Cambridge Foundation Year in AHSS: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read

Wanting to know more about what the Foundation Year in AHSS (Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) course involves and what to expect in the interview? Don’t worry! We have spoken to top performing students to gain their unique insight to help you smash the interview!

Cambridge Foundation studies
Many candidates are unsure about what to expect in their Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences interview, but this article is here to help!

What is the Cambridge Foundation Year AHSS interview structure?

Candidates will have two interviews which will last no longer than 30 minutes in length each

One of the interviews will involve looking in detail at a textual source which will be provided 30 minutes before your interview, whilst the other will focus on one of the streams on the Foundation Year (such as material sources, languages, or data). In the second interview, you will not receive anything in advance, and will be shown sources and materials in the interview which you will then discuss with the interviewers.

Admissions Tutors are looking for candidates who have a strong academic background and potential, who would be well suited to the course and learning environment at Cambridge. 

Unlike many other universities, Cambridge will interview all potential students for their course. They state that interviews “help assess applicants academic potential and suitability for the course”, and gives applications the opportunity to expand upon their application (such as seeing how they think, and to demonstrate and interest and commitment to their subject)

Cambridge University has stated that most interviews will take place virtually for the foreseeable future. We advise becoming familiar with using the technology and communicating over video call beforehand!

Cambridge interviews
Interviews for the Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences  at Cambridge will be held virtually 

Example Past Questions from Foundation Year AHSS Interviews


  • Why do you want to study the Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences?
  • Questions on why I talked about X in personal statement
  • 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 (if done)
  • What did you do in your gap year?
  • Discussion of my future plans for study and career
  • Discussion on which area of the course I am most interested in
  • I was given an extract beforehand (in my chosen area), which was a paragraph of text. We spent the interview discussing my initial thoughts, with lots of follow up questions where the interviewer pushed me for more answers.
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    What do you have to bring to your Foundation Year AHSS interview?

    We were told to wear whatever we felt most comfortable in – this could be a full suit/dress or gym clothes. Interviewers are not bothered what you wear (as long as it is within reason!) – they just want to get to know you as a person and have an engaging discussion.

    When are the Foundation Year AHSS interviews held?

    The application timeline for the Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is a bit different to other Cambridge courses, with the UCAS deadline being around January time and interviews commencing 27th March for the 2023 entry.

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    What if my technology cuts out during the interview?

    Although very annoying, try to stay as calm as possible! Interviewers are understanding of the technical issues candidates may face, and have assured candidates that no one will be disadvantaged because of technology issues

    Technical guidance can be found here

    What are the Cambridge Foundation Year AHSS interviewers like?

    Everyone gets nervous before interviews, but the interviewers did a good job putting me at ease and making me feel more relaxed. 

    It felt like they just wanted to know about you as a person – why you wanted to study the course, your interests, and how you think. It did not feel like a typical scary interview; instead it felt like an interesting conversation between people who had a passion for their subject!

    The interviewers know how stressful it can be and are not looking for a finished product. Instead, they are looking for candidates with a genuine enthusiasm for the subject, and have strong potential to excel in the degree

    The tutors really just want to know how you think and approach different problems or questions, so make sure to communicate out loud as much as possible. The interviews often care less about your final answer, and more the steps you have taken to get there!

    Cambridge teaching
    Students reading for their Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cambridge will typically have 2 tutorials a week with 0-3 other students and a tutor

    Cambridge Foundation Year AHSS interview tips

    1. Firstly, relax as much as possible before the interview. Do not stay up late cramming last minute revision, instead try to relax and get a good night’s rest. The aim of the interview is to emanate a supervision (the main form of teaching in Cambridge). This means you may be asked questions on new materials that are unfamiliar – do not worry, they just want to know how you think!
    2. Second, double check you have everything ready before the interview starts – such as all electronics (making sure they are charged!) and anything else you may need in the interview (such as pens, paper and water). 
    3. is the chosen platform for interviews, and Cambridge recommends testing your IT set up beforehand. 
    4. Be sure to make sure you have a suitable area to conduct this interview. It is important to have a quiet place where you will not be distracted, so make sure to organise this ahead of your interview.
    5. Finally, be confident! The fact that you have been invited shows you are a top student – remind yourself of this and back yourself going into the interview!
    6. Try to stay calm! Interviewers will understand if you are nervous, so do not be afraid to take a few seconds to compose yourself and structure your thoughts.
    7. Do not panic if you do not immediately know the answer. Focus on talking out loud, clearly communicating your thought process throughout the interview. Cambridge University states interviewers want to see how you think and apply your current knowledge, rather than just assessing your final answer.
    8. Mock interviews help! Practice being comfortable communicating your thought process out loud! As mentioned, the interviewer wants to know how you think and approach different problems. At first, this can seem unnatural, so make sure to practise this beforehand! Feel like you need extra support? Why not check out our 1-1 Oxbridge Interview Tutoring packages.
    9. Show your passion for their subject! Your interviewer could be your tutor every week for the next three years – so make a good impression outside of academics: be engaged, enthusiastic and friendly!
    10. Read around your subject! One way to show your enthusiasm for the subject is by doing work out of the classroom, such as keeping up to date with current affairs, reading books/articles, or watching educational videos, podcasts or lectures.
    11. Know your personal statement and EPQ (if applicable)! It is possible the interviewer will want to discuss your personal statement with you, so make sure you are comfortable talking in-depth about anything you have mentioned!
    12. Do not rush! It is likely you will get asked a challenging question that you aren’t completely familiar with. The interviewers may want to assess how you cope with the 
    13. 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!

    More information about the Cambridge Foundation Year can be found here

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