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Hi there,


did any of you ever apply for the graduate studentship in Chemistry at Oxford? I am planning to apply for one call that recently opened, and one of my colleagues, who is quite skilled and excellent chemist, applied previously for a very similar studentship and told me that the selection interview was a horror, very difficult and with lots of questions which are difficult to answer in an instant. Does anyone have some experience?






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  • 3 weeks later...

Hellooo! I'm a current undergrad there. Yes, the interviews are horrific, and yes, they're meant to be, but you're not supposed to answer the questions in an instant (this isn't America). You are permitted to sit and think for a few seconds, you know! There *is not* an answer guide set out. They're looking for how you think, not right or wrong. There are resources that give you an idea of undergrad interviews at Oxbridge available - grad interviews aren't much different in style, apparently. Throw away all your ideas about undergrad classes and exams and think about the Oxford interview as a chance to discuss, learn and show your worth. God, I sound like an admissions tutor, but I think it's the best advice. I had a great time in my undergrad interview. Enjoy it! 


(Also, I recommend this department. It's a very different style from the US. Some people prefer one, some the other. Hope it goes well!)

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For my PhD interviews at Oxford I met with faculty individually for ~30 mins and spoke to them about a recent research project I'd completed. They typically asked questions about the background theory of what I was talking about, or more tangential 'what if...'. I really enjoyed the interview: the project was an interesting, challenging one that I liked talking about, and I had some really intelligent discussions with the PIs that day.


It's perfectly OK to say "I don't know" or "Can you repeat the question?" in these types of interviews. The professors will usually try to guide you towards the right answer, either by rephrasing the question or asking it in a different way. When I was faced with a question I couldn't immediately work out, I told the faculty what was going through my head ("Well I first thought it could be explained by the Theory of Y, but then I realised a, b & c don't fit with that..."). At least that way they knew that I was thinking something!


My interview day wasn't tied to a particular studentship, but I'd still recommend thinking of a research project that you could talk about if asked, and revise the mechanisms, underlying theories, etc that accompany it.


Good luck, I hope that helps!

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