Oxbridge Interviews – When, Where and Who?

oxford university

You have applied, you’ve sent in all your documents and written work, you may have sat an entrance exam. Now you’re waiting to see if you’re going to be invited to an interview. You may well be dreading the invitation but hoping madly that you’ll get one (you’re not going to be successful without one, after all! The two universities do not offer a place to someone they have not interviewed).  

How can OptimalOxbridge help you? This week in Blue, we are talking about the practicalities of the interview process, and then over the rest of November and at the beginning of December, we will discuss interview strategy. If you have subscribed to your course on OptimalOxbridge, you will find all sorts of interview preparation tips on the Course Insider Info Pages under your course. If you haven’t, why wait? Subscribe now for all sorts of useful tips. Use this discount code for a last minute 30% off LASTMIN (Valid until December 15th 2022). Find your course, buy a membership, and get access to a vast amount of insider information.  

There are some really useful articles under the Insider Info tab. There’s a piece written by a current undergraduate about the process and a whole series of Interview Tips and over 50 “General” questions. These are questions, sometimes quite philosophical, that could be asked of anyone, no matter the degree that they wish to read.  General questions are not as frequently asked as they used to be, but you are quite likely to be asked at least one and it’s advisable to get used to them just in case. They’re good mental gymnastics, whatever your degree subject.  


Oxbridge interview(s) will take place between the 1st and the 20th December 2022. You will be informed by email or letter in mid to late November or December if you’re invited to interview. You may only get a week’s notice before your interview so start preparing now. You never know!  

Oxford interviews are held mainly between the 5th and the 15th December and there is an interview timetable on the Oxford University website. At Oxford, your interview invitation will most probably come from the college you have applied to. If you’ve made an Open Application, your invitation will very likely come from the college you have been assigned to.  You most probably will have more than one interview and at Oxford, you may be interviewed by more than one college, although you are very likely be interviewed by your chosen college first. You are sometimes only given 24 hours’ notice before a second interview so be vigilant.  If you applied to Oxford and are interviewed, you will be told if your application is successful on the 10th January 2023.  

Cambridge interviews are in the first three weeks in December and, at the moment, no more information about dates is available (but we will keep you updated). Most interviewees get two interviews, but some get one, and some three, but you cannot read much into those numbers. None of them mean anything definitive about whether you will get a place so don’t stress! Cambridge has what is known as the Winter Pool and if your college thinks you may be worthy of a place but hasn’t made you an offer, you may go into the Winter Pool for other colleges to consider. In that case, you could be invited to be interviewed in January by another college after your December interviews. Cambridge applicants will hear if they have been successful by the end of January 2023.  


Most applicants will be interviewed online this year. UK based applicants to Trinity College, Cambridge will be interviewed face-to-face in college (non-UK based Trinity College, Cambridge applicants will not be required to travel but will be interviewed online). As these interviews are online, you get to choose your location. You need access to the right technology first and foremost. Secondly, you need a quiet room where you will not be disturbed and, preferably, somewhere free of distractions. Would home suit you? Is there a room at home that works? Do you have reliable Wi-Fi? Maybe a room at school would be better. We suggest that you discuss this with your school. For anyone who requires special arrangements (due to disability or access issues), we suggest you start discussing this with your school now.   


Cambridge states that it invites the majority of applicants (75%) to interview. Oxford interviews a lower percentage of applicants at slightly less than 50%.  

The Oxford Course pages (The Facts) in www.optimaloxbridge.com state the number interviewed for each subject, and this varies quite widely. This information is only available for Oxford. As a generalization, the higher the percentage that are offered a place, the higher the percentage that are interviewed and vice versa. 94% of Classics applicants are interviewed (highest in the university) and 40% of Classics applicants are successful (joint highest in the university with Music, which has the second highest percentage of applicants who are interviewed). Just 19% of Computer Science applicants are interviewed (lowest of all degree subjects) and only 6% of CompSci applicants are successful (joint second lowest in the university).   

The numbers*:

  • The most competitive course is Mathematics and Statistics, with just 5% of applicants being successful and only 22% of applicants interviewed. 
  • Size of intake has little bearing on your chance of being interviewed since Mathematics and Statistics has the fourth smallest intake in the university whereas PPE has the largest and your chance of being interviewed for PPE is still just 11%.
  • In general, most science subjects interview a lower percentage of applicants, although Chemistry and Earth Sciences both interview 89% of applicants. 
  • Languages and Joint Honours degrees that include languages consistently interview a very high percentage of applicants. 
  • Medicine interviews 25% of applicants and Law interviews 40%. 
  • About 1 in 5 of those interviewed for Mathematics and Statistics get offered a place whereas at the other end of the scale, more than half of those interviewed for Theology and Religion get offered a place.  
*These stats are for Oxford only. Cambridge doesn’t give out any information on who gets an interview but in general, the interview percentage is much higher for all subjects.

At Oxford, 25% to 45% of interviewees for the vast majority of subjects are offered places. These are higher than the Cambridge numbers where, on average, three quarters of applicants are interviewed (all those Cambridge considers having a “good chance” of being offered a place) but only on average 25% of those interviewed get offered a place.    

Next week Blue will discuss interview format. Expected interview style and format changes subject to subject, and college to college, but we will guide you as to the likely format and prepare you so you know what to expect. 

Neither university encourages tutoring but a surprising number of applicants do get some form of tutoring, especially to get support through their interviews. This can be extremely expensive. If you’re looking for a less expensive form of tutoring, let us know [email protected] and we will match you with an Oxbridge undergraduate who can help.  

Which is the Best College at Oxford and Cambridge?

What is the best college at Oxford and Cambridge?

Its Personal...

That’s a little like asking which is the best city in the world, or what is the best rock band of all time. It depends on you… Choosing the best college for you at either Oxford or Cambridge can make the difference between a blissfully happy time at university and a time spent wondering if the quad really is greener at the other college. Your choice will also determine how much competition you face for an offer.  

What does "the best" depend on?

Your definition of ‘best”, your personal preferences, and your degree choice. The heart of the matter is which is the best college for you. 

How do you define the "best" Oxford or Cambridge college?

Is it the most prestigious? The least competitive to get into? The most academic? The most beautiful? Most of these factors are totally subjective criteria. King’s College, Cambridge is awe-inspiring, but some prefer the intimate beauty of a small college like Lincoln College, Oxford. How can you compare over 30 colleges at each university? Optimal Oxbridge offers an Optimizer that allows you to search for your best college match based on criteria that matters to you. The Optimizer also gives you a great deal of guidance about each variable. Do you know why the wealth of a college may matter? Is having access to a college library that is open 24/7 the advantage it may appear to be? The Optimizer will explain all. 

 Some factors that could help determine your perfect college include the size of the college or the distance from the centre. Academic performance, the wealth of the college, and the cost of accommodation are other ingredients in this swirling (and frequently bewildering) cauldron of choice. The Optimizer has 13 college choice variables for Cambridge and 16 for Oxford.  

"All of the Optimal Oxbridge staff have been extremely helpful and this fantastic website has really helped me narrow down my decision on the best colleges to apply to. I am so pleased and relieved to discover such wonderful colleges that also optimise my application."
2022 Oxbridge Applicant

Let's talk factors...

Size Matters

Some Cambridge colleges have an undergraduate body that exceeds 550. The variety within the student body that such a size affords could be just what some crave. Others might wish for the close-knit community of a small college like Corpus Christi, Oxford with an Undergraduate body of around only 265. But beware! Colleges are hotbeds of gossip and the smaller the college, the more everyone knows about you. Optimal Oxbridge’s Optimizer warns you of the pitfalls you may face with each variable.  

Location, location, location

Some colleges in Cambridge are considerably further out than others. Do you fancy getting fit walking or cycling up the hill to Girton or would you prefer the centrality of King’s or Clare? Are you an aspiring Medic who would like a college close to Addenbrooke’s Hospital such as Homerton? Is the choice of Homerton even a good one for Medicine? No, if you want a small, ancient college, and no if you want to apply for one of the least competitive colleges. The answer changes to “Absolutely”, if you would like a big Georgian college with a gender split of more than half women. Let the Optimizer help guide you around the maze of all these different factors and remove the stress associated with college choice. 

Type of School

State School/Independent School intake is a political issue that can spawn debates well into the night. We cannot say whether you have a greater chance of getting an offer if you apply to a college that has a high State School intake if you’re state educated, but what we can do is guide you as to which colleges rank where in terms of the split and you can do with that information as you like. Some people would far prefer a college with a very high state school percentage (one Oxford college has a 95% state entrance) whereas others would prefer the opposite (there is a Cambridge college with an almost 50:50 split). Optimal Oxbridge also includes an International Student variable, in case that’s important to you.  

Gender Divide

Would you like an all-female college? Cambridge has two (Oxford has none) colleges that are all female (and those who identify as female). Some Cambridge and Oxford colleges have a very low number of females (below 40%). The Optimizer has taken data from several different sources to ascertain the gender split in colleges because we know this is an important issue for some. 

What does an Optimal Oxbridge membership include?

Use Optimal Oxbridge to learn more about the universities and their various colleges. Learn about all the courses offered by the university to find the best pick for you.

The model helps you narrow down your college choices by choosing the characteristics and qualities that are most important to you, helping you to discover your dream Oxbridge college.

Using data-driven research into trending Oxbridge admissions and predictive modelling  (using various statistical methods), the Oxbridge College Optimizer guides you as to which of the colleges will fulfil your criteria as well as provide you with the greatest chance of an offer. These colleges are ranked, showing you which college you’re most likely to get accepted into for your course.

Our course specific interview questions give you an idea of what you may be asked for your chosen course. Our interview tips give you possible reading lists, topics to brush up on, and insider interview specifics like how long you can expect your interview to last, what the structure may be, and how many faculty members you can expect to speak to.

Written by Oxbridge alumni, we know the best insider information to increase your chance of an offer. No more scouring the internet only to find confusing information. Our insight on the structure of the application and interview process will help you feel confident in your decision of where to apply and how to increase your chance of getting in.

What's a Deer Got to Do With It?

Are you aspiring to be an undergraduate at a beautiful typical Dreaming Spires college? Peterhouse at Cambridge and Magdalen at Oxford have spires to spare and a deer park thrown in for free. One of them is fiercely competitive whereas the other is surprisingly lower down in terms of college competitiveness rankings. The Optimizer knows which is which. Perhaps you’d prefer a more modern college that feels less intimidating to you? What about accommodation? When I was at Oxford, I shared a bathroom with over 20 men and women. Things have changed but very few colleges have a large number of en-suites. Some colleges charge as much as £1,000 a year more than others for accommodation so do take a look at relative costs. On the whole, although this is a massive generalisation, the richer the college, the less expensive the accommodation.  

Geek Rating

Academic Performance is another important element in college choice and it means different things to different people. If you want to be an academic or go for a job where academic prowess is highly prized, you need to aim for a First. Certain colleges are consistently towards the top of the academic charts in Oxford and Cambridge. At Oxford, Merton and St John’s tend to be regarded by undergraduates as the two most academic colleges. Merton even has the unfortunate (and unjustified) reputation as “the college where fun goes to die”.  

 We’ve crunched the data, however, and there’s a college that should be considered as equally or more academically successful according to the Norrington Table. The Norrington Table is possibly skewed towards colleges offering a higher proportion of STEM subjects (different Oxford colleges offer different subjects in differing proportions) and this is explained in detail in the Optimizer. Also, don’t forget that although you’ve worked extremely hard to get to the point of applying, you may not want to continue working quite so hard once you’re at university. There are plenty of careers that don’t require a First. Perhaps an academic hothouse doesn’t appeal, and there are plenty of other lovely colleges that could suit you. 


Application is a Competition – What can you do to Increase your Chances?

What about competition? Does it matter? The universities argue (pretty vociferously – me thinks the lady doth protest too much…) that this is not the case. At Oxford in 2021, on a collegiate level, Worcester offered places to 8% of those who applied to Worcester whereas Wadham offered places to 15% of those who applied to Wadham, almost double the success rate. Why is this? Worcester received 1302 applications, considerably more than double Wadham’s 556 applications. Why? Is Worcester so much better? It probably comes down to marketing. Worcester has an extremely successful Outreach programme so it’s better known amongst applicants.  

What about pooling? The universities claim that pooling balances out the differences in college popularity.  80% of successful applicants to Cambridge get into the college of their first choice. Would this be the case if pooling did away with the relative competitive differences? Surely the number would be far higher? Worcester only awards 9% of its offers to imported candidates because it doesn’t need to look much beyond its large college application pool.  The universities are constituent bodies made up of different autonomous colleges and the universities cannot be seen to favour one college over another. Whilst I have no doubt (and have been told by members of various SCRs) that the universities work extremely hard to ensure that no exceptional candidate is left without a place, we believe that being aware of the Optimizer’s ranking system does help increase your chances.   

There is more interesting analysis to be done at the degree/collegiate level. In 2021, Downing College, Cambridge had 152 applicants for 12 places offered. Peterhouse, Cambridge had 41 applicants for 11 places offered. Clare College received 81 applications for 6 places offered for HSPS (Human, Social and Political Sciences) whereas Homerton received 56 applications but offered 10 places. 

Let our Optimizer help you find your college quickly with much less stress. We’ll eliminate those colleges that don’t work for you and show you the colleges that offer you the greatest chance of getting in!

Increase your chances of success today.

What do these stats mean? Can you hack the system using this data?  

Yes….and no. A brilliant student will probably get an offer wherever they apply. A mediocre applicant is unlikely to get an offer from even the least competitive college. Where do you stand? Statistically speaking, you are probably at or near the top of your school in your subject but so are all applicants. Over 20,000 competitors applied to Oxford for an Undergraduate place in 2021 and just over 3,000 got offers. Nearly every one of those 20,000 is at the top of their school and you’re competing with them for your place. How can you stand out from the crowd? Optimal Oxbridge has a plethora of tips to help you stand out at the application, exam, and interview stage.  

College competitiveness rankings should be another element of your college choice. Optimal Oxbridge’s Optimizer has taken data over more than 10 years and analysed it to create college rankings for every degree at Cambridge and Oxford. This has taken over 18 months and a team of Mathematicians (headed up by a Postgraduate Mathematician at Cambridge), Statisticians, Academics, and Data Scientists. We cannot guarantee you a place, but we can point you in the direction of a college that suits your personal preferences. We can tell you which colleges are more competitive, and which are less. 

Would we suggest that you choose based on rankings alone?

Absolutely not, and we cannot stress this more. This is 3 or 4 years of your life. Don’t just choose a college because you think it’s easier to get into. Use the Optimizer to make a shortlist of those colleges that will suit you. Play with the variables. Don’t be too narrowly prescriptive with the early variables such as size and age of college as you will end up with an extremely narrow choice. Make a short list and then see which colleges are the least competitive for your degree and make an informed choice.  

 Some factors that could help determine your perfect college include the size of the college or the distance from the centre. Academic performance, the wealth of the college, and the cost of accommodation are other ingredients in this swirling (and frequently bewildering) cauldron of choice. The Optimizer has 13 college choice variables for Cambridge and 16 for Oxford.  

Primus Inter Pares?

All colleges are great, but they are not created equal. Let Optimal Oxbridge help you find the one that suits you best and where you have the greatest chance of receiving an offer 

Our proprietary tech combines current data, predictive modelling, insider information and trending insights to give you the greatest chance of getting into the college that is right for you.


Admission Test Registration Deadlines 2022

Don't Forget Your Admission Test Registration Deadline!

Remembering deadlines is crucial but don’t worry,  we’re here to help you! See below to check the deadline for your degree’s admission test registration.

·         University of Cambridge

15th September 2022  

  • LNATregistration deadline – Law    

30th September 2022  

  • BMAT registration deadline – Medicine   
  • ENGAA registration deadline – Engineering 
  • NSAA registration deadline – Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Natural Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine all require NSAA
  • TMUA registration deadline – Computer Science and Economics both require TMUA  

University of Oxford


15th September 2022  

  • LNATregistration deadline – Law or Law with Law Studies in Europe        

30th September 2022  (16th September 2022 for modified paper)

  • BMAT registration deadline – Biomedical Sciences and Medicine both require BMAT
  • CAT registration deadline – Classics, Classics and English, Classics and Modern languages or, and Classics and Oriental Studies all require CAT
  • ELAT registration deadline – English Language and Literature, Classics and English, English, English and Modern Languages and History and English all require ELAT. 
  • HAT registration deadline – History, History (Ancient and Modern), History and Economics, History and English, History and Modern Languages and History and Politics all require HAT
  • MAT registration deadline – Computer Science, Computer Science and Philosophy, Mathematics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Mathematics and Philosophy and Mathematics and Statistics all require MAT
  • MLAT registration deadline – European and Middle Eastern Languages, Classics and Modern Languages, English and Modern Languages, History and Modern Languages, Modern Languages, Modern Languages and Linguistics, and Philosophy and Modern Languages all require MLAT 
  • OLAT registration deadline – Arabic, Hebrew, Jewish Studies, or Persian as part of Classics and Oriental Studies (Oriental Studies with Classics), European and Middle Eastern Languages, Oriental Studies, and Religion and Oriental Studies all require OLAT
  • PAT registration deadline – Engineering, Materials Science, Physics, or Physics and Philosophy all require PAT
  • Philosophy Test registration deadline – all candidates wishing to study Philosophy and Theology are required to take the Philosophy Test
  • TSA  registration deadline – If you’re applying for Experimental Psychology, Geography, Human Sciences, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) or Psychology, Philosophy, and Linguistics (PPL), you will be required to take the TSA. Applicants for Economics and Management or History and Economics courses are required to take Section 1 of the test. 
  • Fine Art Practical and Music Performance Test do not require candidates to sit for a test, though candidates will be asked for more materials once shortlisted.