A Student’s Perspective: Imperial Interview Experience

I don’t usually feel comfortable talking about interviews or offers or other university stuff especially during application season, but I figured that it’s mostly over now, and this might be useful for those of you applying to Imperial in the future.


Itinerary for the Day

This was my itinerary for the day, but it’s likely that yours might be different!


Interview questions


Again, it’s likely that you won’t be asked these questions but I found it was useful to think about what answers I might give to generic questions like:

Why Materials Science?

Since this is the obvious question that I’ve answered at other materials science interviews at Sheffield and Manchester, I had a rough idea what I wanted to say about this.

I would advise against memorising an answer to this, as you want it to be as natural as possible!

However, you want to have certain points you want to mention: for me, it was the broadness of materials science and the fact that doing the Extended Essay for the IB (more on this later) made me unwilling to give up the option of research science in the future.

A Little Bit on My Personal Statement…

Since I centred my personal statement on polymers, rubber bands and carbon composites, she asked me a couple of questions on them to check that I had done some extra reading on them.

How does a rubber band stretch? Why does a rubber band return to its original shape but cling film doesn’t? What was the lecture that you attended on carbon composites about?

Then she veered off into her pre-set question about metallurgy.

X-Ray Diffraction

How Would You Draw the Structure of a Metal?

I described it to her instead of drawing it…  I would recommend drawing it and describing it at the same time!  She agreed with my description but then drew it herself.

Do You Know Anything About X-Ray Diffraction?

I said that I went to an extra lecture on this (it’s a good idea to show how proactive and keen you are to learn more about your subject!), so she said I might be overqualified for this (!)

How Does X-Ray Diffraction Work?

The wrong answer: I said fire X-rays at it, and since its wavelength is about the same as the distance between the atoms, they would diffract the most and give a light-dark pattern, and then I drew it onto the diagram.

Correcting myself: She said that I was thinking about Young’s slit diffraction and it’s not actually like that, and then I jumped in politely (having realised my mistake) and corrected myself. They want to see that you can realise when you’re wrong!

If you knew the distance between the light fringes and the frequency of the X-rays, how would you figure out the distance between the atoms?

I drew out the diagram and derived Bragg’s law (I think she picked up that I had done something pretty similar) but I missed out the 2 *facepalm*.  She added it for me.

What happens to the distance between the fringes if I applied pressure to the sample and caused the atoms to move closer together?

I used Bragg’s law and said the distance between the light fringes would increase as long as 0<θ<90.  She seemed pretty impressed with that observation.

Do You Have Any Questions For Me?

If you get given the opportunity to ask questions, I would take it.  It shows independent and critical thinking!  If it’s in your interviewers’ fields, all the better.

I messed up my questions though – I asked her that ‘according to the speaker that introduced us to the course, they said they were going to get rid of nanomaterials (my interviewer’s field…  Oops!)’

She interjected with ‘I hope not!’ so I quickly saved it with ‘Well me too!  But because all of materials is basically nanomaterials, that characterisation is redundant.’

She explained that yes, materials science is basically all on a nano scale, but she hadn’t heard that before!


Other Notes

Interviewer Specialism

Before my interview, I walked up the corridor to go to the toilet during the lunch break, and I saw a board with my interviewer’s name and research field on it.  I stopped and had a quick read, and found out that she specialised in organic conductors and spin.

I mentioned this to her on the way to her office, and she laughed and said ‘well you’ve done your research’ even though I knew nothing about it and called it ‘spinning’!

Best Behaviour All Day

After my interview, my interviewer gave a talk on her spin research about absorbing and emitting colour.  I answered her questions and made notes (it was genuinely interesting, but most of the other candidates weren’t very engaged).

I did the same for the next speaker, just in case.


I received a conditional offer from them within 3 weeks, with 38 points and 666 at HL – their typical Materials Science offer but pretty low for Imperial!  Score 😀

They also offered me a scholarship (and shortlisted me for another one)!  You don’t have to be perfect to do well, but paying attention to detail really pays off.

How were your interview experiences?  How’s your university stuff and application going?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


19 thoughts on “A Student’s Perspective: Imperial Interview Experience

  1. I had my interview for Engineering at Imperial College almost 40 years ago, so I’m sure that many things will have changed since then.

    I don’t recall any questions asked that required me to know any technical terms in English. But they did ask questions that stretched my mind. For example, I was asked to visualise three Ping-Pong balls touching each other on a flat surface, with a fourth ball sitting in the hollow made by the tree balls. What is the height of the centre of the top ball above the surface?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow that’s fantastic! Yes I think they tend to ask questions that see how adaptable your mind is to new ideas – that much doesn’t seem to have changed – the ping-pong question sounds right up their street haha… Thank you for dropping by! Can I ask how you did?


  2. are you doing bachelor’s degree? didn’t know you have to go to interviews for it! well i’m doing masters in materials science at the moment. but you do sound like you know more than i do!

    Liked by 1 person

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