Application

 Oxford

 Magdalen

 Chemistry

 2009

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

It wasn’t a fee paying Grammar, though: you had to pass the 11+ to get into Year 7 and then get 5 Bs at GCSE to join the Sixth Form.

 yes (11 A*)

A-levels

(A at AS (288 UMS))

(A at AS)

(A at AS (269 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (288 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (279 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

General Studies is compulsory at our Sixth Form, for some bizarre reason.

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Chemistry, A in Mathematics

AAA, Excluding General Studies, although I believe that goes without saying 😛

yes

Well, I’ve not officially accepted it via UCAS, but I certainly intend to do so!

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

As Oxford is probably the best University in the world, let alone in the UK, and to study there would be brilliant! Plus, I took an attitude of “if I never try, I never know” towards Oxbridge – why not apply?

Cambridge do ‘Natural Sciences’ which certainly was not the subject I’m going for! Plus, after visiting both Oxford and Cambridge, I preferred the town of Oxford – it was nicer both facilities-wise and aesthetically.

I’ve had a life-long interest in Chemistry. Also, I think it’s a subject that will be very useful in the future – I’d love to go into a job involving medicinally-based chemical research.

As it was high in the Norrington Table (2nd, I think), had great music facilities, accomodated students in halls for all four years of the course and it looked brilliant. It’s just a fantastic place!

Preparation

yes

I got one practise interview from the Head of Chemistry, which went well (it was a little easy, though) and one ‘general’ interview from the Head of Sixth Form.

Just make sure that you are confident in what you know. Don’t go out of your way to learn too many new things – it won’t come up and you’ll regret panicking about it so much. I would certainly choose your favourite Organic Mechanism, though, and know it inside out – from bond angles, to intermediate structures, to conditions (and why).

Interview

no

Nope.

no

Nope

no

Nope!

I really enjoyed one and somewhat enjoyed the other. The first one was a “Quantitative Interview”, concerning the Maths/Physics bits of Chemistry and the second was an “Organic/Inorganic Interview”, concerning… well, the organic and inorganic sides of Chemistry!

There were absolutely no general questions. At all. None!

Interview one:

1) How large a balloon would I need to hold 13.2 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide? (Volume + radius)
2) Write out the equation for the complete combustion of graphite.
3) Draw an energy-diagram and explain where the reaction is endo- or exothermic.
4) Thus, deduce whether it is the reactants or the products that are most stable.
5) Explain activation energy.
6) Can a reaction have no activation energy?
7) Suggest a reaction with no activation energy and explain why it doesn’t have one.
(I selected two chlorine atoms)
8) Draw a graph of the potential energy change as the two atoms approach one another.
9) Add to the same axes a graph to show kinetic energy change as the two atoms approach eachother.
10) From these graphs, explain why the atoms will never react in these circumstances.
11) Suggest a method of making the atoms react.

Interview two:

1) Select your favourite organic mechanism and we’ll talk about it.
(I selected the addition/elimination reaction between an acyl chloride and water)
2) Explain the carbon-double-bond-oxygen in terms of two bonds (ie, pi and sigma bonds).
3) React an acyl chloride with ammonia.
4) What would I get if I reacted one with a carboxylic acid?
5) What would I get if I reacted one with an alcohol?
6) What would I get if I reacted one with an ester?

7) Draw oxygen, simply, as it exists in the air.
(He then stated that we were going to explain how the double bond formed and why it’s only a double bond).
8) How many ‘outer’ electrons does oxygen have and in which orbitals do they appear?
9) How do electrons exist?
10) Which two forms can they take?
11) If they act like a wave, what would happen with the following:
(He proceeded to draw a sin-curve, and labelled it amplitude. He then drew another, identical curve, beneath it. He labelled the curve, when above the axes, with a plus and with a ‘minus-sign’ when below the axes.)
If two electrons act like this, next to eachother, what type of interference occurs?
12) How might this interference affect bonding?
(He then drew another pair of axes, this time with two different sin-curves, where they were reflections of eachother in the x-axis).
13) What type of interference occurs here?
14) How may this affect bonding?
15) ‘Draw’ the energy levels for the orbitals in oxygen and fill them in, with the electrons available to two bonding atoms.
16) Thus, deduce why oxygen has a double bond.

A blue/white striped shirt, navy blue trousers and some smart shoes. I didn’t want to feel scruffy in a t-shirt and combats, but at the same time didn’t want to wear the full-suit. So, I went for the half-way point!

Impressions

It was just stunning. My initial reaction, upon walking into the quad on the July Open Day was:

“Gosh… this is actually Harry Potter-land”.

The rooms were great, the facilities for music were good and the food was pretty great too!

Well, I’ve stayed in 3rd year and 2nd year accomodation and they were both excellent! Naturally, the 3rd year accomodation was better, with large, ensuite rooms overlooking the deer-park (I was in the Grove Building). The 2nd Year accomodation that I stayed in (in the New Building) was also good – a large room, with a wash basin, close to communal toilets and a set of baths + showers. It was perfect.

Rather good! Admittedly, most of the vegetarian options were pasta-based, but that wasn’t a major issue considering the high-quality of the meals. For meat-lovers, there was a great variety, with sausages one day, venison another, lamb a different day and something chicken-based the last. It looked pretty cheap, relative to the quality of food, too, although we had meal tickets for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.

(Even breakfast was great, with a large variety of cereals, yoghurt, fruit and hot-breakfast).

Mostly very friendly, although one tutor did seem rather intimidating at first! However, once we’d gotten talking in the interview, he was great too. 🙂

They were (mostly) extremely helpful and very friendly!

Final stage

I wasn’t too concerned, really. I knew that I’d done my best, so if they didn’t want me, it was a sign that Oxford probably wasn’t the place for me. My letter, however, came later than my friend’s, which set me panicking a little.

I read it, with my siblings nearby, and we all cheered and grinned. I then phoned Mum and Dad (both working at the time) and told them, to further laughs and congratulations.

Looking back

Of course! If you don’t apply, you’ll never know if you could’ve gotten into Oxford Uni!

Don’t worry too much – I dragged about 8 different textbooks/revision guides along with me and lots of notes, only to realise, in the interview, that little I’d done helped. Just make sure that you know your AS + A2 Chemistry well, and they can’t expect anything more!

Don’t forget that favourite mechanism, too!

A final tip would just be to enjoy the interviews themselves! At the end of the day, those interviews are based on actual tutorials. If you panic, dread about and fear the interview, you’ll probably dislike the tutorial system, suggesting Oxford isn’t the place for you! Go in, on the day, with a smile, aim to *learn* as much as you can from the proceedure, and then leave with a smile, knowing you’ve had an enjoyable experience!