This is Annie’s experience of a Wadham College History Interview – if you’re applying for History at Oxford then this will be a great indicator to what you need to think about when it comes to your history interview.
History 1 – focused on personal statement, It was in one of the tutor’s rooms, lasted 20-25 minutes. Not very formal, quite relaxed. Took place around 3pm on the Wednesday. No preparation. There were two interviewers.
History 2 – 20-25 minutes in another tutor’s room, still relaxed. Took place Thursday morning. No preparation. Again, there were two interviewers.
French – 20 minutes, another tutor’s room. Took place Thursday morning. Not formal. Two interviewers again. No preparation.
History 1 – asked about one of the pieces of written work I had to send in (Wadham required two pieces in English for History and French applicants), about the linguistic olympiad on my personal statement and the role of language in history.
History 2 – Focused on the other piece of written work. Was given a visual source in the interview, an engraving of Charles I’s execution (they try to make it vaguely related to the essay you sent in) , and left to start my own thoughts on it, followed by question prompts. In the email before they said to have an idea of what you want to talk about, and this was led by me a bit more.
French – Did not mention written work or essay much. Asked about books I had read which were in French or translated from French, and we talked about this quite a bit. Brief conversation in French, quite casual, about where I had been in French, etc… Was given a short text to read out loud in French, then given a moment to read it again, then asked quite broad questions about it.
I suppose getting the source in the middle of the interview was a surprise, but it was related and they gave me time and helped me along. I was given a letter explaining this format before I arrived, so nothing too unexpected.
I was asked in History 1 whether I had seen any Shakespeare plays about kings I had studied, which was unexpected. The role of language in history 1 was also memorable.
I read a lot of French literature, I would focus on being able to list these off as I had forgotten some fo the books in the midst of interview nerves. I think make sure you send essays about subjects you are interested in and want to talk about.
Also, speaking a bit of French with someone would be good practice, as it can be quite nerve-wracking. Know your personal statement and essays well so when you are asked what you meant by something in the essay you know what they are talking about and can respond without being reminded about it.
I think the whole process was designed to make the interviewees feel at ease. The Wadham ambassadors work really hard to look after all the applicants, and the tutors make this effort too and understand nerves. I really enjoyed my interviews, I thought they were fun.
I would recommend enjoying the time you are there, making sure to relax, and if you can, meet the other applicants – a lot of people have fond memories of meeting each other during interviews once you get there, which you won’t get if you are locked in your room getting even more nervous!
Think about the links between language and history, check your specific college for extra submitted work you might need to send (Wadham needed an extra one which I found out at the last minute).
Have an idea of what you want to talk about before you go – I was asked to do this in my email.