We interview almost all of those who apply (c.75-80%) and most interviews are held here in Cambridge in the first fortnight of December. For applicants who live overseas, very occasionally arrangements can be made to conduct interviews in your country of origin. Details of schemes that exist for this are available on the University website. Post-A level applicants may, for exceptional reasons, be interviewed early. However, if you wish to request an early interview, please make direct contact with our Admissions Office. Any applicants interviewed early will normally receive the result of their application when all the other applicants do.
Here in Cambridge, you are likely to have at least two interviews: sometimes one more general academic interview with an Admissions Tutor, or other non-specialist, and one or more with an interviewer who is a specialist in the subject; sometimes two interviews with subject experts. Interviews are usually conducted by either one lecturer or by a pair of lecturers, but all candidates are interviewed on their own – i.e. not with other candidates. Detailed guidance about what to expect at interview is sent to all who are invited for interview.
At interview, questions focus largely on the subjects you have studied at school and wish to study at Cambridge. We realise that confidence in an interview is not necessarily correlated with aptitude for a course. We do our best to assess not only your ability, but also your commitment and enthusiasm for your chosen subject. These will be manifest in hard work for A-level (or equivalent) and in the extent to which you have taken advantage of any extra-curricular opportunities relevant to your subject, relevant work experience, more general reading, etc. (though we greatly appreciate that such opportunities vary between applicants). We look for the ability to think through problems and issues when there are not books giving ‘the right answer’.
If you apply to Pembroke and we are unable to offer you a place after the interviews, we may pass your file to the Inter-Collegiate Pool where all Colleges looking for people in that particular subject have a chance to look through it. Applicants picked out of the Pool may receive further interviews at another college in January. There is also an Inter-Collegiate Pool in August for those candidates who have been made offers but who fail to achieve the required grades and are not taken by the College which originally made them an offer. There are no interviews at this stage.
For information about how to prepare for your interviews, the University has prepared a series of web pages and videos