Cambridge Economics: Tips & Questions for Interview

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Many students do not know what to expect in the Economics interview at Cambridge. Fortunately, the best performing candidates in Cambridge give candidates advice to help them stand out and maximise their chances of getting an offer! The article includes Cambridge University economics interview questions and tips on the interview day.

Cambridge economics interview questions
Practising Cambridge Economics interview questions is key to success

What is the Cambridge Economics interview structure?

Each candidate will have at least one interview at one college at Cambridge. This will likely be in the college they applied for (or, in the event they were pooled or did an open application, whichever college is hosting them). In some cases, they may have another additional economics interview at a second college.

Typically, candidates will have 1-2 Economics interviews each lasting around 40 minutes.

When it comes to the Cambridge interview economics questions can be difficult to answer. Here are some previous Cambridge University economics interview questions for applicants to practise answering.

Cambridge Economics Interview Questions

General Cambridge economics interview questions:

  • Why do you want to study Economics at Cambridge?
  • What aspect of Economics are you most passionate about?
  • What do you know about the course for Economics at Cambridge?
  • What skills would make you suited to be a successful Economics student at Cambridge?
  • What is something interesting you have seen in the news that relates to Economics?
  • Why this college?
  • Why Cambridge University?
  • What can you contribute to college life?
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    Cambridge interview Economics questions:

    • Why do governments tax? Using the given equation, sketch the graph, and tell me what the optimal rate of tax would be to maximise revenue
    • We know in the UK there is a wage floor (a minimum wage) that can be legally paid to employees. To target inequality, should the government impose a wage ceiling ( a maximum wage)?. What are the implications
    • Given this information about the actions and payoffs of a firm and a competitor, what do you predict will happen? Why does this matter if both firms make the decision simultaneously or sequentially? 
    • Is it really possible to measure GDP? Why might rich countries grow slower than poorer ones?
    • Can you place a monetary value on this coffee mug? Why?
    • How would you determine the international market value of a new currency?
    • Why might governments be worried about low producer competition? Under what conditions may they be beneficial?
    • Question about deriving consumer marginal utility, and making decisions to allocate resources as a social planner
    cambridge economics interview questions

    What happens on the day of your Cambridge Economics interview?

    At the beginning of your Cambridge Economics interview process, you will be given a timetable with your initial interview schedule. Later in the process, they may inform you of additional interviews. I sat my interviews in person. You may be interviewed online, but it will take a very similar structure. Tutors send online interviewees links to a Microsoft Teams meeting for each of their economics interviews. They will be let into these meetings at the time specified on their schedule.

    Often, you will have an extract to read ahead of your economics interview, which you will talk about during your interview. Oxbridge Interview Book: Economics appeared very useful for my preparation.

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

    We were not expected to bring anything. There was no dress code required; they said we should wear whatever we feel most comfortable in. The Economics interview was split between working through a maths question on paper, and talking through an abstract question. I would always suggest having a bottle of water on hand – this helps to keep you hydrated and gives you an extra few seconds to think before answering a hard question! Also make sure you have a pen and paper in case you need to work things out!

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    What are the Cambridge Economics interviewers like?

    The University of Cambridge Economics interview questions can seem very daunting. However, the interviewers I had for my Economics interview were very friendly and made sure to put you at ease! They know how nerve-wracking it can be, so really try to ease you in by having some small talk at the start. If you get really stuck with a question, they will often ask further questions to help structure the question to support you..

    The Economics interview started off very structured (talking through a predetermined question and walking through the mathematics and reasoning behind it). Typically, the interviewers will have a list of predetermined follow up questions. However, if you bring up an interesting point of discussion, they may stick with this and let the discussion be a bit more free-flowing.

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    Any tips for the preparing to my Cambridge Economics interview?

    Firstly, I found that being distracted in the hours leading up to the interview helped. For example, going for a walk a few hours before to clear my head definitely helped the nerves and stopped me overthinking. 

    Secondly, in the 30 or so minutes leading up to my Economics interview, I made sure I had everything prepared, and then did something to distract myself, such as watching YouTube videos.

    Whatever helps you get in the right mental headspace is crucial. Most importantly, try to get as as much sleep as possible the night before. Do not stay up late and try to cram or prepare – this will not help. Relax and switch-off the night before, and get a good night’s rest. This is the best tip for preparation I can give for your economics interview.

    economics cambridge interview questions

    Tips for Cambridge University Economics interview questions

    1. It is easier said than done but try to stay calm! If you get asked a difficult question, try not to panic. The interviewers care less about your final answer, and more about how you arrived at your answer. So even if you do not know the final answer, talk out loud, showing the interviewer your thought process and how you think step-by-step. Importantly, it is not a knowledge test, and according to Cambridge University, they want to explore your “academic potential, motivation, and suitability for your chosen course”.
    2. Do mock-interviews as much as possible. This can be with friends, teachers, parents – just get someone to put you on the spot and make you give a detailed answer. Whilst it is helpful thinking how you would answer questions on your own, answering unseen questions under pressure is a whole different experience, and practising beforehand definitely helps. Need some extra support? Why not check out our 1-1 Economics Interview Tutoring packages.
    1. Keep up to date with new economics news and advances. If relevant to answering a question, bringing in real-life examples can really boost your answer and show you are passionate about the subject. Importantly though, do not try to force these examples in for the sake of doing it. The interviewer will be able to tell and may be deemed as irrelevant to the question.
    1. It almost goes without saying but know your Oxbridge Economics personal statement inside-out! Whilst I was not asked about anything I put on mine, the last thing you want to do is for them to mention a book you have read or an economic concept you mentioned. For you to not be able to talk about it in detail would be a major red-flag to the interviewer.

    Bonus Tips – Economics Cambridge interview questions

    1. Try to memorise some questions beforehand that you can prepare for. It is very likely that at some point in the interview you will be asked questions such as “Tell me about yourself”, “Why Cambridge/this college”, “Why Economics”. These are all questions you can prepare a well-thought out, structured answer for. Preparing for these beforehand will mean you will give a better answer than if you are thinking on the spot!
    1. Listen to debates and speeches (I did this in the hour leading up to my interview). This helped for numerous reasons. It helped calm the nerves and distracted me beforehand. It also gave me motivation and helped me focus and get in a good frame of mind. Finally, and most importantly, in debates/speeches, the speaker must give a well-thought-out answer. This helped me prepare for my interview. I found a few videos that resonated with me and adopted some of their methods of articulation which helped me give a more structured, clear answer
    1. Try to be as enthusiastic as possible! You have to remember the tutor interviewing you could be your tutor for the next three years. Whilst they want bright students, they also are thinking “would I look forward to teaching this student every week for 3 years?”. In this regard, be polite, enthusiastic, and engaged.  
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    My experience of Economics at Cambridge University

    The two things that have stood out to me are the unique tutorial and college system at Cambridge. 

    The tutorial system is a major benefit. Typically, we have lectures at the beginning of the week where we go through the content. We then have the opportunity to do extra reading, and then around 3-4 days to do a problem sheet for Economics. 

    For some modules (such as Microeconomics) this was a lot more focused on mathematics and involved a lot of equations and diagrams. Macroeconomics was a bit more essay-based. We then hand in our work to tutors who mark them, in time to discuss the week’s work in a weekly tutorial. These typically last for an hour each week, with a tutor and around 1-2 other students. 

    Tutorials are a great opportunity to get some feedback on your work, discuss the work and your own ideas with the tutor and your peers. Or you can ask the tutor to go through a concept that you didn’t understand.

    Tutorial discussion

    The college-system is also great. Having a library, dining hall, common room, gym and accommodation all within a 5 minute walk is very handy! It gives a great feeling of community, with lots of stuff going on in college, making it easier to make new friends and to try new activities. 

    If you’d like support in preparation, call us today to see how we can support you with Cambridge Economics interview tutoring.

    In conclusion, whilst the Cambridge Economics interview may initially seem daunting, I hope this article has given some helpful tips to help you prepare. Importantly, they are looking for enthusiastic, logical candidates that can demonstrate these skills academically and through extra-curriculars. So, do not panic, take any time you need, and try to think out loud as much as possible, demonstrating your logical thought process step by step! Good luck!

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