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Oxford Chemistry Interview Questions & Overview

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Interview Essentials

Oxford generally invites far fewer students to interview than Cambridge – around 40% of total applicants will be invited to interview. For chemistry, that’s actually far from the truth – almost 90% are invited to interview! The university is very clear on what you need to demonstrate in order to get to that interview. First, you need excellent predicted grades – the entrance requirements are A*A*A, and both A*s must be in science subjects or maths. You must study both Chemistry and Maths to A Level. You should demonstrate reasoning ability – an ability to analyse and solve problems using logic – and an interest in chemistry, as well as excellent GCSE grades. Regarding your personal statement, you should make it clear that you are keen to discover new things, to understand why the observations that you make are the way they are, and to be driven by scientific endeavours. You must show that you are clear on chemical concepts learnt so far, and have gone beyond this to learn outside the A Level course as well. You should show that you have the motivation to take on a four year course, and that you are an independent learner who is ready and willing to listen to new ideas, and to motivate themselves as needed. The shortlisting process takes some time, as all shortlisted applicants for Chemistry at Oxford will receive two interviews. Shortlisting is done jointly by College tutors and the Chemistry Admissions Coordinators, which ensures that students are fairly and contextually recruited.

Admissions Statistics for Chemistry at Oxford

629 males applied in the last cycle, of whom 215 were given offers and 193 accepted places, whilst 757 females applied, of whom 277 were given offers and 260 took up places. That is a very high overall success rate, especially for a prestigious course at Oxbridge.

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Interview Key Dates for Chemistry at Oxford

All first college interviews take place in the second week of December, with decisions regarding interviews at second colleges made by the start of the next week, and interviews to therefore take place during that next week (the third week of December). 

Interview Format and Purpose

The official Oxford site provides little information on what to expect at interview. Luckily, previous and current students can furnish us with some idea of what we might expect. According to one student, they had three interviews; this consisted of two interviews at the college that they had applied to, with one at another second college. They found that there were very few questions on ‘why Oxford’ or even on the wider pursuit of Science, and that questions instead focused heavily on Chemistry, with some Physics and Maths as well. Topics that were covered included covalent bonds, pi bonds, periodicity, and electrochemistry. They were asked to draw diagrams and interpret data and graphs as well. They were then asked to use their physics and mathematics knowledge to draw some conclusions or apply this knowledge to Chemistry as the discussion went on.

Another student explains that they received no questions at all on ‘why Oxford’ or how they would be suited to the university – their interview was also entirely academic in nature. They were interviewed by three tutors, which they found intimidating. They were asked questions beyond the scope of the A level syllabus and felt underprepared. However, their second interview was more relaxed, and they had a third interview which they felt was more like a discussion, with them being presented with new information and being asked to figure out how to use that information as the interview went along.

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Additional Assessments

There are no additional assessments for Chemistry at Oxford.

Past Oxford Chemistry Interview Questions

How many moles of H20 are in a single cup of water?
What volume of wine can be drunk to reach the legal concentration of alcohol in the blood for driving?

How does a glow stick work?
How do amino acids bond to form a peptide?
How would you differentiate between salt and sugar without tasting them?
Discuss the bonding in benzene.
How does blood maintain its pH?
Why does iron rust and how can rusting be stopped?
What is the concentration of water?
What issues might there be if you wanted to create a metallic oxide that has good conductive properties but is also transparent?
Why are explosions a risk in flour mills? What stops bags of flour exploding in the kitchen?

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