Oxbridge applicants are required to attend interviews. Infamously challenging and unpredictable, they are designed for students to showcase their thinking. We provide comprehensive preparation courses to help students excel in maths-based interviews.
Applicants to Oxford and Cambridge are required to attend interview in late November or December as part of the admissions process. Other than standard A-Level/IB exams, this is usually the final hurdle in the admissions process, although Cambridge also requires mathematics applicants to take STEP in June of Year 13.
A heavy emphasis is placed on creative mathematical problem solving, and interview questions are designed to allow students to showcase their style of thought and mathematical flare. Communication is crucial as students must explain their thought process and engage with hints. The questions are designed to challenge even the strongest students, and the interviewer will want to see tenacity and perseverance.
Problems are generally based on A-Level/IB mathematics material (including second year content), but you are not being assessed based on the order in which your school covers material - the interviewer will be prepared to make adjustments if their question uses ideas you haven't met.
For applicants to read Computer Science, it is worth noting that due large variations in technical knowledge between candidates, interviews are still likely to be very mathematical in flavour, rather than emphasising specific technical knowledge. However, they often place heavier emphasis on ideas like recursion.
Interviews can be a particularly daunting aspect of the application process. It can be very difficult to know what to expect, to find useful practice questions, or to master all-important interview technique. Vantage courses have been designed in light of hundreds of real interview questions which we have collected from our students, and equip students with comprehensive preparation for every aspect of the interview. Vantage courses for interview preparation consist of three elements, which give students the best chance of success:
From our wealth of experience having prepared students for interviews in mathematics and computer science, we have identified several key tricks and ideas which tend to recur. Crucially, these are ideas which are often not covered in school and are unique to interviews, so that even thorough past paper practice for an exam like the MAT or TMUA may not provide preparation. The Interview Primer Course consists of six taught lessons (available in the form of video lessons and written notes) which provide a systematic introduction to these ideas, and each is accompanied by a worksheet which enables students to achieve complete mastery. For students who study this course, it is very likely that at least some of the questions in the interview will be familiar.
Past interview questions are not publicly available, and many interview questions listed online are inauthentic in style. This can make it very difficult for students to practice on questions of the right style and difficulty. We have been able to collect a large number of authentic interview questions from a range of Oxford and Cambridge colleges. All Vantage students are given access to a bank of real interview questions from the past five years, which enables them to familiarise themselves with the style of question, hone their problem solving skills, and gain further exposure to the ideas and tricks which tend to recur. Detailed solution booklets are provided so that students can come away from each question with a full understanding of how to apply the relevant ideas.
An Oxbridge interview will almost certainly be unlike anything a student has faced before, and it is therefore essential that well-prepared candidates go into their interviews having already experienced authentic simulations of the real thing. All Vantage students receive mock interviews, including with a team member who has served as an interviewer for several Cambridge colleges. Mock interviews use questions taken exclusively from the past two years of admission rounds, and after the formal mock interview is finished, students are given detailed feedback both in terms of problem solving approach and all-important interview technique. Mock interviews are tailored according to the subject a student is applying for, and also take into account their college choice.
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"Rowan from Vantage is the real deal, a rare blend of being a sufficiently brilliant mathematician to have a complete, deep and intuitive grasp on the difficult problems set in admissions tests, but also a great teacher who is able to explain the thought process in a way students can understand. I cannot recommend him highly enough."