For full information on applying for the M.Chem. course at Oxford, please see the Oxford Chemistry admissions page at http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/access/default.html.
Before applying to read chemistry at Oxford, we strongly suggest you attend one of the University open days, held in June and September each year. An open day will give you an opportunity to look around the department of chemistry and the colleges. To attend lectures explaining the Oxford chemistry course and the admissions process in detail, and to speak to tutors and current students, both within the department and at Hertford. Details of open day activities within the department of chemistry can be found at http://admissions.chem.ox.ac.uk/open-days.aspx, and within Hertford can be found here.
What happens during an interview, and how can I prepare?
Most candidates who apply for chemistry will be called for an interview. Each interview lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, and will be much like a tutorial, only with two tutors instead of one. We will work through a few chemical problems with you and see how well you can assimilate new information and develop new ideas. Some of the problems will be based on material you have covered at school, while others have been specifically designed to introduce you to new material so that we can see how you respond to tutorial-style teaching. Any new material we introduce will build on concepts that should be familiar from your A level (or equivalent) course. Something we should stress is that if you are asked a question you cannot answer, it does not mean that your interview went horribly wrong and that you’ve blown any chance you ever had of gaining a place at Oxford. In order to find out what you can do, we need to keep asking questions until we find out what you can’t do, which means that everyone we interview (not just you!) will be asked a question they don’t know how to answer at some point during the interview. When this happens, we’ll usually give you some tips to get you started, and you may well surprise yourself and find your way to the solution after all.
There are two very effective things you can do to prepare for your Oxford interviews. The first is to make sure you are completely up to speed on everything you have covered in relevant subjects at school. ‘Relevant subjects’ means chemistry, maths, and physics or biology if you are taking either or both of these (physics and biology at A level are not required for entry to chemistry, but are helpful for some aspects of the chemistry course). The second is to practice explaining chemistry to anyone you can find who will listen. This may be your friends at school, or it may be family members. In many ways it is even better if you practice explaining chemical concepts to non-scientists, as they are likely to ask you unpredicatable questions which you can then try to answer. Sit your grandma down for a short discussion on chemical bonding, or give your uncle a tutorial on chemical reaction rates. The more practice you have in talking about chemistry, the easier you will find it in your interview.
If you’d like a taste of chemistry at Oxford in advance of your interview, there are some useful virtual reality resources, including a few lectures developed for schools, on the Oxford chemistry website at http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/vrchemistry/.
Finally, remember that during your interview we will be trying to get the best out of you, and we cannot do that unless we do our best to make you feel comfortable and relaxed. We understand that you are likely to be nervous, but you may be surprised to hear that most candidates actually end up enjoying their interviews.