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If you’ve recently heard that you have been selected for an interview at Jesus College this December, you might be wondering how best to prepare. Here, Dr Alexandra Lumbers,  Academic Director and Tutor for Admissions at Jesus College, shares her ‘top tips’ for students.

Dr Alexandra Lumbers, Academic Director and Tutor for Admissions


We’re incredibly excited to be welcoming over 400 potential students to Jesus College this year for interviews. December is a month that we always look forward to as we really enjoy meeting so many interesting, bright and passionate people from a whole range of different backgrounds, from all over the UK and around the world.

If you’re one of those coming along to meet us, you might be very excited to have secured an interview but we also understand that the whole process can be daunting, especially as it’s usually a new experience for most people.

Rest assured, however, it’s not as tough as you may think. In fact, it’s an incredibly positive experience – one which applicants and tutors find fulfilling, and actually enjoy! It’s an opportunity for you, and us, to spend time discussing and sharing thoughts on a subject where we have a mutual passion. Outside of the interview, it’s a chance to meet some of the Jesus College community and find out what life at College is like.

So, I thought it might help to share some insights into what you can expect and tips about how to prepare.

A ‘taster’ tutorial

The tutors aren’t trying to catch you out! They want to help you to show your potential. So don’t see the interviews as an adversarial experience. Consider them as a taster for the tutorials you will enjoy if you are offered a place. There won’t be any quick-fire question and answer sessions. Instead, you can expect a conversation where you can demonstrate your problem-solving skills and how you engage critically with new material. For example, in humanities or social sciences, you might be given time in the interview to read a text, before engaging in a discussion about that text and its challenges; or the tutors might ask a science/maths applicant to work through a problem on the board. Normally, you can expect two tutors to be sitting in on the interview, but don’t be surprised if sometimes there are more.

Academic focus

You’ll be interviewed by tutors who teach the courses at Jesus College – so expect the interview to be academically focused. We think it’s fantastic if you have lots of extra-curricular skills and interests, but that’s not what we are testing for during the Admissions process. The interview is a chance for us to see how you will do on your chosen course.

Think creatively

We are looking for academic merit and potential – so the tutors will push you when you respond and try to get the very best out of you (in a friendly and reassuring way!). So be willing to think creatively and have a go even if you’re not sure about something. What the tutors want to see is how you think logically, laterally, and independently.

It’s not a personality test

Jesus College is proud to be made up of all sorts of people. There isn’t a Jesus College ‘type’. Shy people do just as well as those who are more extrovert. The tutors are experienced in interviewing and they appreciate and understand that candidates are nervous. So just be prepared to have a discussion about the subject you are applying for, and try to relax.


Do ask for clarification if you don’t understand a word the interviewer uses or the questions they ask. And if you need a few moments to collect your thoughts and think something through before beginning to respond, then that’s absolutely fine too. Feel free to change your mind if part-way through discussing something you realise you want to switch direction (we like flexible thinkers), just remember to explain!

Ready-made answers

Whilst you will want to prepare and think about why you really want to do the course here, don’t try to over-anticipate what you may get asked and have ready-made answers to hand. If you do, you may end up not listening to what the tutor is asking you and therefore may not respond to the question actually asked.

Thinking out loud

You don’t need formal interview practice but you will probably find it helpful to have a go at thinking out loud, especially if you tend not to be very vocal in class. Have a look at the sample questions the University publishes and try answering some with your family or friends to get used to the experience. But remember these questions won’t come up – they’re just a taster to give you a feel.

And finally … be yourself

We don’t mind what you look like, what you wear, and what you sound like! We’re just interested in your mind and your intellectual curiosity! We’d much rather you be yourself. So wear whatever you feel comfortable in.

We look forward to seeing you in December. And please remember we are here to help, so do contact our Admissions Officer if you have any specific questions about the Admissions process ahead of your interview. If you have any additional needs please also do let us know so that we can be of assistance. And finally, good luck!

By Alex Lumbers