Oxford Biochemistry: Tips & Questions for Interview

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This article guides candidates on how to best to prepare for Oxford Biochemistry interview. This includes guides on past Oxford Biochemistry interview questions, interview tips, mock examples and real experiences from students who have sat the Oxford Biochemistry panel interview.

This article has been made from a collection of accounts from Oxbridge applicants.

Oxford interview questions biochemistry

What is the Oxford Biochemistry interview structure?

For Biochemistry interviews at Oxford, candidates will most likely have two interviews. One at their first college (which will probably be the college they applied to), and another at a second college.

Depending on the colleges that interview each candidate, they may be sent pre-reading to do. A few colleges, such as Hertford and Christchurch, have sent out pre-reading to their interviewees a bit earlier in the day before the interviews. The college will likely inform candidates of this. However, they should still make sure they are available and online in the run-up to the interview in case they are sent pre-reading. Candidates can check the college’s website or email the college’s admissions office if they want to be certain of the situation.

If being interviewed online, the University has stated that Biochemistry is a subject that may require ‘Tier 2’ technology for the online interviews. This means that, depending on the college candidates are interviewed at, theyt may need to use a virtual whiteboard to show the tutors their working of biochemistry Oxford interview questions. This is an alternative to simply needing a webcam to be able to talk to them. Once again, candidate will be informed of what they need when they are invited to interview, but it is best to practise using the online whiteboard system Miro.

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What are the Oxford Biochemistry interview dates?

Oxford Biochemistry interviews are likely to take place during the first two weeks of December.

Examples of Oxford Biochemistry Interview Questions in Previous Years:

  • General Oxfrod Biochemistry interview questions:
    • What is it about Biochemistry that made you decide to study it?
    • Why have you chosen to apply to Oxford?
    • Are there any particular things you are looking forward to if you came to study Biochemistry at Oxford?

Specific Biochemistry Oxford interview questions

  • Questions about the associated charges of amino acids in different pHs – testing zwitterion knowledge. 
  • Compound: The interviewer shows the structure of an organic compound with functional groups. Question: Would this compound be more soluble in water or in octanol?
  • Questions to interpret graphs (such as how relative solubility of a compound varies with pH).
  • Questions about hereditary trees. This may be more straight-forward (talking about normal inheritance). Or more complex (a past applicant had a question where the tree appeared X-linked at first but passed onto girls, and ended up being a mitochondrial DNA disease).
  • Amino acids: How do amino acids behave in acidic conditions? What about basic conditions?
  • Ion channel: The selectivity filter is lined with carbonyl oxygens. Knowing this, why might the channel allow potassium ions through, but not sodium ions?
  • Questions about Ka calculations
  • Perm: How does a perm work?
  • Questions about a nuclease cutting DNA with a particular pattern. (e.g., DNA cut at regular intervals because the nuclease was attaching to a histone protein and cutting straight across the DNA)
  • Questions on A-level biology and chemistry content
  • Showing the interviewee a physical model, asking questions about the structure and the function
biochemistry interview questions Oxford

Insider Guides: Oxford Biochemistry Interview

What happens on the day of your Oxford Biochemistry interview? 

I had in-person interviews, so your interview process may be a little different to mine. On the day of my interview, we had a meeting in the morning with the tutors and all the candidates for my first college, where they explained the interview process. We would have two interviews, one at the college we were staying at and one at another. The information about which other college we would be interviewing at had been put up in the Porter’s lodge. (It will be emailed to you if you are having an online interview.)

Once we knew our interview times, we were free for the day. Neither of my interviews had any pre-reading, so I arrived five minutes before the scheduled time. However, some other people had to arrive at their college half an hour early to read an article. 

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What do you have to bring to your Oxford Biochemistry interview?

I just brought a pen. They had a calculator on the table for me, but I didn’t use it as the biochemistry Oxford interview questions didn’t require it. I would advise that you have a pen and paper to do your working, as well as keeping a calculator on hand in case it is needed.

I just wore my normal clothes – you don’t have to wear anything overly formal!

What is the interview setting and how long is it?

Both of my interviews were in small rooms, which I now know are tutorial rooms. The interview was more like a discussion than anything else. Since your interviews may be online, you should be somewhere private and quiet, and the interviewers will likely be in their own offices or a tutorial room.

The interviews were each around 20-30 minutes.

biochemistry Oxford interview questions

What are the interviewers like? 

My first interviewers were friendly enough but didn’t give anything away to my answers. They were both completely straight faced the whole time. In the second interview I had a much more positive response to my answers, and they were very encouraging to everything I said. That’s not to say the first interview was bad or that they weren’t nice, they were! They just weren’t so openly positive and I couldn’t tell if it had gone well or not, whereas I felt the second one went well.

In my first interview half of the biochemistry interview questions Oxford tutors asked were on my personal statement, and the other half were subject specific questions that they asked everyone. When I couldn’t get the answer they gave me hints, like “what if you knew…”. Those hints helped me reach the answer. In the second interview the biochemistry interview questions Oxford tutors asked were half chemistry based and half biology based, so these were all prepared questions from them. Again, they gave me pointers and tips to help reach the answers when needed, and they also asked me follow up questions about things I had said when answering the initial questions. Of all the Oxford interview questions biochemistry (biology and chemistry) featured heavily, with a few personal questions.

What are the best tips for planning my trip for my Interview?

My only tip is to just try your best to keep calm – do relaxing things in between interviews, and make sure you get enough sleep the night before! And of course, importantly, make sure you have a good internet connection.

Like I said before, feel free to wear whatever you want – don’t feel pressure to dress in uncomfortable formal clothing, as that may distract you and make you perform worse! (Though of course, if you’d feel most comfortable dressed formally, then that’s ok too).

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Are there any academic or challenging Biochemistry questions at the Oxford Interview?

The Oxford interview questions Biochemistry based topics were not too challenging. They were based on A-level content, and there was nothing beyond that level. As I said before, the interviewers were very helpful in giving me hints to guide me to the right answer, so if I did get stuck they were there to help.

Are there any personality, work experience or extracurricular based Biochemistry questions at the Oxford Interview? 

I wasn’t asked at all about personality, extracurriculars, or work experience. They did ask me a bit about my Oxford Biochemistry personal statement. These questions weren’t very detail specific, and were more questioning why I had chosen to read certain things I had mentioned in my statement, and why they interested me. As well as this type of question, they also asked more general questions based on specific areas of biochemistry I had mentioned in my statement, such as “I see you talked about telomeres in your statement. What is a telomere?”

Top Tips for the Oxford Biochemistry Interview

  1. Make sure you know your A-Level Chemistry well (all the related content, such as amino acid charge, acid calculations, etc.). You will definitely be asked questions on something in the Chemistry syllabus.
  2. Refresh your memory on anything you mentioned in your personal statement, particularly with relation to biochemistry – for example, books you read or lectures you attended.
  3. Practice explaining all your thinking out loud – perhaps in a mock interview, or even to a friend or family member. 
  4. Work on clearly showing your working on paper – and remember to do this in the interview. (Of course, only in interviews where you are using a virtual whiteboard, and so are able to show the interviewers your working).
  5. Relax! They don’t mind if you get things wrong, as long as you are demonstrating problem solving skills with information you have, and showing that you can learn from new and unfamiliar information.

Top Tips for the “Why Oxford” interview question

  1. Think about why you want to come to Oxford University. For me, Oxford seemed like a place for people who really care about the subject they’re studying, even if they don’t know what they want to do with it. Everyone just wants to learn!
  2. Also take a look at specifics about Biochemistry at Oxford – are there any areas of the course that particularly interest you, or any leading academics currently working or lecturing at Oxford that you’d like to learn from?

My Favourite Things about Studying Biochemistry at Oxford University

I really like the organisation of the Biochemistry course and the fact that we are being taught by experts in the field everyday. Also, there is a real mixture of methods for content delivery, which I find keeps it interesting – classes, lectures, seminars, student presentations, labs, tutorials, etc.

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