Chemical Engineering Personal Statement

This personal statement was part of this student’s successful application to UCL, University of Bath, University of Birmingham and University of Sheffield for MEng Chemical Engineering and University of Manchester for MEng Chemical Engineering with a year in industry. 

As a child, I would listen to enthralling stories of my grandfather tapping rubber at his family’s estate. The local community then was intertwined with the rubber industry as Malaysia was the largest producer of natural rubber in the world. Meanwhile in school, I would learn about the importance of natural rubber and wondered how a thick white liquid could be processed into remarkable products such as latex gloves and automotive parts and exported globally. I realised that complex processes involved in manufacturing raw materials into products were not limited to rubber but included myriad industries such as petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. During Chemistry lessons, I discovered that natural rubber can be vulcanized by adding sulphur to refine its properties, modifying it into an improved material by increasing its hardness and durability. At this point, I realized that vulcanization was only a small part of a larger process to produce rubber as the final product.

Albeit challenging, A-Level motivated me to pursue continuous learning and to be open to new ideas. Physics, Chemistry and Math helped develop my critical thinking and problem solving skills. I became interested with the idea of connecting the theories of chemistry into practical situations in life. The concept of creating products from raw materials using a series of processes drew my attention towards Chemical Engineering. I now look forward to generating processes for the creation of products, leveraging on my problem solving skills and ensuring that products made meet customers’ requirements.

Following up on this interest, I spoke to practicing Chemical Engineers who suggested I read up on Fluid Mechanics for a start. In “The Essentials of Fluid Mechanics”, I read about laminar and turbulent flows and learned how fluid flow rates are laminar at low velocities, represented by highly ordered motion. As the velocity of the fluid increases, the fluid flow becomes more chaotic and is hence turbulent. For example, cigarette smoke rises in smooth streamlines at first, then starts fluctuating in a random manner as it continues rising.

Realizing the importance of learning new skills and challenging my brain, apart from my academic pursuits, I have advanced my interest in music and learned the guitar, while continuing with singing and playing the piano. I joined Sunway Student Volunteers as I wanted to reach out to people of different ages and strata of society. I have helped at the National Zoo where I observed the zookeepers who were committed and took pride in their demanding tasks, a trait to leverage on to achieve my goals. I regularly teach children aged 5-6 at my church. Interacting with them has taught me patience, a strength I can rely on in the future.

I participated in shot put and javelin events and won a few medals for my school. I was selected to be on the netball team, won second place in my school’s cross country run and became one of the top athletes there. Sports taught me to embrace the failures in life and not be discouraged to continue striving. In 2015, as the President of Red House, a school sports team, I learnt that kindness and empathy were effective approaches in relating to people and building team spirit. This role taught me not to underestimate the importance of teamwork.

Born into a multiracial family, I engage easily with people of various backgrounds. Having mastered English, Malay and Hokkien, I have also picked up Spanish. This is the first step in preparation for me to practice in any part of the world. Attending one of the universities in the UK would not only equip me with academic knowledge, but would also sharpen my soft skills. My dream would be to have all these come together when I finally contribute my skills to advancements in industry as a full fledged Chemical Engineer.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Chemical Engineering Personal Statement 3

Roshan Sivabalan is currently a first year undergraduate reading MEng in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester for Chemical Engineering.

Diamonds puzzled me – a substance so small and seemingly delicate, measured a 10 on the Mohs scale, and could survive being immersed in concentrated sulphuric acid unscathed. It is unfathomable that this glass-like structure remains as the only known natural substance that can cut anything and that really intrigued me. After doing some research, I learned that it was the tetrahedral arrangement of the compressed carbon atoms that make the carbon-carbon covalent bonds so strong, giving diamonds the aforementioned properties: making it breakable only under extreme pressures.

However, what I found more fascinating was the application of this knowledge about the chemical properties of diamond; engineers have fashioned synthetic diamonds by replicating diamond’s geometrical atomic structure to make it accessible to the masses. Yet others have created nanodiamonds with good reflective properties, which are used to monitor the cellular-level changes in cancer patients after medication is administered. Innovations like these piqued my interest in chemical engineering; I find myself intellectually engaged by the art of manipulating the structural components of atoms to yield creations capable of improving life for the average man.

To explore my interest in this field, I interned at an engineering firm, and was assigned to the Oil and Gas division. There, I shadowed a chemical engineer involved in the building of megastructures. I obtained valuable insight into the role that chemical processes play in the creation of concrete structures used in offshore drilling. I also learned about the assembly of subsea pipelines which are used to pump liquid natural gas from the oil rigs in Lekas, Malacca. Furthermore, I was trained to identify and distinguish good tenders from those that were not, by taking factors such as cost, materials used and construction period into account.

I enjoy the study of Chemistry – it allows me to understand how compounds exist, react and work with one another; this might allow for the identification of the quickest way to yield a product via application of Le Chatelier’s principle. Moreover, the interplay between Physics and Chemistry is fascinating; I find that I understand concepts better when I employ a multidisciplinary approach to my learning. For instance, I better grasped Hess’ Law – which gives that the total enthalpy change of a chemical reaction is independent of the path it takes – when I realised that it was merely a twist on the principle of conservation of energy, which I learned in Physics. Mathematics and Further Mathematics opened my mind to how numbers, although imaginary, have real world applications. For example, studying probability and statistics allows us to calculate insurance risks and estimate ocean current behaviors while knowledge about projectile motions, gravitational force and multiple other mathematical laws made it possible for us to put a man on the moon. My love for these subjects pushed me to participate in the National Chemistry Quiz and the Mathematics Olympiad. I was pleased to receive merit awards in both competitions as a validation of my decision to read a degree built around that subject matter.

In high school, I had to juggle my academics with my duties as the Head Boy, President of the English Language Society and the Vice President of the Taekwondo Club. These experiences helped develop my time-management abilities, while teaching me to work well in teams, a soft skill vital for engineers. Serving as a member of the Malaysian national debating team for 5 consecutive years in multiple local and international tournaments, trained me to think critically under pressure and I feel this will serve me well in university.

I am confident that my experiences, positive and negative, have prepared me for the challenges I will face in university. I am eager and ready to read a rigorous degree in chemical engineering and cannot wait to begin this exciting new chapter in my life.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

NTU ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship


Image Source

What’s NTU ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship?

It is a scholarship for NTU students that covers the tuition fees and allowance per academic year while your results will be assessed every semester to make sure scholars get at least 3.50 out of 5.00 of CAP (Cumulative Average Point). The scholarship works in this way: half of the tuition fees is subsidized through Tuition Grant and the scholarship will cover the rest. There is no bond to the scholarship whereas the tuition grant provided by Singapore government has 3 years bond with any Singapore registered companies. Do note that this scholarship does not cover your hostel fees, so you have to use the living allowance to pay for that.

Cool! How do I apply?

To apply for this scholarship, you would need to fill in a scholarship application form after submitting your application form to NTU. The form is used for application for other scholarships as well, such as CN Yang Scholarship, College Scholarship, Nanyang Scholarship and NTU Science and Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship during my academic year, so it’s convenient for students to apply for multiple scholarships with just one application form. It requires students to fill in their past results, academic awards, extra-curricular activities and then write an essay not more than 300 words based on one topic chosen from 3 options.

So, what did you write about?

I chose the topic about the values and beliefs I hold strongly to. In my opinion, every essay that you need to write and submit before the interview is extremely crucial. This is the chance for you to express yourself truthfully while convincing the interviewers that you deserve to be awarded the scholarship. For my case, I wrote about the turning points in life that led me to my new beliefs. Students should look for something unique in themselves and write about it, instead of those same old stories about how determined or hardworking he or she is. Therefore, I would recommend people to try out new things and explore more, not only for the sake of applying scholarships but also for your personal development!

Ok! What’s after that?

If you are shortlisted for scholarship interview, NTU will notify you via email so keep an eye on that! NTU Scholarship Section of Financial Aid Office will come to Kuala Lumpur to interview all the applicants from Malaysia. If I am not mistaken, there is only one venue for the interview. My tips for the interview:

  1. Be prepared! Do your homework on the scholarships, the university, especially the courses you applied, and also some common interview questions. (Google! Google! Google!)
  2. Relax yourself by believing in yourself. Try not to compare with others, you must know that somebody will be better than you. That’s why you should focus on your unique personality.
  3. Be confident but not too arrogant. Avoid telling the interviewers that they will be living in remorse for the rest of their lives if they don’t offer you the scholarship.
  4. Be polite to the interviewers. Never forget to smile and thank them for their time in the end! First impression is extremely important.

During my interview, I talked about myself and shared my experience of backpacking in Bangkok. I related it to myself as that is my interest. After that, since I applied for Civil Engineering, they asked me a basic physics question of calculating force acting on a block on a slope. I saw a simple chemical equation on the back of the paper though. My friend who applied for Chemical Engineering was asked to differentiate methane and methene, and guess what – methene does not even exist! Then, they asked me about my favourite building in Singapore and what’s so special about it. Of course, you don’t have to answer the question like a professional; they are just testing your critical thinking skill.

Any last advice for future applicants?

Have faith in yourself and don’t stop believing!

The author, who wishes to be anonymised, is currently an undergraduate ASEAN scholarship holder at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Chemical Engineering Personal Statement 2

This personal statement is part of this student’s successful admission to the University of Cambridge for Chemical Engineering. Due to anonymity reasons, he/she does not wish to have his other offers revealed.

They say it’s the small things in life that we must treasure and that indeed is the case with Chemistry. Every single nano-scale particle matters. Such is the beauty of Chemistry, and by extension its industrial application, Chemical Engineering. I am keen to study Chemical Engineering because I believe its work has a widespread impact on global society and the environment, with the field of renewable and green energy playing an ever more important role.

In lower sixth I wrote a research paper on hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen vehicles, where I examined the chemical workings of hydrogen cells and their green emissions – water only. I have also looked for ways to manufacture the hydrogen needed for these fuel cells in a clean way, finding artificial photosynthesis and electrolysis with photovoltaic cells attractive solutions. I made a presentation for Cypark Resources Berhad while studying in high school, where I was able to learn about their solar plants and crystalline photovoltaic cells. I obtained a distinction in an Organic Photovoltaic Cells course by the Technical University of Denmark, where I explored their cheap costs, flexibility, and easy deployment.

Coming from a state that relies heavily on oil and its by-products, I believe Malaysia’s dependence on non-renewables can be reduced with photovoltaic cells, and in turn with hydrogen manufacture. With abundant sunshine, the efficiency of photovoltaic cells deployed here will be far more consistent than in seasonal countries. Besides that, having a booming oil and gas industry also helps the hydrogen economy and our fossil fuels provide a valuable alternative to producing hydrogen. We can use our fossil fuels for steam reformation processes, converting our rich natural reserves into hydrogen fuel and taking us one step closer to the hydrogen future. The convenient installation of organic solar cells will also bring down the industrial costs, paving the way for widespread hydrogen infrastructure. In future, perhaps nuclear fusion will provide green energy as per Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Future”.

In secondary school, the simple explosive mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, when lit with a burning splinter, ignited my interest in the subject. I find interactions between various chemicals absorbing, especially when such reactions have a large impact on how we live our daily lives. Propene, for example, is dangerous and flammable but when polymerised, becomes the lid of Tic-Tac boxes. A-Levels have taught me how the steam reformation of methane in Chemistry, which produces hydrogen for the Haber Process can be applied to Malaysia’s fossil fuels to generate hydrogen. Physics, on the other hand, has exposed me to semiconductors and their photoelectric properties, and how this is applied in photovoltaic cells. The theory of electron-hole pairs and photo-excitation of electrons is applicable even to organic photovoltaic cells. Mathematics complements this by rounding out my knowledge with the crucial skills synonymous with an engineer’s work.

Outside the classroom, I am President of my college’s Debate Union, and represented my college at an International Debating Championship in 2014. I was also selected for the State Debate Team in 2012 and was Head Prefect of my high school, where I introduced a Regulations booklet, endorsed by the headmistress during my tenure. I speak English, Chinese and Malay, and feel that the leadership, soft skills and languages I learned will complement my skills as an engineer, especially in a global working environment where interaction and communication are increasingly important. I am a Grade 7 classical guitarist and have composed two original piano pieces, one of which I have performed at a college concert.

I believe my academic track record, research, and co-curricular activities have prepared me to pursue a Chemical Engineering degree at a prestigious UK university, to bring the future closer to us; and make it happen.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Oxford Chemical Engineering Application


Hi, this is Christopher Lim Zi Kai from the land of agriculture, Kedah! I’m born in 1994 and am currently 20 years old now. After graduating from SMJK Sin Min with 9 A+,

2A in 2011, I was awarded a bursary offer to pursue Cambridge A-Levels in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. My subject combination was Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Further Mathematics.

However, my life was not as smooth as the life of other scholars you may come across before. In 2012, I was selected to attend the second batch of National Service. During that period, I was involved in an accident which resulted a brachial plexus injury. For your information, it is a nerve injury which causes the loss of feeling and control of my right hand, which happens to be my dominant hand. Back then, I was told by doctors that they had never seen this case before and none of the doctors dared to guarantee that I would make a full recovery

After countless sessions of physiological exercises and treatments from traditional doctors all over Malaysia, my hand managed to recover fully after 1 year. Then, the time for university applications came. Initially, I was reluctant to include the famous Oxbridge universities in my application. However, thanks to a classmate persuading me that I should never give up before trying, I decided to include University of Oxford as part of my UCAS application for Chemical Engineering.

Hence, if you are still feeling doubtful whether to apply to University of Oxford, please do not hesitate any longer. If someone with long-term physical injury like me can go through all the challenges, there is no reason why you don’t stand a chance of being offered a place to study in the university of your choice. Take ACTION now to enter your DREAM university!

What was included in the application process?

As a summary for those of you who are interested to apply to any engineering subjects in University of Oxford, here’s what’s included in the application process:

  1. a) UCAS application
  2. b) Physics Aptitude Test (PAT)
  3. c) Interview Session (may be one or two session depending on your subject and college you apply to)

What did I include in my personal statement?

Here’s a list of the points I included in my personal statement:

  1. a) How I develop my passion for chemical engineering;
  2. b) Why I choose chemical engineering;
  3. c) Awards in various Mathematics Competitions;
  4. d) My experience of brachial plexus injury;
  5. e) My future vision of being a chemical engineer and how can I contribute back to society
  6. f) Strength of my character;
  7. g) Activities which I participated in and what I learnt from them, such as what had I learnt from being the Treasurer of Taylor’s College Toastmaster Club, President of Computer Club in SMJK Sin Min, etc; and
  8. h) Why I want to study in the UK.

PAT and Me

This test consists of 2 sections, which is Maths followed by Physics. Unlike A-Levels, there are no mark schemes available online for the past year questions. At the same time, although the questions can still be solved using A-Level knowledge, the solutions can be quite lengthy.

So, I started off by practicing the specimen paper. Initially, I got a false impression that PAT was quite easy as the level of difficulty of the specimen paper was almost similar to what we learned in A-Levels. However, when I started doing the actual past year papers, I was in a shock to find how tricky the questions could be! The solutions will require you to use the knowledge you learn from Cambridge A-Levels (refer to the syllabus section in the link below for more info) and manipulate some equations or linking theories between a few chapters in order to solve them.

I found out that I was quite comfortable with the standard of Maths question as I had practiced solving questions from Australian Mathematics Competition and Euclid Mathematic Competition before (Yup, I had no experience solving Mathematics Olympiad questions at all) and the questions were more or less on a similar level. The only difference was that NO CALCULATOR is allowed during the test (which made life more difficult)!

However, the Physics part was relatively tougher as I did not have much experience in attempting problem-solving questions. In addition, the Physics section can be further split into 2 parts, the objective questions and the long structured questions. At the same time, my lecturer had not finished certain topics from the A2 syllabus. Hence, a lot of self-study was needed in this aspect in order to achieve the level to solve the questions.

Hence, every time after I completed a past year paper, I would find my classmate who was also practicing the paper, and we cross-checked our answers. If either one of our answers did not tally with the other, we engaged ourselves in an intellectual discussion on how to solve the problem. If we failed to come to a consensus, we engaged our lecturer to discuss and find the solution.

Refer to this link for more information about PAT:

The Moment I Had Been Dreading: The Interview

Surprisingly, a month after PAT, I was invited to an individual Skype interview with two professors from the University of Oxford, one who was responsible for asking me Maths questions and another who was responsible for asking me Physics questions. Personally, I wasn’t expecting to get that far, that’s why I was quite worried about the interview as I did not even have the experience of a mock interview. Nevertheless, I just surfed online and read through how previous candidates performed in the interview. Also, I applied some tips which I got from a senior, which was “Think Out Aloud” – saying out what you are thinking consistently so the professors can understand how you process information and how to help you out when you are stuck.

The interview started off with a maths question. The professor asked me to sketch the function, y= sin (ex). Initially, my reaction was “Oh no, I’m so gonna fail this”; however I just smiled and sketched the shape of a sine function and exponential function next to each other and continue to stare at the paper (Oh ya, you have to prepare your own papers and stationery beforehand). After 2 minutes of silence, the professor asked me if I would like any advice. I accepted his advice and he asked me to analyse the graph from 3 aspects, when x<0, x=0, and x>0. Hence, I followed his advice by substituting x=0 into the equation and managed to get the y- intercept, which was sine 1 radian. Similar to the PAT test, no calculator is allowed during the interview, so I had to convert 1 rad to degrees, using the value of pi divided by 180. The professor then asked me to round off the value to 60 and hence that’s how I obtained the approximate value of the y-intercept, which was 0.866.

After that, I went on to analyse the case where x<0. So, all the values of ex is now smaller than 1 radian. Hence, I know that all the solutions would be positive as they all lie on the first quadrant. The smaller the value of x, the closer the line will be approaching zero from the positive side (Further Maths student should be able to understand what I am saying). On the other hand, for x>0, since the value of ex increases exponentially, the period of the sine function will decreases as x increases. Put together all 3 parts of the graph and you will get:Sin

My next question was all about the interpretation of data from a “Stress versus Strain” graph. Attached is an almost-the-same graph which they showed me:


I was asked about the gradient of the graphs, Young Modulus, and identifying which object belongs to which category. The most interesting thing that I will like to point out is the professor related an item which I wrote in my personal statement, “Thera Band” to the graph. Hence, make sure that you know what you are writing in your personal statement before you go for your interview. Because this definitely proves that the professors have read your personal statement before interviewing you!

Moreover, after I finished answering this question. I was asked 2 personal questions.

1) Why do you want to study Chemical Engineering, apart from what you have written in your personal statement?
2) Why do you want to study in UK?

In conclusion, rather than calling it an interview, it is more of a stimulation of the actual tutorial system in the University of Oxford. The only reason why I can remember the questions is because I really have learnt from the interview. Personally, I felt that the purpose of the interview was not for them to eliminate students’ applications, but to find potential students who they like to teach for the next 4 years. If they find you teachable, you definitely have a high chance of succeeding the interview!

The interview is definitely something worth experiencing in your lifetime and you will certainly learn something from it!

Here’s a link that tells you further on how the admission tutors select potential students:

Christopher Lim is a dynamic young adult who is pursuing Engineering Science- Chemical Engineering in University of Oxford under JPA scholarship. Being a fan of self- development courses and books, you will find him attending seminars after seminars especially during weekends. He is also the co-author of the book “Gen Y : Code of Success”.

Chemical Engineering at Cambridge University


Image Source

1. What was included in the application process to the University of Cambridge?

For all UK universities, you need to apply via UCAS. I believe you all are quite familiar with it. If you really have no idea what it is, here is the link you can follow. However, there are a few things I want to share about the UCAS application:

  • There is no ECA achievements section in the UCAS form. Unlike normal (pre-university) scholarship application forms which allow you to enter your ECA achievements, leadership experience etc, UCAS doesn’t have this section. Therefore, please do include some IMPORTANT ECAs in your personal statement (PS). However, don’t overload your PS with ECAs because your teacher advisor might have included most of them in your reference.
  • For the education section, you can choose to put your grades OR UMS score. If you have impressive marks in your AS or IGCSE, you can choose to enter your score instead of grade.

For Cambridge international applicants, you have to complete an extra form called COPA. This is much more complicated compared to UCAS. You need to fill in your UMS marks for each subject and module you have taken. There is a myth saying that Cambridge will only accept you if you achieved 90+ in every AS module. I personally don’t think this is true because I achieved less than 90 in a few modules anyway. Then, there are another four short essays in COPA. The first one is an optional personal statement (1,200 characters). So, this is the time for you to say why you particularly want to go to Cambridge or a specific college. The next question is: Do you have any specific career plans? (300 characters). The third one is: How have you kept up your interest in the subject you have applied for? (300 characters). And the last one: Is there anything else you would like us to know (600 characters). For me, I put all the things I couldn’t put in my personal statement in response to these questions like my extra interests, hobbies, readings, thoughts etc. After COPA, there is the SAQ. This is pretty simple if you have done your COPA. Just one reminder here: Do send your SPM transcript (original and translated version) here because I didn’t know I needed to do that until the last day.

2. What did you include in your personal statement?

This is the most time-consuming part. I still remember that I included everything from reasons to study chemical engineering, internship, research review, suggestions to current technology, my subject combination, readings and thoughts, ECAs and leadership experience, to hobbies and interests, language abilities, voluntary work, etc. for my first draft, as suggested by this link: Therefore, my first draft had nearly 4,000 words instead of 4,000 characters. Only after that did I start cutting down on my word count, based on the criticisms and advice from teachers, friends, and some chemical engineers. Basically, the last version started with my reason to study chemical engineering and my internship experience, followed by some readings and thoughts, and my ‘mini research’. I then continued with the competitions that I took part in, leadership experience, and charity work. However, I didn’t include the reason for my A-level subject combination. Here are some extra tips for PS:

    • Use full chemical names instead of short form. Water instead of H2O because the UCAS form will read it as H2O and it will look quite messy.
    • Don’t be too ambitious because eventually you can’t cover everything.
    • If you have had the chance to share your thoughts with some university lecturers, it will be nice to put them in.

3. How was the interview session?

I had my interview in Taylor’s College. It was basically like some sort of discussion. The interviewer was quite friendly. He brought me to the interview room and started with the question “why do you want to apply for chemical engineering?” Then he continued by asking technical questions. There were basically three questions, and the interview lasted nearly 40 minutes.

First, he said, as a chemical engineer, you need to deal with scaling up the experiment. He then pointed at the beaker in front of me and told me there is a chemical reaction happening inside the beaker: X+Y → Z. where X, Y and Z are all liquid and this reaction will occur at 60 degrees Celsius. So, as a chemical engineer, what should be your consideration to produce 1 tonne of the product Z? 

First, I commented on the material of the reactor. (This is where SPM chemistry became important – all the alloys and composite materials); then he asked me how I’m going to heat and maintain the temperature at 60 degree Celsius. Since it is 1 tonne, we can’t just simply use water bath or Bunsen burner with thermometer (laboratory methods). I suggested to use an electric heater with a thermostat and stirrer. My internship helped me a lot in this part. I assumed that the reaction uses a catalyst, and hence classified the catalyst as being either an inorganic catalyst or a biological enzyme. I explained the difference in the method used to maintain the temperature for both kinds of catalyst. (I wouldn’t say much here, but the tip is that enzyme is super sensitive to temperature.) I then showed how the electronic circuit should be set up to allow the temperature to stay roughly constant. (It is just a simple op-amp circuit!) He then continued asking me on how to separate the products from the reactant. Fractional distillation was my answer, given that their boiling points are different. I also mentioned chromatography but I didn’t elaborate because he said we were running out of time. Then, he passed me a sheet of maths questions. If I am not mistaken, there was roughly 10 questions in that sheet and all were just normal A-level math questions. At first, I tried to explain aloud how I came up with the answers to the questions. However, he told me: ‘just shut up and continue doing it, you don’t have to explain to me.’ “Oh, Sh*t!” I was thinking; it was so different from what my seniors told me (they told me that I should be interactive and thinking aloud all the time). So, I did the rest of the questions in awkward silence. After that, I told him that I wasn’t sure if my solution was correct, and he just said ‘just do whatever you can.’ I was shocked and just passed up my answer sheet. After that, he told me ‘since we are running out of time, I will ask you a last question. Don’t worry, it is just a short question.’

He then put some geometrical shapes on the table while saying ‘In hot countries like Malaysia, petrol containers are designed to prevent the petrol inside from overheating, so from all the shapes I put on the table, which shape do you think is the best to keep the petrol inside from overheating?’ The shapes he put were: a cube, cuboid, sphere, cylinder, cone, and pyramid.

I thought about it for a while and explained how heat is transferred from hot to cold when in contact (Zeroth law) and how it is the same as diffusion of oxygen across amoeba cell. (I also don’t know how I came up with this answer, but the amoeba randomly came to my mind) and I explained how the amoeba increases the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide across the cell by increasing the ratio of surface area to volume. So to minimize the heat being absorbed, we should decrease the ratio of surface area to volume. I then said that I believed the sphere is the one with lowest ratio because when we get cold, we tend to position our body like a sphere in order to prevent heat from being lost (the air-con inside the meeting room is freezing cold as well, and that might’ve been the reason why I came up with such a solution). Of course, I continued my answer by showing that the sphere is the answer mathematically. However, I told him that, while the sphere might the BEST shape,  it is nevertheless not the most PRACTICAL one, as I noticed that he was attempting to make the sphere stand on the table. I then explained my observation on how hard he tried to fix the position of the sphere and continued with the inertia and transportation problems, before ultimately coming up with a final answer, where I said that the cylinder is the most PRACTICAL answer. After that, he told me that he didn’t expect me to come up with the solution this way. I panicked (and maybe my facial expression showed that too) but he told me that it was a compliment. (I was glad and of course relieved to hear that!) He then moved to his bag, took out his Macbook Air and showed me a picture of a spherical petrol container. He told me that he had seen spherical containers in China, and explained how they built the supporters to support them, and also how they are transported. The interviewer ended by asking about my IELTS results (because I left it blank in my COPA and UCAS) and told me that I MIGHT need to sit for it.  (PS: I didn’t have to sit for it in the end because my offer didn’t have an IELTS requirement!) So, I prepared for my interview by reading and doing an internship. They helped a lot in my interview, and the questions they ask you might be the ones you have come across in your internship! Reading and watching videos as well as taking online courses are very helpful as well. Personally, I loved the experience of applying to Cambridge. Links for some online courses:

4. Did you have to take any tests?  If so, how did you find the test?  How did you prepare for the test?  In your opinion, what are some of the tips & techniques to get a good score in the tests?

The admission test was a horrible experience for me. It was a day after my interview and was held at Sunway College. I took the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). It is a 2-hour test with 2 sessions:

  1. 1 .5 hours multiple choice questions on thinking skills. There are 25 questions that are mathematics and logic based, and 25 critical readings questions.
  2. 5 hour essay related to the course you applied to. For chemical engineering via engineering, you have to choose a topic out of 6 topics provided.

Ideally, I planned to use 45 minutes for mathematical questions and another 45 minutes for critical reading. I started with all the maths and logic questions because my critical reading was not as good. However, the logic questions were quite long and complicated. After attempting all the maths questions, I checked my watch. Half an hour left. I had wasted 1 hour just for the maths and logic questions. I panicked, and tried my best to answer the rest of the paper, which asked about assumptions, flaws, strengths, weaknesses etc. (they should be quite similar to AS Level Thinking Skills, I heard).  In the end, I only managed to attempt another 13 questions. I tried my best to simply fill in the answers but I was only able to fill in few because the essay task started immediately after the MCQ. Basically, I didn’t even have time to just fill in the answers. In the end, there were only 46 questions with answers. For the essay, I chose the topic which went something like ‘in order to solve real-world problems, scientists are not alone, engineers are essential.’ I wrote about how engineers are involved in the development of hydrogen fuel cell, solar panels, food technology, but at the same time how they created problems like making bombs, etc. I personally think reading magazines like New Scientist, BBC Knowledge, and Scientific American did help me a lot in constructing this essay. Reading books related to renewable energy, the environment, and the history of the development of science and technology might help too. I managed to write 1.5 pages for this essay. Try not to be one-sided. (I believed debaters should have no problems in this.) After the admission test, I was quite sure I wouldn’t get into Cambridge. I regretted that I didn’t practise a lot for the TSA MCQ. Therefore, I advise you guys to not overlook it. For practice, you can try this book. It is quite expensive, so try to look for it in your college library. This book has three practice sets (if I am not mistaken) and I only finished one. Explanations for the answers are included, so it is quite helpful. Don’t panic if you didn’t get everything correct because I was informed that the average score for successful candidates is about 35/50 and mine was definitely lower than that. If you need extra practise, you can try A-level Thinking Skills papers 1 and 3.

5. What advice would you give to future applicants?

Personally, I loved the experience of applying to Cambridge. Even though it might be more complicated than applying to other UK universities, I really learned a lot through this application process. Therefore, I hope you all will apply to the University of Cambridge not just for the sake of getting in, but for the learning process as well.

  1. Be prepared for the admission test (TSA)
  2. Don’t be upset if you can’t answer all the questions or get the correct answer for every question because they don’t expect you to get all correct in order to be accepted. (I think)
  3. Don’t be upset if you get rejected. I have a lot of friends who I thought were better than me but got rejected. Therefore, getting rejected doesn’t mean you are not as good; it may just mean you are not as lucky!
  4. Don’t waste too much time in choosing your college by looking at the admission rate because you might get pooled and then accepted by another college anyway.

I hope you guys find this useful!

The author, who chooses to remain anonymous, is a Bank Negara Scholar who will be reading chemical engineering (via engineering) in the University of Cambridge. He can be easily found with a big water bottle (Tupperware) and please save him if he falls into water because he doesn’t know how to swim even though he has told you he does.

Applying to Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (Part 2)

Imperial College London’s Carbon Capture Plant – the centre of its Chemical Engineering Department

Physical Interview

If you do not receive the interview invitation by the end of February, your application can be considered unsuccessful. The admission tutor will interview all short-listed applicants in KL within a few days in the middle of March. One of the good things about this interview is that you don’t have to pay for it, and that it is held in a 5-star hotel. I had my interview on the 13th of March 2014 at Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

Well, it’s normal to feel stressed before an interview, but don’t you worry my peers! The interview was not that tense and awkward, and it turned out to be a nice one-to-one conversation with the admission tutor. My admission tutor was a very friendly guy! The purpose of this interview is for the admission tutor to further learn about your passion, motivation, potential and ability to succeed in the Chemical Engineering course on top of his prior understanding of you from your personal statement.

You are encouraged to do some research/reading to prepare for the interview, but that doesn’t mean that you have to memorise everything. It’s important that you research on what really interests you, so that you can express your ideas naturally and fluently.

Preparations for interview:

  • Read your personal statement and clearly understand what you have written in order to avoid any conflict of ideas between what you have written in your Personal Statement (PS) and what you say during interview.
  • Do further reading/research on things that you have written in your PS – for example, in your PS, you’ve written that you aspire to find alternative sources of energy to replace fossil fuels one day. In this case, you could possibly research on those “alternative sources” that you would like to look for, be it biodiesel or solar energy, and how will they be practical in Malaysia. You may not have to go into too much depth (but if you want to, why not?) on what you have researched on, but make sure that you will be able to express your ideas fluently from what you have read. I encourage this because when you tell the interviewer about your career aspirations (or any other topics), you will have more things to talk about, rather than just repeating the sentences you’ve written in your PS.
  • Make sure you know what “Chemical Engineering” is.
  • Try to think of anything not mentioned in PS that expresses your passion for the course, in order to enhance your admission chances.
  • Be sure of your future career prospects, but if you’re not, at least have a rough idea for the period of interview. You need to show that you are really into a ChemEng-related field during the interview – passionate and motivated. Do research on the jobs, companies, and what you can do with a ChemEng degree. During the interview, tell the interviewer firmly that “I want to work in the XXXX field very much, particularly with company B so that I can be involved in R&D to find alternative sources of energy and blah blah blah…”
  • Do revision for A Levels (or other Pre-U qualifications) Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics.
  • Have a good read of Imperial’s Department of Chemical Engineering’s website and other related Imperial websites. (links given at the end of this article)
  • Watch Imperial’s admission info video (link given at the end of this article)
  • Kacau your seniors/friends who got into Imperial ChemEng for tips! Haha

Tips during interview:

  • Arrive at the venue earlier; mingle with the other applicants to ease your nervousness (perhaps they will share their tips with you). This also gives you sufficient time for some final preparation before the interview.
  • Wear appropriate formal and polite attire – it does not have to be too formal (e.g. tie and coat), but it’s up to you, as long as you feel comfortable. I wore a buttoned formal shirt (without tie), slack pants and leather shoes.
  • My interviewer was very friendly, so do not feel stress and panic, just take it as a normal conversation with a friend.
  • Do not feel shy to ask for hints if you are stuck at certain questions – they love “teach-able” and humble students.
  • Turn the interview session into a discussion – don’t just answer the interviewer’s questions, try to ask your own questions when appropriate, and pay attention to him/her.
  • When you are answering the interviewer’s questions, don’t just give short & brief answers; elaborate on your answers as well, and mention more related topics or issues.
  • Also, body language is very important! Sway your hands or head maybe?
  • Perhaps you could try googling “interview tips” to find more general tips for interviews.

Questions that I was asked during the interview:

1. How are you?

2. Where are you from? How did you travel here (the interview venue)?

3. Which school are you from?

4. What have you been doing after graduating from the A Levels? (FYI, I took my A2 in Nov 2013)

5. We then discussed about the haze in KL in March 2014.

I thought the interviewer should have known, but he asked me WHY the haze was so serious in KL. So I answered that it was due to the burning of forests in Indonesia, with the wind subsequently blowing the dust particles to West Malaysia. (So knowing some current issues might be good for you, because I think it’s not sensible to say: “I don’t know”)

6. Why do you want to read Chemical Engineering in university?

  • Sounds like a lame question huh? But you will have to answer it – not just repeating the lines you wrote in your PS! Tell the interviewer more even though it’s not asked. Like what I mentioned above about further reading/research, this is where you are gonna impress the interviewer!
  • For this question, I answered the interviewer based on what triggered my interest with ChemEng, why I wanted to study ChemEng, explained that I wanted to work in Oil & Gas field, how I want to produce petroleum with lower sulphur content, and that I want to find alternative sources of energy. (this is just a summary, in reality I elaborated more)
  • During this part, as I was speaking, the interviewer stopped me at a few parts, and asked me questions based on what I have said.
  • For example, he asked why I want to produce petroleum with lower sulphur content, doesn’t the current technology already produce petroleum with low sulphur content enough? I then told him about my findings regarding oxidative desulphurization and hydrodesulphurization which are currently being used in industries and it will be better if I can create another process which is able to greater reduce sulphur content in petroleum to minimise the acid rain problem …. ….
  • Another example, at the energy part, initially I only talked about biodiesel, but then he asked me about the potential of having other alternative sources of energy in Malaysia.. I then talked about solar energy and hydroelectric energy – how they are practical in Malaysia, their advantages and disadvantages.
  • So, some readings, common sense and background knowledge could be helpful when interviewer asks you unexpected questions.

7. Here comes the Mathematics question after a round of rigorous discussion with the interviewer:

Differentiate the following function using 2 different methods:

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 10.49.09 AM

Not a hard question if you have studied A2 Mathematics differentiation. I had to demonstrate my workings on a paper to him. While solving the question, try to explain your workings to the interviewer (hence, interaction!). Not going to type out the workings here, so do it yourself!

8. Chemistry question:

The interviewer showed me the following simple graph:

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.05.31 PM

And then he asked me a few questions:

  • Why the concentration of reactant becomes constant after reaching a certain point? Give 2 reasons.
  • What will happen to the shape of the graph if the temperature of the reaction  is increased? Will the graph reach plateau at the same concentration? Why? Sketch the new curve on the graph above.
  • What is the effect of increasing the reacting pressure on the rate of reaction if the reactant is liquid? How about if the reactant is gas? Why?

I had to explain the answers to the interviewer verbally (in addition to sketching the curve on paper). So you have to be knowledgeable on the topic and explain all your reasoning to the interviewer. If you happened to say some wrong answers, just apologize: “I’m sorry that I made a mistake just now, and it should be ….” The interviewer might stop you while you’re speaking, to question your answers, but if you’re confident that you’re right, then just be confident! If I was not wrong, this is AS Level Chemistry.

Everyone got different mathematics and science questions during the interview. The above were the questions I got, and luckily they weren’t too hard for me.

9. What do you expect from studying at Imperial?

10. Why choose Chemical Engineering at Imperial?

11. What do you think about the academic modules of Imperial Chemical Engineering course? What is its uniqueness compared to other universities’?

Well, to answer questions 9 – 11, you need to do some reading on the website of Imperial’s Chemical Engineering Department, and also other related Imperial websites such as the “Life at Imperial” (like what I mentioned in the Preparation part above). After answering question 11, here comes the question 12.

12. From where you learnt about those information?

I then answered Imperial’s website.

13. How did you know that what mentioned in Imperial’s website is true? Perhaps we lied about certain things.

Well for this question I just said that I also read some other educational forums such as the Student Room so that I can see the corroboration.

14. How will you fund your studies at Imperial, if you’re selected?

15. What is the probability of you coming to Imperial, if you’re selected?

The interviewer will request you to bring along a copy of your most recent results in the interview invitation email. The perks of this interview experience was: the admission tutor told me he would make me an offer right after the interview!! However, the official offer came 2 weeks later.

So this is my Imperial ChemEng interview experience this year, but I have no guarantees that things and questions will be the same in the following years. Overall, I hope I gave you a picture of how a Imperial ChemEng interview would be like. Nothing too stressful right? Haha 😀


I wish you all the best in applying to Imperial ChemEng! Hope to see you in Imperial next year!

If you are selected for the interview, it means that the admission tutor is satisfied with your actual or forecasted results and personal statement, and likewise, everyone has bombastic results, so the key to success is your interview!

Work hard to get good grades in your actual or forecasted results. You might just need to work way harder if you get the conditional offer – a few of my friends got a bloody condition of A* for all subjects (but this depends on the applicants’ ability every application cycle and might differ from year to year). I obtained my actual A2 results before the offer came in, so my offer didn’t come with any condition for grades.

Links which you may find useful: 

  1. Imperial Chemical Engineering Department-
  2.  Imperial Chemical Engineering Course Information-
  3. Imperial Chemical Engineering Entry Requirement-
  4.  Life in Imperial-
  5.  Admission – What Imperial is looking for-

Kian Woon copy

Chen Kian Woon is a high achiever who will be pursuing his Chemical Engineering degree at Imperial College London, UK under the Public Service Department (JPA) Scholarship. He loves travelling and now he can’t wait to travel around the beautiful Europe in the next 4 years! One of the most insane things he did in life was not taking the Petronas Scholarship offer to study in Australia, and hence, he is writing this article for you guys today!

Applying to Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (Part 1)

The ABB Control Room – the centre of Imperial Chemical Engineering Department’s Carbon Capture Plant

Image Source

About me

Hello people! I’m Kian Woon from Johor Bahru! I’ll be heading to Imperial College London this October to read Chemical Engineering.

I studied at Sekolah Menengah Sains Muar prior to studying Cambridge A-Levels at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. In 2012, I was offered the PETRONAS Scholarship to read Chemical Engineering in Australia. However, I was determined to study in the UK, so I chose the risky MOE Bursary + JPA Scholarship pathway instead.  Eventually, this choice was worth it afterall as I managed to get into Imperial! (Yay! Hahaha)

I love travelling and now I can’t wait to travel around the beautiful Europe during my next 4 years in the UK!

The application process

Overall, my application process to Imperial ChemEng wasn’t the most troublesome one, but it was quite a ride with lots of waiting, anticipation, nervousness but in the end, happiness.

Why did it involve lots of waiting? Because:

  • Mid-August 2013 – I submitted my UCAS application
  • End-December 2013 – Imperial informed me to wait for an interview invitation
  • Mid-February 2014 – I received an interview invitation
  • Mid-March 2014 – Interview
  • 31st March 2014 – I received my offer (Like finally >.<)

Imperial ChemEng is among the most competitive courses to apply for. Unlike other Engineering courses in Imperial, the admission tutor will short-list applicants for a face-to-face interview upon their submission of the UCAS application – Yes, the admission tutor will fly to Southeast Asia to interview us (I had my interview in KL, Malaysia).

In a nutshell, the application process consists of 2 parts: UCAS Application and the face-to-face interview.

UCAS Application

The UCAS Application is very important, because it determines whether you will be short-listed for the interview, and, of course, it will be evaluated when the admission tutor selects students for admission. There are several things about UCAS (other than personal details and such) that you have to pay attention to:

  • Achieved Grades:
    1. You will need to enter all your subjects and corresponding grades: SPM, AS, IELTS, A2 (if applicable) or other qualifications such as the IB Diploma if you’re not taking A Levels. Be honest.
    2. A Levels subject combination is important: Usually Mathematics, Chemistry, plus any 2 from Physics, Biology, Further Mathematics and Economics are good for ICL ChemEng.
  • Referee Report:
    1. The referee report is a recommendation letter that your mentor in your Pre-U college writes for you, in which they boast about how well you are, based on their understanding about you.
    2. You won’t be the one submitting this letter, as your college will submit it for you after you have submitted your UCAS application.
    3. Good referee report = good impression to the admission tutor.
  • Forecasted Grades:
    1. This will be sent alongside your referee report.
    2. Your subject lecturers will be able to show you your forecasted grades before your UCAS is submitted (If they don’t, you have to ask them!). So, you have to do well in tests and internal exams throughout Pre-U so that they can give you good forecasted grades.
    3. MAKE SURE that your forecasted grades meet the minimum entry requirement set by Imperial ChemEng (or any other universities that you are applying to).
    4. For instance, the minimum requirement set by Imperial ChemEng for A Levels is A*A*A or A*AAA, with A* in Mathematics. If your forecasted grades do not meet that, your application might be disadvantaged.
    5. In case your forecasted grades don’t meet the minimum requirement, try discussing/negotiating with your lecturers to give you better grades.
  • Personal Statement:
    1. Personal statement is where the admission tutors learn more about you beyond the grades and referee report. They want to know why you are interested in the course, your passion, your motivation to study the subject and your activities in high school/college.
    2. Bear in mind that there’s a 4000 characters limit (including spaces), so write your PS wisely and know your priorities.
    3. MAKE SURE to have your personal statement proofread/checked by friends and/or counsellors several times before submitting your UCAS application. This is important to improve your structure and reduce grammatical errors to minimum/zero.

How to Write A Personal Statement

I wrote my personal statement based on the following elements, and I think these are suitable for you even if you are writing a PS for other courses. However, this is not the sole way of writing a PS.

1. What triggered your interest in Chemical Engineering? (1st paragraph):

You may write this based on your daily observations and how those observations made you interested in studying Chemical Engineering – be it food, shampoo, petroleum, medicines, drinks, natural phenomena etc. Here’s an example:

Ever since I started learning Chemistry in secondary school, I have always read labels on products. From food wrappers up to ingredients list in detergents, none of them could escape from me. However, 8 out of 10 chemicals seemed unfamiliar to me. One such chemical is methylisothiazolinone in shampoo. I had this kind of weird habit simply because I am very interested to know how those things work and how those products are made. I even dreamt that one day I could involve myself in the manufacture of those products, especially petrochemical products such as petroleum and polyethylene terephthalate. As I grew up, I realised that I could actually have my dream come true by studying Chemical Engineering.

2. What did you do to further explore your interest and passion in ChemEng? And how did those explorations enhance your interest and passion in ChemEng? (2nd and 3rd paragraphs):

Some examples of things that you might ‘do’– do readings and research on Internet to learn more about ChemEng; read relevant books; attend talks; consult counsellors; enjoy creating experiments; read chemical labels of products; watch related documentaries; like and follow related pages on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter; and perhaps gain an attachment with a current or ex-chemical engineer…. And the list goes on. Taking “research and reading on internet” as an example, you can then elaborate: my reading and research on the course has boosted my understanding and knowledge about what Chemical Engineering is, and I found that Chemical Engineering is really my “cup of tea”. I love the interesting topics in Chemical Engineering courses such as thermodynamics and separation processes…. …

3. Tell the admission tutors about the academics activities (preferably internationally well-known competitions/activities) that you’ve joined, the awards/recognitions you’ve achieved, and how those activities could contribute to your passion in ChemEng, in order to convince them that you could cope with the highly-demanding course in the future. This is also important for them to see your intellectual ability beyond exams. (4th paragraph):

Some examples of activity and award that can be includedyou obtained a Distinction in the UNSW Mathematics Competition; Distinction in UNSW Science Competition; Distinction in Euclid Mathematics Contest by University of Toronto; High Distinction in Malaysian National Chemistry Quiz; High Distinction in Australian Mathematics Competition; Top Student in the school… and the list goes on. Then, you could elaborate on how taking part in those competitions can help you, e.g. – enhance your knowledge in science and mathematics subjects so that you will be able to cope well in the ChemEng course later on; you found your passion with Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics through those competitions and so you are confident that you’ll be in love and do well with Chemical Engineering!

4. Tell the admission tutors about the extra-curricular activities that you’ve joined, and how they contribute to your characteristics, personality and leadership qualities that make you a suitable person to read Chemical Engineering and thus be a successful chemical engineer in the future. (5th paragraph): You can talk about your leadership positions in clubs and societies, further elaborate your experiences and how those experiences prepared you to be a good engineer in the future. An example of text:

In college, it was my pleasure to be the President of the Squash Club and be a part of the Student Council. This enhanced my leadership skills and I learnt to collaborate well with the others to bring success to an event and appreciate the contributions from everyone, no matter how big or small. At the same time, joining the U.S.-Malaysia Young Leaders Summit 2013 boosted my confidence to be a better leader and communicate effectively with people around me. I firmly believe that good communication skills and appreciations of contributions are very important among a team of engineers to make a project successful!

Lastly, your future career aspiration! Tell the admission tutors about what you aspire to do upon getting a degree in Chemical Engineering. (6th paragraph): you can elaborate this in terms of the fields you’re interested in (e.g. Oil & Gas, Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing etc.); any big names that you would like to work with (e.g. Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Shell, BP, Petronas etc.). Also, it would be great if you could talk about how you wish to contribute to the society/environment as a chemical engineer (e.g. research on producing petroleum with less sulphur content; finding alternative sources of energy; biomass etc.).


Kian Woon copy

Chen Kian Woon is a high achiever who will be pursuing his Chemical Engineering degree at Imperial College London, UK under the Public Service Department(JPA) Scholarship. He loves travelling and now he can’t wait to travel around the beautiful Europe in the next 4 years!  One of the most insane things he did in life was not taking the Petronas Scholarship offer to study in Australia, and hence, he is writing this article for you guys today!