Why do Universities Interview?

Gareth Davies
November 6th 2023

If you’re thinking about applying to Oxford or Cambridge next year or at some point in the future, you’re probably curious about the interview process.

No matter your chosen subject, whether that’s medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine, when you apply to UK universities, many courses use interviews as part of the selection procedure.

But why? And what should you prepare for? We cover everything you need to know down below.

Why do universities conduct interviews?

There are several reasons why universities choose to interview prospective candidates:

The importance of credentials

Entry requirements for Oxbridge courses as well as medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine are high, and competition is fierce. Admissions departments for all these courses are in the fortuitous position of receiving far more applications that meet or exceed entry requirements than they offer places to.

Applicants will have strong academic credentials and excellent predicted grades, their personal statements exhibit a wealth of wider reading and reveal critical opinions on key issues, and they reflect and evaluate their experiences thus far, demonstrating enthusiasm and motivation to read their desired course.

So how can an admissions team possibly make accurate decisions about who to offer a place to and who to deselect? The interview will hopefully provide them with this information!

Academic potential

One of the main reasons for interviewing is to assess a student’s academic potential for study at some of the finest institutions in the world.

An interview is an excellent way for a panel to glean more about a student’s likely performance in an academic environment such as an Oxbridge college or a medical school so that the most suitable students can be selected, not just the ones with the best grades.

After all, if they only selected the students with the best grades, then they would have to offer far more places than they have available!

The right fit

Universities want to feel comfortable that their students will thrive and excel in such an academic environment and have the requisite skills to make the most of the wonderful opportunities presented to them. In essence, they want to make sure that you are the right fit for them, and they are the right fit for you.

And finally…

Medical schools and the like are not only very academic environments, but medicine is clearly vocational. Successful medical school applications are not simply about grades and good references - rather, interview panels seek to gain more understanding about how an applicant communicates, how they cope with pressure, and how able they are to explain and discuss theories and issues in a calm and confident manner.

The skills mentioned above, in addition to resilience, presence of mind, and compassion and empathy are all traits that a medical interview seeks to identify in every applicant. This also applies to dentistry and veterinary medicine applicants as well.

Medicine is an extremely challenging course spanning five or six years and interviewers are always looking to seek confirmation that a student is aware of their journey ahead whilst probing the applicant’s motivations to read medicine.

University interview support with William Clarence

As leading UK education consultants, our higher education team at William Clarence has helped many students over the years with their applications to Oxbridge as well as medical schools. If you would like to hear more about how we can help, or just need some advice about any aspect of your university application, then please get in touch with us today.

Book a consultation with a member of the team today for expert advice and guidance for navigating university interviews. We work with you on a one-to-one basis, crafting every element of the application process to help you enter the university of your dreams.