Oxford Biology Interview Questions & Overview

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Interview Essentials

Remember that Oxford only invites around 40% of students across the entire intake to interview – meaning that an interview alone is an achievement. Considering Biology, Oxford makes it clear exactly what tutors are looking for, and what the interview is designed to test. They explain that tutors are looking for ‘enthusiasm for biology and potential to study it’ at Oxford. Interviews are not designed to test factual knowledge, but instead your ability to think and deploy knowledge – in other words, use your learning to answer new questions or solve new problems. You should be ready to demonstrate your passion for the subject. You might be provided with biological objects, written passages, or data sets.

When assessing applicants, Oxford is very aware of the need to increase its diversity, and as such will take into account a wide range of factors including your school, the area in which you live, etc.  That means that students with great grades for their school should consider applying for Biology at Oxford.

The standard Oxford offer for Biology is A*AA to include Biology and one other science, and the A* must be in one of the sciences that you offer.  If you’re taking the IB, you’ll need 39 points to include Biology and another science with 7 in Higher Level Maths or a Science.

Admissions Statistics

Oxford divides its admissions for biology by gender, with 804 male applicants being provided with 212 offers, leading to 180 places. 478 female applications were offered 122 places, leading to 107 places being taken up.

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Interview Key Dates for Biology at Oxford

All candidates for Biology at Oxford have interviews at two different colleges, which take place in the second week of December typically.

Interview Format and Purpose

The tutors are looking for you to prove your interest in biology, and show that you can converse about biology and its related subjects. They will want to test you by providing you with new material and seeing how you respond to it. You should also expect that your UCAS form (in other words, your personal statement) will form the basis for some questions. Lastly, as stated above you should expect objects and data to be the basis for a discussion.

Per current and previous students, interviews take anything from 15 minutes to half an hour depending on the college. According to one student, their interviews began with some discussion of the personal statement and any research mentioned within it. After that, an object was presented, which was the base for discussion – this was a bird skull. A video was also used as a discussion point. The interview was relaxed and more of a discussion than a rigid set of questions.

Another student explains that their interview also began with a discussion of their personal statement and projects that they had undertaken. After this, some biological problems were brought up and used as the base for discussion. There were two different interviewers, and each spent about ten minutes discussing different problems with the student. After this, they were given some experiment results to analyse and discuss with the tutors.

Another student explains that one of their interviews focused almost entirely on discussing experiment results – be they presented as videos, graphs, or written information on paper.

All students report that the interviews for biology at Oxford were relaxed, and felt more like a conversation than they had expected.

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Additional Assessments

Unlike many courses at Oxbridge, there is no additional test for those looking to study Biology. You do not need to sit the Thinking Skills Assessment. Neither do you need to submit any written work as part of an application for the course.

Past Oxford Biology Interview Questions

  • Why do some habitats support higher biodiversity than others?
  • Is it easier for organisms to live in the sea or on land?
  • Would it matter if tigers became extinct?
  • Why does food taste better when it is hot?
  • What evidence is there that humans are still evolving?
  • What problems do fish face underwater?
  • What is an amino acid and why are there only twenty?
  • Are parasites bad?
  • How do animals know when to migrate?
  • How many genes are there in the genome of a rice plant?
  • Why do we need ATP, why not just release energy from glucose directly?

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