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IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is likely that we will be running our interviews via Skype or other online video conferencing platforms. We may also ask for electronic versions of portfolios for subject areas that require examples of student work.
Most UK universities do not hold interviews for most courses. Interviews are used for a range of courses that are particularly demanding (like medicine). And for some courses where how a student speaks or presents themselves is important (like education).
Oxford and Cambridge hold interviews as part of their general undergraduate admissions process. These are particularly competitive. Tutors need this extra source of information beyond the UCAS form to identify candidates who are best-suited to their teaching. Because of this, a lot of unhelpful mythology has grown up around interviews. Universities are simply looking to recruit the best students that they can. There are no hidden agendas, and no trick questions. Your interviewers expect you to be nervous. You aren’t on trial!
The most important thing is to prepare. Tutors are looking for students who are enthusiastic, hard-working, and knowledgeable.
The best way to show these qualities is to read around the subject in advance. Do this carefully and critically - so you can say whether you agreed with the author, and why. Ask for advice from your teachers about what would be useful to read. Some universities publish lists of recommended first year reading online. If you have read a piece or two of that literature, and have your own opinions on it, you will make a good impression! Never claim to have read something that you haven’t. It won’t take your interviewers long to figure it out.
Whatever the result, try to enjoy the day. This is an opportunity to discuss an interesting subject with some experts. You might even get some good ideas to think about in the run-up to your examinations.
For subjects like art, design, photography, architecture and other creative subjects, universities will often require you to submit a portfolio.
This is a collection of your work which the university uses to assess your talent and suitability for the course.
Knowing how much to include and choosing the right pieces can be difficult. Look at the guidelines on the university’s website and follow them as closely as you can. Some will have specific guidelines relating to sizes, number of pieces, content, format and so on. Here are some general points on creating the best portfolio: