By Ella Stadler
Most interviews, at least for history, will either use your written work, your personal statement or a source of their choice as a prompt. For this reason, I chose to read 2/3 articles on every issue or topic I mentioned in my personal statement to feel prepared and widely read on up to date information. For example, I mentioned the similarity between the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War and suicide bombers within the Terrorist group, so I researched both of these topics and tried to find similarities and differences between the two.
Do not re-read every book you mentioned in your personal statement! Firstly, that is very time consuming and they may not ask you anything related to the books. Instead, read book reviews and critical articles. Not only will they mention good and bad sections, reminding you of the content of the book but a critical view of a book you really enjoyed will spark debate and interest leading to a great conversation in the interview.
Know your written work like the back of your hand. Whether it be the argument you proposed, the evidence you used etc. For me, I chose to use a flashcard for every paragraph and had key facts I used but also other facts relating to the issue on the card. In the interview, they could ask you if there is any other evidence to support/counter your argument, so make sure you are prepared! You submitted this essay so it is at least one section of the interview process you can feel comfortable with when facing the world-class experts!
Source work – realistically you will not ever be fully prepared for this section. With the millions of options, they could choose from you will not know the answer. However, you can prepare and examine unfamiliar topics which will at least give you confidence. For historians it might be wise to have a few prompt questions in an anagram when examining a source. Author? Why? Purpose? Message? Bias? etc. The more you practice the more comfortable you will feel with the unknown.
Another key point for the entire Oxbridge application is if you don’t ask you don’t get. Any help you can get with this daunting and hurdle filled process will help you. Ask school if you can have practice interviews, if your auntie is a teacher, ask if they have a history teacher who could do a skype interview with you or who could read some of you HAT practice answers! Any contact you can make will be helpful and people are always willing to help! The more practice you get, even if none of the questions are similar to the actual thing, the more confident you will feel in December.