Applying for Engineering Science at Oxford University

Engineering Science encompasses a vast range of subjects, from microelectronics to offshore oil platforms, and involves the application of creative reasoning, science, mathematics (and of course experience and common sense) to real problems.

The Department of Engineering Science at Oxford has a top-level quality assessment rating for teaching and a world-class reputation for research. Oxford believes that future engineering innovation will benefit from broad foundations as well as specialised knowledge; it’s undergraduate teaching is based on a unified course in Engineering Science, which integrates study of the subject across the traditional boundaries of engineering disciplines. Links between topics in apparently diverse fields of engineering provide well-structured fundamental understanding, and can be exploited to give efficient teaching.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*A*A to include Mathematics and Physics. The A*s must be in Mathematics, Physics, or Further Mathematics
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 40 (including core points) with 776 at HL (with 7x in HL Mathematics and Physics)

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

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). (Profile 1044)

Thought that Oxford was better and more flexible for my course. Also had family near Oxford. (Profile 408)

I applied for a combination of Engineering/Comp Science which can only be studied at Oxford. (Profile 399)

Both oxford and cambridge courses start out very general in the first two years which appealed to me as i wasn't sure which field of engineering i was most interested in and so thought was best to go somewhere where i could look at different aspects. Modern engineering problems tend to be very diverse and require an understanding of all types eg civil, electronic, mechanical etc, so thought a breadth of knowledge would be useful later. (Profile 751)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

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. (Profile 1044)

Have all your A level game down - thats all there is to it. The interviewers are not trying to "catch you out" they want to find out how good you are, which they can only do by asking questions based on what you know. So all the maths problems will start with something based on A level material and then build on it. Dont worry about slick answers to stuff like "why do you want to study engineering"- the tutors are academics, ie they don't care about banter/chat just how well wire up your neurons are - stick to the maths and physic theory. (Profile 751)

Know your calculus very well for engineering because in both of my interviews that was the only maths that came up. (Profile 895)

The Forms: Don't think too hard about filling out the additional info section of the form. I spent days thinking about it, but what I wrote was so simple but really put forward why I want to be at Oxford.

The interview(s): Make sure you know your stuff, so to speak, but don't overprepare, it really ends up being a waste of time at best. Just make sure you know what you wrote on your UCAS and application form. Most of the questions asked at interviews involve appling simple concepts in unfamiliar situations, so there is no need to spend hours revising as if for an exam! (Profile 408)

DON'T BE NERVOUS OR TENSE. Just relax and take your time answering the questions. When answering, literally speak your mind out. Tutors want to know your thinking process more than the answers. (Profile 742)

The interview(s): don't think the questions are easy, tutors look for depth, keep talking. (Profile 399)

Be meticulous with it because you don't know what will come up in the interview and you'd be kicking yourself if you hadn't revised something which was AS standard which you should have known. (Profile 895)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

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. (Profile 1044)

I was asked questions of circular motion, emf on a plane wing in the earth's magnetic field and problems of inert gas build up during the Haber Bosch Process at my Balliol interview. At the Somerville interview, I was given a problem on how much energy was required to fill a bath, which involve sensible estimation of average lengths and tempatures as well as specific heat capacity, and another question on the integration of 1/x, leading to the derivation of the estimation ln(1+z)=z when z is very small. (Profile 408)

At Brasenose he started from differential equations, asking what they were, how engineers use them, how to apply them when studying vibrations of aircraft wings. He asked why is aluminium still in aircraft used when composites are available (Got that one wrong). Also he provided a diagram and equations of a car suspension and asked how to improve it etc. Those at Wadham first asked the relation between F1 cars and aircrafts (from my statement), then asked me to form mathematical models of a ball attached to a spring regarding force, velocity, and the mathematical relation between current and time in an inductor circuit. (Profile 742)

To start with, a couple of non-important personlity/interest questions to settle me in. After that the questions were purely physics and maths based, where you need to think quickly on your feet, and think aloud because if you stumble onto the right track the interviewers generally give you a positive hint, e.g. why don't we explore that option? (Profile 895)