Interview Questions

  • What are the main differences between the engines in jet fighters and the engines in jet airliners; which type of engine is the more efficient, and (qualitatively) why? (submitted by Oxford applicant)
  • How would you design a gravity dam for holding back water? (Oxford University Website)
  • What would happen if you drilled through the Earth all the way to the other side and then jumped into the hole? (molivam42's weblog)
  • Why did they used to make the mill chimneys so tall? (Oxbridge Applications)
  • Explain the following to someone with no knowledge of physics: force, momentum, power, work. (Oxbridge Applications)
  • What are the fundamental differences between Engineering and Physics? (Oxbridge Applications)
  • If you had a cylinder, sealed at both ends, with the pressure rising inside, would it blow at the end or split along the side first? (Oxbridge Applications)
  • If I am in a room with 5 people and guess all their birthdays what is the probability of getting (only) one correct? (Oxbridge Applications)
  • Sketch a velocity time graph for a skydiver jumping out of a plane. (Oxford Interview Questions)
  • A rectangular sheet dimensions a x b is to be made into an open-topped box by cutting a square of side h from each corner and folding the 4 sides up. Find the value of h which allows the maximum volume of the box? (Oxford Interview Questions)
  • Show the forces acting on a ladder (Oxford Interview Questions)
  • Why do sausages split lengthways, rather than around the circumference? (Oxford Interview Questions)
  • Talk about a light bulb (Oxford Interview Questions)
  • How small can you make a computer? What are the limiting factors? (Oxford Interview Questions)
  • How do you think you could calculate the number of calories that you have burnt after you have gone for a run? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room
  • How does a fridge work? (Cambridge interview, The Student Room)
  • they had a toy car and propelled it by attaching a blown up balloon and releasing it, they asked my question on how to increase the speed, the flow of the air and momentum. (Oxford, Oxbridge Applications)
  • What challenges do you think you would be facing as a formula 1 engineer in 10 years time? (Oxford, Oxbridge applications)

Recommended resources for interview and university preparation
 This is a brilliant Cambridge funded website set up to help students compete for places at top universities. Basically a collection of several hundred interview questions that would be appropriate for either Engineering or Physics interviews. Check it out. The only criticism is that many of the problems are perhaps eaiser than an "average" interview question (according to some).

Recommended books Amazing book of fun (but extremely challenging!) interview-style questions (including many from our list) by Oxford Professor. Highly recommended for anyone planning to study engineering or physics-related subjects at university level.

“Entry to selective universities will often require students to demonstrate that they have engaged in super-curricular activities which develop their awareness and understanding of their subject. Thomas Povey has provided in this book enough super-curricular content to keep an aspiring mathematician, physicist, engineer or material scientist (and their teachers) happy for months. For a parent or teacher who wants to proactively support a student in preparing for entry to a competitive science or maths course this is a no-brainer purchase.” —Mike Nicholson, Director ofUndergraduate Admissions and Outreach, University of Oxford (2006-14), Director of Student Recruitment andAdmissions, University of Bath
 Really useful book of advanced math problems which is recommended ahead of STEP, MAT, PAT etc.

"This book is intended to help candidates prepare for entrance examinations in mathematics and scientific subjects, including STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper). STEP is an examination used by Cambridge colleges as the basis for conditional offers. They are also used by Warwick University, and many other mathematics departments recommend that their applicants practice on the past papers even if they do not take the examination. Advanced Problems in Mathematics is recommended as preparation for any undergraduate mathematics course, even for students who do not plan to take the Sixth Term Examination Paper."