Earth Sciences (Geology) @ St Edmund Hall, Oxford in 2016

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, 2 days apart

Interview content

Interview 1: general science questions; Interview 2: physics, examining a rock, motivations, extended project

Best preparation


Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Practice interviews; read around topics mentioned in personal statement. Should have read my extended project. Don't be intimidated by other candidates!

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: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between each interview: 2 days

Length of interviews: about 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

For both of my interviews, I was nervous, but I didn't expect to get in, so I also felt quite relaxed!

The first interview was with the tutors at St Edmund Hall, and was on a variety of questions building off A-Level science knowledge; there weren't any questions on geology or why I wanted to study Earth Sciences. The questions felt difficult to answer, but the tutors were happy to provide prompts if you were struggling to get anywhere, so - even though I didn't reach the correct answer in many of the questions - I felt like I had still performed okay in the interview.

The second interview was in the Earth Sciences department with tutors from two other colleges, and featured several different topics - I was asked a question on physics, asked to examine a rock, and was asked about my interest in geology and my EPQ as well. I found this interview a lot more difficult; as I hadn't studied geology before, it was my first time looking at a rock, and I had no idea if I was thinking about it correctly.

How did you prepare?


What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

I was quite lucky in that I obtained some interview practice before the interviews - I had attended an interview at another university, and my school organised a couple of practice interviews too. These helped me to get to grips with how to answer interview questions methodically; I found it best to 'think aloud' throughout the interviews, by vocalising all the steps in my thought process, and this meant that the tutors could see that I was thinking in the 'right way', and steer me in the right direction if necessary. I think this is the most important thing to do in an interview!

I also read around the topics I had mentioned on my personal statement so that I would be somewhat confident in answering questions on it. At some point in the interviews you can count on being asked why you'd like to study Earth Sciences, so thinking about how you'd approach answering this is useful preparation. One thing I wish I had done was to read my EPQ - as it is unrelated to Earth Sciences I incorrectly assumed the interviewers wouldn't be interested in it, when actually they were very much so!

One thing I'd like to mention is, don't be intimidated by the other candidates! During interviews it can feel like you're surrounded by much worthier candidates; for example, I felt quite intimidated when talking to another candidate, who had wanted to be a geologist all their life and was most interested in a branch of geology I'd never heard of before! This doesn't mean you're less likely to get in (I never saw them at Oxford again). Also, use the interviews as a chance to decide if Oxford, and your college, is right for you! I spent some time after my first interview looking around Oxford and this made me feel a lot more confident with accepting my offer and coming to study here.