Oxford Materials Science: Tips & Questions for Interview

5 min read

In this article we will guide you on how to best prepare for your Oxford Materials Science interview. There are guides on past Oxford Materials Science questions, interview tips, mock examples. It also features real experiences from students who have sat the Oxford Materials Science panel interview.

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

The Oxford Undergraduate Admissions Youtube channel has a video of a Materials Science Demonstration Interview, which may be useful for you to watch. 

What is the Oxford Materials Science Interview structure?

If you are invited to interview for Materials Science at Oxford, you will have two interviews by two colleges. You will have one interview at each college (so two interviews in total).

If you made an open application, the colleges you’re interviewed at will decide based on the colleges’ need for applicants. If you applied to a given college, you will typically be interviewed at that college as well as a second college (the second will be determined by the colleges’ needs). The aim with these multiple interviews is also to give every candidate a good chance to showcase their skills, as well as ensuring that all colleges see a similar ratio of candidates to places available. 

What are the Oxford Materials Science interview dates?

The Oxford Materials Science interview dates will take place mid-December 2024. The university will inform you of your particular dates when you are invited to interview.

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Example Past Questions from Oxford Materials Science Interview

  • General questions:
    • Why are you applying to study Materials Science at Oxford?
    • What about Materials Science are you most interested in? 
    • Do you know anything about the course for Materials Science at Oxford? Are there any modules that you’re looking forward to taking?
  • Periodic table: Here is a blank periodic table. Can you try and fill as many elements in as possible? (Once you are at the stage of making educated guesses, you should explain why you are placing elements in certain areas).
  • Diffusion of carbon: Here is an equation describing how carbon diffuses through iron. Can you sketch a graph showing the rate of diffusion varying with temperature? Can you explain why the rate of diffusion will increase with the temperature?
  • Elephant: I want to lift an elephant in a hot air balloon. How hot does the air have to be?
  • What material might be used in guttering?
  • Compass: Look at this compass. Can you identify the materials used in it? Could you explain how it might have been manufactured?

Further Questions

  • Stress: When one stretches a material, why does stress concentrate on the bottom of a crack?
  • Concrete: Do you know anything about concrete? How does it work in the setting process? (They may give you some materials and information to help you in reaching an answer)
  • Doubled humans: If I take a human being, and somehow double them in dimension, would they jump higher or less high?
  • Questions looking at various materials and discussing how we might class them
  • Doping graphite: Doping graphite with boron affects conductivity negatively. With this knowledge, what could you dope graphite with to get an improved conductivity?
  • Humidity: Here is a piece of equipment, and some information on humidity in different environments. How might the humidity affect the equipment?
  • Questions based around general A-level mathematics, physics, and chemistry knowledge (e.g. questions on graphs)

Insider Guides: Oxford Materials Science Interview

What happens on the day of your Oxford Materials Science interview? 

My interviews were held online, so I was just at home and had to login to an online meeting at the given time. Cambridge sent me links for each interview ahead of time, so joining the meeting wasn’t a rush or at all stressful.

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

I had to use a pen and paper, as well as a simple calculator. Make sure you have all these things on hand – particularly the pen and paper!

What is the interview setting and how long is it?

My first Oxford Materials Science interview was on a Google Meet meeting with two professors, who were each in their own private office space. The second one was with a boardroom of about 5 people, who were sitting in a bland white room.

My interviews were 30 minutes each.

What are the Oxford Materials Science interviewers like? 

All of the interviewers were very friendly, and were very understanding of any mistakes I made during the interview. If I had trouble understanding what they were asking, they were very happy to reword the question to help me understand and reach an answer myself. They also asked lots of follow up questions on what I had said in answer to their questions throughout the interview, to test if I had been learning and understanding the new information.

What are the best tips for planning my trip for my Oxford Materials Science interview?

My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you eat and drink plenty in the run up to the interviews, and on the day. Even if you feel nervous and thus don’t really feel hungry, just try to eat a filling meal as best you can, so that you can be functioning at your best. You should also practise taking deep breaths and calming down, especially if you know you may be stressed in the interview. This is also useful as if you do find yourself in a panic during the interview, you should take a moment to calm down before you attempt an answer.

In terms of dress, you should try not to dress too casually – it is very important to make sure you feel comfortable in the clothes (both in terms of feeling like yourself, and so that you aren’t distracted by a tag or itchy fabric), but you also don’t want to be in sweatpants and an old t-shirt. The examiners will not mind if you are wearing casual clothing, but you still want to be in clothing that puts you in a good academic headspace.

Are there any academic or challenging Materials Science questions at the Oxford interview?

For my interviews, I found the maths questions quite easy – I wasn’t asked many of these. The subject-only questions often started with them providing quite a bit of background information, followed by a series of questions which all led on from one another. This background information was also completely random and could be about any number of phenomena for any material.

Are there any personality, work experience or extracurricular based Materials Science questions at the Oxford interview? 

I wasn’t asked any personality/extracurricular questions. I was asked about my personal statement, but only the parts that were directly relevant to Materials Science. For example, I had mentioned “bioconcrete” in my statement, and they asked me what exactly I meant by that term.

Top Tips for the Oxford Materials Science Interview

  1. Make sure to know your maths! (In particular, they like to ask about areas like graphs). If you can show how comfortable you are with the first maths question you’re given, then they may move on without asking further maths questions, as they will be impressed and confident in your knowledge.
  2. Do lots of background reading about anything you have mentioned related to Materials Science on your personal statement. Really try to understand it, and make sure you could answer basic questions about it.
  3. Work on understanding the fundamentals of physics and maths. The majority of the questions asked will be related to these, so you want to be confident in your fundamental knowledge.
  4. Practise explaining your thought process, as well as writing out and presenting your work. The interview is verbal – they are relying on you being able to explain your thoughts. If you can’t communicate how you are thinking, they won’t be able to fully assess your potential.
  5. Practise the types of questions you might be asked, and try to find someone in a similar field to give you a mock interview. It would be best if it’s someone you don’t know very well. But a teacher or even a friend giving you a practice interview is better than no practice!

Top Tips for the “Why Oxford” interview question

  1. Think about what unique aspects of Oxford University make you want to study here. Not just that it is a world-renowned institution, but why you think you would suit the education system at the university.
  2. Research your course. Make sure you’re familiar with the options offered to study for Materials Science at Oxford. Picking out a few modules that you would love to study shows that you have done your research on the course!

My Favourite Things about Studying Materials Science at Oxford University

My favourite thing is probably the academic atmosphere here. Everyone here has a genuine passion for their respective subjects, and we are all here to work together so that we can all become subject leading experts in our own fields.

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