Application

 Oxford

 Balliol

 Engineering Science

 2009

 offer made

Applicant

 International Baccalaureate

 pre-qualification

 EU

 Italy

 Independent – non-selective

 yes (10 A*,1 A)

International Baccalaureate

( predicted 7; gained NA)

( predicted 7; gained NA)

( predicted 7; gained NA)

( predicted 7; gained NA)

( predicted 7; gained NA)

( predicted 7; gained NA)

Details about the offer

 conditional

7 in Physics, 7 in Mathematics

Total of 40 points required.

yes

yes

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

World renowned university. I liked its broad interdisciplinary approach to Engineering, which allows students to choose a specialization after the first year.

I prefer Oxford as a city. The Engineering course also has more flexibility in Oxford in that you can choose to study Engineering, Economics and Management in the second year (subject to prelim grades).

Very international student body. Relaxed attitude, yet strong academically. Popular JCR and bar.

Preparation

yes

Some mock interviews were arranged, which I found quite helpful. One was general, the other more academic.

Do extra reading around your subject as that will demonstrate to the tutors that you’re interested in the course. Read New Scientist, check the recommended reading list on the Cambridge website for any books related to your course that interest you.

Interview

no

no

no

Both were academic interviews. Engineers have one interview at their first choice college and a second interview at a college to which they are allocated. My second choice allocated college was Hertford, and it gave me the chance to show off any skills that I hadn’t done in the first interview. It also provides a second opportunity in case the first interview didn’t go well.

There were two tutors at each interview. One of the most important things is to stay calm and composed during the interviews – if you aren’t sure how to tackle a question, think for a while and then ask the tutor for some hints (or to repeat the question). If you make a silly mistake, laugh it off rather than getting more nervous as it can otherwise have a downward spiraling effect.

If you’re good enough to receive an offer, but there are too many applicants per place at your first choice then you may receive an offer from your second choice college. Generally you’ll enter the interview a bit nervous, but once it gets going you forget about everything and focus on the present.

The first interview (at Balliol) was more conceptual in that they asked “imagine that you are in such and such a situation…”. The questions required me to relate topics that I had learned at school and apply them to completely new types of questions. There were some short questions at the beginning involving maths, and then a long 20 minute physics question where I ended up deriving a formula and relating it to another topic. It was surprisingly interesting and entertaining.

Second interview had many more pure maths and physics questions, but they also asked a more general engineering question on a topic that you will not have studied at school. I only knew about this topic thanks to extra reading that I did on my own.

Black trousers, white collared shirt and a grey sweater. I also wore an overcoat as it was very cold during the interview period.

Impressions

The colleges were very pretty and quaint and I loved the cozy feel of the town. My dropped me off for my interviews as I’m an international student, and she roamed around the stores while I socialized and interviewed. There were lots of nice coffee shops, some fast food chains and a small shopping centre. Balliol and Hertford are both very close to each other, located right in the centre of Oxford. Balliol was about 100 metres from what seemed to be the main shopping district.

All of the interviewers were very welcoming, eager to listen to my ideas, and supportive in case I wasn’t sure how to approach a question.

Very relaxed and welcoming. Happy to chill and have a chat with you.

Final stage

Lots of anxiety and excitement. I fell in love with the city/colleges while I was there, and I felt that my interviews had gone relatively well. Still, there’s no guarantee that you will get an offer, and now I’m striving to achieve the conditions.

Looking back

Definitely.