18465 questions

What should I expect from a Biology interview at Oxford

First, you must remember that one of the main purposes of Oxbridge interviews, aside from seeing whether you would cope with the academic standard, is as an opportunity for the tutor to assess your character, the way you face problems and to see if you are a candidate they would want to teach for the next 3/4 years! My tutor said in a group meeting before the interviews that the best preparation you could do for the interview was the 18 years of your life you have been living. So the cliché 'be yourself ' really does stand. The interviews differ from college to college and you will always receive at least two interviews at different colleges and some colleges may give you two (so that's a minimum of 2 and maximum of 4). Often tutors will begin or end with questions relating to your personal statement. These should be comfortable questions and give you an opportunity to show off what interests you in your subject, but make sure you know what you wrote and that you actually did what you said! Then the main bulk of the interview will be the tutor pushing you beyond your prior knowledge and seeing how you cope with taking on and processing new information.  For this section they want to see that you can think through a problem in a logical manner, so don’t be afraid to be wrong!  They will give you hints along the way and they are then looking for how you take on this new knowledge and assimilate it with your previous logic. If at this point you realise you were wrong before, it is fine to say ‘Oh, considering that bit of information I guess it can’t be like I thought, but maybe it is like this instead’.  This could be done in practice in several ways; one common interview technique is to present you with an object, for example a cast deer antler.  At this point they are not looking for you to say ‘this is a resin cast of a mature male red deer Cervus elaphus’ – they don’t expect prior knowledge! Rather they would want you to say how you believe it is an antler, that you expect it is used for defence against others of the same species in battles which could be over territory or over a mate, perhaps they could also be used in defending young, or themselves, against other predators.  From this you may then want to comment on why it looks the way it does, for example is it branched, is it long, and why it would be caused to be branched or long.  This may lead you (and they will prompt the discussion, so don’t panic!!) to talk about selection pressures that may have led to these traits being displayed when the cost of making huge head protrusions may otherwise seem expensive and unnecessary. Here you could talk about natural selection and the survival of the fittest – the longer the antler the further away the combatting deer is held, so the further away from danger you are, but also you could introduce ideas of sexual selection if you believe the antlers to be used as a display of dominance.  The discussion may then be led into thinking about the mechanisms of evolution and you can begin to see the progression of where the question might go. Otherwise they may give you a scientific article/paper to read and ask you to summarise (‘How would you explain this to your grandma?’ is a question I was asked). Then they may present you with graphs relating to this new information you have been given and ask you to explain what you think they might describe. Other questions they may ask you are things like how would you differentiate between three different cellular molecules (say DNA, protein and carbohydrate), but always they are giving you information and asking you to work around it – not testing how much you know!! They aren’t looking to trip you up, but are looking to see how your brain works and if they can put up with teaching you!  SO… don’t panic – don’t be afraid to be wrong (or controversial!) and remember to think outside the box!
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Harriet T.

Answered by Harriet, tutor with MyTutor

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Simplify 3log(x^2)+4log(y^3)

Using rules of logarithms: 3log(x^2)+4log(y^3)=log((x^2)^3)+log((y^3)^4) =log(x^6)+log(y^12) =log((x^6)(y^12)
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Alexander C.

Answered by Alexander, tutor with MyTutor

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Why is the preposition 'in' sometimes followed by the accusative form of the noun and sometimes by the dative?

The key to understanding this is to do with the idea of movement and change. The accusative is used when the subject of the sentence is changing its position or state in some way, and the dative if it's just staying where it is. Take these two examples: A. Ich gehe in die Stadt (I'm going into town). B. Ich bin in der Stadt (I am in town). The accusative is used in sentence A because the subject (me) is going into the city, i.e. I'm not in the city yet, but am on my way there. I am on the move. You can think of 'in die' as the same as the English word 'into'. In sentence B, the dative is used because the sentence is just describing a static state of affairs. I'm in the city; the sentence isn't describing any kind of movement or change of state of affairs. Have a think about these other examples and whether you would use the accusative or the dative in German - don't worry about translating each word, just think about the overall general sense: 1. I am going to Turkey (Turkey = 'die Türkei'). 2. Can you put the butter back in the fridge? 3. Help! I'm stuck in the fridge! 4. The caterpillar changed into a beautiful butterfly. 5. I'm staying with my family in Turkey
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Anna S.

Answered by Anna, tutor with MyTutor

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Draw the electric field lines produced by a negative point charge and calculate the electric field strength at a distance of 50mm from a point charge of size -30nC.

The diagram should show a negative point charge with the electric field lines pointing towards the point charge. The separation of the lines should decrease as you get closer to the point charge. The lines should be straight and perpendicular to the equipotential lines which circle the point charge.

In order to calculate the electric field strength, the equation for the force on a charge due to Coulomb's law and the equation for the electric field strength must be combined to give an equation for the electric field strength in terms of the size of the point charge;
F = Q1 Q2 / 4πε0 r2
E = F / Q1
E = Q2 / 4πε0 r2

Q2 should be recognised as the size of the point charge and this should be changed should be changed into Coulombs (nC = 1 x 10-9 C).
r should be recognised as the distance from the point charge and this should be changed into metres (mm = 1 x 10-3 m).
These numbers and the constants should be substituted into the final equation to give an electric field strength of -1.08 x 105 C (3 significant figures).
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Jemima B.

Answered by Jemima, tutor with MyTutor

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Essay question: why would parents withold vaccines from their children?

To answer this essay question effectively, a candidate would have to demonstrate the basic understanding of the principles and significance of vaccination including the "herd effect." This could be followed by discussion of vaccine side effects and poorly conducted clinical trials (e.g. the later disproved link between autism and the MMR vaccine) as well as protective measures that ensure that vaccines are effective and safe. Another important point to address is the education of the public about vaccination and the ethical dilemma as to whether it is right for a country to make childhood vaccinations mandatory by law.
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Jernej Z.

Answered by Jernej, tutor with MyTutor

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Compare and contrast the structure and function of small and large intestines.

Small intestines is longer (around 6m) and its luminal surface area is grossly expanded using villi and microvilli. It is the main site of action of digestive enzymes, most of which are produced by the pancreas and drain into the proximal part of small intestine called the duodenum. Compared to small intestine, large intestine is much shorter and wider. It's mucosa lacks microvilli and mainly functions in water reabsorption and stool compaction.
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Jernej Z.

Answered by Jernej, tutor with MyTutor

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What to include in your personal statement

Personal statement is a personal account of one's motivation for a particular subject. As such, it needs to be original and include events and thoughts that have shaped one's passion. One useful model when thinking about what to include is what you did, how you did it, what you learned from it and in what way does it demonstrate your motivation for your studies.
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Jernej Z.

Answered by Jernej, tutor with MyTutor

5 views

How would you find out what function a gene has in humans?

If you only know about Mendelian genetics, you could suggest searching the genome of relatives to a person known to have the gene to see if those with the gene share traits. This would be a good time to mention a technique if you know it e.g. PCR. However, it may not be possible to isolate gene function this way because: the gene would need to be active, any trait it contributed to would need to be single locus to really see an effect, it could produce a hidden condition that isn’t apparent in a pedigree, the gene could be essential and thus present in all relatives, the sample size is so low making spurious correlations very likely, this would only be a correlation study and not an experiment that determined cause and effect (experiments requiring human breeding are, at best, inconvenient).
If you are more familiar with genetics you may have other ideas; perhaps a cross-species survey looking for the gene in other species to judge its age and specificity to human life, or knock-out genetics with a closely related species possessing the gene to see if its presence is vital or has a direct effect. The gene could be added to a bacterial genome using plasmids to see which protein is produced. No matter what your answer is, the important part of this question is to take a practical and self-critical approach which plays to your individual knowledge base.
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Jernej Z.

Answered by Jernej, tutor with MyTutor

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