Earth Sciences (Geology) @ University, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

2x 1 hr interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Interview 1: physics questions, personal statement; Interview 2: motivations

Best preparation


Final thoughts

Revise physics, biology and chemistry; do extracurriculars and read the recommended books, but also something unique.

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: 1 day

Length of interviews: 1 hr each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

In my first interview I was given a broad question about pressure and gravity meant to test my understanding of physics A level and how I could apply it to a hypothetical question about the Earth. I started with very minimal information, and as I got stuck I was given more prompts to keep working towards my answer and to consider factors I hadn't thought of, with occasional ""okay, but now what if..."" questions thrown in to encourage me to go deeper and think more about the problem in a more complex way. They then went through my personal statement and asked me a very little bit about the books I'd read and a lot about work I'd done on my gap year. This tied into a chemistry and biology related question and trying to work out an equation to answer that question using first principles. I found this interview more challenging mostly because I was quite rusty with the equations I'd learnt at school, having taken a year off, so they didn't come back to me as quickly as would have been nice, but I got a lot of guidance and prompts to encourage me to keep going when I got stuck.

In my second interview I was asked about why I wanted to study my course, how I'd come to that decision and what had I done outside of the classroom to reaffirm this. I was also given a few rock samples to talk about. This second interview was much more of a relaxed chat as I only needed to express what I thought and why as opposed to having to think about equations or more complex problems.

How did you prepare?


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

My best advice would be to make sure you have a firm understanding of particularly the more basic physics, biology and chemistry principles - you don't have to have memorised the entire formula sheet from A Level but just like knowing the really fundamental equations from GCSE will make your life a lot easier - or at least how major properties (force, velocity, etc.) are related to each other. Also try to do as much outside school work as you can, whether that's reading, an internship, fieldwork (a major favourite), watching lectures, going to conferences, etc. My fieldwork was the thing that got discussed the most in my interview and it really shows passion for the subject so that would be the most ideal if you can find something. Note there is a recommended reading list on the Oxford Earth Sciences website, which has some interesting books. But if you can, try to find other books, because everyone on my course seems to have mentioned these same few books on their personal statement and a unique book may help you stand out more and have something more interesting to discuss. Also practise making notes and coming to conclusions about different kinds of rocks if you can.

My expectations were that they would try to catch me out or trip me up when asking questions, but the interviewers were actually really lovely and patient and were just trying to help me answer the questions they set, as well as to challenge me a bit. If I could do anything different I would try to relax and stay calm, because panicking in the exam just makes you more quiet and you can't show your true potential. Don't listen to people on The Student Room, a lot of people on there are scare mongering and it's really not as scary in real life, nor are the interviewers deliberately trying to freak you out or do anything 'crazy' to see how you will react.

I really believe that what they're looking for most is someone who is genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about this subject - it's not something you can fake, but to give yourself the best chance of showing this enthusiasm include as much stuff about what you love doing/reading/thinking about (but still relevant to your subject) on your personal statement. That way, the interviewers can ask you about it and see this excitement.