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Advice for Year 12 applying for Oxford chemistry

I’m in Year 12 currently and aspiring to study chemistry at Oxford university. What draws me in especially is that after suggestions from my teachers to aim higher, I looked at the different courses and modules offered (such as theoretical and medicinal chemistry) and they really appealed to me! I love the broadness of the degree program too. This has really motivated me to work hard and prepare for applying to MChem entry.

Recently, I was on a chemistry program held at Balliol college where I had the opportunity to experience the atmosphere at one of their colleges as well as have a biochemistry/chemistry tutorial session (I especially enjoyed this and think this type of learning suits me!). We were also given pre-reading prior in order to let us experience what it’s like for actual students.

My A-levels are maths, further maths, chemistry and biology (predicted 4A*s). For GCSEs, I performed very strongly at a large state school. So, I’m mainly focusing on preparing for the interview which is really the make or break in an obtaining a successful offer. Could I please get advice from applicants, offer holders or students about what the interview was like and how to prepare? I have started to make a checklist of information and help I’ve received so far. Also, which college you applied to (as I heard that could make a difference) and general thoughts regarding Oxford chemistry? Thank you so much- any help would be really appreciated!!
Reply 1
Original post by djjcismfj246
I’m in Year 12 currently and aspiring to study chemistry at Oxford university. What draws me in especially is that after suggestions from my teachers to aim higher, I looked at the different courses and modules offered (such as theoretical and medicinal chemistry) and they really appealed to me! I love the broadness of the degree program too. This has really motivated me to work hard and prepare for applying to MChem entry.
Recently, I was on a chemistry program held at Balliol college where I had the opportunity to experience the atmosphere at one of their colleges as well as have a biochemistry/chemistry tutorial session (I especially enjoyed this and think this type of learning suits me!). We were also given pre-reading prior in order to let us experience what it’s like for actual students.
My A-levels are maths, further maths, chemistry and biology (predicted 4A*s). For GCSEs, I performed very strongly at a large state school. So, I’m mainly focusing on preparing for the interview which is really the make or break in an obtaining a successful offer. Could I please get advice from applicants, offer holders or students about what the interview was like and how to prepare? I have started to make a checklist of information and help I’ve received so far. Also, which college you applied to (as I heard that could make a difference) and general thoughts regarding Oxford chemistry? Thank you so much- any help would be really appreciated!!

Hi! I have just finished my undergrad in Chemistry at the University of Oxford and I have over 150 hours of tutoring experience including in oxbridge admissions. I would be happy to chat about any/all aspects of the application process, help with personalstatement writing, and specific subject tutoring. Feel free tomessage me if interested!
Just so you are aware, there is a code of conduct applicants to Oxford are required to follow and so we can’t give exact details of our interviews (i.e what we were asked etc).

I have just finished my first year of MChem chemistry at Oxford. I got in on my second attempt having been previously rejected after making an open application (I was assigned St Hugh’s as a first college and St Hilda’s as a second). I applied to Magdalen, was interviewed by Magdalen and Somerville, got an open offer from Queens and yet somehow I ended up at St John’s lol. Any advice given is based on what I did right the second time and in hindsight having messed up the first.

I personally used Olympiad round 1 past papers (and some round 2 past papers I had access to from when I got in to round 2 in 2022, but I believe these are resources that unless you are a round 2 participant yourself, you unfortunately won’t be able to access) to get practice applying what I had learnt at A level to unfamiliar situations and taught other students material from the A level course to get practice with improving my communication and articulation skills. As your interviews are only about half an hour long, you need to know how to boil down your explanations to make them as relevant and concise as possible.

I’m sure you’ve heard thousands of times that the interviewers need you to think out loud - and this advice is really important. Make sure you explain assumptions you make in calculations, why you have reached x conclusion etc etc - even if you use erroneous reasoning, you will still at least make it clear that you can at least independently think about a problem and it makes it quicker and easier for your interviewers to give you more specific and helpful prompts where necessary.

If you have any questions about my experience of the first year of the course, feel free to ask away. Just note that I’m not very active on TSR any more and so expect slow responses from me.
Original post by TatianaV
Hi! I have just finished my undergrad in Chemistry at the University of Oxford and I have over 150 hours of tutoring experience including in oxbridge admissions. I would be happy to chat about any/all aspects of the application process, help with personalstatement writing, and specific subject tutoring. Feel free tomessage me if interested!
Hello! Please can I have some help with mock interviews?
Reply 4
Original post by KKS12345
Hello! Please can I have some help with mock interviews?

Sure - if you e-mail me at [email protected] we can chat about it!
Original post by djjcismfj246
I’m in Year 12 currently and aspiring to study chemistry at Oxford university. What draws me in especially is that after suggestions from my teachers to aim higher, I looked at the different courses and modules offered (such as theoretical and medicinal chemistry) and they really appealed to me! I love the broadness of the degree program too. This has really motivated me to work hard and prepare for applying to MChem entry.
Recently, I was on a chemistry program held at Balliol college where I had the opportunity to experience the atmosphere at one of their colleges as well as have a biochemistry/chemistry tutorial session (I especially enjoyed this and think this type of learning suits me!). We were also given pre-reading prior in order to let us experience what it’s like for actual students.
My A-levels are maths, further maths, chemistry and biology (predicted 4A*s). For GCSEs, I performed very strongly at a large state school. So, I’m mainly focusing on preparing for the interview which is really the make or break in an obtaining a successful offer. Could I please get advice from applicants, offer holders or students about what the interview was like and how to prepare? I have started to make a checklist of information and help I’ve received so far. Also, which college you applied to (as I heard that could make a difference) and general thoughts regarding Oxford chemistry? Thank you so much- any help would be really appreciated!!

With your achievements I definetelly feel that you can get an interview, you just need to crack the interview, which I think with practice ull defo be able to do. I also heard that chemistry at oxford has one of the highest acceptance rates out of all their courses, so it will be easier to get in than others.
Original post by TatianaV
Hi! I have just finished my undergrad in Chemistry at the University of Oxford and I have over 150 hours of tutoring experience including in oxbridge admissions. I would be happy to chat about any/all aspects of the application process, help with personalstatement writing, and specific subject tutoring. Feel free tomessage me if interested!

Hi, thanks so much for your reply! I’ve recently just finished school, DofE and I’m abroad currently so I’ve haven’t been on TSR for a while. I think the main area that I would like to focus on is the interview process; I’ve heard that because they don’t have an admissions exam for chemistry, it has the heaviest weighting in receiving an offer. Also, around 80% of applicants will receive an interview invitation. I’ve made a Google document that has a wide variety of topics which has come up in interviews from people who’ve had them (not specific questions as I know they’re not allowed to share) so I know what to look out for. I really appreciate your help!!
Original post by TypicalNerd
Just so you are aware, there is a code of conduct applicants to Oxford are required to follow and so we can’t give exact details of our interviews (i.e what we were asked etc).
I have just finished my first year of MChem chemistry at Oxford. I got in on my second attempt having been previously rejected after making an open application (I was assigned St Hugh’s as a first college and St Hilda’s as a second). I applied to Magdalen, was interviewed by Magdalen and Somerville, got an open offer from Queens and yet somehow I ended up at St John’s lol. Any advice given is based on what I did right the second time and in hindsight having messed up the first.
I personally used Olympiad round 1 past papers (and some round 2 past papers I had access to from when I got in to round 2 in 2022, but I believe these are resources that unless you are a round 2 participant yourself, you unfortunately won’t be able to access) to get practice applying what I had learnt at A level to unfamiliar situations and taught other students material from the A level course to get practice with improving my communication and articulation skills. As your interviews are only about half an hour long, you need to know how to boil down your explanations to make them as relevant and concise as possible.
I’m sure you’ve heard thousands of times that the interviewers need you to think out loud - and this advice is really important. Make sure you explain assumptions you make in calculations, why you have reached x conclusion etc etc - even if you use erroneous reasoning, you will still at least make it clear that you can at least independently think about a problem and it makes it quicker and easier for your interviewers to give you more specific and helpful prompts where necessary.
If you have any questions about my experience of the first year of the course, feel free to ask away. Just note that I’m not very active on TSR any more and so expect slow responses from me.

Hi, thanks so much for your reply and how much detail you’ve put in for your experience! I’ve recently just finished school, DofE and I’m abroad currently so I’ve haven’t been on TSR for a while too. Thanks for the suggestion of using Olympiad papers- our school doesn’t enter us for them unfortunately but I’ve had a look and will definitely be solving more of those questions to develop my communication skills for chem. Something I’d like to ask is if during your first year, the content taught is broad- by that I mean if you study all areas of organic, physical and inorganic chemistry before specialising afterwards? Or will the second year also be similar? I’ve heard you will eventually be able to select modules you want to study and I’m just wondering when that will be. I really appreciate your response!
Original post by moonlily_13
With your achievements I definetelly feel that you can get an interview, you just need to crack the interview, which I think with practice ull defo be able to do. I also heard that chemistry at oxford has one of the highest acceptance rates out of all their courses, so it will be easier to get in than others.

Thank you! Hopefully, I can use this summer to practice for mock interviews and sharpen my communication skills. Chemistry is definitely a course with the highest acceptance rates for Oxford (especially for a STEM subject) so hopefully things may go in my favour with a bit of practice and luck!
OP, don't worry too much about choice of college. Apply to whichever college you like most, and bear in mind that if you do receive an offer there is a one in four chance that the offer will come from a college you didn't apply to.
(edited 08:42)
Original post by djjcismfj246
Hi, thanks so much for your reply and how much detail you’ve put in for your experience! I’ve recently just finished school, DofE and I’m abroad currently so I’ve haven’t been on TSR for a while too. Thanks for the suggestion of using Olympiad papers- our school doesn’t enter us for them unfortunately but I’ve had a look and will definitely be solving more of those questions to develop my communication skills for chem. Something I’d like to ask is if during your first year, the content taught is broad- by that I mean if you study all areas of organic, physical and inorganic chemistry before specialising afterwards? Or will the second year also be similar? I’ve heard you will eventually be able to select modules you want to study and I’m just wondering when that will be. I really appreciate your response!

You study the three core disciplines of chemistry in depth and you are also taught any maths you likely won't have covered previously that will be necessary for first year. So at the end of the year, you are required to sit four preliminary exams (one in each of the core fields of chemistry and one in maths).

The second year is similar, but you can elect to take a supplementary course and you have fewer maths lectures - and once these are done, you don't need to study maths outright again. At present, there is just one supplementary course per field of chemistry (chemical crystallography for inorganic, quantum chemistry for physical and aromatic and heterocyclic pharmaceutical chemistry for organic).

Third year does appear to involve taking core material as well, but this time you get to pick multiple options and these are all assessed on the part IB options paper. This is presumably what you've heard about.
(edited 1 day ago)
Also, for interview practice and some example practice questions: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=7418525#post99722061

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