University interview practice

Tuesday 12th January 2021

It’s been a real privilege over recent years to have been able to visit local schools to conduct mock interviews for students who are applying to Oxford and Cambridge. The prospect of being interviewed at such prestigious institutions can be understandably daunting, so it can be very helpful for students to have a chance to experience something even vaguely close to the real thing beforehand.

This year, as with so many things, the situation is somewhat different. Sadly, students are not being invited to visit universities in person, and are missing out on what would have been a very worthwhile experience whether they are successful in their application or not. Interviews are being conducted online, and our mock interviews have been done this way too. The benefits of the mock interviews have likely been even greater than usual this year, as they have given students the chance to experience this particularly unfamiliar way of doing things. The number of students requesting mock interviews this year has also been far higher than usual, possibly because of the relative ease of arranging them online.

Conducting mock interviews is one of my favourite parts of my job as an Area Coordinator. I get to chat to students about my own favourite areas of maths, not to mention closely related subjects such as Physics and even Aeronautical Engineering! I try to ask a mixture of ‘standard’ questions, tougher questions, and the odd ’quirky’ question as well. I am always impressed by the perseverance and diversity of thought shown by the students. Even though I often ask the same questions, no two interviews are ever the same!

If your students haven’t taken up the offer of mock interviews before, please make a note in your diary for next year. I’m always happy to do these for maths, or for any related subject, and hopefully next year these can take place face-to-face again!

By Michael Gibson

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