Engineering

Engineering – Oxford Interview Questions

“How can I prepare when the interviewer could ask me absolutely anything about Engineering?”

By understanding how the interview works and, crucially, what it is that the interviewer is looking for. The interviewer is not looking to catch you out, but rather for you to demonstrate your curiosity, knowledge and passion for Engineering.

“How am I able to do that?”

Demonstrate your enthusiasm and personality

You might be asked general interview questions so that the interviewer can learn more about you – review our list of General Interview questions to prepare.

Show that you enjoy studying Engineering independently
The easiest way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for Engineering is to show that you are self-motivated and have studied the subject in your free-time for enjoyment – for example through online lectures and independent reading. If you don’t know where to start, review our suggested reading list below.

Demonstrate your subject knowledge about and passion for Engineering
The key to answering these questions is to always demonstrate your thought process aloud. The interviewer does not expect you to be able to answer every question immediately, but rather wants to determine that you are able to think about and work on unknown topics with confidence, intelligence and clarity – and they won’t be able to do that if you sit in silence! Use the list of questions below to prepare. Perhaps you can have a friend or relative ask you these questions so that you can develop your skills of thinking under time pressure and speaking out loud.

Subject Interview Guide – Engineering

Our Subject Interview Guides help you to prepare and go into your interview with confidence.

OIQ Interview Guides

Each guide discusses ten Oxford Interview Questions in depth with answers and approaches – along with possible points of discussion to further demonstrate your knowledge. They have been specially edited for applicants for each subject by a team of Oxford and Cambridge graduates.

Download a sample page from our Physics Guide here.

Please Note: Currently “The Oxford Interview Guide” is available for Chemistry and Physics (available to download below). Other subjects will be available for download in November 2016 – please enter your email below to receive a notification when your subject guide is available for download.

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The Oxford Interview Guide – Physics

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The Physics Interview Guide discusses the following questions in detail:

  1. When an ice cube melts in a glass of water, does the water level increase, decrease or stay the same?
  2. A tennis ball is placed on top of a basketball. The balls are dropped. To what height does the tennis ball bounce?
  3. How high can you go up a mountain on just a Mars bar?
  4. If you dig a hole right through the Earth and jump into it, what is your motion?
  5. If you leave a fridge turned on in a thermally isolated room, what happens to the room?
  6. If you could fold a piece of paper as many times as possible, how many times must you fold it to reach the moon?
  7. Sketch the displacement time and velocity time graph for a skydiver jumping out of a plane.
  8. Why can’t you light a candle in a spaceship?
  9. Why is the sky blue?
  10. Two identical beakers with the same volume of water are placed on each pan of a double-pan balance. A steel ball is suspended from a string and submerged in the water of one of the containers. A hollow plastic ball of the same volume is submerged in the water of the other container and fastened to the bottom of the beaker by a string. Will the balance move, and if so in which direction?

Engineering Suggested Reading

Engineering Interview Questions

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?
Sketch a velocity time graph for a skydiver jumping out of a plane.
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?
Show the forces acting on a ladder
Why do sausages split lengthways, rather than around the circumference?
Talk about a light bulb
How small can you make a computer? What are the limiting factors?
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?
How would you design a gravity dam for holding back water?
What would happen if you drilled through the Earth all the way to the other side and then jumped into the hole?
Why did they used to make the mill chimneys so tall?
Explain the following to someone with no knowledge of physics: force, momentum, power, work.
What are the fundamental differences between Engineering and Physics?
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?
If I am in a room with 5 people and guess all their birthdays what is the probability of getting (only) one correct?
Differentiate y = sinx + cosx + tanx
Are bridges more stable on concrete or on soil – why?
Derive the equation that links voltage, charge and capacitance.
How do aeroplanes fly? Why can some fly up-side down?
How do trains go around bends?
How does an aeroplane stay airborne and how can some aeroplanes fly upside down?
How does Earthquake-proofing work?
How would you design a gravity dam for holding back water?
If I am in a room with 5 people and guess all their birthdays, what is the probability of getting (only) one correct?
If you were to drill a circular hole in a sheet of metal and then heat the sheet, what would happen to the size of the hole?
Please derive the formula for the area of a circle.
Show the forces acting on a ladder.
Talk about a light bulb.
What are the fundamental differences between Engineering and Physics?
What are the main assumptions that we make when we model potential flow?
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?
What is Moore’s law and what limits the size of a computer chip?
What is the strongest naturally occurring material and how can it be cut?
What is the difference between a gun and a rifle and what advantage does a spinning bullet have?
What is the significance of superconductors?
What would be the difficulties with building a bridge that connects the UK and Canada?
What would be your first invention?
Why do large ships like aircraft carriers not sink despite weighing several thousand tonnes?
Why do sausages split length-ways rather than around the circumference?
Why do windmills never appear stationary?