Interview Tips from a STEM Student (Part 1)

By Nirali Jain


First things first, congratulations on reaching the interview stage!

Now that interview week is here, I'm sure all of you are wondering: What is an interview like? How should I prepare? Are the interviewers “nice”?

I personally applied to read Materials Science, which is definitely not a topic I ever studied at school. To be honest, it is quite likely that the subject YOU applied for isn't taught at school either - that's something to remember! The interviews are not designed for students who already know everything - why come to Oxford if you don't need to learn? Rather, interviews give you a means to demonstrate your passion for the subject.

Here are some tips and information I wish I had when I did my interviews:

How many interviews do I need to do and with whom?

As a STEM student, you will likely be invited to two 30-minute interviews - one at the college of your choice and the other at a different college. If you sent in an open application, the university will assign you interviews at colleges they think suit you best.

The tutors dedicated to your subject in each college will likely be the ones interviewing you. And guess what? They are probably also leading some cutting-edge research in that subject too! Take some time to research your interviewers and their specialties – you might have a unique opportunity to ask them some questions at the end!

The interviewers will either take turns asking questions or one of them might take the lead while the other observes. Don’t get thrown off by their facial expressions!

What equipment do I need?

This year, all the interviews will take place online via Microsoft Teams. Tier 1 subjects, like Biology and Materials Science, require pen and paper (keep lots of it!) and, of course, a computer with Wi-Fi to facilitate the online interviews. Tier 2 subjects, like Biochemistry, require an addition virtual whiteboard via Miro. Other subjects, such as Engineering Science and Chemistry, require an additional touch-screen device and stylus which allow the interviewers to see your work in real time.

As soon as you get the email, make sure to contact your school to see if they can help provide any of the required equipment. Spend time familiarising yourself with Teams and Miro beforehand.

The interviews will take place throughout the day, and you may even have interviews across several days. For this, you also want to work with your school to ensure you have a dedicated office or room with proper Wi-F- in which to conduct your interview(s).

It is unlikely that you will be asked for an exact numerical answer for most questions, but there is no harm in keeping a calculator handy.