Oxford Earth Sciences: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read

Many students are unsure what to expect in their Oxford Earth Sciences interview. Fortunately we have asked top performing candidates on their experiences and advice in this article!

Earth Sciences interview
Earth Sciences Interviews at Oxford may be hosted over Microsoft Teams

What is the Oxford Earth Science interview structure?

Candidates typically have 2x 20-30 minute interviews for Earth Sciences. Candidates may also be pooled to another college for interviews, meaning you could have up to four interviews over a few days!

According to Oxford University, interviews for Earth Sciences at Oxford for the foreseeable future will take place virtually, so make sure you are comfortable communicating over video call.

Oxbridge interview
Make sure you comfortable with the software ahead of your interview

Example Past Questions from Oxford Earth Science Interview

General questions:

  • Why do you want to study Earth Sciences at Oxford?
  • Questions on why I talked about X in personal statement 
  • What is it about Earth Sciences that most excites you?
  • Why is mathematics important to Geologists?
  • What skills would make you suited to be a successful student at Oxford?
  • Why this college?
  • Why Oxford University?
  • What can you contribute to college life?
  • Discussion on my EPQ topic
  • What did you do in your gap year?
Free Oxbridge Interview Scenarios

    Earth Sciences Oxford interview questions:

    • A lot of questions building on A-Level science knowledge
    • I was asked to describe an object from first principles and a photo (in my case, a rock)
    • Question on maths unit conversions
    • Question on chemical equations and I was asked to draw a graph
    • Given information on rainwater levels and asked to make inferences
    • Started off with a broad question about pressure/gravity to test my physics knowledge, and applying this to questions about the earth
    • Expect a lot of follow up questions (such as “okay… but now what if….?”) which get more complex
    • Information about different rock samples and was asked to compare
    • “Fermi” type questions about a mountain range, with mathematical and graph-interpretation questions
    • 3D thinking and visualisation questions, asking me to do sketches
    • Question focused on fracking using mathematical and physics knowledge 
    • “How would you describe this rock to an alien?”
    • “What do you think has been the most impressive scientific advancement in Geology in the last 100 years?”
    • “Why is the Earth different to the makeup of other planets?”

    What happens on the day of your Oxford Earth Sciences interviews?

    Before my Earth Sciences interviews I was given a timetable with dates and times for my interviews, along with the names of the tutors who would be interviewing me (which helped for background research).

    After entering the Earth Science interview, I was greeted by my two interviewers. We then discussed some of the points I raised in my personal statement, before having a 5 minute discussion about my EPQ (why I chose the topic, what I included in it etc). 

    We then talked about different Earth Science questions. A lot of these involved mathematics or revolved around A-Level science knowledge, so make sure to touch up on these. Many of the questions are very broad and initially quite difficult, but the interviewer wants to see your thought process and how you can logically arrive at an answer, rather than the answer itself.

    When are Oxford Earth Science interviews held?

    According to Oxford University, the vast majority of interviews are held in the first three weeks of December. Candidates will be given at least 24 hours notice before their interviews, with most candidates being interviewed over a period of 2-3 days, but if you get pooled for another round of interviews then this period could be even longer.

    Tutors then make a decision based on the performance of the applications, and offers are typically sent out to candidates in mid January.

    What do you have to bring to your Oxford Earth Science interview?

    Honestly we were not expected to bring anything! There was no dress code required; they said we should wear whatever we feel most comfortable in – from a suit to tracksuits. I decided to dress in casual clothes to make myself feel more at ease.

    Aside from that, being comfortable using the online software to write on the online whiteboard helped, as well as being comfortable analysing graphs and tables online.

    Because interviews are online, we advise finding a quiet and comfortable space to conduct your interview where you will not be distracted – such as a room in your school or at your home.

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    What are the Oxford Earth Science interviewers like?

    My interviewers were very understanding when I was initially stuck with a question. I asked if I could take a few more minutes to re-analyse the graph and table before giving an answer. They understand how stressful it can be, so are happy to guide you in the right direction or give you time to think.

    Do not be worried if they ask difficult questions. Often they want to see how you can handle pressure and being challenged with the unknown. If you are stuck, take a minute to structure, before explaining your thought process out loud. 

    Do not worry if they challenge your answers – interviews mirror tutorials, where debate and discussion is common. They may be seeing how you cope with criticism and whether you can defend your answer, or re-evaluate different points of discussion.

    Earth Sciences Oxford
    Students doing Earth Science at Oxford will typically have 2-3 tutorials a week with 0-3 other students and a tutor

    Earth Science interview tips

    1. Try and relax as much as before! Do not spend the night before going over all your notes to try to prepare. Instead, focus on being well-rested with a good night’s sleep so you can perform the best on the day.
    2. Double check everything is working beforehand, such as electronics to any equipment you may need (pens, paper, tablet etc)
    3. Be confident. Whilst easier said than done, you will not be invited to interview if they did not think you are a top student. You have been invited for a reason, so use it as an opportunity to show them why you would be a successful, passionate student.
    4. Try to stay calm! Interviewers care less about your final answer and more about how you arrived there – so practise talking out loud and showing the interviewer your thought process. 
    5. Do not panic if you do not immediately know the answer. It is very possible you get asked a question you initially do not know how to answer. Do not worry – take time to think and structure your answer, and clearly communicate how you want to arrive at your conclusion. Oxford tutors stress they care less about what you know, and more about how you think and can communicate your thoughts.

    Bonus Tips!

    1. Mock interviews help! Make sure to practise talking out loud to someone else – be a friend, teacher, or parent.
    2. The interview is not a knowledge test. In the first year you are not expected to know anything specific about geology/earth science, so do not feel like you have to do university level reading to prepare.
    3. Touch up on your A-Level Science/Mathematics. You can guarantee at least one quantitative question in your interview, ranging from equations to graph interpretation. Make sure you are comfortable with utilising the content you have covered in school. 
    4. Know your personal statement and EPQ! Many tutors are interested about extra readings the candidate has done/their EPQ, so make sure you are comfortable talking about these!
    5. Practise the questions that can be rehearsed. Some questions are impossible to prepare for, but other questions are likely to come up, such as “Why Earth Sciences at Oxford?”, “Tell me about your experiences?”, “Why did you choose this topic in your EPQ?” If you want more help, check out our 1-1 Earth Sciences Interview Tutoring package.
    6. Try to be as enthusiastic and engaged as possible! The interviewer could potentially be your tutor for the next 3 years, so they want to look forward to teaching you. So remember to be yourself, smile and be engaged!
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