Cambridge Music: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read

Unsure what to expect in your Music interview at Cambridge? Don’t worry! We have spoken to top performing candidates to get their unique insights to help you smash the interview!

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

What is the Cambridge Music interview structure?

Candidates typically have 2-3 interviews, each around about 40-120 minutes in length. These take place in December.

Different colleges often have differ interview procedures (see below), with some requiring extra tests or other practical interviews as well.

Cambridge interviews
Most Cambridge Music interviews may be held virtually

Example Past Questions from Cambridge Music interviews

General questions:

  • Why do you want to study Music at Cambridge?
  • Questions on why I talked about X in personal statement 
  • What aspect of music particularly excites you (the theory or the practice, for example)
  • 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
  • Why should we give you an offer to study Music?
  • Summarise a book mentioned in my personal statement and my opinion of it
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    Cambridge Music interview questions:

    • How did Wagner’s operas influence the history of Western music?
    • Why, and how has music developed? How might it develop in the future?
    • How has music developed from the time of Beethoven?
    • How is music related to free will?
    • How, if at all, do you think the current economic climate will affect music?
    • If you could only listen to 5 musicians for the rest of your life who would they be and why?
    • How are Vivaldi’s ritornellos different from Bach’s ritornellos?
    • If you could invent a new musical instrument, what would it be? How would it be played? What sound would it make?
    • Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Discuss.
    • Do you feel like music is an art incomparable to history insofar that history cannot be performed?
    • In my first interview, I had a piece of text written by a composer to analyse and discuss. In my personal statement, I had written an essay about women in music, so the interviewer asked me what I included in my essay and what research I conducted. In my second interview, I had two more pieces of text about different aspects of music and was asked to analyse. Admissions tutors also gave me some harmony tests on the keyboard.

    Further Interview Questions

    • I had a handout with various scores which I had to analyse, such as guessing the period the piece was written in, or the potential composer.
    • We discussed 20th century music, and why some music is better “accepted” than others
    • An hour beforehand I had to collect a booklet which contained 8 musical excerpts and a keyboard exercise, and analysed 3 of the extracts, looking for “features of interest”, and also to complete the keyboard exercise. The interview mainly involved a discussion of the 3 excerpts I had chosen, focusing on key musical concepts. 
    • In advance of the interview I had an hour long test where I was given a short song and an extract, and was told to make notes to prepare to talk about the materials for the interviews. In the interview we talked over my thoughts, such as thinking about the application of what I read about in other pieces of music.
    • What are the different ways to listen to music? How does that change the way you think about what you are listening to?
    • I had an article about lottery funding, and was asked if it is fair that the lottery funding (mostly paid by working class people) should be funding an opera, which is mainly attended by the middle class.
    • Do you think the type of bow a violinist uses can affect our understanding and appreciation of the music it produces?

    What happens on the day of my Cambridge Music interview?

    Before attending interviews, candidates submit a written piece of work and musical material. For example, an essay on the history of an area of music, and a technical exercise or own composition).

    During interviews, many tutors ask candidates to comment about a particular piece of writing about music and a score, as well as a discussion on your motivations and interests in music generally. Importantly, the interviewers are not looking for candidates to excel in all areas, instead they are looking for an impression of your skills and potential to learn and develop within the Cambridge Music teaching course.

    Importantly, some colleges also ask candidates to sit further college specific tests, which could include aural, keyboard, harmony, essay-writing or performance exercises. Make sure to double check the interview process at the college you shall be interviewing with.

    Oxbridge Interview Tips Questions Tutoring
    Oxbridge Interview Tutoring
    1-1 Oxbridge Tutoring, Personalised to your Subject

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

    Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in! Whether this is a suit or gym clothes. I opted for more 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 tutors presented me with documents and images over screen share during the interview. 

    When are Cambridge Music interviews held?

    According to Cambridge University, interviews take place during the first three weeks of December, with a small number of candidates interviewing in January. Most candidates are interviewed over a period of 2-3 days. However, if you get pooled for another round of interviews then this period could be even longer.

    Tutors then make a decision based on the performance of the applications, and the university sends offers in mid January.

    What are the Music interviewers like at Cambridge?

    Initially I was very nervous and anxious about what questions they might ask me. However, the interviewers were very friendly and welcoming which put me at ease.

    The interview process can seem very daunting, especially since Music is such a varied course and it can be difficult to know what to expect. Importantly however, interviewers are looking for potential, not the finished product. They do not expect you to know everything and get all the questions correct, and instead care more about how you think and solve problems, and whether you succeed under the type of teaching at Cambridge.

    Try to relax and show your passion for Music! The fact you have been invited for interview shows you are a top-class candidate: have confidence in yourself and show the interviewer why you are a strong candidate that has a keen passion for discussing and practising music. 

    Cambridge learning style
    Students reading Music at Cambridge will typically have 2 tutorials a week with 0-3 other students and a tutor

    Cambridge Music interview tips

    • Relax as much as possible before the interview. Do not cram revision the night before, instead make sure you are well rested and ready to smash the interview on the day.
    • Double check you have everything ready before the interview starts – such as having fully charged electronics, and making sure you are comfortable with any technology you are required to use during the interview.
    • 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!
    • Try to stay calm! Interviewers are not looking for you to get everything right or be the finished article – instead they are looking for engaged, passionate students with potential to be a top Music student at Cambridge.
    • 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 – so make sure you show the interview how you logically arrive at an answer step-by-step!
    • Mock interviews help! Whether this be talking over more theoretical questions or listening and analysing a written piece or score, talking through your thought process outloud to somebody else is great experience for the real interview.

    Bonus Tips!

    • 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!
    • Read around your subject. Many candidates have found utilising a range of resources helpful in the run-up to the interview, such as podcasts (such as BBC’s Composer of the Week), YouTube videos (such as the Cambridge Faculty of Music YouTube Channel), or general wider-reading. This page on the Cambridge Website has a great list of resources.
    • Know your personal statement and EPQ (if applicable)! Many tutors will want to know more about your interest in the subject outside of the classroom. This could involve asking questions on extra-readings you have mentioned in your personal statement. Make sure you are comfortable talking in detail about anything you have mentioned!
    • Enjoy the experience! Being invited to an interview is an achievement in itself. See this as an opportunity to discuss your interest with leading academics in the field!

    If you would like more support for your Cambridge interview preparation, check out our 1-1 Cambridge Music Interview Tutoring packages to help you succeed on the day!

    Still got a question? Leave a comment
    Post as “Anonymous”
    Just Start Typing...