We strongly recommend that prospective students attend one of the University open days if at all possible. These are not subject specific so if you are potentially interested in more than one subject this is an ideal opportunity to gain some valuable information to help you make your decision. There are both College and Departmental components to the open day, so to make the most of your visit make sure that you have enough time to visit all of the events that you need to – both Colleges and Departments have formal, timetabled talks and events as well as informal opportunities to see displays and talk to tutors, and current students. An advantage of Hertford is that there is no need to book and we never turn away a potential applicant!
There is usually an opportunity to meet with a Biology tutor in a tutorial room, and to meet current students. This is a valuable opportunity to meet students and teaching staff and to get an appreciation of the course and the atmosphere of the College. Departmental events take place in the Zoology Department, which is a short walk away on at the corner of St Cross and South Parks Roads. Here there will be diplays about the degree and talks on the degree and the ever-popular ‘mock tutorial’ where a current student volunteers to be publicly interviewed by tutors!
For Biochemisry, there are general and biochemistry specific events at Hertford, including an opportunity to meet and talk with the biochemistry tutor, and events in the Biochemistry Department, which is a short walk away in the South Parks Road Science area. This is a valuable opportunity to meet students and teaching staff and to get an appreciation of the course and the atmosphere of the College.
For Human Sciences, there are general events at Hertford, including an opportunity to meet and talk with a tutor in Human Sciences. You can get a feel for the college, and meet current students in a wide range of subjects (but these do not always include Human Sciences). You can also visit the Human Sciences Institute in the Pauling Centre for further talks on the course and admissions, and sometimes it's possible to meet some current students there.
If you decide to apply to Hertford to read one of the life sciences, and we very much hope you do, there are a number of points to bear in mind. Shortlisted applicants are invited to attend two interviews, one at their ‘first choice' college and one at their ‘second choice' college. If you apply to Hertford, this will be your first choice college, but students who express no preference (ie. make an Open Application) will be allocated to a first choice college centrally: ‘second choice' colleges are all allocated centrally. In Hertford and most other colleges, interviews are around half an hour, although some colleges may have two shorter interviews. Your second interview may be the same day as your first one, or the next. In general, candidates stay two nights in College during admissions week (or three for Human Sciences), arriving the night before their first interview and going home after their second interview. Overseas applicants for Human Sciences are asked to note that Hertford will not offer Skype or telephone interviews in the event that a candidate selected for interview is unable to attend in Oxford in person.
Interviews are conducted by two tutors, and do not seek to test specific knowledge: we are interested in how you will benefit from being in Oxford, especially the tutorials. As with Hertford in general, we have a good number of applicants per place for life sciences subjects, but this should not put you off applying: it makes no difference to your getting a place somewhere at Oxford. We also actively seek good candidates who have been interviewed first at other colleges. In all cases, tutors come together as a co-operative during admissions week, working together to ensure that the best candidates get places – at their “first” or “second” choice college – or sometimes even at a college that didn’t interview them. We take the assessments of our colleagues in other Colleges very seriously! In Human Sciences some candidates are also interviewed by the Human Sciences Panel, which helps assure consistent entry standards across colleges. Human Sciences Panel interviews are on the last day of the Admissions period as per the Institute's website.
There are presently no admissions tests in life sciences subjects, and you won’t be expected to submit written work either before, or during, the admissions process. Candidates are summoned to interview after a collective decision by all colleges. If you are invited to interview at Hertford it is very much in your interests to attend. We will not know, or ask, if a candidate at interview chose Hertford, or was allocated as an Open Application. Candidates wanting gap years are generally advised to apply post-qualification, due to the uncertainty in the standard of applicants in future years, but some candidates apply before the gap year, and if unsuccessful, apply again later.
All colleges are looking for strong candidates, using similar methods. We want people who will thrive in the tutorial environment. Our interviews are thus very like tutorials - but without you doing any preparation for them. If at interview you can think and answer questions in a way similar to our current students (with allowance made for your less detailed knowledge), then that is obviously very promising. Basically, if your application is strong, with your teachers predicting 3 A grades at A Level (or the equivalent) in the requisite subjects (where applicable) then you are very likely to get an interview. Give it a go!
Interviews – what to expect
Most candidates in Biochemistry, Biological Sciences and Human Sciences are invited for interview. If any candidate is not invited, this is a collective decision taken by all colleges. We will not know, or ask, if a candidate at interview chose Hertford. All colleges are looking for strong candidates, using similar methods. There are currently no specific tests for Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, or Human Sciences.
If you are invited to interview at Hertford it is very much in your interests to attend: we do not guarantee to interview overseas applicants using telephones or other remote links. If you are invited for interview, you will be asked to arrive on a specific day and told in advance how long you will be required in Oxford. All candidates for these three degree subjects are interviewed by two colleges. Once the second interview is complete candidates for Biochemistry and Biological Sciences will normally be free to go home. Some Human Sciences candidates are told during the interview period they will have a third interview with the 'Human Sciences Panel', comprising three tutors from a range of colleges and subjects who aim to ensure the fairest possible chances of getting a place, regardless of the college at which you were first interviewed. The interview at Hertford usually lasts about half an hour; the second college interview is usually shorter, and may be in two parts.
Your interviews in Hertford will be with a pair of tutors. We aim to make the interview as comfortable and interesting experience as possible: we want to find the best in you, and to assess your potential as an undergraduate and beyond. We'll usually have a group meeting for all our shortlisted candidates before any individual interview, to help clarify what's going on in the admissions process. At this meeting you can ask about the admissions process, and you can get to know us a little. The first interview may be a few minutes after this meeting, and candidates are seen in no particular order. Again, you have a chance to ask questions about anything you are still unsure of - but don't have to.
Amongst other things, we are looking for people who will thrive in the tutorial environment. Our interviews are thus often very like tutorials - but without you doing any preparation for them. If at interview you show that you can think and answer questions in a way similar to our current students (with allowance made for your less detailed knowledge), then that is obviously very promising. We do not ask highly specific questions about a particular subject (which require only a good memory for facts). We aim to ask interesting, challenging and unexpected questions for which no school or college can prepare you. We are aware how little any of you will know before you arrive here, and it will be our job to 'add value' to your skills and knowledge if we accept you for a place. We suggest the best preparation is to read and observe relevant topics around your general subject - beyond your existing syllabus if possible - and to try not to worry!
In a typical interview we will ask you about your enthusiasm for the degree you wish to study, discuss a few topics in more depth, and give you an object or some data to discuss. We often ask questions about your stated interests in your UCAS personal statement, but will likely rapidly move on to other areas as the conversation develops. We will help you explore some questions, and lead you through what is often rather like a very small research problem. As in research, there are seldom clear 'right' or 'wrong' answers, but there are often some likely alternative solutions or arguments you can suggest. It's not unlike facing any new challenge in an academic research environment: novelty should be interesting, not scary! Of course we don't try to trip candidates up - nobody would benefit at all from that! We find that candidates can rarely tell how well an interview went.
We aim to provide all applicants with an enjoyable and stimulating time in Oxford for interview and most students gain a great deal from the experience, regardless of the outcome. Applicants are informed of the decisions by letter in the weeks after the interviews.