What are the Oxford interviews like?

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Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2018 7:26 am

What are the Oxford interviews like?

Post by scytoo » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:26 am

I've been invited to interview for the DPhil Astrophysics, and in the letter they gave me 3 papers to read, of which it sounds like I'll be tested on one of my choice. It says that knowledge beyond what is in the paper is not required or expected, but then they also expect us to understand the background and importance of the work, which seems contradictory.

Just how brutal are these questions going to be? Has anyone done one before?

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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:00 am

Re: What are the Oxford interviews like?

Post by peter3721 » Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:39 pm

I was invited to interview this week as well but wasn't asked to read any papers. The interview panel consists of professors I mentioned in my SoP.

Good luck on the interview!

Posts: 19
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2018 7:26 am

Re: What are the Oxford interviews like?

Post by scytoo » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:51 am

Interview is over, and it went well! Thought I'd outline the experience here in case anyone else ends up in the same situation in the future. Might also be useful for interviews in general.

My interview was 20th Feb, 9am, making me the first person interviewed out of ~1 week worth of interviews. It lasted for 30 minutes, and I was interviewed by two researchers in the department, neither of whom I mentioned in my SOP and neither of whom are even in my specialisation (AGN jets, headed to accretion disks).

Part 1: Previous Work
  1. "Tell us about your previous experience and where you see your career headed."
  2. "Tell us a bit more about one of your research projects, and how it has influenced your research interests."
  3. "At what speed are electrons injected into an AGN jet?"
  4. "Why might AGN jets be asymmetrical? How might the black hole itself cause asymmetry?"
Part 2: The Paper
A few days prior to the interview, I was given 3 papers to read and allowed to choose one to be tested on. The papers available were (/arxiv.org/abs/1901.04525), (arxiv.org/abs/1806.06089), and (arxiv.org/abs/1709.10378), of which I chose the last. No knowledge beyond the paper is technically expected/required, but I used tangential knowledge for nearly every question I was asked. Definitely google things and understand definitions of key methods/terms.
  1. "How do the authors model the contribution from the galaxies?"
  2. "Why do they estimate the density profile perpendicular to the filament? Why not along the same line?"
  3. "What is the SZ effect?"
  4. "How can you tell the difference between the SZ signal and random CMB fluctuations?"
  5. "How can you tell if the distortion is due to the SZ effect or some other process between the two galaxies?"
  6. "Do you think overlapping galaxy haloes could contribute to the signal?"
  7. "In the abstract, they say that 90% of baryons are missing, but they only claim to have found 30%. Where are the other 60%?"
Part 3: My Project
This program doesn't ask for a research proposal or even a nomination of a particular project, so aside from some incredibly vague comments I made in my SOP, there wasn't much I had to defend or be tested on.
  1. "Why do you want to go into the area you mentioned in your SOP?"
  2. "You've mentioned theory and computation, and it looks like your proposed topic is very theoretical, which is quite different to what you've done previously. How will you manage this?"
Part 4: My Questions
  1. I saw online that DPhil students do taught courses in their first year. How much freedom is there in choosing specific courses?
  2. Is there much opportunity to plan my own project? There are a few ones listed online that I'm interested in, but I'd also like to start working on developing my own research questions throughout the PhD.

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