Preparing for the Oxford Physics Interview: What you need to know

Do you need to start preparing for your Oxford physics interview, but you don’t know where to begin?

Let us take the lead. In this article, we will take you through all you need to know before the big day.

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The Oxford Physics interview tends to focus on the academic side of things rather than about wider interests you have mentioned in your application. Overall, the Physics faculty at Oxford is checking for five key selection criteria:

  • Motivation
  • Mathematical ability
  • Reasoning ability
  • Physical intuition
  • Communication

But firstly, it is important to familiarise yourself with the process of the interviews, to make sure you are as prepared as possible.

 

The Oxford Physics Interview Process

For Oxford Physics interviews, all candidates will be interviewed at their first college, and automatically a further one at another college. This standardised procedure is aimed at ensuring that everyone who deserves a place does get one. In most cases, candidates receive two interviews at their first college, although in some cases colleges may give one long interview or three short interviews. The next day, they will have their third and final interview, although this can vary slightly from college to college. Once again, this may be divided up into smaller interviews.

Each interview receives a mark out of 10, or a combined score for smaller interviews. The candidate is assigned a total which combines test scores with interview scores. These scores are then used to divide candidate into three ranks: those who would most likely be receiving a place, those who will possibly be receiving a place, and those who would not normally be receiving a place. These are then considered by the colleges alongside the other information you provided in your application, and final decisions confirmed by a joint meeting of all Oxford college Physics tutors.

For a further break down of the admissions procedure for Oxford Physics interviews, and the wider admissions process, check out the Oxford Physics Department’s website.

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Preparation

The Oxford Physics department stress that for interviews, whilst there is no strict syllabus followed, knowledge of the entrance test syllabus material will be assumed. Familiarising yourself with this is key. UniAdmissions provides further guidance and tuition on the Physics Admissions Test and the syllabus you are expected to know. Other preparation concerns considering the key criteria mentioned earlier in this article.

 

Demonstrate Motivation

A great way to show your passion and motivation for studying physics at Oxford is through reading about the topic, beyond what you have been taught at school. The Oxford Physics department recommends sites such as www.physics.org, reading popular science books in your local library, or the University of Oxford’s own science blog to read around your subject and find out what most interests you.

 

Mathematical and Reasoning Ability, Physical Intuition

These criteria are what the interviewers will be testing at the interview when they ask you to solve a problem. They are testing to make sure the candidate can think through a new and unfamiliar problem using the basic tools they have learnt about their subject.

What the Oxford physics interviews are not impressed by is a regurgitation of solutions already learnt at school which the candidate has already been taught to solve. The idea with the problems given to candidates at interview is to see how they use what they do know to solve a new problem.

This does not necessarily mean all candidates solve the problems given at the interview without any help or prompts from the interviewers. Indeed, the interviewers are looking to stretch the candidates as much as possible, so this can often happen. To get an idea of what this might look like, check out this example of an Oxford Physics interview shared by Oriel College or take a look at some mock interview questions.

Build your Interview Confidence with an Oxford Physics Package

To best prepare for the Oxford Physics interview, you may want to check out our Oxbridge Physics package. With it, you can receive full practice and preparation for what you can expect in the Oxford Physics interviews process.

Expert tutors will guide you through example questions, mock scenarios, and advice on how to answer the tricky parts.

Discuss strategies for your Oxford Physics Package and get in touch with one of the team.

The important thing when tackling the interview and any difficult questions they ask is to work through the problem. Apply what you know and communicate your thinking process clearly to your interviewer.

 

Making sure you are up to date on the physics and maths you should already know, and reading around the topic to find out what motivates and interests you are also key steps in preparation. Soon you could really imagine what life could be like as an Oxford physics student.

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