1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Oxford Physics Aptitute Test

  1. Oct 5, 2008 #1
    Okay, here's the story:

    I'm currently in high school in the United States, and am in the process of applying to Oxford for physics right now.

    Part of their application procedure includes an aptitude test, which covers a bunch of topics. The math I have no problem with at all, I've done most algebra (save for linear) and trig, and took ap calc ab last year (and scored a 5).

    On the physics side of things, I'm not as good. Here's the list of topics covered in physics on the test, according to their syllabus:

    "Mechanics: distance, velocity, speed, acceleration, and the relationships between them.
    Interpretation of graphs. Response to forces; Newton’s laws of motion; weight and mass;
    addition of forces; circular motion. Friction, air resistance, and terminal velocity. Levers,
    pulleys and other elementary machines. Springs and Hooke’s law. Kinetic and potential
    energy and their inter-conversion; other forms of energy; conservation of energy; power and work.

    Waves and optics: longitudinal and transverse waves; amplitude, frequency, period,
    wavelength and speed, and the relationships between them. Basic properties of the
    electromagnetic spectrum. Reflection at plane mirrors. Refraction and elementary properties of prisms and lenses including total internal reflection (mathematical treatment not required). Elementary understanding of interference and diffraction (mathematical treatment not required).

    Electricity and magnetism: current, voltage (potential difference), charge, resistance;
    relationships between them and links to energy and power. Elementary circuits including
    batteries, wires, resistors, filament lamps, diodes, capacitors, light dependent resistors and
    thermistors; series and parallel circuits. Elementary electrostatic forces and magnetism
    (mathematical treatment not required). Links between electricity and magnetism;
    electromagnets, motors, generators and transformers. Current as a flow of electrons;
    thermionic emission and energy of accelerated electron beams.

    Natural world: atomic and nuclear structure; properties of alpha, beta and gamma radiation; half lives. Nuclear fission. Structure of the solar system. Phases of the moon and eclipses. Elementary treatment of circular orbits under gravity including orbital speed, radius, period, centripetal acceleration, and gravitational centripetal force. Satellites; geostationary and polar orbits. Elementary properties of solids, liquids and gases including responses to pressure and temperature."

    I feel comfortable with a decent amount of these topics, as I've taken AP Chemistry and astronomy courses at a university level.

    However, I never learned electricity, magnetism, or optics, and I've never felt comfortable with forces, friction, machines, work, or power. What can I do in order to brush up and (hopefully) be prepared for this exam?

    By the way, I'm taking the exam on November 5.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2008 #2
    Heh, good luck.

    See how well you do on past A-Level (final year) physics exam papers. As good an indication as any.

    Just out of interest, isn't the tertiary education system in the US meant to be a phenomenal behemoth, dwarfing all and sundry with it's funding and achievements? Is it cheaper to study over here of something? They love foreign students here; they pay full price up front. All the G5 unis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G5_(British_Universities [Broken])) have said that they will stop letting home students in because they're not allowed to charge them as much.

    Sorry for the digression.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Oct 6, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Have you got any evidence that this was said in anything other than passing? Whilst admittedly, foreign students pay a lot of money, directly to universities, remember that the government gives the universities lots too, mainly to pay for the home students to study there! I cannot imagine for one minute that these top universities will be allowed to stop taking on home students: it's just ridiculous!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  5. Oct 6, 2008 #4
    I'll answer this one question at a time...

    Heh, regarding preparatory for general physics, I'm prepared for what I want to do, it's a matter of just these particular areas of physics that I'm not 100% on. I'm MORE than proficient in mathematics, as well as astronomy, waves, sound (I'm a musician as well), etc. I'm also taking Quantum Mechanics at Columbia University (Brian Greene's the professor...) right now, so once again it's just a matter of me not having learned some of the things outlined in Oxford's syllabus. I want to do General Relativity, Cosmology, and Astronomy (I like big things- they tend to work nicely and elegantly together). My standardized testing scores on AP Exams, SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests, and my transcript from when I spent a summer at Stanford all point to me being more than ready to take on the coursework necessary for Oxford, it's just this aptitude test.

    Regarding me wanting to go to Oxford instead of staying in the states, Oxford is THE university to study at for physics. I'm also applying to plenty of schools over here, but getting into Oxford for me, not only is it a huge accomplishment academically but it would also give me hands-on experience with the best professors in the world. And I love Radiohead (:smile:). That's not to say that Oxford is my first choice though (that honor would go to Columbia, followed closely by UPenn and Stanford, and then Oxford).

    And price? Considering an Ivy Leauge degree (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and Brown) costs about $40,000 in tuition alone (after room and board, books, etc., it comes out to somewhere around $60,000) PER YEAR, and an Oxford 3-year degree in Physics costs 13,450 British Pounds for an international student for four all three years, which works out to $23,628.87 USD (thanks to xe.com), yeah it's a huge moneysaver. So basically, I get my degree in three years, it costs a minute fraction of a degree in the US, and I'm pretty sure there aren't any grad schools that wouldn't take an Oxford undergrad degree.

    But back on topic, is there anything you guys recommend in particular? Books, resources, anything? I've been told Schom's guides are pretty good, but I'm not sure which one to pick up....
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  6. Oct 6, 2008 #5
    Not much time to get Brit. books across the pond so I would do a Google search for "A level physics revision" and plough through the materials you find online. Like:

    http://www.s-cool.co.uk/topic_index.asp?subject_id=2 [Broken]

    The main thing is get used to British spelling, terminology, and bias. Then, for instance, you will not get upset when you see the correct spelling of color or excessive reference to British physicists :-)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  7. Oct 6, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Cambridge is ranked higher for Physics than Oxford.

    Where did you get those figures from? Oxford's website states

    Note that these are yearly university tuition fees. You also need to pay college fees, and accommodation and subsistence. There's no way you're going to escape with only pay £13,450 for three years' tuition if you are paying international fees. (Home fees are around £3-4k nowadays). You should really check your facts, as you'll be in for a scare!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Oct 6, 2008 #7
    I'm afraid so. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=182768"

    Excerpt from article: The group, which calls itself the G5, warns that without more money to support its high-quality teaching, its members will turn away British undergraduates and focus instead on overseas and postgraduate students, whose fees cover most of the full cost of their courses.

    hate to be a scare-monger, but I'M SCARED!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  9. Oct 6, 2008 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    That was four and a half years ago: a lot of things have changed since then, including the 'top-up' fees.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  10. Oct 6, 2008 #9
    I don't know if that much has changed. The difference in fees between home and international students is still vast. And I don't think it's beyond these universities to plan long-term. What's a 20-year strategy to an institution 800 years old?

    I'd be surprised if they didn't see the American model and want to mimic its success. But, that's merely opinion and conjecture.
  11. Oct 6, 2008 #10
    All right, that's still cheaper than schools in the US.

    But thanks for the aforementioned link and advice.
  12. Oct 6, 2008 #11
    This might not be very helpful, but if you want to read into some of the Mechanics/dynamics stuff on your own, the textbook "Physics for Scientists and Engineers (with Modern Physics) by Serway/Jewett is PHENOMENAL, at least in my opinion. It's really engaging (not super dry) and has good exercises, plus an online component thing where you can take tests. They're kinda boring, but they are helpful. It's published by Thomson, which I think is now called Cengage if you can get your hands on it. (It's my first year/second year general text)
  13. Oct 7, 2008 #12
    I'm sure Oxford would love to charge international fees to UK students, they could then afford a better vintage of port at high table. But it would not be politically expedient. I went to a UK university a few decades ago and was given a grant so high that I had to try very hard to spend it all. So parents & students in the UK would vote out the government if they were paying tens of thousands a year in fees. They are already very uppity about paying anything at all. I'd be surprised if Oxford were charging US students less than Harvard, all told. You should check out *all fees*. College fees may be very high ... need to pay for the port somehow, old chap.
  14. Oct 9, 2008 #13
    You should really dig deeper into US Financial Aid. Harvard and other peer schools offer huge amount of money nowadays (along the lines of all expenses paid if family income is < $60, you have to pay 10% of family income for $60k-$100k, and then moderate increases after that up to $180k or so). The $50k sticker price will invariable decrease to less than $20k (in my case around $12-$13k).

    I don't have much to offer on the physics side of this thread; in general, though, I think things like MIT OpenCourseWare are useful if you want to have some semblance of structured learning on your own (so you aren't just randomly doing problems).

    By the way, were you at EPGY-Stanford this past summer or just Stanford Summer School?
  15. Oct 17, 2010 #14
    There are some good model answers to these past test which can be found by searching for "matthew french oxford physics aptitude test" in a search engine.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook