Application

 Oxford

 Wadham

 Biological Sciences

 2007

 offer made

Applicant

 International Baccalaureate

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

My school had good Oxbridge provision, and all students with the required predicted grades were encouraged to apply.

 yes (12 A*)

International Baccalaureate

( predicted 7; gained 7)

( predicted 7; gained 7)

( predicted 7; gained 7)

( predicted 7; gained 6)

( predicted 7; gained 7)

( predicted 6; gained 7)

( predicted 3; gained 2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

7 in Biology

Total of 40 points required, including bonus points.

yes

yes

yes

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I applied to Oxbridge for the chance to be taught by world experts in the fields I am interested in. Also, the academic focus attracted me.

I didn’t like the sound of the Natural Sciences course at Cambridge, as the only subject I wanted to study in further depth was Biology (which I could do on its own at Oxford).

I chose Biological Sciences because I enjoyed Biology at school and wanted to take it further. The Oxford course stuck out because of the way the general course gradually gives way to your own specific interests. Also, the chance to carry out my own project from any area I want really appeals to me.

I chose Wadham because of its relatively large size, and liberal reputation. I didn’t want to make an open application in case I ended up at a college I didn’t particularly like and regretted it later.

Preparation

yes

I was given a general practice interview by a Biology teacher revolving around aspects of my personal statement and why I was applying to Oxford for Biology. My school also arranged a practice interview for me at another grammar school nearby, where the discussion revolved around my particular biological interests and opinions, as well as testing my analytical abilities with statistics etc. related to Biology.

I think some structured preparation is useful. I gained most from my interview with a member of staff from another school whom I had never met, as this simulated the interview environment more accurately. Also, when preparing, have a teacher in the subject you are applying for ask difficult questions, as this is just what happens in the real interview.

Interview

no

no

no

I had two interviews: one at Wadham, and one at Brasenose (my second-choice allocated college). I had heard from classmates who had been the week before that some of them had had general interviews at their colleges. This was not my experience. Both interviews were almost purely academic and focused on Biology. I was interviewed by two tutors both times. At Wadham, both tutors took an active role in questioning me throughout, while also making notes. At Brasenose, one tutor tended to make notes while the other talked to me, and then they would switch over.

The interview at Wadham was definitely the most challenging of the two (or so I thought at the time). Apart from one or two questions I was asked to settle me in, all questions posed were difficult and designed to make me think. At Brasenose this was also the case, but the atmosphere seemed slightly more relaxed, and I felt that it was more acceptable for me to think and get the answer wrong (although this may just have been because I was more experienced by that point and felt more at home in the interview environment).
At Wadham there was no real choice in the questions I answered, whilst at Brasenose I was given more of a choice.

Wadham:
Firstly, I was asked a question about the IB, and why I was studying Psychology (I think the purpose of this was to settle me in rather than cross-examine me). I was then asked about a book I mentioned on my personal statement, first my opinions about it, and then more detailed questions about the general topic it dealt with (these got quite difficult). I was then presented with a graph and asked to describe and discuss the trends, with possible reasons for them. Finally, I was asked to go to a blackboard and explain some of the topics from my Biology course at school.

Brasenose:
I was given an article about recent work in Biology beforehand, which I had 20 minutes to annotate and think about. Once in the interview, the article was discussed, and I was asked for my opinions about contemporary issues in Biology relating to it. I was then asked some more detailed and difficult questions about the topic. I was then asked to choose one prop from four on the desk in front of me (I chose a piece of rotting branch), and then had to talk about it, starting with a general description, and then more subtle observations. One other prop (a toy lion) was then discussed with me, and I was asked to design possible experiments to determine the purpose of the lion’s mane. Finally, data relating to athletes’ performance in the 20th century was presented, and I was asked to describe and discuss the trends.

I wore a plain black suit with a coloured tie to both interviews (my school uniform). This was mainly because my father persuaded me I should, but also because I felt more at home discussing academic subjects in the clothes I wore to school.

Impressions

Wadham seemed very friendly and pretty relaxed. All the current students were welcoming, and I got on well with the other applicants. Brasenose was lovely too (although I was only there briefly). Both colleges were aesthetically stunning, particularly the front quad at Wadham.

My room was gigantic, bit I think the rooms at Wadham vary considerably in almost all aspects. The bathroom was clean, and all the other areas seemed well-maintained.

The food was not so good. It was free, but the dinner was not cooked well (especially the chips, which were floppy and horrible). Breakfast was nicer, but more of a cereal and toast affair (as far as I recall, whilst pannicking about my second interview).

The tutors seemed friendly, but as they only had one 20 minute interview to assess me (and were running late, due to one applicant’s train being delayed) they were mostly practical and stuck to asking me academic questions.

The college students were friendly and made an effort to ensure everyone enjoyed their time in Oxford. The Biology-specific helper students were great and arranged a meeting for all the Biology applicants. A quiz was arranged in college the evening I was there, although I didn’t go and went to G&D’s with some other Biology applicants I met instead.

Final stage

I was terrified and waited anxiously for the letter. I tried to convince myself I hadn’t got in (due to feeling terrible after my first interview in particular) but an inkling of hope kept me on edge.

The letter came about midday on the Saturday (I had been in Oxford on Monday/Tuesday), and when it came through the letterbox I was so scared I pretended I hadn’t seen it. When I opened it I saw the line “I am pleased on behalf of Wadham College…” and felt absolutely fantastic.

Looking back

Definitely. It was a brilliant experience, and even if I hadn’t got in I would remember the interviews for ever as a great (as well as terrifying) academic experience.

If you have the predicted grades needed, go for it! You have four other choices, and as good a chance as anyone else.