Engineering Oxford & Cambridge University Interview Questions

Past admissions interview questions for Engineering:

  • 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)

  • An ant starts at one vertex of a solid cube with side of unity length. caculate the distance of hte shortest route the ant can take to the furthest vertex from the starting point. (answers in this book)

  • A telephone company has run a very long telephone cable all the way round the middle of the earth. Assuming the Earth to be a sphere, and without recourse to pen and paper, estimate how much additional cable would be required to raise the telephone cable to the top of the 10m tall telephone poles (answers in this book)

  • a thin hoop of diameter d is thrown on to an infinitely large chessboard with squares of side L. what is the chance of the hoop enclosing two colours? (answers in this book)

  • an infinitely large floor is tiles with regular hexagonal tiles of side L. Different colours of tiles are used so that no two tiles of the same colour touch. A hoop of diameter d i thrown onto the tiles. What is the chance of the hoop enclosing more than one colour? (answers in this book)

  • what is the volume of the largest cube that fits entirely within a sphere of unity volume? (answers in this book)

  • what is the area if an n-sided regular polygon inscribed within a circle of radius r? (answers in this book)

  • for a circle inscribed in inside a regular n-sided polygon, what is the minimum n so that the ratio of the area of part outside the circle to the area of the circle is less than or equals to 1/1000? (answers in this book)

  • give a vector proof that for a triangle inscribed within a semicircle, the included angle is always pi/2 (answers in this book)

  • 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)

  • What is the difference between a turbojet and a turbofan? (illustrate on a whiteboard). which has better efficiency and why? (submitted by oxford applicant)

  • How does a helicopter fly? (submitted by oxford applicant)

  • "i had to sit a maths/physics exam on the day of my interview that had a lot of differentiation and integration in it.

  • can you derive the suvat equations?

  • i was asked to analyse the motion of a ballbeing dropped vertically onto the ground regarding its motion after impact. how high it bounce after being dropped from a given height h where the impact had a coefficient of restitution e.

  • If you found these sample interview questions for engineering useful, please remember to submit your questions, post-interview, to

Recommended reading

Excellent puzzle book written by Oxford Engineering professor and based upon interview questions he has set. Hard, fun and very relevant.