Oxford Chemistry Interview Perspective

Ally King, Oxford Chemistry 2016 -
29 Nov 2017

Q. Tell us about your Oxford Chemistry interview(s)

A. I had 3 interviews, on each of the 3 areas of chemistry: Organic, Inorganic, and Physical Chemistry. The Physical Chemistry interview also involved some questions on Maths.

“Estimate the mass of air in this room. What if we filled the room with water?”

The most difficult questions were those that involved me learning something I didn’t already know in the interview. In my Organic interview I was asked why an amino acid has a high boiling point, having never learnt anything about amino acids before. In my Inorganic interview I was asked why Fluorine could be considered to be similar to Manganese.

I approached the question in both cases by discussing what I did know or could infer about the amino acid or elements in question. The interviewer gave me some guidance which I picked up on to help me to the correct answer. In both cases I eventually came to the answer and I think what helped me get a place was that I showed excitement at learning the new information and asked further questions to show my interest in the topic.

There were no specific questions on my personal statement but in the Organic interview I was asked “Why should we choose you?” and the Physical interviewer used a topic I mentioned an interest in on my Personal Statement to lead the interview and develop on.

I think the excitement I showed when I finally understood something in the interview was the most appealing as the interviewers are looking for someone they want to teach in the future and someone who is passionate about the subject.

Q. Tell us about your Oxford Chemistry interview preparation

A. Past Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and Chemistry Olympiad questions as they force you to look at Chemistry beyond the school syllabus and think about things in a different way. I was also lucky in that I had a Chemistry teacher at school who was willing to give me guidance on interview and gave me a mock interview in her spare time.

I spent around 8 hours a week looking online at past interview questions and attempting to prepare in the 2 weeks leading up to the interview, however before I was told I had an interview I had done very little preparation beyond my school work.

Q. Since when did you know you wanted to study Oxford Chemistry? What were the aspirations/ motivation?

A. I had always hoped to attend Oxford or Cambridge as both of my parents studied at Cambridge, however I didn’t choose Chemistry until I started my A levels, doing Chemistry, Maths, French and History, and started to think about University. I initially looked into Chemical Engineering as Chemistry and Maths were my best subjects but found it was too Physics-based for my liking and my ability so I began to look at Chemistry courses and read some books on Chemistry that really spiked my interest. I was drawn to Chemistry because of the huge amount of potential it would give me in finding a job and doing what I would like to do as a career, which is help the environment. I chose Oxford because Cambridge does not offer a straight Chemistry course and I did not want to study Natural Sciences.