A Student’s Perspective: Oxford Interview Experience at Queen’s

I’m not usually comfortable with talking about interviews and offers at university especially whilst the application process is still going, but since you would have heard from Oxbridge by now, I think it’s safe to start talking about what happened during my interviews.


As you probably already know, I applied for Materials Science at The Queen’s College, Oxford.

As a materials applicant, I also got allocated an interview at another college, St Catherine’s (St Catz) which I’ll write about in a couple of weeks!

When I was preparing for my interview, I couldn’t find any information about what exactly happened at an interview, what got asked and how to answer them, so here is my attempt at providing that information.  I hope you find it useful!

Interview 1: Queen’s

I was led by a student helper to the waiting area at the bottom of the correct staircase five minutes before my interview time, and I waited there until they called me up.  I saw the previous candidate walk out, and they wished me luck.  Everyone there is super nice (as I said before about my experience at Oxford)!


I was interviewed by Dr Keyna O’Reilly and Dr David Armstrong.  Dr Keyna O’Reilly was lovely and welcoming, but Dr David Armstrong looked a bit bored and uninterested.

I am not the only person to observe this – every other materials science candidate at Queen’s had the same experience!

Settling In Questions

The interviewers usually ask How was your stay? etc. so that you can relax a bit.  Remember that they want to see you do your best!  Relax 🙂

Why Materials Science?

You literally can’t get away from this question – I don’t recommend learning a set answer off by heart as you want it to be as natural as possible.  However, I do recommend knowing a rough outline of what you want to say – I wanted to mention polymers, my extra activities and the Extended Essay stuff that I did.

What’s Young’s Modulus?

This wasn’t out of the blue – I was talking about finding Young’s Modulus of rubber bands for my experiments and they asked me what Young’s Modulus was.  I also explained that I wasn’t taught it in my syllabus (which is true) so I decided to do my own research into it.

Draw a Graph of Young’s Modulus of a Metal

Simple enough – with stress on the y-axis of stress and strain on the x-axis, it is a straight line, as it follows Hooke’s Law.

Draw On the Same Graph the Young’s Modulus of a Polymer

I wanted to draw a hysteresis loop, but they wanted it on the same scale as the metal.  I scribbled out what I had drawn and demonstrated that the gradient of the polymer’s stress/strain curve was less steep because the same force stretched the polymer further than the metal.

Body-Centred Unit Cell

My interviewers decided that that was all they needed to hear from me about my personal statement, so they started talking about a repeat unit of a metal lattice.  I had read about this in the IB Chemistry Materials Science option, so I told them that I had done some extra reading on this.

Dr Keyna O’Reilly asked me to draw a body centred unit cell and asked me what the volume of empty space inside was.


This was a fairly simple question, but I felt slightly pressured and confused when Dr David Armstrong asked me (at the same time) why I assumed that the atoms were only touching along the body diagonal.

I found the volume of empty space very quickly, but I got confused as they tried to get me to prove that the atoms were only touching along the body diagonal.  I got there in the end, though!


Luckily I got a simple resistors question, as I’m not the best at circuits!  It was to find the potential difference between a and b.


I used equipotential points to figure out the answer (3V). They then drew a LED component and asked me if it would light up.


Proved that it wouldn’t by using current and equipotentials again.

This led very neatly onto the next lot of questions.


What Could a LED Be Made From?

I thought of metals that emit light, but they said that a material like Tungsten heats up whereas LEDs don’t.  I then thought of materials like graphite, but it’s not really. I then thought of silicon, and they asked me what sort of material it was – a semiconductor.

What is the Structure of Silicon?

I said giant covalent structure in a tetrahedral shape and drew it out. My interviewers laughed and said that they hadn’t seen this representation in a long time!  I then changed it to a 2D representation.

Is Silicon a Good Conductor?

I said no because all the electrons that should carry charge are trapped in the covalent bonds between the atoms.

How Can You Make Silicon a Better Conductor?

Doping – I then described p-type and n-type, and gave an example of two group 13 elements (Al and B).  They then asked me which of Al and B was more common and why.

I said boron, and probably because it was smaller so it wouldn’t disrupt the structure. They corrected me and said it was because boron was pretty much the same size as silicon so the structure remains similar.

What to Take Away

I found that it was a pretty straightforward interview, so not too strenuous – but I did a lot of research beforehand so I think I went in pretty well prepared!

Well at the very least, it was good enough 🙂 good luck for you guys who are applying for Oxford! I hope this was useful.

That was all that I had time for in my interview at Queen’s – next week, I’ll talk about my St Catz interview!


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