Classics – Cambridge Interview Questions

“How can I prepare when the interviewer could ask me absolutely anything about Classics?”

By understanding how the interview works and, crucially, what it is that the interviewer is looking for. The interviewer is not looking to catch you out, but rather for you to demonstrate your curiosity, knowledge and passion for Classics.

“How am I able to do that?”

Demonstrate your enthusiasm and personality

You might be asked general interview questions so that the interviewer can learn more about you – review our list of General Interview questions to prepare.

Show that you enjoy studying Classics independently
The easiest way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for Classics is to show that you are self-motivated and have studied the subject in your free-time for enjoyment – for example through online lectures and independent reading. If you don’t know where to start, review our suggested reading list below.

Demonstrate your subject knowledge about and passion for Classics
The key to answering these questions is to always demonstrate your thought process aloud. The interviewer does not expect you to be able to answer every question immediately, but rather wants to determine that you are able to think about and work on unknown topics with confidence, intelligence and clarity – and they won’t be able to do that if you sit in silence! Use the list of questions below to prepare. Perhaps you can have a friend or relative ask you these questions so that you can develop your skills of thinking under time pressure and speaking out loud.

Suggested Reading for Classics

Practice Questions

What would happen if the Classics department burned down?
The stage, a platform for opinions or just entertainment – what are your thoughts?
Is Aeneas a modern hero?
How civilised was the Roman world?
Are history and myth compatible?
Where do you draw the line between Plato and Socrates and why?
What is irony?
What is fate?
Does Ezra Pound ‘translate’ Propertius?
Is it fair that Ted Hughes won a literary prize for a translation of an Ovid poem?
Why would a book of today be called a classic?
Is the ending of The Iliad useful?
What do you think the differences are between modern and ancient democracy and why?
What is the future perfect of moneo?
Do you think we need to take a different approach when studying French culture as opposed to the Classical world?
Did the Romans or the Greeks leave a more notable impression on the culture of today? How?
What do you think Tacitus’ view was on the conflict between religion and science?
Can you pick one word to describe life under democracy in 5th century BC Athens?
Do you know how long it took Virgil to write the Aeneid?
Would Ovid’s chat-up line work?
If there was an omnipotent god would he be able to create a stone that he couldn’t lift?
Do you think Feminism is dead?
“Emma has become a different person since she took up yoga. Therefore she is not responsible for anything she did before she took up yoga.” Discuss.
Why do you think Ancient History is important?
When would you start a book about the history of England?
What is the difference between a debate and a philosophical conversation?
Why do you think Ancient History is important?
If you were reading Virgil’s Aeneid in translation, would you be reading the work of Virgil or of another author?
Can you justify a Classics degree when it is subsidised by the taxpayer?
Can you speak German, French or other languages?
Compare and contrast Ancient Greece and Rome.
Compare and contrast Ovid and Catullus.
Do you think Ovid was a good love poet?
How civilised was the Persian Empire?
How civilised was the Roman world?
How do we separate fact from fiction given that myth and reality are so intertwined?
How is the study of Classics useful to the modem world?
How would you have ended the Siege of Troy sooner?
If I you could turn this room into the British Museum, what items would you put in it to convey the importance of the Classical Worlds?
If you were making a movie about the Odyssey, would you include Poseidon?
If you were reading Virgil’s Aeneid in translation, would you be reading the work of Virgil or of another author?
Is Aeneas an ancient hero or a modem one?
Is the ending to the Iliad really necessary?
Romans watched gladiators fight in large arenas. What can we learn about them from this?
To what extent is the film 300 historically accurate?
Was Alexander the Great great?
Was the Triumvirate a success?
What is the significance of the change in artistic style between the Republic and the Empire?
What can we learn about Roman foreign relations from Jugertha?
What is a neoteric?
What is Catullus sparrow really about?
What is the difference between a debate and a philosophical conversation
What is the significance of Stonehenge?
What is Turnus’s role in the Aeneid?
What makes a book a classic?
Which rhetorical devices does Cicero use?
What was the difference between the Roman and Greek gods?
What were the labours of Hercules and what can we learn from them?
From what year would you start a book about the history of England?
Why did the Roman Republic end?
Why do you think Ancient History is important?
Would you say Sulla was a tyrant? Or a dictator?