Preparing for your interview

Interviews at Downing College are academic interviews - this means that you are likely to be asked questions about your interest in the subject you wish to study, what you have been learning in your current studies and also to consider new ideas or concepts.  Please do not be surprised if, particularly in Science subject interviews, a significant amount of time involves working through problems or scenarios.  Each interview will be with two interviewers and will last between 20 - 30 minutes.

It is important to prepare for the interview; however, interviewers can tell which candidates have been over-coached by well-meaning parents or teachers. Nevertheless, you can take some measures to prepare and build up your confidence in your own opinions.

Remember that there are no 'trick' questions and the interviewers want you to do your best.  We do not provide 'sample' questions for interviews.

However, typical “ice-breaker” questions could include:

  • What have you most recently read relevant to the subject you are applying for?
  • What aspect of your recent academic studies have you most enjoyed?

Be aware, thought, that not all interviewers start with these sort of questions, some will go straight into more specific subject-related questions, scenarios or problems.


If you have been asked to submit essays as part of your application and there are aspects of these that you think are fundamental to the subject, read around it. If there is something you’re particularly interested in, again read around it. If you’re interested in this then you should enjoy this part anyway!  The essays that you have submitted are not always brought up at interview - please don't worry about this - the interviewers will have read your essays but may have other questions that they want to ask you not directly related to these.

All personal statements are read by the interviewers.  However, it is important to remember that your personal statement may not necessarily be referred to during the interview.  But, it is a good idea to re-read it so that anything that is brought up during the interview is fresh in your mind.

In arts subjects read some of the significant works that have been written (and remember the author and title) about the topics you’re studying at A-level and not just those on your reading list. In science subjects, read around parts of the subjects that really interest you in scientific journals or popular science books.

The chances are that you've never actually sat down and talked to someone at length about your subject, why you want to study it and what you find particularly interesting. Once you can sit down with people you know and explain just why gravity is the most fascinating phenomenon ever or how the works of Shakespeare changed your life, talking to people who share your enthusiasm for your subject will seem much easier!

Although the interviews won’t test your knowledge of current affairs, some interviewers may expect you to know of any recent developments in the subject area. Read newspapers, check a news website regularly, or read a journal or magazine about your subject. This will also help you in your VI Form or college studies.

'Meet the Interviewer' films

Our 'Meet the Interviewer' series aims to answer the common ques​tions we received from prospective applicants. You can find the full list on the Discover Downing YouTube channel.