Getting into Oxford is tough. Hopeful A-Level students must first tackle the PAT (Physics Aptitude Test) and Maths Exam. Only those exceeding a suitably high, undisclosed score are invited for interview. If you are one of the lucky few, we (Paddy and I) have some advice for your interview
Speak your mind
When you’re asked a question, try not to fall silent! This is particularly difficult when asked a question that really challenges you (see example questions below). The interviewer wants to know your thought process, so vocalise what’s going on in your head.
If you don’t understand what you’re being asked to explain, calculate, show, estimate etc. don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If it’s a scenario you’re unfamiliar with, you may still have conceptual understanding that is valuable and it’s not fair for the interview to exclude you from answering the question, just because you don’t know that particular technical term.
Pick up on hints
The interviewer won’t necessarily expect you to solve the problem alone. Take any advice or cues they may give you, as one thing Oxfrod look for is an ability to quickly grasp new information or concepts then apply them to a problem.
Prepare to be pushed
Your interviewer may well press you towards the limit of your knowledge or understanding. Don’t be disheartened or afraid if you suddenly find you can’t go any further with a problem – the interviewer may just be assessing how deep your understanding goes.
Example Physics Interview Questions
- What experiment could you do to show that the Sun is not just a giant ball of molten gold?
- Suggest how artificial gravity might be created on a space station. Estimate the parameters needed to achieve 9.8N/kg inside the ship.
- Estimate the mass of rubber worn off car tyres in the UK each year
- Sketch a speed-time graph for a projectile launched from ground level. Sketch a velocity-time graph for the vertical, then horizontal components of its velocity. Explain the shape of your original speed-time graph.
- Sketch a label a force diagram showing the Earth-Moon system. Why does the Moon not fall towards the Earth?
- Estimate the square root of 13,000
- Sketch the graph of e^x, sin(x) then finally e^(sin(x))