Oxford University Chemistry Interview: Questions & Tips

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oxford interview questions chemistry

This article guides applicants on how to best prepare for the Oxford Chemistry interview. There are guides on past Oxford interview chemistry questions, interview tips and mock examples. It also includes real experiences from students who have sat the Oxford Chemistry Interview.

This article is from a collection of accounts from Oxbridge applicants.

Here is a link about what to expect about the Chemistry course at Oxford.

Chemistry interview questions Oxford

What is the Oxford Chemistry interview structure?

For applications for the Oxford Chemistry course, candidates will undertake 2 interviews:

  • Interview 1 – Both organic and physical chemistry
  • Interview 2 – Focuses on inorganic chemistry with a bit more organic chemistry

Majority of the Chemistry Oxford interview questions are application based, using knowledge from both GCSE and A Level Chemistry to reason out the answer. These questions test candidate’s knowledge and aptitude for chemistry. Some Oxford Chemistry interview questions might include graphs or explanations of chemistry concepts that candidates have touched upon in their personal statement.

Still not sure what to expect for your interview?
In this mock Chemistry Interview questions Oxford admissions tutors show an example of an interview:

Oxford interview questions Chemistry

What are the Oxford Chemistry interview dates?

According to the Oxford website, the first college Chemistry interviews will occur in the first week of December. Oxford will inform students of the decisions for second college interviews shortly after. The second college Chemistry interviews usually happen during the second week of December.

Example Chemistry Oxford Interview Questions

Oxford Chemistry Interview Questions – Organic Chemistry 

  1. How are organic mechanisms classified? Can you give an example of a radical mechanism?
  2. Why does the peroxide O-O bond break to give radicals?
  3. Discuss the different types of isomerism you know. Give examples of molecules that exhibit optical isomerism. 
  4. Question on pure maths and mechanisms 
  5. Mention an organic reaction that you have covered in your school syllabus and explain its mechanism
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Oxford Chemistry Interview Questions – Physical Chemistry

  1. Draw a plot of P vs V for an ideal gas. Derive an expression for the rate at which P changes when V changes 
  2. Draw a plot of potential energy between two neutral molecules as a function of the distance between them 
  3. Does it take longer or shorter for an egg to boil on Mt. Everest compared to at sea level?
  4. Discuss the reasons why the boiling point of water raises when salt dissolves in it.

Oxford Chemistry Interview Questions – Inorganic Chemistry

  1. Write the reaction between Fe2(SO4)3 and KMnO4 in the presence of H2SO4.
    Why is Fe2+ only oxidised to Fe3+ while Mn can go up to oxidation number 7+ ?
  2. Draw the structure of the following molecules: carbon dioxide, hydrazine and nitrogen monoxide. What is hydrazine used for?
  3. Nitrogen monoxide is a radical. Where does the unpaired electron sit?
  4. Discussion of polymers and inorganic compound types, including graph sketching 
  5. Questions on redox chemistry and the periodic table, including trends across a period
  6. Derivation of a Henderson equation 
  7. What is the concentration of water?
chemistry oxford interview questions

Other Oxford Chemistry Interview Questions

  • How many different molecules are made from six carbon atoms and twelve hydrogen atoms? (See the Oxford website for a more detailed explanation of how to answer this) 
  • Discussing a scientific diagram with follow up questions
  • Explain the functioning of a glow-stick
  • How many atoms are present in a brussel sprout?
  • Identification of 3D molecular molecules and discussion about their rotation and symmetry
  • Presentation of eggs with a follow up question to talk about them 
  • How many grains of sand are there on Earth
  • Why do you believe Chemistry is life changing to you and the people around you?

Insider Guides: Oxford Chemistry Interview

What happened on the day of your Oxford Chemistry interview? 

Due to bad weather, I was not able to arrive on time and was almost a full day late for my interview. However, the college was fully understanding about my situation and rescheduled both of my interviews.
I missed some of the events that were organised by the college for interviewees but was still able to take part in the evening activities. 

For the 2024 Oxford Chemistry Interviews, Oxford may hold interviews online or in-person. Just be aware that the college is understanding should anything pop up at the last minute or if there is a delay. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and try not to read up on Chemistry on the day of your interviews as it probably will make you more nervous.

chemistry interview questions oxford

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

The tutors didn’t require me to bring anything to my Oxford Chemistry Interview as the colleges offered us writing tools. I didn’t need a calculator in my interviews either.
There was water there in case you needed it. Oxford don’t have a dress code and we were told to wear something that would make us feel comfortable. 

What is the Oxford Chemistry interview setting and how long is it?

Each Oxford Chemistry interview took place in the office of the tutors interviewing me. The first office was a bit small but the second office was more spacious. In both offices, there was a sofa where I sat while the tutors sat in armchairs. Both rooms were well-lit and it felt quite welcoming. The Oxford Chemistry interviews took a total of 20 minutes each. All tutors were strict on following their schedule so they kept to the time allocated for the interview. 

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What are the Oxford Chemistry interviewers like?

All of my interviewers were quite different from each other. The organic tutor was a bit scary and did not really smile or nod his head to anything I was saying. However, the physical tutor made lots of jokes and made me feel comfortable enough to joke back and engage in the conversation. My inorganic tutor was friendly and smiling but still kept the interview formal. 

I think my impression of the tutors that interviewed me was also a bit guided by how nervous I was for each one. Answering Oxford University chemistry interview questions can be very daunting. Physical chemistry is my preferred area of chemistry so I felt very relaxed throughout the interview, whereas organic is not really my cup of tea which is why I felt more nervous.

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

There might be a few academically heavy or challenging Oxford interview chemistry questions. I personally really enjoyed them, especially ones I hadn’t come across before as they were so interesting that in the moment, my curiosity meant I was more focused on trying to arrive at a solution that I forgot about being nervous. 

This might not be the case for everyone but if anything, it gave me a snippet of an insight into what tutorials at Oxford would be like which highlighted how I would be intellectually challenged, further convincing me that I wanted to study here. 

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

There were no such questions in my interviews. 

Top Tips for the Oxford Chemistry Interview 

  • Have a good understanding of your A-Level Topics. It is super important to make sure you know your A-Level topics well individually but also try to understand the connections between them as a lot of questions are a direct application of concepts picked up from your A Levels.
  • List all things you see as relevant. Whenever you see a question, create a flowchart where you list all the themes/topics you think are relevant to the answer and then discuss each of them. Even if you do not get the right answer, your interviewers will see your thought process
  • Think about why you like chemistry. Remember the interviewers want to see why you are interested in chemistry. They are looking for people that are enthusiastic about the subject, not just smart people. Remember to read what you said in your Oxford Chemistry personal statement in case the tutors ask you any questions.
  • Research your tutors. You can look up the tutors from your colleges and have a look into any of their research if it seems interesting to you. It is something you can talk about with them as at the end of each interview, they will ask you if you have any questions
  • Remember that this is a unique opportunity. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to interact with some of the scientists in certain areas of chemistry so enjoy the interview, the challenges and the intellectual conversation!

Top Tips for the “Why Oxford” interview question

  1. Research Oxford. Think about why you really want to go there. This cannot be simply because it is one of the world’s top universities. You should find something unique or rare about Oxford that makes you want to study there.
  2. Also think about your specific subject. For Chemistry, you should research the various courses on offer, making sure to have a few in mind which you would love to come to Oxford to study.

My Favourite Things about Studying Chemistry at Oxford University 

The favourite part of my time at Oxford was my final year at university where I got to work for 9 months on a research project in a real research group as well as write a thesis. This opportunity made me realise what I love about science and chemistry and convince me that I wanted to do a PhD. Oxford is where some of the best research in the world is happening and I appreciate that even more now that I have graduated. It is an amazing place to meet people that are top in their fields and create a sense of community. 

If you’d like further support with your preparation, why not call use today to find out how Oxford Chemistry interview tutoring could help you.


→What should I expect during an Oxford Chemistry interview?

During an interview, tutors will ask a range of questions related to your academic background, your interest in chemistry, and your problem-solving abilities. They may also ask you to discuss current research topics in the field.

→How can I prepare for Oxford University chemistry interview questions on problem-solving?

To prepare for problem-solving questions in an interview, it is important to practise working through complex problems and explaining your thought process. You can also review past chemistry exam papers to get a sense of the types of problems that may be asked.

→Are there some interview preparation tips for Oxford Chemistry?

Some interview preparation tips for Oxford Chemistry include reviewing your academic achievements, reading up on the latest research in the field, practising problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and preparing for common interview questions.

→What are some common interview questions for Oxford Chemistry?

Some common interview questions are about your academic background, your research interests, your problem-solving skills, and your ability to think critically and creatively.

→Is there a dress code to an Oxford Chemistry interview?

You should dress professionally for an Oxford Chemistry interview, such as wearing business attire. However, it is also important to dress comfortably, so that you are not distracted during the interview.

→How can I make a good impression during an Oxford Chemistry interview?

To make a good impression during an Oxford Chemistry interview, be polite, engaged, and enthusiastic. Show that you are prepared and interested in the field of chemistry, and demonstrate your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Be sure to ask questions and show your interest in the interviewer’s research or work.

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