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Interviews, tests, and written work

Exam results are an important criteria for admission, but they're far from the only information we look at.

We also consider your performance in written tests and at interview, as well as your references, your personal statement, and your individual circumstances.


In order to minimise COVID-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can.

We invite about 80 per cent of those who apply to Jesus College to interview. The interviews are usually conducted by two interviewers who are specialists in the subject you've chosen to study.

The aim of the interviews is to discover whether:

  • You have a genuine passion for the subject
  • The course is an appropriate choice for you
  • You are a clear thinker, with analytical ability, and enthusiasm for complex and challenging ideas.

What the interviews will cover

Our questions are designed to assess your ability to use what you already know in unfamiliar situations, and determine whether you can see connections. We're also looking to see whether you can assimilate and use new information or ideas that we give you.

You may be asked questions about your personal statement and the subjects you have studied in the past, and sometimes an interviewer may ask you to clarify some factual or practical aspect of your application. You may also be asked to discuss a text or a specimen if they are relevant to the course you're applying for, or to work through a problem that the interviewers show you.

We aim for a structured but also relatively informal discussion in which we can see you thinking through problems. Questions are not designed to trick you. You can take your time to think about your reply, or to ask for clarification. Don’t worry if you stumble or feel you need to backtrack on something you were saying: we are not looking for a ‘smooth’ performance, we want to hear your thoughts.

You can watch some example interviews to get a sense of what to expect on the day.

Preparing for your interviews

The best preparation for your interviews is to explore your interests beyond your school curriculum. Make full use of any information sources you have access to: your school or local library, TV or radio programmes, websites and blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc.

You can also develop your interview skills by discussing what you have learned with your fellow students, family members, teachers, or anyone else who may be interested. This will help you practice thinking clearly, developing an argument, and defending your position.

If you're planning to get some work experience that could be relevant to your application, try to complete it before you apply. Then you can draw on the experience to discuss your interest in the course, and the knowledge and skills you've gained.

Just before the interviews, make sure you reread your application and any written work you have submitted. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time, wearing something that you feel comfortable in. Try to give clear and focused answers, take time to think whenever you need to, or to ask for clarification. Remember that content and not style is most important to us.

You can find more tips about preparing for interview on the University website


Interview schedule

This year interviews will be held between 5 and 16 December 2020.  Please note that these dates are provisional and may be subject to change.


Written assessments are another important part of the admissions process. We use course specific tests to evaluate your current understanding and knowledge of the subject and any relevant skills you have developed.

These assessments are not simple pass or fail tests, but we take them into account together with everything else. In other words, a weak performance in the written test can be compensated by strong performance elsewhere in your application. 

A number of subjects hold assessments before interviews take place:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • English
  • Land Economy
  • Medicine
  • Natural Sciences
  • Veterinary Medicine.

Other subjects hold written assessments when candidates are in Cambridge in December to attend their interviews:

  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Classics
  • History of Art
  • History and Modern Languages
  • Law
  • Linguistics
  • Modern and Medieval Languages 
  • Philosophy
  • Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

There are no common format written assessments for Mathematics or Music.

You can find more detailed information about written assessments, as well as sample tests and tips on how to prepare, on the University website.

Written work

Depending on the course you've applied for you may be asked to submit written work. We may use this as a starting point for discussion at interview. Please note that the submission deadline for all subjects asking for written work is 5 November 2020.

Don’t forget to add the signed coversheet to each piece of work that you submit (you'll receive further information about the coversheets when you apply). Make sure you keep a copy for yourself so that you can reread it before your interview. 


Written work

Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic

Two examples of marked work done as part of your school course, up to 2,000 words each, in any relevant subject. This can be a coursework extract.


Portfolio brought to interview.


Two examples of marked work done as part of your school course, up to 5,000 words each, in the last two years. Coursework may be work submitted for an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), a written test, an essay, or a language exercise such as a translation or composition. If you study Latin, Greek, Classical Civilisation, or Ancient History at school please make sure one piece of work, and preferably both, is from one of those subjects.


Two examples of marked work done as part of your English Literature course (of any length). One can be a coursework extract instead of an essay.


One example of what you consider to be your best work, of any length, preferably an essay written as part of your History course.

History of Art

Two examples of what you consider to be your best marked work done as part of your school course, of any length and in any humanities subject. This can be a coursework extract.

Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS)

Candidates for HSPS at Jesus College are normally asked to submit a piece of written school work for illustrative purposes. This can be from any subject, and will not necessarily be discussed during the interview.


One example of marked work of any length, done as part of your school course, preferably in Music, and a musical composition or a harmony exercise.

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

Two examples of marked work done as part of your school course, up to 2,000 words each, in any subject; this can be a coursework extract.

Please see individual subject pages for further information.

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