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Oxford Chemistry Students and Applicants

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Interview Discussion 30-01-2014
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    Having read through all of the above posts, and confused myself as to who was asking what ... I shall delve in.

    I just met my offer to study Chemistry at Oxford, and my A' level subjects were a bit weird (by that I mean, all over the place), so hopefully I can help.

    Don't worry about not having Physics - I don't have it, and I met a few applicants that didn't. My only 'science' subjects are Chemistry and Maths (I didn't even have maths AS when I applied, I had to take the A' Level in a year).

    As for worrying about the interview. You don't need to. The tutors will quickly find out what you don't know, and ask you a question about it. They're not looking for what you do and don't know - they want to know if you can think on your feet, learn quickly, and apply the fundamental chemistry principles you should know (from AS, and from what they tell you) to the problem they present you with.

    Don't worry if you take a long time to solve a problem - just so long as you do it out-loud and in a logical manner you'll be fine.

    I even ended up making some major mistakes (like forgetting the chemical formula of water ) ... but still got through in the end.
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    (Original post by LukeVano)
    I would never have classed myself as an Oxford applicant but following my very lucky AS results I owe it to myself to apply! I was very lucky in Biology as I was on the grade boundary for an A (240/300 :eek: ). My GCSEs would be classed as poor by Oxford (6A 4B 3C) but I have a lot to write in my personal statement. I really want to drop Biology next year as I hate it but will a fourth A level really strengthen my application enough to warrant me taking it next year? If I drop it I should get 3A at A level but taking it may cause my grades to drop due to the workload. :confused:
    Hey, I got in with AAAC (C in biology), so I think you're more than capable of getting in with your grades. The overall stats are still favourable with 47% of applicants getting in, so give it your best shot in the interview.
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    (Original post by treehugginghippy)
    Having read through all of the above posts, and confused myself as to who was asking what ... I shall delve in.

    I just met my offer to study Chemistry at Oxford, and my A' level subjects were a bit weird (by that I mean, all over the place), so hopefully I can help.

    Don't worry about not having Physics - I don't have it, and I met a few applicants that didn't. My only 'science' subjects are Chemistry and Maths (I didn't even have maths AS when I applied, I had to take the A' Level in a year).

    As for worrying about the interview. You don't need to. The tutors will quickly find out what you don't know, and ask you a question about it. They're not looking for what you do and don't know - they want to know if you can think on your feet, learn quickly, and apply the fundamental chemistry principles you should know (from AS, and from what they tell you) to the problem they present you with.

    Don't worry if you take a long time to solve a problem - just so long as you do it out-loud and in a logical manner you'll be fine.

    I even ended up making some major mistakes (like forgetting the chemical formula of water ) ... but still got through in the end.
    Can I ask, what did you achieve you achieve in your GCSE's and AS Levels?
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    Has anyone here been doing any extended reading for your personal statement, and if so what books have you been reading?

    Also, at GCSE I achieved 5A* 4A 3B and at AS I got AAAAB, with the B in Business Studies. Is this good enough to have a reasonable chance? I am hoping a remark will raise that B to an A, but if it doesn't, do you think it will affect me greatly as Business is not really important for Chemistry?
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    What were your A's in?
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    (Original post by Extreme!)
    What were your A's in?
    At GCSE: English, Maths, Double Award ICT

    At AS: Chemistry, Maths, Critical Thinking, Economics
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    (Original post by Extreme!)
    Can I ask, what did you achieve you achieve in your GCSE's and AS Levels? I achieved 7A*'s, 4A's at GCSE, and 4A's (in acedemic subjects) and a C in Critical Thinking. I'm kind of freaking out about the latter however, and am just curious if they take CT seriously.

    Well Done for getting in. I'm really struggling with my Personal Statement. Can you give me any tips? ...

    Thanks!
    Sure thing - for the GCSE's, you've got far more than me. I only have four GCSE's, grades: A*, A, B, C ... but then I did those when I was 12, so I don't think they really cared.

    I wouldn't worry about the C in Critical Thinking ... but I'm not sure if I'd mention it on the application - it's your choice. If you think you gained anything from the course (i.e. study skills, team-working, analytical thinking), then mention it - otherwise, personally, I wouldn't bother.

    What are your other AS subjects?

    As for the personal statement: start with something snappy/unusual ... I think my first sentence was 'Can you do the washing up?'

    Then go on to say why you like chemistry. Mention a specific branch (but do some research on it before the interview, they may ask you questions) - mine was alternative fuels and hydrogenases.

    Next, you want to tell them about what makes you a good student - i.e. how your subjects have contributed towards your study of chemistry (you can stretch things here ... I said that my Media Studies course improved my teamworking/leading abilities, as I had to lead a team to produce a thriller movie), anything that shows you're hardworking, logical and dedicated.

    Then, maybe a short paragraph about what will make you a valuable part of university life. Mention clubs, extracurricular things you've done at school, student union things ... anything you can put a good spin on.

    And obviously, there'll be the (almost compulsory) mention of reading the New Scientist (if you don't, then start). If you're in London, consider attending the UCL Chemistry lectures for A Level students ... these come in VERY handy. Otherwise, check out your local uni for something similar.

    I wouldn't encourage lying in your personal statement. But if you do ... make sure you're a goddamn good at telling fibs to people's faces, because if they figure out you're lying - KABOOOM go your chances of getting in.
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    Thanks for your reply! I really appreciate it, and have found it very useful.
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    I wouldn't decline the Critical Thinking grade ... not unless you were thinking of retaking some units.

    But it would be best if you could come up with some spiel about how the subject helps with your study of chemistry. I don't actually know what critical thinking is all about, so I can't help you on this one - but, as an example, I said that my Accountancy studies gave me the ability to 'process and organise vast amounts of numerical data ... assisting my analysis of chemical investigations'.

    I don't think that they'll be put off by the C grade, seeing as the rest of your grades are very good. But be prepared for them to ask why you didn't perform so well in that exam ... bearing in mind that 'because my teacher sucked' generally won't go down well

    To be honest, I know plenty of people that lied in their personal statements ... most got away with it. But what you REALLY shouldn't do, is claim to be interested in a particular aspect of chemistry that you actually know nothing about.

    As for your specific interest: organic (arene) chemistry is a good starting point - but they want to see that you've really thought about your application of chemistry. What is it that you particularly like about this part? ... do you find the different mechanisms interesting - is there something you could see yourself researching in your final year?

    Organic chemistry (anything involving carbon, for those that don't know about the different branches of chemistry) isn't really my thing - so can't really be a massive help with this part ... I'm more interested in inorganic (catalysis, etc).

    Have a think about why you chose to do chemistry, as opposed to anything else - this should give you a starting point for your personal statement. All the tutors want to see is that you share their passion for chemistry ... they don't want someone who chose it 'just because they couldn't think what else to do', or 'because they got rejected for medicine, and chemistry was the next best thing'.
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    How defined should my specific interest be? In my personal statement draft, I have put organic chemistry as my interest, but this is quite broad and I noticed some other people have much more specific areas of interest. I have continued to say why I like that area and some of the reactions/mechanisms I find interesting, but should I try to concentrate on a more focused area of chemistry than just "organic" in general?
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    It's upto you really. Just be honest as you may (and probably will) be asked questions regarding it.
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    How would one find out which college is the best for chemistry? E.g. statistics for firsts in chemistry in each college?
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    (Original post by LukeVano)
    I would never have classed myself as an Oxford applicant but following my very lucky AS results I owe it to myself to apply! I was very lucky in Biology as I was on the grade boundary for an A (240/300 :eek: ). My GCSEs would be classed as poor by Oxford (6A 4B 3C) but I have a lot to write in my personal statement. I really want to drop Biology next year as I hate it but will a fourth A level really strengthen my application enough to warrant me taking it next year? If I drop it I should get 3A at A level but taking it may cause my grades to drop due to the workload. :confused:
    Do you have a passion for chemistry? Are you hard working? If yes and yes, then apply.
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    (Original post by eddie7612)
    How defined should my specific interest be? In my personal statement draft, I have put organic chemistry as my interest, but this is quite broad and I noticed some other people have much more specific areas of interest. I have continued to say why I like that area and some of the reactions/mechanisms I find interesting, but should I try to concentrate on a more focused area of chemistry than just "organic" in general?
    Seriously guys, you don't need a really specific area of chemistry you are interested in! You're only 17 or 18 and have not really studied enough chemistry yet to be able to say categorically which is your 'favourite' or 'specific' interest. I just wrote about a general interest in chemistry and perhaps any outside reading you had done. I know at your age (and still now!) I was much more interested in going out with friends and other extra-curriculars like dance and sport to be excessively interested in one area of my future degree.
    It is absolutely fine to write that you have a particular interest in organic, and to me makes more sense than homing in on one specific area.
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    (Original post by Eau)
    How would one find out which college is the best for chemistry? E.g. statistics for firsts in chemistry in each college?
    I would say the academics (e.g. tutors and fellows), the importance of the course in the College (e.g. Balliol is especially well-known for PPE).
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    It is quite difficult to understand how broad chemistry can be without even having started on an undergraduate degree. Stating that you prefer organic chemistry is fine, but this will just be interpreted as "my favorite section of A-level chemistry is the organic part" which (if not followed by a sound argument or anecdotal explanation) is a waste of time in your personal statement.
    I did quite an extensive research project at the university of Lund in Sweden (this in biophysical chemistry) working along with a researcher, and thus in my ps I explained how I had decided on chemistry based on my time there.
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    Am I right in saying that each lecture lasts 50 minutes?
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    (Original post by Eau)
    Am I right in saying that each lecture lasts 50 minutes?
    I think that's correct in Chemistry - I know that lectures are supposed to lst 50mins in several science subjects (of course, some times they're shorter and other times longer!).

    Some subjects start their lectures at different times though, eg:

    Biochemistry: lectures start at 9am; finish at 9:50am
    Physics: lectures start at 9:05am; finish at 9:55am
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    (Original post by Hoofbeat)
    I think that's correct in Chemistry - I know that lectures are supposed to lst 50mins in several science subjects (of course, some times they're shorter and other times longer!).

    Some subjects start their lectures at different times though, eg:

    Biochemistry: lectures start at 9am; finish at 9:50am
    Physics: lectures start at 9:05am; finish at 9:55am
    Chemistry is the same as physics there.
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    What books do you guys suggest reading?

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