The opportunity to discuss any issues you may have with the material with your tutors and is probably the biggest advantage of studying at Oxford.
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
Undergraduate Physics courses tend to be very similar across most universities, but I think what sets the Oxford Physics course apart from the rest is the emphasis on the mathematical foundations. This is also the major difference between Physics at A-level compared to university, and what really made me want to apply to Oxford. During my A-Levels I always found myself gravitating more towards the mathematical side of things but still chose to study Physics rather than Maths for this reason. The Oxford course is quite rigid for the first few years, but I now really appreciate the deep understanding I have of basic principles and believe that it’s so important for a high level of study.
How is your subject taught?
In the first year, teaching consists of lectures and labs that are run by the department and tutorials run by the college. Each week there are roughly 10 hours of lectures (these take place in the mornings), 6 hours of labs (10am-5pm once a week) and 2 hours of tutorials. For each tutorial there is set work – a problem sheet on the content covered in the lectures that week – that is then marked by the tutors before the tutorial. This gives you the opportunity to discuss any issues you may have with the material with your tutors and is probably the biggest advantage of studying at Oxford.
What made you decide to apply for Oxford/Oriel and do you have any top tips on the application process?
“I would recommend that you really commit the time to think deeply about your subject.”
I didn’t actually apply to Oriel! I applied to St. Johns, where I had 2 interviews. My third interview was at Oriel and I ended up getting accepted here. I am so happy to have been accepted here and can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. Ultimately, I would definitely recommend applying to Oriel!
Most undergraduate Physics courses are very similar, but I chose to apply to Oxford rather than Cambridge because I knew I wanted to do Physics straight away and I didn’t want to do the broader Natural Sciences course at Cambridge.
I think the best advice I can give for the application process is to start preparing early and really focus on why you are applying for your subject rather than why you are applying to Oxford. The tutors want to see that you are passionate about your subject so I would recommend that you really commit the time to think deeply about your subject.
How did you prepare for your interview?
“Do as many mock interviews as possible – ask your teachers if they would be able to help out!”
The interview involved being given a problem and working through it on a whiteboard whilst talking through your thinking aloud and explaining the steps. The problems are meant to be hard, and you aren’t meant to be able to solve them instantly – the tutors want to see the way you think.
I prepared for my interview mainly by going through past PAT papers. These papers contain questions that are much more similar to the type of problems that would be presented in an interview so it’s good to practice as many of them as possible. I also found it useful to revise my A-level Physics course to ensure that I was aware of the context of any problems. Another good way to prepare is to do as many mock interviews as possible – ask your teachers if they would be able to help out!
“I think the most important thing is to be deeply interested in the subject.”
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
To study Physics at Oxford, I think the most important thing is to be deeply interested in the subject. The step up from school to university can be eased by reading a lot around the subject – I would recommend reading about Classical Mechanics and Linear Algebra. This definitely helped me in first year as I was already familiar with some of the concepts being introduced and this made me feel more at ease, even if it felt very confusing when reading it for the first time. Also, as I have already mentioned, Physics at the University level is very different to the level taught at school and so I would say it’s very important to be confident on your maths because this can save you feeling behind in first year and can make the interview process a lot easier.
“The tutors in Oriel are so kind and friendly which creates such a conducive environment for learning – Oriel is simply a great place to study!”
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
Oriel is such an incredible college to be a member of because of its amazing community spirit. Coming to university can be quite daunting, but even after the first day of fresher’s week I already felt so at home. Another major plus of Oriel is that it has such amazing buildings and is truly beautiful – I can guarantee that you will feel completely in awe during your first formal in hall! The tutors in Oriel are so kind and friendly which creates such a conducive environment for learning – Oriel is simply a great place to study!