Chemical Engineering @ King's, Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA); 1x interviews

Interview content

Interview: Chemistry and engineering-related problems

Best preparation

A whole range of online resources

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Relax - interviewers are rooting for you, not against you!

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

Test taken: Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA)

Number of interviews: 1

Skype interview: no

Time between interviews: N/A

Length of interview: 30 minutes

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

I entered the interview room quite stressed because I was carrying my whole coat and bag and was not sure whether it was okay to bring them inside (it was).

I was applying for Chemical Engineering via Engineering, so I was interviewed by 2 people: one for the Engineering aspect and one for the Chemical Engineering aspect. The interviewers were both taking notes throughout.

I sat down and soon relaxed, there were many sharpened pencils and pencil sharpeners on the table and a small stack of paper. I first started with the Engineering side of things (which was really mechanics). The Fellow interviewing me for that part asked whether I had covered a particular concept at school. I had only covered it on my own, I said, and he ensured that I sort of knew what I was talking about by checking I knew the basic formulae for that concept.

I was then given a sheet of paper with a problem that explored a particular case of the concept. The problem was broken down in small questions, and the Fellow told me to work through each at my own rhythm, showing the calculations I was doing on paper.

I was still stressed and did make a few silly mistakes, which he always corrected for me once he saw I knew where I was going. The final question asked me to bring together my findings from all the previous questions and based on that redesign an element of the problem.

The second Fellow then said "all right let's do some chemistry", which really sent my heart pounding because I had not prepared for that at all. We discussed a process for making a certain chemical compound and how to optimise it on an industrial scale. He then asked me to calculate what proportions of certain compounds were obtained at particular points in the network.

The interview finished with them asking me "Do you have any questions?". All I could think of was "Is this already half an hour?”, as the interview went by extremely fast.

How did you prepare?

I should firstly say that I applied for Chemical Engineering via engineering (not via Natural Sciences). This meant that the whole process was for me similar to that experienced by an Engineering applicant (besides the Chemistry half of my interview).

I was not doing A levels, and I therefore lagged far behind British students in terms of maths and physics content covered. However, King's College had a webpage dedicated to students applying for engineering without having taken A levels, which I used extensively (and still thank for existing).

For Maths, I went on the Exam Solutions website for AQA A Level maths. I covered all of C1 and most of C2, C3, and C4 (these are the core maths modules).

For Physics, I used the book "Nelkon and Parker, Advanced Level Physics", the first few chapters of which give a good overview of mechanics, elasticity (Young's modulus, stress and strain), and electricity (subjects that were unknown to me at the time). I think the first 6 chapters were useful. I also used (very little, but still) Isaac Physics.

You can also simply check the ENGAA content specification, and check that you know it all.

For practice, you should check out the amazing website I Want To Study Engineering, with maths/physics-related challenging interview questions.

I then used the ENGAA sample paper that had been released at the time and did it in timed conditions. There should be more available past papers now, check out the bottom of the Engineering course overview on the university website.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

My advice to anyone making it to the interview stage is to relax. Interviewers want you to do your best, they are working with you, not against you. So just focus on doing your best, that's really all you can do, and see how it goes!