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In your Chemistry interviews you will be put on the spot, and expected to adapt and understand new content. You cannot predict the questions you will receive, but there is still lots you can do put yourself in the best possible situation, going into your interviews. Here are our best tips for preparing for your Oxford Chemistry interviews!

Maths preparation

As Maths plays such a vital role in Chemistry, it is likely that you will get at least a couple of entirely maths-related questions. For example, you may be asked to draw a graph, and later to analyse it in the context of a reaction, with yield being the dependent variable on the y axis. You may also be asked to differentiate or integrate a complex looking expression. It is therefore important to practice your Maths, and make sure you are familiar with the Maths A-Level content. 

In my interview I got asked to draw the exponential of x3(ex3), and then I was asked to differentiate it. Then I was asked to draw the graph of the exponential of the exponential of -x2, ee-x2. They asked me if I knew what the function was, I didn’t (it’s Gaussian), but they didn’t seem to mind.

Michal, Chemistry, Oxford

A-Level content & looking at other syllabuses

It is important to ensure you are familiar with all the Chemistry A-Level content you have so far covered. You are unlikely to get asked on anything you have yet studied, the interviewers will be sympathetic as to only including material that is comprehensible in relation to things you have already seen. However, ensure you are familiar with this, and also it is worth memorising some of the key facts, equations and reactions. 

It is also worth checking different A-Level syllabuses. There may be a topic that is very dominant in another syllabus, and is not even in yours, and then it may be worth studying this independently a little. Then, if it comes up, at least you’ll have some grasp of what’s going on!

Understanding the theories behind chemistry

The most important thing they are looking for at interview is not how much Chemistry you know, but how much of it you understand. They are looking to see a solid understanding, and coherent thought processes. Make sure you take the time to understand what is going on as opposed to just memorising the syllabus. This will be far more impressive. 

Explaining chemistry aloud 

A good way to ensure you fully understand the concepts you think you do is to explain them aloud. Whether it’s to your Mum, a friend, or the mirror, explaining Chemistry will really test your understanding, and also help crystallise the picture for you. Furthermore, being able to clearly and concisely express your thoughts is an important skill you must hone before interview. You must be able to communicate well your ideas to the interviewers, they are looking to see how engaged and teachable you are as a student, and this will become evident through the manner in which you communicate your ideas. 

Drawing clear diagrams

It is worth practicing drawing and explaining Chemistry diagrams and graphs before your interviews. You want the interviewer to see that you understand what is going on, and a diagram is the perfect way to convey this. You don’t want your diagrams to be small and muddled, you want them to be clear and understandable by the interviewer. A diagram or graph will also hugely help you as the questions become more developed and complicated. 

Whenever you get given a question, always draw it first. This allows you to order your thoughts and gives you time to think, whilst making it look like you’re just drawing something out. It is also a great technique to show the interviewer that you are thinking about the problem in the right way, and will encourage them to give you advice if you are not.

Daniel, Chemistry, Oxford.

Practicing Chemistry Problems 

Here are some websites you can use to find problems that are of a similar style to those you can expect in interview. Try solving these questions on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper, talking through each of your steps, and making sure everything is clear in your mind. 

  • Isaac Chemistry 
  • Nrich-maths (for Maths style ones)
  • Chemistry Olympiad Past Papers
  • RSC, Learn Chemistry Problem Solving Tutor

Conclusion

If you explore as many of these avenues as possible, you’ll definitely be well-prepared for your interview. Remember: the most important thing is not to panic. The tutors want you to succeed; they’re looking for students they want to teach. If you’re unsure what to expect, take a look at our guide to your Chemistry interview.

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