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Date:February 06, 2014

What to Expect – HSPS

For those interested in pursuing the study of Politics, Sociology, Anthopology or Archaeology, HSPS at Cambridge offers a tantalising opportunity to study a diverse range of topics, which are often entirely new to the student.

This new degree will enthuse the talented student and graduates demonstrate intellectual fortitude and an international outlook on the world which is useful to in whatever you choose to focus on post-graduate.

The Interview

Being interviewed at Oxford or Cambridge will undoubtedly be one of the most challenging and nerve-racking experiences for any A-level student. Unfortunately there is no fixed format for these interviews and different tutors in different colleges have complete freedom over the questions they decide to ask each candidate.

What remains true for each interview is that they are strongly focused on academic knowledge and an ability to think beyond the A-level syllabus. Another key feature is that these interviews are short; applicants must demonstrate their abilities in less than 30 minutes. Compounding this is the fact that every candidate invited to interview will have the A-level grades required to study HSPS at Cambridge. This means that even the most academically gifted students may fail to gain a place simply by not standing out at interview, either through nerves, or through poor preparation.

Oxbridge tutors are not testing factual knowledge but the ability to think logically and in a structured fashion. Students should express an interest in a particular aspect and they should be prepared to talk intelligently about it, showing knowledge of current affairs and recent developments in the field.

Although there is no way of knowing exactly what will come up at interview, our Cambridge mentors have a good idea of the level of knowledge required, the format of questioning and the style of an interview at Oxbridge, not only through their own experiences at interview but also through the understanding of the tutorial teaching system which these interviews simulate.

In addition, these students will have spent three years with many of the tutors and will come to know their personalities, their subject of interest and their style of teaching. Having been taught by potential interviewers themselves, our mentors are ideally placed to give each applicant very specific advice on how to prepare for interview at their college of choice.

What we believe is extremely important is practice. Whether we see students for a single day or throughout the course of the application process our mentors will do their utmost to give each student the tools to fine-tune their interview technique in the run up to the interviews in December. Students who are prepared by our simulated interviews generally feel less intimidated on the day itself, giving them the opportunity to show their true abilities. With focused training, our candidates can even direct the course of the interview towards their stronger points and away from their weaker ones.

Interview Question Examples:
  • Instead of politicians, why don’t we let the managers of IKEA run the country?
  • Should internet access be free?
  • Should obese people have to pay for seats on airplanes?
  • How would you describe a table?
  • Does the welfare state trap people into poverty?
  • Distinguish between a society, a state and an economy?
  • Should museums be free?
  • Is there essentially any difference between taxation and the state taking away one of your arms?
  • Do you really consent to any government given that there is barely anywhere in the world to escape some government or other?
  • Differentiate between power and authority.
  • Why do we need government?
  • Do we need politicians in the internet age?
  • Would it be feasible to have an economy entirely based on the service sector?
  • Do you believe in free will? How far does it extend to – an oyster, for example?
  • How do you measure the success of a political voting system?
  • Do you think history will always repeat itself?
  • Why did Dinosaurs become extinct
  • How do you know you are real?