In this interview, a student shares tips and advice on preparing for the Law interview as well as a lot of general information about studying at Cambridge. Long interview! Skip to the relevant parts if necessary.
As usual if there are any queries, feel free to message me on my tutor profile or e-mail me at khleslie@gmail (I'm sometimes too busy to check the GuruMe platform).
Where did you go to school?
An independent school. There were around fifteen to twenty applicants to Oxbridge each year, with around three to six successful.
What help did you receive from your school?
I received one mock interview and also advice on my Personal Statement.
What help did you receive from your parents?
None, aside from proofreading.
How did you prepare?
I did mock interviews with GuruMe and teachers at my school which helped a lot, and also spent a long time preparing my Personal Statement, going through several drafts with my Admissions Tutors at school. When I applied, Cambridge did require an LNAT score but really disregarded it: the main thing that helped was interview preparation, as most candidates at Cambridge receive an interview regardless of Personal Statement. I did not have to submit any additional written work to that included in the LNAT essay. I could perhaps have done more mock interview training, but I felt that I had done enough by doing the mock interviews at school and with GuruMe. I was not really asked any questions on my Personal Statement, apart from one question at the end relating to a book I had read and how it had influenced my views on morality. The rest of the interviews were simply problem-solving given a set of facts, so there was not much I could prepare, aside from keeping cool under pressure.
What advice would you give to an applicant preparing for a Law interview?
Whilst it is important to have a thorough knowledge of current affairs, the main thing that they are looking for is analytical and logical, rigorous thinking. Do make sure that you know your Personal Statement inside out, just in case you get asked a question on it. Otherwise, focus on answering questions clearly, explaining your reasoning, and giving both sides of the argument rather than a dogmatic answer.
If you are nervous and need time to think, request a moment. It is surprising how long ten seconds will seem to you, but it won’t seem long to the interviewer.
Make sure that you are up to date with current events and more importantly, that you have a well-thought-out opinion on any you might wish to discuss. Don’t bring up a topic unless you can discuss it and argue your point of view – the same goes for mentioning books. There is a good chance that someone interviewing you will have written a book on the subject (or indeed the book you have read). I would also suggest that when choosing books to read, you check whether your interviewer might be an expert on the subject. Make sure that you know what you put in your Personal Statement and can talk about it.
Then relax and remember that the interviewer is not trying to catch you out. They genuinely want to know if you will be able to hold a discussion in their supervisions for the next three years. They will give you as much help as they can in answering to ensure that they get the best performance from you.
How many interviews did you have in total?
Two, with two interviewers in each interview.
What was the format of the interviews?
They were 20-30 minutes long, and I was given different situations and asked how the law should respond. I had to reason by analogy to see whether my answer would differ if certain parameters were changed. I was given nothing beforehand, but in my second interview, I was given the text of part of the Theft Act 1968 and then told to apply it to different situations that my interviews gave me. I was only asked one question on my Personal Statement at the end of my last interview. It concerned how my reading of H.L.A. Hart influenced my view on how law shaped morality, and vice versa. The questions were all concerning a factual situation and how the law should respond (e.g. international warfare: when, if at all, should there be limits on the use of force?).
How did you go about answering the questions asked?
I answered each question logically, and explained my reasoning fully. I also explained why, in my view, the answer would differ or agree with that of the situation discussed before.
What was your overall experience of the interviews?
The interview was less stressful than I anticipated, and actually fairly enjoyable. There was a real opportunity to engage with the questions asked, and the questions were very clear. I was able to ask for clarification if needed, and was not rushed to answer. The questions were posed so that they were not looking for a “right” answer, but so that they could see how you thought and responded to different problems.
What do you think interviewers are looking for in a prospective student?
First, I would say a capacity for logic: you must be able to explain clearly and rationally how you have reached any answer given. Second, an appreciation of broader policy issues: you must be able to explain the possible ramifications of your answer, and whether these have influenced the way the law has or should have developed. Finally, the ability to present a balanced argument: it is critical that you do not give one-sided arguments, but recognise that there is often a counter-argument to what you are proposing. Also, make it clear that you have a genuine interest in the subject and a passion for learning. They want to make sure that they accept someone who is going to be interested, interesting and enthusiastic.
Her experience at Cambridge
Why did you choose to apply to Law?
I had done a variety of subjects before coming to Cambridge, all of which I had enjoyed. However, I wanted a course that combined analytical skills with communicative development, which Law does very well. It is also a very employable degree, and there is support throughout from the faculty and supervisors in career development. I had support from the teachers in my school, and also spoke to many students when I went to the Cambridge Open Day in June 2007. I also researched the course fully on the Internet, and made sure to compare it to the more jurisprudential course at Oxford to see which I preferred.
Why was your course a good choice for you?
Law was an excellent choice for me because it developed my skills of logic and reasoning. It also enabled me to get into mooting (mock trials), which I very much enjoyed. The course was very structured and I could fit my extra-curricular activities around it well. I found both the detail and policy debates to be really interesting. I enjoyed the mix of set rules and the discretion within them, and really enjoyed learning the reasons behind much of current affairs.
What did you enjoy the most about your course?
I enjoyed being part of a big group of lawyers, as part of which we could discuss ideas and were supervised in groups. It was easy to gain a lot of insight by listening to fellow students, as well as being in such close contact with supervisors and lecturers, which the Cambridge course really facilitates. There was a great deal of contact time, and supervisors were always eager and willing to hear our ideas.
What did you enjoy the least about your course?
Occasionally, the workload was a bit much, and I spent the majority of my holidays catching up on work from term time. Furthermore, although essays were in theory just one every week, supervisors did not co-ordinate, so we often had four in one week, twice a term. Whilst the lecture timetable was light compared to other subjects (e.g. sciences), the private study time was very intense and did not leave much free time.
Would you like to have studied a different course?
I would certainly still study Law, as I preferred to have private study and reading time than a large amount of lecture/lab time, such as in sciences and medicine. This allows you to be slightly more flexible. I also preferred Law to other humanities subjects, as I did not want to do any coursework or dissertation work, preferring exams. Also, the private work set is much more structured than a course like English, where there is less guidance on the reading list.
Would you like to have studied at a different institution?
I would certainly always opt to stay at Cambridge for two reasons. The first is the quality of the lecturers and supervisors, which I believe is unparalleled. The second is the wide variety of contact with alumni and other contacts such as judges and barristers, who visit for speaker events and careers help. This has been invaluable for me in the long term. I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything. I think there is something really special about studying in Oxbridge: the experience is different from other universities.
What would you have done differently during your time at Cambridge?
I believe that I worked fairly well throughout my course. Law demands a huge amount of private study, and so realistically the top grades are very difficult to achieve if you have a balanced timetable of extra-curricular activities, which I did. I went to all my lectures, which I would strongly recommend. It may be helpful also to ask older students for their notes, as they would probably always be willing to help out, and this could save a lot of time when typing up from textbooks.
How would you advise students to get the most out of studying your course?
I would advise students to make the most of supervision time and contact time with supervisors, and not to be afraid to create discussion and put forward ideas of your own. The supervisors are very accommodating and it is always helpful to talk things through with them that you may not understand. Also, further reading does often help to get a handle on the more complicated areas of the course, which may not be covered thoroughly in textbooks. Really commit from the start and get as much enjoyment out of the course as you can. It is also important to force yourself to have confidence right from the start. It is very easy to feel intimidated when you start, but take it one step at a time. Focus on legal research and summarising skills at the beginning, as this will really serve you well later.
Further preparation tips
The Cambridge Law Test is a one-hour admissions test required for the undergraduate Law course by most Colleges at the University of Cambridge (excl. Churchill and Wolfson).
Test format and content
The Cambridge Law Test is a paper-based test. You will answer one question in one hour. The questions are selected by the individual Colleges from a question bank, and come in
Type 1: Problem
- You will be given a statement of law which you will have to apply to different situations
- Assesses your ability to understand and apply the statement and explain you reasoning
Type 2: Comprehension
- You will be given a passage of text which you will have to summarise and answer a
series of questions on
- Assesses your ability to understand the text and present balanced, structured arguments
Type 3: Essay
- You will be given a statement of opinion which you will have to discuss
- Assesses your ability to give opinions in a coherent, structured and balanced way
Registration and location
You are automatically registered for the Cambridge Law Test by applying for undergraduate Law at most colleges in Cambridge, excluding Churchill, Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s and Wolfson, which may set their own tests.
All candidates will sit the Cambridge Law Test during the interview period in Cambridge.
Results and scores
Cambridge Law Test scores are not released to candidates. Cambridge uses the results, along with information from the UCAS form, to make their offers. While the Cambridge Law Test tests a certain innate ability, it is a very good idea to do some preparation in advance, as they test analytical abilities and an aptitude to perform well in a stressful environment, beyond the experience of in-school examinations.