Biology @ St John's, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

3x 20-30 min interviews, over 2 days

Interview content

Interview 1: school project, biological problems, interpreting experimental results; Interviews 2 and 3: personal statement, experimental results

Best preparation


Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Read popular science books; talked to teacher; had mock interview; went to Open Day. Don't focus on memorising facts or getting everything right; they want to see how you can respond to their guidance.

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

Number of interviews: 3

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 1 at St John's one day, 2 at Wadham the next day

Length of interviews: 20-30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My first interview started with a quick chat about a school project I mentioned in my personal statement. We then discussed some biological problems - each of the two interviewers spent about ten minutes discussing problems in different areas of biology. At one point I was given a piece of paper showing the results of an experiment and had to talk about what the results meant. I felt pretty relaxed - St John's gives applicants accommodation for the day before the interview so I had some time to settle and relax. I was sat on a pretty comfy sofa.

The two interviews at Wadham each began with a short question about my personal statement but we didn't spend too much time discussing it. Most of the interviews was spent discussing the results of experiments; they would show me graphs, videos or give me other pieces of information and I had to talk about what was happening. Again, each interview had two interviewers who were all very friendly which definitely helped me to relax.

How did you prepare?


What advice do you have for future applicants?

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

I read a bit around the subject, choosing popular science books that were fairly easy to read, but they gave me a better understanding of the parts of biology I was most interested in. I also checked the news a couple of days before the interview so that I could answer any questions about current events in biology. I spoke to a teacher at my school for advice and I was lucky enough to get a mock interview with them, which was pretty helpful at showing me what sort of questions I could be asked. The most helpful thing was going to the Oxford open day, where a current student got interviewed on the stage by a lecturer. Chatting to

Looking back, I should have spent less time going over my text-book trying to memorise specific facts. The interviews aren't trying to test your factual knowledge (that's what A-levels and admission tests are for!), the interviews test how you think and apply the knowledge you already know. The interviewers aren't expecting you to get everything right straight away, they're more interested in how you respond to the hints that they give you when you get stuck. They pretty much test how well you'd do in the environment of a typical Oxford tutorial.