Interviews are not intended to be confrontational although they will undoubtedly be intellectually challenging. The tutors are interested in finding out what your intellectual potential is; they do not wish to catch you out. But remember to think carefully about the questions you have been asked; your interviewers will not mind if you pause to think. Try not to go in with some pre-packaged prepared piece you are determined to deliver at all costs.
Your submitted essay is likely to form a starting point for discussion in at least one of your interviews. The tutors are not so much interested in the level of your knowledge as in your ability to think historically. They wish to test your flexibility, your conceptual skills, and the precision of your thinking. They will use a variety of methods to assess these skills, but you are likely to be asked about the definition of terms you have used; you may be asked to compare the material you have submitted with some other historical example you have studied; and you may be asked how new pieces of information presented to you affect the arguments you have made.
Some colleges may require you to read a short passage of historical writing while you are up for interview, which they will ask you to discuss as part of the interview process.
You may be asked questions about statements on your UCAS form. Tutors will be particularly interested in evidence of a historical sensitivity: e.g. relating to places you have visited or books you have read. If you are planning a gap-year you should be prepared to discuss your plans.
Tutors like to see an interest in political history backed by interest in political ideas, and in the social and economic context of politics. We welcome historians who have or may develop an interest in archaeology, literature, culture, sociology, foreign languages, the arts or religion – in short, in any aspect of historical inquiry, or in any other intellectual discipline that can enrich our historical understanding.
Please note that you will probably be interviewed at the college to which you applied, or the college to which you were allocated, if you made an open application. However, in some cases your application may be referred to another college. This can happen if a college is significantly oversubscribed for your subject that year, and the faculty will re-distribute candidates with the aim of ensuring greater parity in the number of applicants interviewed in each college. During the interview week itself, you may be offered further opportunities to have an interview at other colleges.