Cambridge Classics: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read
Cambridge Classics Interview
Studying Classics at the University of Cambridge

In this article we will guide you on how to best prepare for your Cambridge Classics interview, with guides on past Cambridge Classics questions, interview tips, mock examples and real experiences from students who have sat the Cambridge Classics interview.

Here is a video about what to expect about the Classics course at Cambridge.

What is the Cambridge Classics interview structure?

The Cambridge Classics interview is generally split into two or three interviews that candidates will take depending on the college applied to. All candidates are also required to sit an aptitude test which is often a translation of a passage into English.

What are the Cambridge Classics interview dates?

According to the official Cambridge Website, the majority of interviews will take place in the first 3 weeks of December. For the 2023-24 application cycle, the information on whether shortlisted candidates will be interviewed virtually or in person has not yet been published.

Example Past Questions from Cambridge Classics interview

  • Do you think feminism is dead?
  • Why do you think ancient history is important?
  • How civilised was the Roman world?
  • When would you start a book about the history of England?
  • What is the difference between a debate and a philosophical conversation?
  • Is Aeneas a modern hero?
  • Are history and myth compatible?
  • Where do you draw the line between Plato and Socrates and why?
  • What is irony?
  • Do you think it is right for a country to fight another one in self defence?
  • Is there a link between Greek and Japanese culture?
  • Does language exist?
  • Was Augustus just an arrogant child?
  • Why do you want to study classics?
  • What would happen if the Classics department burned down?
  • Is the stage a platform for opinion or just entertainment?
  • Does Ezra Pound translate Propertius?
  • Is it fair that Ted Hughes won a literary prize for a translation of an Ovid poem?
  • Why would a book of today be called a classic?
  • Is the ending of The Iliad useful?
  • What is the future perfect of moneo?

More Cambridge Classics Interview Practise Questions:

  • Did the Romans or the Greeks leave a more notable impression on the culture of today? How?
  • Can you pick one word to describe life under democracy in 5th century BC Athens
  • Do you think Feminism is dead?
  • Compare and contrast Ancient Greece and Rome
  • Compare and contrast Ovid and Catullus 
  • How is the study of Classics useful to the modern world?
  • How would you have ended the Siege of Troy sooner?
  • If you could turn this room into the British Museum, what items would you put in it to convey the importance of the Classical Worlds?
  • If you were making a movie about the Odyssey, would you include Poseidon?
  • Romans watched gladiators fight in large arenas. What can we learn about them for this?
  • Was Alexander the Great great?
  • What is the significance of the change in artistic style between the Republic and the Empire?
  • What is a neoteric?
  • What is Catullus sparrow really about?
  • What is the significance of Stonehenge?
  • What was the difference between the Roman and Greek gods?
  • What were the labours of Hercules? What can we learn from them?
  • Why did the Roman Republic end?
  • From what year would you start a book about the history of England?
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    Insider Guides: Cambridge Classics Interview

    What happened on the day of your Cambridge Classics interview? 

    For my Cambridge Classics interview, I spent one day in Cambridge in total. My morning started with a translation test, which lasted an hour and took place at the university. This was followed by 3 interviews in the afternoon – 2 at the college I had applied to and one at a second college. 

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

    I was only required to bring some basic stationery for the aptitude test. Dress code does not matter but I would recommend dressing smartly in formal wear. 

    What is the Cambridge Classics interview setting and how long is it?

    Both my Cambridge Classics interviews took place one after the other. After I was finished at my first college, I went to the secondary college and my interviewer collected me from the waiting area and took me to the interview room. I had two interviewers with two academics and my last interview was a 1-to-1 interview.

    Each Cambridge Classics interview lasts approximately 30 minutes in total along with the 1 hour aptitude test. 

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    What are the Cambridge Classics interviewers like?

    My Cambridge Classics interviews had a variety of interviewers – all of which I found to be quite friendly and warm. This also matched my perception of the Classics Faculty Cambridge which I can now say is definitely true. The interviewers were welcoming and a lot of their questions stemmed from the answers that I had previously given. I relaxed as I went along and of course some interviews were better than others as I was more confident with certain topics. 

    Are there any academic or challenging Classics questions at the Cambridge interview?

    For my Cambridge Classics interview, I would say the challenging questions were the open-ended questions on classics topics that I had not particularly done much reading into. However, it is important to note that the interviewers are not looking for accuracy, they are trying to analyse your thought process so focus on reasoning everything out loud.

    At one point in my interview, I was given an unseen source and asked to make inferences based on it. Some questions were easier but some felt extremely challenging at times, I didn’t think I sounded very intelligent!

    Are there any personality, work experience or extracurricular based Classics questions at the Cambridge interview?

    I had no such questions in my Cambridge Classics interview. 

    Top Tips for the Cambridge Classics interview 

    • Read your personal statement: Having a good understanding of your personal statement in and out will allow you to have a discussion about potential subjects relating to Classics that you may have touched upon. This could include movies, documentaries, books or any other important features of Classics.
    • Pick out key areas of your subject : Focus on niche areas of your subject e.g Roman and Greek Empire. This will give you something to have a discussion with your interviewers when questioned on the particular topics under Classics.
    • Engage with media: With a subject like Classics, engaging with media is the most important tool to keep you aware of various important aspects of Classics. Brush up on media, conversations and topics of interest that exceed school learning within the field of classics.  
    • Talk to someone who is studying your course: Try and find someone who is studying your chosen course at Oxbridge to gain a better understanding of what to expect on your interview day 
    • Stay calm: Believe in yourself! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with some of the top educationalists in the field so enjoy the intellectual conversation. 

    Top Tips for the “Why Cambridge” interview question

    1. Research Cambridge and think about why you really want to go there – this cannot be simply because it is one of the world’s top universities. You should find something unique or rare about Cambridge that makes you want to study there.
    2. You must also think about your specific subject. For Classics, you should research the various aspects of the course, making sure to have a few features to discuss in relation to why you want to study at Cambridge

    My favourite things about studying Classics at Cambridge University 

    My favourite thing about studying Classics at Cambridge University is the high quality of teaching I receive in every one of my tutorials. The environment that is created in a student-friendly city where I am surrounded by like-minded students combined with the access to world-class libraries has made my time at Cambridge incredibly enjoyable. 

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