Applying to Computer Science Department at Oxford University

Computer Science at Oxford University can be studied for three years (BA) or four years (Master of Computer Science). The fourth year allows the study of advanced topics and an in-depth research project. Oxford students do not need to choose between the three-year and four-year options when applying to the course; all students apply for the four-year course, and then decide at the start of the third year whether they wish to continue to the fourth year (which is subject to achieving a 2:1 at the end of the third year).

“Oxford Computer Science concentrates on creating links between theory and practice. The coursework covers a wide variety of software and hardware technologies and their applications. Oxford is looking for students with a real flair for mathematics, which you can develop into skills that can be used both for reasoning rigorously about the behaviour of programs and computer systems, and for applications such as scientific computing. Perspective computer science students can also gain practical problem-solving and program design skills; the majority of subjects within the course are linked with practical work in our well-equipped laboratory.” For more information on Computer Science at Oxford University, visit:

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Preferred the oxford course- more theoretical. At the time i was deciding i didn't like the idea of having to study 50% natural sciences as you do at cambridge. Also, i've lived most of my life just outside cambridge, so wanted to get away to somewhere new, preferably somewhere with a better nightlife! (Profile 134)

Oxford was more convenient, I could get to it easily by car or train. I also liked the atmosphere a lot in Oxford, although i didn't visit Cambridge. (Profile 45)

1. Allegedly best for Computer Science
2. Very attractive
3. I've heard they have a particularly large music scene there. (Profile 82)

For Comp Sci at cambridge you need to do Natural sciences in the first year, or 80% maths (something along those lines) and i didn't want to do that. (Profile 699)

Preparation tips for the Oxford Computer Science interview: 

1. Do an Oxford specimen paper
2. Revise identities from maths, especially trigonmetric identities, which are hardest to remember. If you haven't done a statistics module, ask your teacher to teach you about 'combinations', e.g. to number of ways of arranging the letters in 'BIOLOGY' - there are ALWAYS questions like this.Most importantly, make sure you do the integration and differentiation sections from the Pure 3 module as well as Algebra, they asked some fairly hard questions about this in the exam.
3. The best advice I can give is: DON'T PREPARE TOO MUCH. The interviewers are looking for people who think for themselves, and will know if candidates have prepared too much. In your interview make sure you show enthusiasm. (Profile 82)

Brush up on your mathematics and logic. The specimen papers for the Maths test are nothing like the real thing, so be well prepared for anything. A good thing to revise, even if you haven't studied it, is permutations and combinations, these seem to appear a lot. (Profile 45)

Make sure you have answers for the obvious questions - why Oxford, why this course. Try lots of maths based questions - look at the ones on the oxford computer science website, as i think one of them actually came up in my interview. (I didn't do this much, but it would have been much easier had I done so). (Profile 699)

What questions were you asked? 

In most interviews the first 2 questions were 'why computer science', 'why oxford', then it went to maths problems: (by interview)

1st - asked to write down 3 consecutive numbers and spot a pattern. minimum number of breaks needed to break a choc bar into single pieces.
2nd - number of rectangles that can be fitted into a n by m rectangle. this was quite complex, and i got somewhat lost on a bit the tutor was explaining to me.
3rd - a worded problem that turned out to be a sorting algorithm with a difference to normal. then some graph problems
4th - logic problems - which of a group of statements are true or false (Profile 699)

Why do you want to study computer Science? Why do you want to come to Oxford? Plus logical problems involving such things as geometric series', combinations and probability. (Profile 45)

In my second interview: * What locus would the midpoint of a ladder make if it started vertically against a wall and slid down to the horizontal (working it out formulaically you get the equation of a circle) * What is bigger, (n+1)^n or n^(n+1). I just took the log of both of them. (Profile 82)

Additional thoughts on the Oxford Computer Science interview:

I had 2 [interviews] at my college and 1 at St Edmund Hall. The first was purely discussing computational/maths problems on a sheet we got the day before. We had a choice from a variety of questions (I think only Worcester has this system) and I chose questions about fitting 'L' shapes on a chess board, the most efficient way to sort a list of unordered numbers and the number of combinations of fitting shopping bags inside each other! (Profile 82)

Apart from a couple of personal statement based questions, most of the questions were maths problems, mostly one easy-ish one to start with, and then one or two harder ones. I had 2 tutors interviewing me in all but 1 interview; mostly one would be asking a question while the other took notes. Most of the time the way to solve the question was to start with simple cases, and work up. The tutors prompted me if I seemed to be getting lost, and I tried to say what i was thinking in terms of solving the problem - which at least showed I wasn't just staring blankly at the sheet of paper. (Profile 699)

I had four interviews, two for Mathematics (one at St John's and one at Somerville) and two for computer science (again, one at St John's and one at Somerville). All of them, apart from the Computer Science one (because I couldn't find the room and got there late) started off with some general discussion about why I wanted to study Computer Science and why I wanted to come to Oxford, then went on to logic/mathematical problsm. (Profile 45)

What did you wear to the interview?

I wore a blue smart/casual shirt, beige trousers and brown shoes. I purposely didn't want to dress up too much, but didn't want to risk dressing down too much either. All I can say is I can't imagine the interviewers care at all. I personally wouldn't advise wearing a suit because it makes you seem overprepared, and more concerned over presentation than your chosen subject. (Profile 82)

un-scruffy jeans and a nice top - ie not a t-shirt. I didn't feel comfortable in a suit, and all the advice I'd heard was that most people don't dress that smartly. Which was true.(Profile 699)

I wore a smart blue shirt with pen in breast pocket, black jeans with belt and dark school shoes. This outfit combined with neat hair and glasses made me look quite proffessional and well organised without looking like I overdressed for the interview. (Profile 45)