Your Oxbridge Physics interviews are likely to centre upon a series of physics problems. You may have anywhere between one and four interviewers, and you will either be expected to solve a problem on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper at a desk with the interviewers. To shatter any illusions you may have about physics interviews, I’ve tried to answer some common questions.
Will I get asked about my personal statement?
It is possible that you will get questions about your personal statement. If there is something that particularly interests the interviewers, or that they want clarifying, then they may ask you questions about your personal statement. So make sure everything on your personal statement is true, and that you could answer a question on any sentence in it. It is definitely worth reading through your personal statement beforehand, and asking yourself questions on every section, or, alternatively, getting someone else to.
Will they ask about me as a person?
It is unlikely that you will be asked personal questions that do not relate to physics. At Cambridge you may have a separate interview about your other interests and subjects, but this does not happen at Oxford. They may ask you questions such as “What physics have you been researching recently?” or “What are you particularly enjoying about physics at the moment?”, but it is highly unlikely you will get anything that hugely diverges from physics.
Will I only get physics questions?
Most, if not all, of the questions you get will be physics problems. However, as discussed in the previous section, you may get some maths questions too, although it is likely these will lead back into a physics problem.
Will I have to do lots of mental maths?
The interviewers are not testing how quickly you can do subtraction or long division, and although these skills are important, do not worry about them too much. Even if your mental maths slips up, they are far more interested in seeing your thought process and physics reasoning. Do not spend lots of time in the interview double checking or even triple checking your calculations – this isn’t what the interviewer is interested in!
Should I take a calculator?
Definitely not. Just take yourself – the interviewers will provide any resources you need, although it is unlikely you will require a calculator.
Remember: the most important thing is to stay calm. You might even end up enjoying the experience.