Cambridge English: Tips & Questions for Interview

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

This article has been made from a collection of accounts from Oxbridge applicants.

Here is a link about what to expect about the English course at Cambridge

What is the Cambridge English Interview structure?

The Cambridge English Interview is split into two interviews that candidates will take. Tutors are looking to assess your ability to analyze text in a short period of time. The first interview typically involves you looking at an unseen piece of poetry and sharing your views and thoughts. The second Cambridge English interview can involve a mixture of unseen text, questions relating to your personal statement or just general questions surrounding English.

Still not sure what to expect for your interview?
Here’s an Insider English Mock Interview

What are the Cambridge English interview dates?

According to the official Cambridge Website, the majority of interviews will take place in the first 3 weeks of December. For the 2022-23 application cycle, most shortlisted candidates will be interviewed virtually. 

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Example Past Questions from Cambridge English Interview

  • Why do we read literature?
  • Read and date this short, anonymous poem. Comment on the use of imagery and its effect
  • Do you think the ending of ‘The Mill On The Floss’ is poor?
  • How is poetry linked to music and other arts?
  • What makes a novel a classic? What is a modern classic?
  • Is an author’s life important when looking at their work?
  • Would you rather be a novel or a poem?
  • Was Shakespeare a rebel?
  • Is the Bible a fictional piece of work?
  • If you could design the A Level English syllabus, which texts would you include?
  • Can a reader ever know a writer’s intention?
  • What does the Ghost in Hamlet have to do with madness?
  • What is your favourite book of all time?
  • Do you think it is important to study literature in chronological order?
  • If you could make up a word, what would it be?
  • Tell me about something you have read recently 

Insider Guides: Cambridge English Interview

What happened on the day of your Cambridge English interview? 

Both of my Cambridge English interviews took place online. I had two interviews in total but had a break of an hour between each one which I reckon will be the case whether your interviews take place in person or online.

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

For my Cambridge English interviews, I just carried a pen and paper. Dress code was not important or specified but smart casual is definitely the way to go!

What is the Cambridge English Interview setting and how long is it?

Both my Cambridge English Interviews took place online. The setting was quite relaxed – I had two interviews, each of which lasted about 1 hour long.

What are the Cambridge English interviewers like?

For my Cambridge English interviews, I had two interviewers present in each interview. For my first interview, the interviewers were friendly and were more informal and conversational. Since my second interview was based on proving my analytical skills, I had to lead the interview with my own thoughts on the pieces presented to me which meant the interviewers were less chatty for this one.

The initial answer you give will determine the type of follow-up questions you get. You won’t get attacked if you give a poor response, but the interviews may ask you to explain further. Do not hesitate to take a minute to think – they are not looking for rapid fire answers but rather careful consideration of the prompts they have given you. 

Are there any academic or challenging English questions at the Cambridge Interview?

For my Cambridge English Interview, the academic questions were quite difficult and these generally were the ones surrounding text I had not seen before. Do keep in mind that you will be given second chances. The interviewers will push you but do not give up. A haphazard rambly answer is a lot better than you saying ‘I don’t know’ or giving up quickly. Demonstrate to your interviewers that you are at least willing to try. 

Are there any personality, work experience or extracurricular based English questions at the Cambridge Interview?

There were no such questions in my interviews. However, I did have a few questions based on my personal statement. Your personal statement does not form the entire basis of your Cambridge English interview but is more of a springboard for insightful conversation. 

If you do mention an author, poet or playwright and one of their works in your personal statement, be prepared to discuss other things they have written.

Top Tips for the Cambridge English Interview 

  • Read up about your interviewers: If you know in advance who your interviewers will be, look into what they have done or written. This gives you the opportunity to ask them a question about it at the end.
  • Practice with yourself: Talk to yourself to practice the process of self-prompting insightful comments
  • Be creative: Remember that your interviewers are looking mainly at your analytical skills so get creative! Link the works you read with wider philosophical implications of literature.
  • Don’t let your mouth run away: Even if your interviewers are a bit quiet or unfriendly, silence does not always mean you need to talk. Sometimes your interviewers might just be writing something down so use these moments to take a breather. 
  • Remember that this is a unique opportunity: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to interact with some of the best academics in certain areas of english so enjoy the interview, the challenges and 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 English, you should research the various courses on offer, making sure to have a few in mind which you would love to come to Cambridge to study. Mention how you believe this institution will offer you the most rigorous education in the subject that you are most passionate about.

My Favourite Things about Studying English at Cambridge University 

I have absolutely enjoyed the variation that comes with the course along with the wide reading I have undertaken. The workload hugely varies from college to college but I believe this pushes you for the greater good of obtaining a thorough education in the subject. 

Your supervisors are passionate and are truly always there to help you. 

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