Cambridge Interview Questions and Answers
Oxbridge Application Specialists
Here, we present ten high-yield general interview questions for Cambridge applicants. More specific questions can be found in our Oxbridge Interview Question Bank.
Cambridge Interview Questions: Well-Roundedness & Adaptability
What do you do in your free time?
Most of my free time is taken up with sports, music or reading. In terms of sports, I play both rugby and football for the top teams at my school, which means a lot of free time in fact becomes dedicated to practise or matches – which isn’t something that I complain about! I also enjoy just kicking a ball about with friends when I have a chance to do so. I box and climb as well, both of which I do on the weekends when I am able to, with some time dedicated to them during the week in the evenings. I play the piano, and therefore can often be found trying to learn new songs – I’ve stopped doing grades at this point, so I merely play for my own interest. I also DJ, and am passionate about new and interesting genres of music. Lastly, I love reading fiction – I’ve recently been enjoying the works of Laurie Lee. I find that each activity I enjoy offers me something different – whether it is creative, whether it helps me bond with others, or inspires my imagination – all are important.
When have you demonstrated adaptability?
Adaptability is key to success, as it allows us to approach new and challenging situations. I’ve shown adaptability both at school and in my activities outside it. In particular I’d highlight my roles as vice-captain of the First XI for football and as leader of the orchestra. In both I had to often field last minute changes and work to best adapt to them – including taking the role of captain on multiple occasions and thus having the entire team depending on me during football matches. I found that I was able to solve problems quickly and ‘rise to the occasion’ each time I had to respond to sudden changes. This in turn allowed others to have confidence and to thrive.
How will you adapt to the workload? Will you find balance?
I understand that this can be difficult with the amount of work expected of students here. However, I already balance doing 4 A Levels, my EPQ, 2 sports (one that I play to county level), and being part of the school orchestra with a range of personal interests and of course my friendships and relationships outside of school and those particular activities. I am therefore confident that I will be able to adapt to university life and the balancing act required here. I’ll speak to friends or tutors if I need help at any time in balancing my work vs life, and won’t be shy to reach out for help if needed. However, I am ready to embrace both the academic challenge and all else that is on offer here, and will dedicate myself to university life as wholeheartedly as I will to making friendships and furthering my own personal development.
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Cambridge Interview Questions: Studying
How would you deal with falling behind in your studies?
Firstly, I’d hope that this wouldn’t happen, as I work in an organised and efficient manner and am proactive with my learning. However, if it did happen, then I’d begin by working honestly to assess how I had fallen behind – was it due to me not having worked hard enough, due to a lack of knowledge, or due to finding a particular part of the subject difficult? Then, I would need to address the exact cause. For example, this might involve speaking to a tutor and requesting additional help and materials covering the particular area that I was struggling with. If I realised that I wasn’t directing my study appropriately then I could speak to other students to better understand how they were planning their schedule, for example.
Have you discussed how difficult the workload can be with current or previous students?
Yes, I’ve discussed all the different elements of life here, and college life, with a range of different students. Two of my friends from the year above study here, one in this college, and I made sure to get as much information from him as possible. I’ve heard about the amount of essays I’ll have to do, how many tuitions I’ll have, and what it’s like living in college as a fresher. Additionally I’ve spoken to some older students that are graduating this year, and found out how the degree progresses. All of this has added to the picture of the university that I have built up through reading, research and visiting.
How do you set goals?
I use the SMART technique to set goals. This involves the following components:
Specific – this means that goals are not vague.
Measurable – this means that I can define when the goal is achieved, or how my progress is going.
Achievable – this involves setting realistic goals. If the goal is not achievable, it means we need to rethink it.
Relevant – this means setting the correct goal for the context.
Time bound – this means setting a time limit, and ensuring that we stick to it.
This structure ensures my goals are clear and understandable, and that I can achieve them efficiently.
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Cambridge Interview Questions: Soft Skills & Who You Are
How do you think your friends would describe you?
I believe that my friends would describe me as an intelligent, diligent, hard working yet kind person. I have always maintained high standards in my school work, and been at the top of the year, yet this hasn’t prevented me from playing sports – and I think that my dedication to the teams that I’m in would see me described as being a leader as well. I believe all my friends would describe me as loyal and trustworthy as well – values that I find to be hugely important in one’s friends.
What creates a good team? What attributes would one see in a good team?
A good team must display a positive culture which allows both the team itself and its individual members to thrive. It should have a clear division of responsibilities, thus ensuring that it is efficient and effective. Team members should communicate empathetically, and ensure that they listen to and support others. Goals should be made realistic and specific to ensure that they can be delivered on. Motivation will come from these goals and the desire to support others in the team, but a good team will also understand the need for motivation and work to motivate itself further if needed.
Describe a time when you faced adversity, and how you overcame it.
I became very ill with COVID in 2020, and then found that the effects lingered for some time. At this point, long COVID was still much-debated, and as most of my friends who’d got COVID had recovered almost immediately – if they had had any symptoms at all – it was difficult to persuade others that I was still suffering weeks and months later. This in turn impacted my work, as I felt tired a lot of the time, and I therefore became anxious, knowing that exams and important coursework were on the horizon. I therefore sat down with my parents and teachers and discussed a plan. I did my utmost to work efficiently and in a targeted manner, and was able to bring myself back on course. The effects of COVID did slowly abate, and I now feel 100% again – however, it was a months-long process that was mentally and physically exhausting.
What is your greatest weakness?
My greatest weakness is a desire to focus on planning, sometimes at the behest of doing. To put this in a different way – I will often find that I spend far longer on organisation and perfecting a plan than I need to, and that this can actually result in an inefficient approach compared to simply beginning the work. I wouldn’t quite label this procrastinating, as I am working hard – yet I am being something of a perfectionist, and not realising that I need to accept unpredictability. Recently I have become much better in this regard – perhaps in part due to simply realising this habit – and have set myself a clear barrier for any larger task, at which point I simply have to start ‘doing’ rather than ‘planning.’
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