Oxford University Interview...Tips?

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Hi all,

My son has an interview at Oxford Uni in 2 weeks time. He wants to study Chemical Engineering. There will be 2 interviews - one at the Department; the other at the College he has chosen (Mansfield).

He's is pretty relaxed about it all. He has had 2 interviews over the last couple of months at London Imperial and Manchester and has recieved offers from both. Oxford is his preferred choice though.

Anything Oxford do differently re: interviewing?

Thanks,

Snubbs
 

AJK

AJK

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Oxbridge interviews aren't anything particularly special or unusual, but do think of them as proper job interviews and prepare accordingly. A bad interview will get you dropped from the process, and a good interview will turn a wildcard candidate into an offer.

Sounds like the department interview will be a technical one, to understand your son's level of knowledge, interest and understanding of the subject. I'd expect them to challenge his understanding above and beyond what he's learned at A-Level, to see how he'll get on with the work, but the point is not to catch the student out, it's to see how they think.

The college interview will be the "personal" part - who are you, why do you want to come here, what made you choose this college (you need an answer to this), and so on. It's the "easier" interview, but make sure you sound interesting. He'll probably be asked about hobbies and/or extracurricular activities that he does now, or would be interested in doing at University. If he rows, mention that ;)

Excellent work, good luck to him!
 
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As AJK says, be prepared to justify your choices. Why this college? Why this course? Where do you see yourself after graduation? What will you take away from this experience?

A bit of background reading on the chosen college, be prepared for a few probing questions on ChemEng to get him thinking and see if there are any societies he'd be interested in being part of in case they ask. Can't be too prepared when it comes to Oxford!

Good luck to him! :)
 
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Make sure physics (force / mass balances, mechanics) and maths (graphing functions, calculus etc) is up to scratch. My personal experience was don't try to make jokes to settle the nerves, as they don't seem to like that :p
 
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Thanks for tips.

He doesn't row but last year was selected by his school to attend a 1-week 'introduction' at Clare College (Cambridge Uni) aimed at showing prospective students what Cambridge Uni life was like. Half of every day was devoted to introducing the students to rowing...on the river each day etc causing chaos...all complete novices...he loved it.

I'll strongly suggest he mentions that...I'm sure he would anyway.
 
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Thanks for tips.

He doesn't row but last year was selected by his school to attend a 1-week 'introduction' at Clare College (Cambridge Uni) aimed at showing prospective students what Cambridge Uni life was like. Half of every day was devoted to introducing the students to rowing...on the river each day etc causing chaos...all complete novices...he loved it.

I'll strongly suggest he mentions that...I'm sure he would anyway.

That's the sort of thing they love to hear. That he's had a taster of something new and outside his usual comfort zone and has the passion and drive to pursue it further. They want you to be about more than just the subject you'd like to study, they want you to demonstrate in the interview that you are a well rounded person in all aspects of life.
 
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but somewhere like Imperial's pretty impressive tbh.

It is better ranked then Oxford for the subject, and is ranked #6 in the world for it. I believe Imperial is currently ranked #2 in the world for all subjects. I'd go into the interview knowing I've already secured a great place and therefore you'll be a lot more relaxed.
 

alx

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It is better ranked then Oxford for the subject, and is ranked #6 in the world for it. I believe Imperial is currently ranked #2 in the world for all subjects. I'd go into the interview knowing I've already secured a great place and therefore you'll be a lot more relaxed.

Yeah, it's a good position to be in having Imperial and Manchester as backups. Chemical engineering is a slightly odd one in that Oxbridge probably doesn't quite have the sway with employers as with other subjects (unless you want to go into finance rather than engineering), but if you have the opportunity to go to Oxbridge I'd always take it.

I did chemical engineering at Bath (and had an offer from Oxford to do Engineering but got a B in chemistry :(), but don't really feel it affected my career opportunities - I've actually only met one Oxbridge graduate whilst working in the oil industry.

Wish your son the best of luck with his interview OP, as others have said they'll be looking at how you approach and think about problems and probing your knowledge beyond what has been studied at A-Level.
 
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I study at Oxford but not Chemical Engineering. If the interviews are anything like mine then both with be mostly technical and academic. Motivations for choosing the subject and Oxford are also important, but any conversation about extra-curricular activities will not carry great weight unless they are directly related to the subject. College choice is also not particularly important and will usually just be a conversational topic to ease the candidate into the interview.
 
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The interviews are likely to be academic in nature. I wouldn't bother making any particular point about the rowing, unless specifically asked. The main purpose of the interview is to ascertain whether or not the candidate has the academic ability to cope with the course. At the (Cambridge) College's I've interviewed at I essentially ask myself "is this person capable of achieving at least a 2:1". Basic tips:

a) If you're asked a question on a subject you're unfamiliar with, just say. Also, if you don't understand the question, just ask for clarification.
b) Try to clearly explain your thoughts. If you have an idea that you immediately see doesn't work, say so, e.g. "well my first thought would be to use calculus, but that wont work because...".
c) If you've talked about a certain academic topic in your personal statement, be prepared to answer technical questions on that topic.
f) Swot up on the relevant subject material (chemistry, physics, maths).
e) Don't worry if you find the questions difficult - they're meant to be!

Best of luck to your son!
 
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I went for an interview at Oxford about 10 years ago for mechanical engineering, it was 3 interviews instead of two.

One of them was a one on one with a chap discussing a few physics based questions I think, I don't really remember that one.

The second one was with with a lady with a math based focus. I had to essentially prove/explain differentiation from base principles. Luckily we had covered this pretty well in our pure math (I think) modules only a month or two before. There may have been some other math based proofs.

Both of these were quite informal, sitting next to the person on the same side of a desk working on a piece of paper. They were pleasant people and if I got stuck they would help me out to get to the next step. They would ask you about your though process and try to assess how you approached the problem if you didn't know the answer.

The third interview felt quite intimidating, it was in front of 3 older gentleman and I was stood up in front of a whiteboard. They asked me a few questions with regards to interests I had put on my personal statement. They picked out that fact that I was an avid paintballer at the time and created a hypothetical scenario involving a paintball flying through the air and hitting an object. It was the perfect mechanics question relating to transfer of momentum, velocity etc. A lot of the stuff you cover if you do the mechanic math modules. I think I actually did quite well there.

All this was throughout one day, and I was sick as a dog. I felt like absolute dog poop, I had the flu or something. I did my best to be positive and work through it though, without coughing all over them.

They ended up offering me a place on the course if I managed to get AAA at A2 (what I was predicted)

Fast forward to that summer. I got AAB. The B was in Chemistry. They didn't let me in and I was absolutely devastated...


I would agree with the advice above from w11tho.

Tell your son to be himself, be genuine, not afraid to ask questions, show interest and passion about the subject if given the opportunity and to try not to let them interviewers phase him. There's a greater chance that they'll be amicable as opposed to trying to trip him up.

If he doesn't get in, then he has some incredible backup choices.

I sincerely wish your son the best of luck.
 
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Wouldn't bother with Imperial unless he has his heart set on studying in London... IC has a pretty dire female to male ratio and it will be even worse on a course like chem eng... Lots of foreign students too (true of most Eng courses now) which is fine, but they'll be there to work there socks off as opposed to enjoying a party every now and again.
 
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I work for the University and actually sit in on a lot of interviews at this time of year.
He may have anywhere between 2-5 interviews across the days that he is in Oxford always with 2 people as a minimum (child protection) but sometimes more. The amount of interviews he has isnt really dependant on anything in particular but to a certain extent focus on college allocation since Oxford always over allocates students as many do not achieve the required grades.

They will not care at all for the extra-curricula as it is all academic. Since it is engineering it will be more problem solving exercises similar in nature to the Physics Aptitude Test he would have done a short time ago. Again revise, read around the subject will help here.

The number one bit of advice I give all students though is do not listen to what other attendees are saying! Many will be trying to show off in front of other interviewees with claims like it was easy and make wild claims of their academic merit - literally ignore it.

A student team will be in the college that he is staying in throughout the few days and they will make sure that he knows where he needs to be, and is properly fed. He must not leave Oxford until they tell him he can go as they can often run a final interview at short notice.

If he went on UNIQ then there are also evening drop in sessions where he can get more advise.
 
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