Cambridge Archaeology: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read

Unsure about the best way to prepare for your Archaeology interview at Cambridge? Don’t worry! We have spoken to current Archaeology students at Cambridge to hear about their experiences and advice!

Cambridge Archaeology
Archaeology Interviews at Cambridge may seem daunting at first, but this article contains key bits of advice to help guide you!

What is the Cambridge Archaeology interview structure?

Candidates typically have 2x 20-30 minute interviews for Archaeology. Candidates may also be pooled to another college for interviews, meaning you could have up to four interviews over a few days!

According to the University of Cambridge, most interviews will be held online for the foreseeable future.  We advise getting comfortable with the technology beforehand, such as testing out your video and audio.

Cambridge interview
Cambridge Archeology interviews will be held virtually

Example Past Questions from Cambridge Archaeology Interviews

General questions:

  • Why do you want to study Archaeology at Cambridge?
  • Questions on why I talked about X in personal statement 
  • What is it about Archaeology that most excites you?
  • What skills would make you suited to be a successful student at Cambridge?
  • Why this college?
  • Why Cambridge University?
  • What can you contribute to college life?
  • Discussion on my EPQ topic
  • What did you do in your gap year?
  • Discussion of my future plans for study and career
  • I was asked to summarise a book mentioned in my personal statement and my opinion of it
  • What interesting news in the last 5 years have you read about Archaeology?
  • How do your A-Levels relate to Archaeology?
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    Cambridge Archaeology interview questions:

    • I was given an artefact and was asked to describe what I thought it was, and what I could find out about it (such as function, form, origin, shape, material etc)
    • I was given an image of two different sites, and discussed what I wanted to know and how I would find answers
    • I was shown a document and asked to make inferences about the society it originated from
    • Discussion on how one would decide whether to excavate a new site or not
    • Discussion on object study and stratigraphic study (key topics in course)
    • What is the role of archeologists and museums? 
    • Where do you think the Elgin Marbles should be, London or Athens?
    • What is the significance of ceramics in present society?
    • What makes an artefact significant?
    • Who, or what, should decide where an artefact is kept?
    • Should we give all artefacts back to their country of origin?

    What happens on the day of your Cambridge Archaeology interviews?

    My interviews both had two tutors who took turns interviewing me. At first I was welcomed into the call with brief introductions, before moving onto more general questions, such as a discussion about my EPQ topic, and the work experience I had previously done in an excavation site. 

    I was then asked more specific Archaeological questions. For me, this involved analysing an artefact and an image of an excavation site, before having a more broad discussion (“what makes an artefact more important than another?”, “how do we decide which sites we should excavate in” etc). At the end, there was a chance to ask my own questions and learn about the interviewer’s backgrounds.

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    What do you have to bring to your Cambridge Archaeology interview?

    We were told to wear whatever we felt most comfortable in – whether this is a suit or gym clothes. I opted for casual clothing to make me feel more comfortable, and my tutor did the same!

    I had a pen and paper handy to make any notes through the interview, and was presented with documents and images over screen share during the interview. 

    What are the Cambridge Archaeology interviewers like?

    Initially I was very nervous before my interview, but my interviewers quickly put me at ease and made me more confident. As the interview progressed, I felt a lot more comfortable and ended up really enjoying the experience. 

    It felt more like a conversation than an interview. We spoke about an image of an excavation site for a while, and towards the end of the interview my interviewer told me they worked at the site in question! For the remainder of the interview I asked questions and talked about their experience – it was very interesting!

    Importantly, try not to overthink or worry. Interviewers know how challenging and daunting it may seem at first, but they want you to succeed so will not ask any trick questions. 

    Cambridge course structure
    Students reading Archaeology at Cambridge will typically have 1-2 tutorials a week with 0-3 other students and a tutor

    Cambridge Archaeology interview tips

    Firstly, try and relax as much as before! Do not spend the night before going over all your notes to try to prepare. Instead, focus on being well-rested with a good night’s sleep so you can perform the best on the day.

    Second, make sure everything is prepared before the interview starts, such as your electronic equipment, and any stationary you need.

    Finally, be confident. This is easier said than done, but remember: you have been invited to an interview which means they see you as a top student with great potential, so try your best to show yourself off!

    Tips for the Cambridge Archaeology interview itself

    1. Try to stay calm! Interviewers care less about your final answer and more about how you arrived there – so practise talking out loud and showing the interviewer your thought process. 
    2. Do not panic if you do not immediately know the answer. It is very possible you get asked a question you initially do not know how to answer. Do not worry – take time to think and structure your answer, and clearly communicate how you want to arrive at your conclusion. 
    3. Mock interviews help! Practice talking out loud and answering unseen questions beforehand.
    4. Show your passion for their subject! The tutors will have dedicated their life to Archaeology and are very passionate, so they will be more likely to see you as a successful candidate if you also show a similar enthusiasm!
    5. The interview is not a knowledge test. Most studies have not studied Archaeology before, so they do not expect specific knowledge. Instead, they are looking for enthusiasm and a potential to learn!
    6. Know your personal statement and EPQ! Many tutors are interested about extra readings the candidate has done/their EPQ, so make sure you are comfortable talking about these!
    7. Keep up to date with the news! Showing you read around the latest developments shows you are engaged and can be bonus marks to impress your interviewer! Cambridge University recommends reading around your subject, whether this be news, articles, books or videos.

    Enjoy the experience! Being invited to an interview is an achievement in itself, and see this as an opportunity to discuss your interest with leading academics in the field.

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