This is Rhys’ experience of a St Catherines College Oxford languages interview in 2007 – if you’re applying for Languages at Oxford then this will be a great indicator to what you need to think about when it comes to your Languages interview.

What was the format of your interview?

French interview: Interview was with 2 interviewers (tutors at Wadham), at Wadham college in tutor’s office. It was neither casual nor too formal. Approximately 20 minutes long.

Linguistics interview: Interview was at linguistics faculty with 2 tutors. Neither formal nor casual. Approximately 20 mins long interview – I was given linguistics data to look at for 15 minutes before the interview.

What was the content of the interview?

French interview: we spoke briefly about my personal statement/if i had read any French literature which I hadn’t so we swiftly moved on.
I was then given an unseen French poem to read aloud, which we then discussed/analysed. I was given lots of guidance with this so it wasn’t too scary. I was then asked on question in French – ‘have you ever been to France’ to answer in French.

Linguistics interview: 15 mins to look at some linguistics data before, then in the interview we discussed it. I was then asked what part of linguistics interested me most and if i thought science subjects would be helpful.

For both French and Linguistics I had to take the MLAT admissions test – the French part and linguistics part.

What surprised you about the process?

I had no idea what to expect as I had no mock interviews or guidance from my school whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting to be given an unseen text, however. No memorable questions! It was fairly straightforward!

How did you prepare?

I didn’t prepare at all and had no guidance or help from my school whatsoever – I read a wiki article about a French poet on the bus to Oxford so that I could say I had read some French literature as I hadn’t at all.

For linguistics I did make sure i could talk about why i wanted to study linguistics and what i found interesting about it. I think the best thing is try and ask someone who’s been through the process, and do a few mock interviews if your school can help you.

Make sure you can talk clearly and confidently about why you are passionate about the subject!
Also maybe practice some literature analysis – I had done none of this and so winged it completely – but also they do know that people haven’t done much literature as part of A level so don’t worry too much, the tutors will help you.

Most importantly don’t worry about preparing too much!! There’s only so much you can do!

What did you think to the overall experience?

The interview was much less scary than i was expecting. It was over so quickly! And i found the tutors very helpful during the unseen text analysis part of my French interview. I didn’t enjoy it as i was very nervous.

My notable memory is that I was asked if i had read any French literature and I said not really but I could tell them about French 90’s hip hop (what i wrote in in personal statement) – to which they replied no thank you we know nothing about that so we don’t want to discuss it. That was a bit of an unsettling dismissive comment from them which didn’t exactly put me at ease.

What would your advice be to someone applying to your course?

Whatever you do don’t stress too much about the interview! Remember it’s only part of the admissions process (there’s also your grades, admissions tests, and personal statement). Unfortunately there’s a lot of luck re getting into Oxford or Cambridge and especially in interviews. There’s only so much you can prepare for.

Most importantly, the result of your interview and whether you get a place at Oxford or Cambridge doesn’t define you as a person, or what you will achieve in your life!