about the interview part of the application process. As I understand it, you are asked some general questions about the subject itself and then questions about specific texts you have read. Does anyone know how exactly they pick the texts that you’re asked about? Do you have to submit some sort of list of books you have recently read, or do they just pick from the material for A-level English literature?...

The problem is that I’m not from England, and have never taken any A-levels (so I’m not familiar with much of the material). I wonder if I should even bother to apply, as there’s no way I’ll have enough time to catch up.
PS: I study at an international high school in Europe, which mostly follows American curriculums.
Thank you!!!!
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by A-1234)
I really want to try my luck applying to Oxford/Cambridge to study English (literature). I am concerned about the interview part of the admissions process. As I understand it you are asked some general questions about the subject and then some specific ones about texts you have read. How exactly do they pick the texts that you are asked about? Do you have to submit some sort of list of books you've read or do they just pick from the material for A-level English literature?....My problem is that i am not from England, and have never studied A-levels. (PS: I study at an international high school in Europe, which follows a mostly American program).Thank you!!
I believe they will ask you about texts you've discussed in your personal statement, or otherwise they will give you an extract to read before the interview and ask about that. A-level students study different texts dependent on the exam board they're studying as I understand, and students in the UK also take other qualifications (such as IB) where again, the texts will be different. I did IB and we did very different texts to the A-level students (much more world literature, much less 18th/19th century British literature). Also, of course, Oxford and Cambridge are globally renowned universities and receive a large number of applications from international students studying international qualifications, so they won't presuppose any particular texts - just an interest in the subject and demonstration (through your personal statement) that you are reading texts of interest to yourself!

For Cambridge there is a "Supplementary Application Questionnaire" where you can put in further information, including more information about your qualifications such as what texts you have read. I don't know if Oxford has something similar, but from their admissions page:

"Successful candidates will give evidence of wide, engaged, and thoughtful reading. The ELAT and written work help us to gauge your analytical skills and your writing. Interviews allow us to explore your enthusiasm for literature, your response to new ideas and information and your capacity for independent thought. We are not looking for any particular reading, or particular answers: we are interested in your ideas and in how you engage with literature. Shortlisted candidates may also be asked to discuss an unseen piece of prose or verse given to you before or in the interview. Tutors appreciate that you may be nervous, and will try to put you at ease."

(emphasis mine). So the important thing is critically evaluating literature, no matter what it is; they don't care so much what particular literature you have studied. I imagine Cambridge is similar though, and won't be expecting any particular texts be read, but will expect you to know what you have written about in your PS (and will expect you to discuss the texts you've read in your personal statement, for both).

Do look at the courses as they're slightly different for each university; as I understand, for Oxford you have to study some Old/Middle English in first year (and can do a more specialised option focusing on English philology and early English literature for the final two years), which Cambridge doesn't require, while Cambridge has a compulsory paper in Tragedy for final year.
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koi koy
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(Original post by A-1234)
I really want to try my luck applying to Oxford/Cambridge to study English (literature). I am concerned about the interview part of the application process. As I understand it, you are asked some general questions about the subject itself and then questions about specific texts you have read. Does anyone know how exactly they pick the texts that you’re asked about? Do you have to submit some sort of list of books you have recently read, or do they just pick from the material for A-level English literature?...

The problem is that I’m not from England, and have never taken any A-levels (so I’m not familiar with much of the material). I wonder if I should even bother to apply, as there’s no way I’ll have enough time to catch up.
PS: I study at an international high school in Europe, which mostly follows American curriculums.
Thank you!!!!
Hey,
So they definitely won't ask you about any books you haven't read. They'll ask you about books from your personal statement and possibly books you've studied as part of your course of study (you enter this in the SAQ you have to fill out for Cambridge). For the college I applied to they also asked for a list of texts I had read but this doesn't happen for all colleges.
In your interview, you'll probably be only asked about books from your personal statement (I was). They want to see your own thoughts on what you've read rather than books you've studied for over a year.
The typical structure is a discussion of an unseen text and then a discussion of books from your personal statement. It can always vary so be prepared.
All you really need to apply for English is to enjoy it and read some of books outside of your curriculum.
Best of luck and any questions feel free to PM me.
-Koi Koy
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artful_lounger
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Hi, I've merged your two threads since they were on the same topic in different subfolders of the same forum
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A-1234
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Thank you so much!!☺️
(Original post by koi koy)
Hey,
So they definitely won't ask you about any books you haven't read. They'll ask you about books from your personal statement and possibly books you've studied as part of your course of study (you enter this in the SAQ you have to fill out for Cambridge). For the college I applied to they also asked for a list of texts I had read but this doesn't happen for all colleges.
In your interview, you'll probably be only asked about books from your personal statement (I was). They want to see your own thoughts on what you've read rather than books you've studied for over a year.
The typical structure is a discussion of an unseen text and then a discussion of books from your personal statement. It can always vary so be prepared.
All you really need to apply for English is to enjoy it and read some of books outside of your curriculum.
Best of luck and any questions feel free to PM me.
-Koi Koy
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A-1234
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Thank you for your help
(Original post by artful_lounger)
I believe they will ask you about texts you've discussed in your personal statement, or otherwise they will give you an extract to read before the interview and ask about that. A-level students study different texts dependent on the exam board they're studying as I understand, and students in the UK also take other qualifications (such as IB) where again, the texts will be different. I did IB and we did very different texts to the A-level students (much more world literature, much less 18th/19th century British literature). Also, of course, Oxford and Cambridge are globally renowned universities and receive a large number of applications from international students studying international qualifications, so they won't presuppose any particular texts - just an interest in the subject and demonstration (through your personal statement) that you are reading texts of interest to yourself!

For Cambridge there is a "Supplementary Application Questionnaire" where you can put in further information, including more information about your qualifications such as what texts you have read. I don't know if Oxford has something similar, but from their admissions page:

"Successful candidates will give evidence of wide, engaged, and thoughtful reading. The ELAT and written work help us to gauge your analytical skills and your writing. Interviews allow us to explore your enthusiasm for literature, your response to new ideas and information and your capacity for independent thought. We are not looking for any particular reading, or particular answers: we are interested in your ideas and in how you engage with literature. Shortlisted candidates may also be asked to discuss an unseen piece of prose or verse given to you before or in the interview. Tutors appreciate that you may be nervous, and will try to put you at ease."

(emphasis mine). So the important thing is critically evaluating literature, no matter what it is; they don't care so much what particular literature you have studied. I imagine Cambridge is similar though, and won't be expecting any particular texts be read, but will expect you to know what you have written about in your PS (and will expect you to discuss the texts you've read in your personal statement, for both).

Do look at the courses as they're slightly different for each university; as I understand, for Oxford you have to study some Old/Middle English in first year (and can do a more specialised option focusing on English philology and early English literature for the final two years), which Cambridge doesn't require, while Cambridge has a compulsory paper in Tragedy for final year.
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DCDude
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The 'unseen' texts at interview are deliberately chosen so that it is extremely unlikely that even a really well read student will be familiar with them. The interview is NOT a direct knowledge test, but rather a way of seeing how you think, how you approach unfamiliar material, how you bring all of the things you do know to the present problem, and how you interact with the tutors when they ask questions / give feedback.
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