Applying to New College - Oxford University

New College is situated in the heart of Oxford and one of the largest and most architecturally striking colleges at Oxford University. The campus combines outstanding facilities with spectacular buildings and gardens set against the medieval city wall. 

As one of the largest Oxford colleges, New College has approximately 430 undergraduates and 360 graduates. New College is an autonomous, self-governing institution. The Governing Body consists of The Warden (the head of New College) and Fellows, with both undergraduate and graduate students represented.

At this time, New College is undergoing its fourth big expansion in its storied history. Named after Chris Gradel, an Old Member who generously provided the core funding for the project, the Gradel Quadrangles received planning permission in June 2018 and will provide an additional 70 student rooms, as well as a flexible learning hub, and a performance base.

Why did you apply to New College?

I decided on New College for a number of reasons. One of the most important was the the large size of the college, meaning I'd be likelier to find people with whom I got on, and less likely to find myself in a close-knit cliquey environment. Factors also worth considering (for me) were the subject specific college fellows (what are their areas of interest) and the intake demographics (i.e. state:private, male:female ratios), although I failed to note the state:private ratio before applying >_<  (Profile 351)

Lots of reasons - it is one of the biggest colleges, it has a reputation for being strong musically and my shallow reason was that it's old (despite being called 'New') and has pretty buildings!! (Profile 34)

New College is a large college, known for its sociable atmosphere and friendliness towards students from other colleges. I thought this would make finding friends slightly easier. Aside from this, the college has a stellar academic record (New College is usually in the top five or so colleges in the Norrington Table) and seemed particularly keen on taking applicants for Joint Schools. 

New College also has a reputation for excellence in Sport, Drama and Music, the last of which was of particular importance to me. I knew, were I to receive a place, I would be able to take part in both a college orchestra and a choir. What's more, being established in 1379 (not new by anyone's standards) it wasn't short of beautiful buildings and curious features. The chapel in particular is awe-inspiring, along with the fantastically preserved if rather imposing old City Wall, dating from around 900. Another fantastic feature of the college is the beautiful grounds, complete with a Elizabethan decorative mound. What's not to love?! (Profile 931)

New College has a great reputation for music and quite a large chemistry group - also it just 'felt right'. (Profile 1069)

What was your general impression of New College and any other colleges you visited?

Nice, old, but possibly a bit posh/tory :( (Profile 351)

New was beautiful and the people there were really lovely. I also visited Wadham which was really nice as well (i hate using the word 'nice', but it was). St Cathereines however looked like a car park - but the people there were very helpful when I realised I was late for my interview! (Profile 34)

Beautiful >_<. Seriously though, they were really lovely-looking, and seemed to be really friendly, cosy places. (Profile 1069)

The college was beautiful although in december it was very bleak. The bar was closed for the duration of our stay but it looked like it had potential in a medieval, mead-drinking kind of way. (Profile 281)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: All first years at New College are housed in the New Buildings, which is where almost everyone stays for interview. These rooms are usually quite large and are mostly en suite. My room wasn't massive, but was a perfectly comfortable size with plenty of storage, HUGE windows looking out onto Hollywell Street and my very own bathroom with a decent shower. Nothing to complain about at all.

- Food: Honestly. The food was probably the worst aspect of the college. It certainly wasn't gourmet, but it was by no means inedible. From the sounds of things, the JCR are working to improve the food, so this shouldn't discourage any prospective applicants. (Profile 931)

- Accommodation: Room I stayed in was surprisingly spacious, and had en-suite bathroom 

- Food: Edible, not delectable. (Profile 351)

- Accommodation: My room at New College was lovely - I had a double bed, a big desk and a window looking out onto the street outside. I also had a big bathroom, which was a massive bonus! No idea about how it compared to the rest of the rooms though.

- Food: On the whole, really tasty, although I can't imagine wanting to eat there every night/morning. (Profile 1069)

- Accommodation: I think it's all been recently refurbished - so every room had an ensuite toilet/shower room. My room was also quite big.

- Food:  Awful. The food wasn't that bad… I was feeling really nervous so I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it whatever it was. (Profile 34)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at New College?

- Tutors: I loved each and every one of them! They were all perfectly nice and not at all as Oxford tutors are often painted. They had their 'interview' moments, when they would ask a tricky question and you'd silently curse them for a few minutes while the silence echoed around you, but by and large they came across as lovely, if slightly eccentric, people.

- Students: Obviously I saw only a minute proportion of the undergrads at New, but all were really welcoming. They would shepherd you to your interviews at other colleges and try to keep you calm on your way to tests etc. Some were a little like your stereotypical Oxbridge student, but they were lovely people nonetheless. (Profile 931)

- Tutors: Really friendly actually.

- Students: Nice. Watched a few Disney films with them (lol) (Profile 351)

- Tutors: I only met one, and that was in the interview - Dr Boyce. I thought she was lovely, very friendly - she made me feel really at ease.

- Students: The college students were really nice - very polite, helpful and friendly - not patronising at all (I think they remember the pain of interview). (Profile 34)

- Tutors: Interesting, friendly, slightly quirky.

- Students: Very normal, if a little geeky. Also very diverse. (Profile 1069)

Did you have to submit any written work prior to the interview?

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] One History essay on Nazi ideology and one English essay on Blake because they were vaguely relevant pieces of good work. (Profile 113)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Yes - two pieces. The first was a timed essay I did in September 2001 on recession and my forecasts for the UK economy based on previous economic data and events. The other was an essay on oligopolistic competition and how it affects the consumer. This piece I wrote with Oxford in mind and was mammoth. I hand wrote both essays for that personal touch :) (Profile 148)

[Music] I submitted the following: 1 marked Bach Chorale harmonisation, 1 marked Contrapuntalish study (was my first time), 1 marked Music essay, 1 marked English essay, 1 composition (Profile 351)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your interview(s)?

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Yes. A three part exam which I didn't and you can't prepare for. The first part was a comprehension exercise on unity of the individual, the second was a mathematical/game theory problem, and the third was a series of word triplets where the task was to differentiate their meaning. The first question I found the hardest as I didn't know what unity was so I sat there for the first 10 minutes scratching my head (which was the point I take it?). The second question was okay but be careful not to make loads of assumptions and if you do write them down. The third part was the easiest and didn't take too long.

I would not worry about the exam though since every one seemed to find it hard and it's only a small part of the information they gather about you. The interviews are far more important. (Profile 148)

[Music] 1 hour Bach Chorale harmonisation exam. It was pretty tough, and I didn't have enough time to harmonise every chord. I suppose the message is not to worry too much about this. People are taught this stuff to completely different standards, and in some schools it doesnt even feature on the course. Clearly do your best, and get some practise in if you can, but screwing up a bit on this isn't the end of the world. (Profile 351)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[Mathematics] at new college everyone who applies for maths has 3 interviews one on one. couldn't really prepare directly for them. colleges differed greatly with questions - some even asked applied maths which I didn't think they could and some were easier to prepare for i think.

The first had some math-related puzzles, a bit of everything really. The second was very specific - lots to do with pure maths which I liked . Second college was Pembroke. Had a whole booklet of questions and asked me what type of maths i liked and picked random questions out of the booklet (Profile 602)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Economics - Not very taxing. Just some game theory type problems (seemed to be very popular with all the colleges) and talked about equity and equality. Politics - Went over the article for the first 5 minutes which was harder then it sounds, then talked about deriving nationality, ideology, and a little on Afghanistan. Philosophy - Just chatted for the first 10 minutes about why I am doing Geography A-level and whether I think more Economists should study it. Then we talked about valuing nature and the intrinsic beauty of the environment. Next we talked about morality and whether I could ever morally justify torturing the innocent. (Profile 148)

I was asked to comment on a page of music (possible composer/form/harmony/etc.), to comment on an extract from a book (about music). Other areas of discussions included my submitted essays/composition, globalisation and its effects on music, national identity and temperaments/tuning. I'd summarise the interview content as:

- Assessment of technical knowledge 

- Assessment of how you respond to new information

- Discussion of your interests (i.e. to show independent interest in the subject) (Profile 351)

[Human Sciences] I found all the questions were really individual to each person, they asked questions on things you had mentioned in your personal statement so that they were hopefully asking something you had an idea about. But, having said that, they asked me some really hideous questions - my first one being 'Is maths something you are born with?' which led on to 'do animals have any awareness of maths?' (which i thought was a pretty evil question!) At New they also asked me to analyse some data (which i tried but failed to do). At St Catherines, I was asked some pretty standard questions such as 'What is Human Sciences?' but also things like 'How are animals different to humans?' (Don't worry if you wouldn't be able to answer some of these because all the interviews were really tailored to each person's A-level subjects and the interests they had mentioned in their personal statement.) (Profile 34)

[Classics and Modern Languages] My first interview was an informal talk with Robin Lane Fox, the Ancient History tutor, at which Jane Lightfoot, the fellow in Classics, was present. It was a short interview and we talked about everything from French to Ancient History to the Classics test I had had earlier that day.

My next interview was an interview in Philosophy with Paolo Crivelli the next morning. I was given a series of questions designed, presumably, for Philosophy beginners, and worked my way through them with him. 

I then had an informal interview with David Raeburn, who had asked specifically to see me about my learning Latin outside of school. He was very complimentary and enormously encouraging. He did ask some more interview-like questions about some of the Greek drama I had mentioned in my personal statement.

Later that afternoon I had an interview designed for students applying for course II (without Latin or Greek) in which I was questioned about the similarities between Latin and the languages I had studied. Others said they had been over aspects of the Language Aptitude Test with the interviewers.

That evening I had my main interview with Jane Lightfoot for which I had to read and prepare an extract from a Latin writer (I got Lucretius). The discussion was incredibly challenging, but, at the same time, truly fascinating. I left the interview feeling exhausted, but knowing that I wanted more.

The next day I had my French test in the morning, followed by an interview with the two French tutors for which I had been given two extracts the day before. We discussed the literary passage in English after a brief talk about my submitted work and then moved onto a journalistic passage which we talked about in French.

I waited until the next day to hear about my interview at another college (St Anne's) and had a really enjoyable interview, similar to the one with Jane Lightfoot, in which I had to prepare passages from two poems. We also spoke in French about the link between Classics and French and the similarities between Greek and French tragedy. (Profile 931)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Read Economist, Spectator, New Statesman, know about some key figures in thought eg Marx. Calm down and enjoy your stay there. (Profile 113)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)]  If you are applying to do PPE you should be well read anyway. If you are not then just read a good quality broadsheet paper everyday, the Economist and then a couple of Economics or Philosophy books. They didnt actually ask me about any of the books I had read but reading them puts you in the right frame of mind and boosts your confidence (unless reading the books might cause you to realise you are actually thick). (Profile 148)

[Classics and Modern Languages] By all means read up, but remember that this isn't a guarantee of a place. It's all too easy to get so wrapped up in Oxbridge entrance that you build up your interviews to the extent that you make yourself incredibly nervous. My advice would be to arrange mock interviews with as many people as possible, just to practice appearing calm and confident - this is surprisingly helpful when you're being questioned. Do bear in mind, though, that these mock interviews will probably be nothing like your interviews in college; they're good practice nonetheless. 

Talk to any friends you have at Oxbridge and just make sure you're well-informed as to what each stage of the process entails. Nasty shocks will only serve to make you nervous. (Profile 931)



Posted

Applying to Queens' College at Cambridge University

Queens’ College is a lively community of students, fellows and staff located at the heart of the city of Cambridge (for over five centuries!), with good access to University departments and to the town. It is famous for its ancient buildings and riverside site and the Patroness of the College is Her Majesty The Queen.  

The spacious, centrally-located site enables the college to accommodate all undergraduates for three years, creating an active and supportive community. Their academics teach in all the major subjects offered by the University. The graduate student body is a large, lively, international group. Those who join Queens' make life-long friendships and many choose to be actively involved with the College after graduation.

Why did you apply to Queens’ College?

I wanted to go to a college with lots of history and impressive buildings - the thought of actually living in Queens' still fills me with disbelief! - so i looked at the older colleges. I found Kings slightly too formidable, and so looked more at the colleges still in the centre of town, but slightly less imposing. In the end, my shortlist was Caius, Sidney and Queens' and the strong theatre at Queens' settled the decision. (Profile 156)

Mainly because my biggest extra-curricular love is dance, and queens' is where most of the dance is at, they have studio space and stuff! also, it's really, really pretty and picturesque! plus, it's central and not far from the architecture department (Profile 355)

I really liked it when I went to the open day as everyone was so friendly. Also, it is one of the largest colleges, and I knew that I wanted to go to quite a big college. (Profile 260)

Process of elimination: colleges in good location, fairly large, tennis team, music facilities. Also Queens' is renowned for its parties. Perfect! (Profile 1042)

A family friend who had been there (in the '70s) suggested that I would fit in. It has a good academic reputation, but lacks the pretensions of other colleges. I liked the English DoS, whom I met on the Open Day, and decided that I would like to spend three years studying there with him - I think for Arts subjects the people that you'll work with will probably be more important than the college itself. (Profile 541)

What was your general impression of Queens’ College and any other colleges you visited?

It was really beautiful and just a lovely environment to live in. it has a theatre (the rows of seats move back making it into a dance studio!), nice big dining hall, and my favourite bit was the tutor-styley court, it's so lovely! (Profile 355)

I found the atmosphere to be relaxed and friendly, and all the students I met seemed very enthusiastic about being there. I had visited another college previously which nearly put me off Oxbridge totally as it was far more traditional and quite intimidating. (Profile 260)

Very friendly people. Large college but really warm environment. Nice bar! (Profile 1042)

It was lovely, very pretty, even though it was cold and grey. They were undergoing building works so the staff kept reminding us that it wasn't "at its best", but it was still nice. Everyone was friendly but purposeful, which I liked. (Profile 607)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: The room I stayed in was huge and in the older group of buildings in Queens'. There was a living room and a bedroom with a bathroom shared with the room next to it. The bedroom had a sink and the living room had desks, chairs and closets (but i dunno how much of that belonged to the person occupying).

- Food: Edible but not great (Profile 156)

- Accommodation: Most of [the rooms] are arranged up and down staircases, the rooms are a good size (quite big), they have basins, but loos and showers are shared. (Profile 355)

- Accommodation: Rooms were a reasonable size and standard, but not as luxurious as those that friends of mine had in different colleges. Bathrooms were shared rather than en suite. (Profile 260)

- Accommodation: Only had a brief look at rooms. Seemed, er, 'functional'.

- Food: Edible but not great (Profile 541)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at Queens’ College?

- Tutors: Very friendly and forthcoming - there was no evasiveness and straight before the interviews, they helpfully reassured us by telling us that most of us wouldn't get in.

- Students: Most of the applicants i met were from state schools which surprised me - i expected more public school people. All very friendly and seemed to be as nervous as i was. (Profile 156)

- Tutors: really lovely! the non-academic tutor at my interview was a bio-chemistry tutor from queens, she was really encouraging and motherly! queens' architecture tutor is Dr James Campbell. he can seem abit sharp at first (i was kinda thrown back when i first spoke to him at the open day), but afterwards he's more encouraging and actually he's really friendly i felt more used to him at the interview after speaking to him at the open day, so maybe that's a good idea, even if only briefly

- Students: the ones I met were all really friendly...(and understanding!..since all us interviewees were white with fear at breakfast!) (Profile 355)

- Tutors: They put me at my ease during the interview and were much more normal than I had expected.

- Students: When I went to the open day, all of the students went out of their way to talk to those of us visiting the college. They were all very friendly, and keen to persuade us to apply to their college. (Profile 260)

- Tutors: I was directed to the door of an office, from which they leapt out... Very friendly, relaxed, unpretentious. But still prepared to ask probing questions.

- Students: I only met two (English) students on the Open Day. Can't really comment in general. (Profile 541)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[Archaeology & Anthropology] 

- The interview: Showing an interest is far more important than knowing details about the subject.

- Make sure that you can confidently and convincingly explain why you want to do a subject that you have probably never studied before.

- Show a willingness to analyse what you hear and draw conclusions from this - be confident enough to suggest what you think, even if it disagrees with the interviewer! (Profile 156)

[Architecture] I was told not to waste time praising cambridge or the course (saying stuff like 'i want to go to cambridge coz it's a best educational institution in the country!!'), they know they're good, just focus on telling them about you. also, don't feel that you need to repeat stuff just to fill up space. (Profile 355)

[Economics] Apply even if you are not sure it's what you want. You don't have to go if you don't want to. Don't be put off by parents or teachers telling you that other universities will reject you if you apply to Oxbridge. I was accepted by all my other universities even the ones that I was told would definitely reject me because I'd applied to Cambridge. (Profile 260)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[Archaeology & Anthropology] I was asked why i had chosen not to take a gap year (a standard Queens' question this year i hear). Then the conversation turned to my interest in history - i was asked why i wanted to do arch and anth and not just history. The conversation was very much dictated from this point on by the subjects i had chosen to talk about on the Cambridge Supplementary Questionnaire Form - so i would advise you to remember what you wrote and have something to say about each topic! This was mostly about kinship and religion and ritual - the first of which also brought in the admissions tutor in the room, who happened to specialise in biology. Altogether very friendly and interesting! (Profile 156)

[Architecture] I just had one, but with 2 interviewers. I was made to feel really welcome and comfortable right for the start. (It) kicked off with a nice general chat, then looked at my portfolio and discussed it. then the academic tutor showed me some architecture stuff and we talked about it. also discussed some contemporary issues (iconic architecture).There was non-academic stuff as well, they do ask you about your extra-curricular activities, but it was mainly focused on architecture. The tutors push you, but in a nice way!..(they're encouraging). the questions do get challenging, but i felt more like i was being guided through a difficult question, rather than being tested. (Profile 355)

[Economics] I was asked lots of questions about many different aspects of economics, mainly based on topics covered in the A-level economics course. Some were just testing my knowledge of the syllabus, others were more challenging and required more thinking about. They didn't ask me any questions about why I wanted to do the subject, and only a few non-academic questions. Before the interview I was asked to specify particular areas of economics that I was interested in, which helped me when I was preparing for the interview. (Profile 260)

[English] I thought it went quite badly really. One half-hour interview with the two Directors of Studies, who both seemed nice enough but were very quick to pick me up on weak points and challenge my opinions. Discussed a short poem ("Love Song" by William Carlos Williams), talked about things I'd mentioned in my personal statement and supplementary application questionnaire, asked me if I had any questions. One asked questions while the other took notes, and they alternated. The room was lovely though - it had big comfy sofas and hundreds of old books! When I came in, the younger one was bouncing on the sofa. It was a fun atmosphere. (Profile 607)

[Natural Sciences, Biological] Queens' - What are action potentials? How are they generated? How do they pass along the axon? How do synapses work? Asked detailed questions on biology coursework.. Do you want to take a gap year? Queens' are very keen on gap years. Newnham- What areas of science are you interested in? I said neuroscience, so we got talking about mental illnesses(and books I had read recently) Why not medicine?(because of my work experience at Barts') Interview 2 Got asked about my work experience in a stem cell lab, and then about genetics (which we have't done since GCSE)...what is a gene? If i gave you a test tube full of DNA, devise an experiment to show that it contains genes....Why is DNA the genetic code? Why not proteins? Then she showed me an electron micrograph (it might have been a cell from the adipose tissue...) and asked me what it was. (Profile 233)



Posted

Applying to St. Anne's College, Oxford University

St. Anne's College - Oxford University

Since its founding, St. Anne’s College has been about widening access to an Oxford Education. St. Anne’s allowed women from the UK, and numerous other countries to study at Oxford University, whilst living more flexibly and affordably at home or in lodgings across the city. 

Earlier this year, the Governing Body of St. Anne’s reaffirmed the College’s purpose to be a diverse and inclusive community contributing to the University’s commitment to lead the world in education and research, while maintaining the College’s legacy and future. St. Anne’s aims to be the home of choice for the brightest and most ambitious students, including those from underrepresented groups and believes that difference should be respected, promoted and celebrated as the diversity of people is a rich source of learning for everyone.

Please click here to read about St. Anne’s purpose driven mission.

Why did you apply to St. Anne’s College?

(a) My school had sent someone to St Anne's two years before me.

(b) It was supposedly one of the best for English.

(c) Tutors sounded cool. (Profile 386)

Absolutely loved the college - although obviously not so aesthetically pleasing as some of the more traditional colleges, it had a really great atmosphere and everyone I met was so friendly. Also pleased that there is enough accommodation for everyone to live on site for three years (student house hassle didn't really appeal), that there are small kitchens if you don't fancy hall food and a very good chance of an ensuite in the second and/or third years. (Profile 656)

Location- in the suburbs, so near country and city centre.

Size- allows for a large diversity of clubs, and societies.

It was personally recommended to me by a friend. (Profile 37)

Modern, friendly, a bit more cosmopolitan than the others. (Profile 69)

It's modern, so not as stuffy & showy-offey as some of the other colleges, and doesn't have as many archaic traditions. It's also quite big. (Profile 454)

Recommended it by several friends from Oxf; reasonably cheap; very chilled out and down to earth people; chances were better given my background in the Sciences (this is of course not something you should mention to interviewers!) (Profile 419)

What was your general impression of St. Anne’s College and any other colleges you visited?

I only visited St Anne's. It seemed nice. Quite ordinary and not at all like the older colleges (which in hindsight are absolutely stunning). (Profile 386)

Liked the people, though wasn't fortunate enough to meet any geniuses. Thus I concluded you needn't be one to get in. The library was AMAZING, very big, but musty. Apparently St Johns and St Anne's have the two biggest libraries of all the colleges. It is one of the poorer colleges tho, so it's smaller than some (e.g. Christ Church, St John's) and certainly not as pleasing to look at. (Profile 419)

As I've said previously - really really nice. Not particularly attractive from the outside, but nice grounds and buildings inside. (Profile 656)

Excellent atmosphere, undergraduate helpers really friendly, interviewees not the typical 'oxford type' that are present in the many rumours (Profile 37)

St Annes was very nice - really nice atmosphere, nice people (I made some great friends at the interview - so don't worry about not liking anyone there - you will!) The college was modern, and I liked that. (Profile 69)

I really liked St Anne's. It wasn't very pretty, like some of the other colleges, but everyone was really down to earth, including the people interviewing me. Some people from other colleges had horrible interviewers. (Profile 454)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: My room was quite big. It had lots of furniture in it, and a giant wardrobe. I had to share a toilet and bath with everyone else in my building. There were sadly no showers.

- Food: Good. There was a wide selection, with chocolate cake & yoghurts almost every day. You can't complain - it was edible & free. I don't think I spent any money on food all week! (Profile 454)

- Accommodation: It was a pokey room. The window was stuck open and it was December. But now I'm here (in my final year) I've had some pretty good rooms. If you want to live the life of luxury don't come to St Anne's. But you're only a student once, and it would be a shame not to live like one!

- Food: Edible but not great. Food is food. I mainly cook for myself anyway. Oh, note: St Anne's fry ups are wonderful at the time, but catch up on you later! (Profile 386)

- Accommodation: Room was really nice, although freezing and I was kept awake by the wind banging trees against the window both nights. Heaps of toilets, showers and baths everywhere.

- Food: Awful - I think I'm going to get skinny next year! (Profile 656)

- Accommodation: Size of room was moderately big, with large window and a gorgeous view of the College grounds. All facilities were good.

- Food: Excellent (Profile 37)

- Accommodation: The rooms weren't that great, but quite clean and liveable, although I had to go down three flights of stairs to get to a decent shower!

- Food: Good. It was ok, but a lot of the time I was a bit too nervous to eat! (Profile 69)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Anne’s College?

- Tutors: Two of them were very relaxed and put me at ease. One tutor (who I now know to be really lovely) was quite harsh. The tutors though are not there to freak you out. They want you to be comfortable coz that's when you'll perform best.

- Students: I met a few of them. They were OK. Helpful and informative. (Profile 386)

- Tutors: Fantastic - quite radical and I felt that not getting to be taught by them would have been really disappointing.

- Students: All of them were lovely, but one student in particular (a 2nd year lawyer) really calmed me down and gave me her mobile to tell her how it all went because she wasn't going to be on duty during my interviews. (Profile 656)

- Tutors: Really friendly and really helpful. I treated the interview as more of a formal chat. It is a chance in a lifetime to talk about something which interests you with a tutor who knows so much about it. Just try and enjoy it!

- Students: Mostly friendly, and on the same 'wave length'! Great people who are in the same boat. (Profile 37)

- Tutors: Very nice, I only really spoke to them during my interviews, but they werent as scary as I thought they would be.

- Students: Very friendly and willing to help. (Profile 69)

- Tutors: Very friendly. The modern languages woman was a bit patronising, though.

- Students: They were also very nice. They were being paid £5 an hour to help, though. Some of them tried to give us advice and to say that the interviews aren't that bad. That's all very well, but you can't be lulled into a false sense of security by them; after all, they got in. (Profile 454)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[English Language and Literature] The form: Just be honest, and try to show some passion for your subject. That's what it's all about.

The interview: Relax. Make sure you've read some interesting things recently. Don't over-prepare though. Just open your mind and make sure that your passion for literature comes across loud and clear! (Profile 386)

[Human Sciences] Best advice is to just practise fielding awkward questions, fired at you by a kindly parent! Just practice talking, and thinking out loud. You can never prepare for the actual questions as there are an infinite number you could be asked. But try to prepare for the obvious ones which they usually ask first to get you settled. i.e, why oxford and why this course. Also go through your affirmations in your head, having an air of confidence in yourself and a belief that you can do it is excellent. If the interviewer questions your point, be prepared to defend it, and justify it if you are sure of the point you made. Never back down if just because he/she is an oxford proff.! (Profile 37)

[Law] I read a couple of bog-standard books about the legal system that I had stuck on my personal statement, and also (rather cynically) a book written by one of the law tutors at the college that I had got my Theologian (!) boyfriend to get out of the Social Sciences library. Nothing I did helped at all, or had any bearing on the interview - I felt like I had wasted my time. The tutors were at pains to point out that no legal knowledge was needed to do well in the interviews, which made me relax loads. (Profile 656)

Did you have to submit any written work prior to the interview?

[Human Sciences] 2 essays. 1 from Eng lit. A-level on a book called 'The Great Gatsby' looking at the social context of the jazz age. This showed awareness of other cultures. 2nd was titled 'Jurassic Park;Technically feasible, morally acceptable?'. This weighed up the pros and cons of cloning, bringing the important ethical element into the debate, while questioning the scientific aspect. (Profile 37)

[English Language and Literature] Two essays I think. One was on a little known poet, the other was on Mark Twain. I submitted them basically to show off my written skills. So choose a couple of good uns.

[Oriental Studies] I was asked to submit 2 pieces of written work in any subject I liked. Some friends from Oxford advised that Islamic Studies essays would show motivation, so I wrote one on Quranic Law and another on 'the sunna of the Prophet', and got them marked by the RS Dept of my old school. (Profile 419)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[English Language and Literature] One of them asked me to analyse a poem. The other two were just more general questinos. They want to see how you think. (Profile 386)

[Human Sciences] Is shopping the new religion? How can we tell by looking at stone tools and metal objects from the ancient civilizations and hunter gatheres, that they had a language? How important is a nuclear family in today's society? Is it ethically right to manipulate a feotus? How would this effect the gene pool of society? Many more which I cant remember… (Profile 37)

[Law] I had two interviews with two tutors that lasted 40 minutes each. They both had a 'helper' who were postgrads I think helping them out. They were running late for both interviews - I had to wait 40 minutes outside before the first and 20 outside for the second.

First one I was given something to look out outside about contracts and things like invitation to treat. All legal terminology was explained on the sheet, then we had to prepare responses to 5 different scenarios. This was the first thing we covered, then there were a couple of ethical questions that didn't really have any answers and then I was asked to define 5 pairs of words and explain differences between them. Second one I was given a sheet about the UN and a new country and I had to explain whether I would have allowed it to be part of the UN or not, then we had a debate about the smoking ban. The second one was much harder and I thought I'd done really well in the first but I honestly couldn't tell how the second one went - the interviewers were much more aggressive. (Profile 656)

[Mathematics] I was asked about why oxford and maths, what i enjoyed at A-Level, and about teaching (as thats what I want to do as a career). the conversations were mainly on maths tho, these included integration, differentiation, curve sketching, balls bouncing (mechanics) and a bit of probability (Profile 48)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

[English Language and Literature] If you *genuinely* love literature, come to Oxford, make the most of it and you'll have a great time. It's such an honour to be taught by tutors who are the best in their field. (Profile 386)

[Human Sciences]  Enjoy it, and live your subject for about 4 months before, by background reading and news items. Create a cuttings file, with every useful bit of info you may have gathered...it consolidates everything. (Profile 37)

[Oriental Studies] Start planning early. If you don't get in, it's not the end of the world. At the end of the day, success usually depends upon how hard an individual tries rather than which institution he ends up in. If you’re doing it for kudos, don't bother. (Profile 419)


Posted

Applying to St. Catherine's College, Oxford University

St. Catherine’s College, often referred to as Catz, is Oxford University’s youngest undergraduate college and one of its largest and most diverse communities. It treasures the traditional values of Oxford college life, but pursues a distinctly modern agenda.

St. Catherine’s is situated in an ideal location: very close to the city center, yet surrounded by meadows, parks and water. The Science Area and many University libraries and departments are nearby (including English, Law, Economics and Politics).

Catz offers a wide range of subjects, with a broadly even split between science and arts. The college is proud of its place at the forefront of innovation, research and contemporary culture. Its modern architecture (Grade I listed) and restful open spaces give the college a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Cambridge doesn't do history and politics, and I didn't want to do straight history or their social science course because I'm not interested in sociology or psychology particularly. I was all set for Cambridge though, until i went there and realised i really hated it, it was so small and unimpressive and i just didn't like it, so started looking at Oxford instead. (Profile 809)

Oxford does PPE cambridge does an inferior sps with sociology which sounds very boring. Oxford is a bigger city and generally like it more. (Profile 152)

For Comp Sci at cambridge you need to do Natural sciences in the first year, or 80% maths (something along those lines) and i didn't want to do that. (Profile 699)

Both oxford and cambridge courses start out very general in the first two years which appealed to me as i wasn't sure which field of engineering i was most interested in and so thought was best to go somewhere where i could look at different aspects. Modern engineering problems tend to be very diverse and require an understanding of all types eg civil, electronic, mechanical etc, so thought a breadth of knowledge would be useful later. (Profile 751)

Why did you apply to St. Catherine’s College?

I wanted to go somewhere big and modern (so all the plumbing worked!), and St Catz is cool and outside the town, but nice and big. (Profile 809)

St Catz is less formal than the other colleges, it also seemed more international (Profile 1028)

Knew people from my school had been there - i don't mean this in an etonian type "oh we always get in there" way, more in the sense that someone else has done it before so its do-able. plus st. catz has the biggest bar of all the colleges and prob one of the best social scenes, very sporty too which i'm into. (Profile 751)

3 years accomodation, very close to computing labs, and reasonably close to centre of town. (Profile 699)

Modern, forward-looking and very laid-back (Profile 366)

Had spoken to a tutor there and heard that they were lacking german applicants (Profile 286)

What was your general impression of St. Catherine’s College and any other colleges you visited?

Interviews were the first time I had been to Oxford, and when I first arrived I thought, 'Why the hell did I apply to St Catz?'. But once you've been there for an hour, you realise it is an absolutely wonderful place with a great atmosphere. The architecture you thought was horrible starts to look amazing, so I'd recommend it to anyone. I visited certain other colleges when I was there, and they were no where near as friendly as St Catz. (Profile 497)

It was lovely, though i did go to an old college and it was magical St Catz was nice because it was so well set out and organised. (Profile 809)

St Catz - nice, modern, I liked the JCR; St Johns - pretty, but somewhat shabby inside - same for merton (Profile 699)

Very relaxed and laid back (not like most of them i think). All the staff and students, applying and already there, were very friendly. Not as impressive looking as some of the other colleges but the atmosphere is the best i've seen. There were a lot of state school applicants there. (Profile 446)

Really nice place. Some call it a concrete block. I like it anyway it the people who make the place not the buildings. (Profile 152)

I loved St Catz - it has very modern architecture that I couldn't get enough of.

University College (my second college) was also really nice. Very old and big buildings. (Profile 1028)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: My room was really nice, it was quite big and had windows all down one side with very exciting blinds in them. There was a sink in there too. The staircase was nice, there was a kitchen shared by about 10. The common room had a massive TV and a games room with poole and stuff in which was cool.

- Food: Yes, it was very nice, well i say nice, it was standard food considering they were catering for so many people, but obviously some of it was a bit gross. In general though they gave you loads and it was nice. (Profile 809)

- Accommodation: All modern buildings, 1st year accomodation is a bit basic, 2nd year is pretty swish with ensuite showers/toilets and your own fridge

- Food: There is hall, which is a 3 course meal for about 3 quid, which is bloody excellent (where i live in ripoff south london, £3 wouldn't buy half a damn sandwich, so i was well impressed), then there is scaf which is canteen style food where you choose, generally less healthy but decent  (Profile 751)

- Accommodation: Big rooms, with a washbasin in the room (some people had smaller rooms with no washbasin). Lots of storage space, bed, desk, couple of chairs. One wall was entirely a window, which was nice, but cold (I think my heating wasn't working, as no one else found their room cold).

- Food: Pretty good, with a wide choice. Self service breakfast and lunch, and served dinner. (Profile 699)

- Accommodation: Rooms were big. They were built in the sixties and i'm pretty sure that all the original furniture is still in there. the bed was comfy but quite low off the floor, it didn't cause any problems though. They all had internet and phone connections and mine had a sink.

- Food: Good (Profile 446)

- Accommodation: The room was small, but had a huge window filling an entire wall (yes - floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall!) that looked over the quad, which made up for the size.

- Food: Excellent (Profile 497)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Catherine’s College?

- Tutors: They seemed really helpful and approachable, and pretty normal which was shocking!! They were friendly and nice.

- Students: They seemed nice too, very helpful (though they were being paid to be so) and gave us lots of information and help which i frequently needed. They organised a few things to do in the evenings too which were fun. Seemed to work hard though.  (Profile 809)

- Tutors: Friendly, not at all intimidating.

- Students: Somewhat disinterested, but not unpleasant. (Profile 699)

- Tutors: Very friendly

- Students: Very normal and down to earth. No, really! (Profile 366)

- Tutors: The first one (the CompSci tutor) seemed quite scary! But I think that was just his technique.. the others were really friendly and helpful.

- Students: Didn't seem to do much (no offence). At many other colleges, the JCR committee seemed to arrange loads of things for applicants to do, but they didn't. They didn't speak to us either and just sat by themselves watching videos... We didn't really mind though! (Profile 497)

- Students: college has a good vibe, generally always up for a bit of a party or "shirt lash" (Profile 751)

What questions were you asked during your St. Catz interview(s)?

[Engineering Science] all applying maths and physics to problems, writing expressions for things a bit of circuit analysis- there was no chit chat, just hello- sit down, now solve this.(Profile 751)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Cold War questions, democracy, human rights, do we have free will, morality questions. Game theory. (Profile 152)

[History (modern) and Politics] In the history interview they asked me about the essay I'd submitted (about Germany) and the period in general and in its context, and linked it to the rest of Europe and the future of Germany. It was ok, felt good because it was about something I was comfortable talking about. For politics they asked everyone about the same two areas, world government and why we obey the law. I thought this was hard and kinda harsh, it seemed more at home in a law or PPE interview. But everyone was in the same boat so it wasn't so bad.

They asked about the ways leaders try to unify people (I started talking about politics and Sarah Palin and then realised it was a history interview), and about why communism is so repressive. For politics they asked me about the EU which I've never studied so that wasn't too good, and about traffic lights, should we go through red ones. The questions didn't seem too bad which made me think they were going easy on me and no way would i get in. (Profile 809)

[Modern Languages] I was given a piece of literature, either in English or the target language, given 20 minutes to read it and then asked questions that tested my analysis of it. Then we had general conversations in the target language for about 10 minutes, and discussed other literature I’d read, either in english or a foregn language. (Profile 286)

Do you have any advice for future Catz applicants in terms of preparation?

[Engineering Science] Have all your A level game down - thats all there is to it. The interviewers are not trying to "catch you out" they want to find out how good you are, which they can only do by asking questions based on what you know. So all the maths problems will start with something based on A level material and then build on it. Dont worry about slick answers to stuff like "why do you want to study engineering"- the tutors are academics, ie they don't care about banter/chat just how well wire up your neurons are - stick to the maths and physic theory. (Profile 751)

[Computer Science] Make sure you have answers for the obvious questions - why Oxford, why this course. Try lots of maths based questions - look at the ones on the oxford computer science website, as i think one of them actually came up in my interview. (I didn't do this much, but it would have been much easier had I done so). (Profile 699)

[History (Modern) and Politics] Read around your A level topics for history, particularly if you send in a school essay. Make sure you've read all the books you mention in your personal statement and know at least something about areas of interest you've mentioned. Think about arguments and counter arguments for things you read and research. Don't worry too much!! (Profile 809)

[Modern Languages] Write down any foreign literature you’ve read/studied as this gives thyem something to talk about in the interview, approach the foreign language speaking part as u might do a oral exam - show off how fluent you are. (Profile 286)


Posted

Applying for Natural Sciences (NST) at Cambridge University

For a full list of science subjects offered within Natural Sciences (NST), please visit: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/natural-sciences

Natural Sciences (NST) is the framework within which most science subjects are taught at Cambridge. The course offers a wide range of physical and biological science subjects from 16 departments in a unique and demanding framework. A broad first year is combined with increasing specialisation in the second year and the possibility of total specialisation in the third year.

The breadth of the course reflects the blurring of boundaries between the different sciences and before committing to one department, students study a variety of subjects, some of which may be new. This allows students to change their mind about which subject to specialise in.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*A*A
- IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

The NatSci course was perfect for me - they don't do it at Oxford. I visited both and they are equally stunning places, but the course decided it for me. (Profile 327)

More flexible course. Oxford´s bio course did not seem too different from other unis, plus i had lived in oxford for some time and not everything people going to or teaching at oxford told me was positive. (Profile 328)

The Nat Sci course is very flexible and broadly based and that appealed to me over Oxford's more specialised courses. Preferred the Cambridge town environment - architecture, the Backs too. (Profile 589)

Prefered the Natural Science course at Cambridge, I can continue both physics and chemistry, along with maths and biology. (Profile 3)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your interview(s)?

Yes, a one hour test before the interview - those with interviews in the morning took it afterwards. I simply reread my revision notes for AS biology (I chose the biology paper, they ask you which one you want to do there and then). (Profile 327)

I had to take an exam during interviews.A 60-min written test after 3 interviews. Got some VERY weird questions in it, at least that is what I thought, and my performance was awful. Estimate the time taken to travel from London to Sydney by direct flight,Estimate the no. of main courses that a chef in a busy 100-seat restaurant would have to prepare at one night. If you had the same feelings as I do perhaps apply to another college(assuming their tests from each year are similar). Others include, plotting a graph in y and x axis from one which is given in y and x^2 axis. Integrate tanx with respect to x. (Profile 918)

How was the interview process?

Both interviews were in the afternoon, after the test (so some of my nerves had gone!). 1st interview: there was a chair outside the room so I took the hint and sat down. The time of my interview came and went and I nearly got up to knock (don't do that!) when he came out with the previous interviewee and asked me to wait a few more minutes. Then he came out, gave me a bone-crushing handshake and an enormous smile and ushered me in. I sat on a comfy green sofa, he sat on a swivel armchair and the interrogation began. He started off by telling me that this was my general interview and so we would talk a bit about my outside interests aswell, and that my second interview was subject-specific and would be shorter. This was news to me as I had not heard any details about my interviews. His first question was a blessing - "what aspects of biology do you enjoy most and why do you want to study here?" but one at which I unfortunately blanked. I remember mentioning biochemistry, which I do love, but nothing else. Disaster averted, I concentrated like mad for the rest of the interview. If you feel yourself slipping under a wave of "oooh, I'm in Cambridge...", give yourself a mental slap and remind yourself why you're there. It was technical, but never daunting. He asked me to describe protein synthesis and half way through I blanked again and realised I was describing DNA replication instead. I made several other stupid mistakes during the interview, but he didn't mind, they appreciate that you are nervous. I came out of the interview buzzing, it had gone so well. I was able to reassure the next (very nervous) person that he was really friendly. In total, it lasted 40 minutes (should have been 30) and I only had 20 minutes before my next interview. By this time it was dark and I couldn't find the room! I was late but then so was the interviewer. He greeted me and we worked through a problem involving DNA separation and the time taken for them to rejoin. I didn't reach the actual answer (he said no one so far that day had managed it) but I think I got quite close. Another discussion then followed over the shape of a graph for incidence of cancer in the population, and why the lines for male and female were different. Then a rather bemusing question of "if you were powered by batteries for a whole day, how many would you need and how much would they weigh (at 100g a cell)?" Quite. I had zilch nerves for this one and it only lasted 15 minutes or so. (Profile 327)

I had 2 interviews which consisted of both general and subject questions. My interviewers were very friendly but I was too nervous during the first one to really appreciate that. The worst thing was that we had to wait in a freezing cold staircase which made you even more tense and made me more aware of my frozen feet than of the questions. (Profile 328)

Both interviews took place in tutors' rooms. They were fairly informal and I was put at my ease. Generally it was more like a discussion of different things than a straightforward question and answer session. The two interviews I had were both subject interviews - each lasting approximately 30 minutes. (Profile 432)

1) Chemistry 20mins with 2 tutors. I was nervous about this, as it was my first interview. The room was really tiny with sloped ceilings. I got a bit befuddled with polarisation in C-Br bonds, got the electronegativity values wrong. Then I missed the optical activity in reaction products. I did get plenty of stuff right, though I can only remember describing bonding in C-Li. There was a good cop/bad cop routine from the tutors which in hindsight was quite funny. 

2) Physics 30mins 2 Tutors. I was confident for this one, I knew I knew the stuff. I felt I could answer anything they asked me. The drag question was fairly trivial, I'd done a project about drag in the previous year so I was familiar. In the electricity questions I did well, because I used the I=navQ equation judiciously. Then I was asked about the thermodynamics chapter from "A Brief History of Time", I did quite well, but they did prompt me a little, then I was asked about entropy, although I could describe it I couldn't give a good reason as to why it happens. Then, I was asked about my music, so I said what I'd done, and that I'd like to continue it at university. (Profile 3)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

The questions mentioned above, also questions relating to bioluminescence (mentioned in personal statement). How many amino acids are there? How many triplets are there? How many, exactly?

Discussion on Darwin's theory as to why a population relying on sexual reproduction is most successful when there are equal numbers of males and females although reproductively you only need one male for lots of females. Debate on the meaning of birth to encompass chickens etc. One measly question on outside interests. For second interview, see above. (Profile 327)

1st interview: properties of phospholipids, cell membranes and ion channels (and drawing them). Did not seem to go beyond AS syllabus. Then i was asked question like why cambridge? What other courses have you applied to? Did you do any practical work during your course? And some general questions about my hobbies. We talked a bit about one of my lab internships. I was surprised no topical issues were discussed and my interviewer didn’t really seem to push the questions too far, so maybe the first one is just to warm up. 

Subject one focused quite strongly on chemistry. The general one was more wide ranging - some academic questions but also stuff on hobbies, college societies. (Profile 589)

2nd interview:was great fun, they asked questions about some points in my personal statement (what did you do in that quantum physics course you mentioned, why did you start to learn chinese?) and then quickly dipped into a series of little questions about DNA (what is it made of, draw a picture of it), hydrogen bonding, why is the difference in hydrogen bonding between base pairs important for PCRs, enzyme energetics, disulphide bonds and how you break them, protein denaturation, why are disulphide bonds weaker than C-C bonds? It all seemed to relate to thee first module of the AS and i had the feeling that some questions were either you know it or you don´t ones and did not really make you think. The question were not about topics i had never heard of or you couldn´t have prepared for, it seemed to test whether you had really understood important concepts or how fast you can relate topics you already know. (Profile 328)

I was not asked any of the usual questions like why I was applying to Cambridge or what I thought I could bring to the university. Rather, every question I was asked was about the subject - organic chemistry for the first and inorganic chemistry for the second. The questions asked were fairly challenging, but the tutors seemed to be guiding me towards the right answer. I was slightly worried when I drew a reaction of ethene and was met with: "That's interesting. I haven't seen that one before."! (Profile 432)

1 Skeletal formula, Draw 2-Lithiobutane, reactions with halogenoalkane why and how. Optical isomerism in products and bonding in products. Acid-base Equilibria, buffer solutions. 2 Consider forces on 2 spheres of differing densities falling through air, and related drag. Varying PD across a piece of "conducting plastic" pulled them up on that. Dynamics of electrons in currents. (Profile 3)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

Find out about your interviewers and their subjects from the uni website. It helps you to place what kind of questions they will ask you and you can more often than not get a picture of them too, which always helps. (Profile 327)

Be honest, be enthusiastic about your subject, remember no one cares about your handwriting.

Know your personal statement and your AS syllabus really well. Make sure you really understand basic concepts. Read around your subject, with hindsight I didn´t need that but it made me feel more confident. Think about why your subject is important to you and try to bring that up in the interview even if they do not directly ask you about it. (Profile 328)

Think about the subject - not just the syllabus. Be honest if you don't know the answer. Read the prospectus and website. Have a couple of sensible questions prepared. (Profile 589)

The Forms: Think about what you write. Plan carefully and don't fill in the form until you're sure that's what you should be putting!

The interview(s): My advice would be to know your subject thoroughly - don't assume they won't ask any subject-based questions. But on the other hand, don't overlearn the subject - they're looking for initiative and if you can recognise reasons for things rather than what you can parrot back at them. (Profile 432)


Posted

Applying to Physics at Oxford University

Oxford University is home to one of the largest physics departments in the UK, with an outstanding and very diverse research programme in six sub-departments:Astrophysics; Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics; Atomic and Laser Physics; Condensed Matter Physics (including Biophysics); Particle Physics; and Theoretical Physics.

Physics at Oxford is challenging and mathematical with a strong emphasis on fundamental concepts such as optics and relativity. The fourth-year MPhys option courses bring you to the threshold of current research, and can lead to subject specialism. You can also complete the course in three years graduating with a BA. The Physics department is equipped with state-of-the-art lecture facilities and teaching laboratories. Tutorials give students direct and regular access to physicists actively involved in research and provide an opportunity to explore scientific ideas with experts in the field.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*AA to include Mathematics and Physics. The A* must be in Mathematics, Physics, or Further Mathematics
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 should be in either Physics or Mathematics)

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Oxford seemed the natural choice for studying pure sciences. I didn't like the Natural Sciences tripos system at Cambridge as it would mean I'd have to study some biology, and I dropped biology at GCSE level with good reason ;) (Profile 464)

I only wanted to do straight physics. (Profile 885)

Oxford does a physics course not just natural sciences. Cambridge is quite close to home so I wanted to get away a bit more. (Profile 449)

I had a work placement in the design office at the Physics Department in Oxford and I really loved the town and the atmosphere. I was influenced by a few of my teachers who had been in the past and I was told that Cambridge was quite a small town, too small for me and my personality probably! I went back to Oxford for the open days and still really liked the place, it was then that I knew I'd fit in. (Profile 447)

Do you have any advice for future Physics applicants in terms of preparation?

The Forms: I didn't write anything extra on my Oxford application form as I'd already had enough worrying over my personal statement on my UCAS form. I guess the only advice would be only write down things that you are prepared to talk about as that is all the interviewers have to ask you!

The interview(s): Be prepared to be challenged. Interviewers won't learn anything from you if the questions are too easy or far too hard. Don't sit in the interview and say nothing, explain what you are thinking about a certain problem, how you would go about solving it etc. If you give the interviewer something back about the way you can analyse problems it is more useful than you sitting there and saying nothing! (Profile 449)

The Forms: Keep your additional information short and succinct - and ignore the comments about it being optional. I was unsure whether to fill it in as I was afraid of repeating my personal statement, but eventually I wrote three sentences and I think it did help greatly.

The interview(s): Make sure there is a topic you are prepared to talk in depth about, but that's no guarantee they will ask questions about it. A good general breath of knowledge is needed, with something you are especially confident about and can attempt to steer the interview towards. (Profile 464)

Memorise a-level material in the slim hope that it'll come up. Prepare answers for anything you mentioned in your ps. (Profile 885)

The Forms: Mention if you've been to Oxford or have visited the college before, that’s about it.

The interview(s): Make sure you know your notes off by heart, physics and maths. Do the sample maths papers and think of any obvious questions you can get asked. Be confident and trust your instinct in the interview. (Profile 447)

The interview(s): revise basic physics; questions are designed to apply basic knowledge to new situations (Profile 450)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your Oxford Physics interview(s)?

There was a 1-hour maths exam the Monday morning. Seeing as I was doing Further Maths and the sample paper online was fairly straightforward, I didn't make much effort to prepare as I couldn't see what I could prepare - which was a mistake. (Profile 464)

I had a 1 hour Maths exam on the day of my interview. (Profile 447)

1 hour maths exam, prepared by looking at a sample paper and revising the topic areas on the paper I had not covered as part of my course. (Profile 452)

I had to take a 1 hour maths paper. I didn't know you could get sample papers before interview so I didn't know what was coming (the fact it was done without calculators was somewhat of a shock to the system) (Profile 449)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

I had to do problems on the board. The first interview involved me working out differential equations, 2nd order ones and it lead to SHM of a mass on the end of a spring. The second interview was more curve sketching and general maths. I didnt get asked a specific physics question in either interview, it was all maths! (Profile 447)

Things like: Solar energy landing on an umbrella is enough to power a washing machine. What is the mass loss of the sun per second? What is the minimum length full length mirror, in terms of a person's height? Why can't a person light a match in a satellite in orbit? Don't worry if you can't do these - the interviewer had to step in and help me quite often! (Profile 452)

Mainly on mechanics, eg. effect of rain on a rail carriage on frictionless track (slows down). one question on calculating resistance of a cube of resistant wires (5/6 R i think) (Profile 450)

Sketching graphs, differentiation of nasty (!) functions, geostationary orbits, estimation questions eg. number of atoms in a grain of sand vs. number of grains of sand on a beach (Profile 449)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

Be yourself. I was very nervous, and kept making silly mistakes in the questions they asked me. Remember, it's an artificial situation and the interviewers can really detect your potential as an Oxford student even in you make mistakes - you're human! (Profile 464)

Don't try and prepare too much, you probably won't be able to guess what will be asked. Be confident, try and explain what you're thinking even if you don't know exactly where you are going. The worst thing you can do is to sit around in silence. Try and come across as interested in your subject and don't let anything fluster you. They're really not that bad! Remember, they're not looking so much for what you know, just how you think. You are probably not going to be able to change this. (Profile 452)



Posted

Applying to Medicine at Cambridge University (Medical Sciences)

At Cambridge University, students focus on medical sciences first, before learning to apply that knowledge to medical practice as a clinical student.

The first three years (pre-clinical studies) involve lectures, practical classes (including dissections) and supervisions, with typically 20-25 timetabled teaching hours each week. The emphasis during the clinical studies (Years 4, 5 and 6) is on learning in clinical settings: at the bedside, in outpatient clinics and in GP surgeries, which is supported by seminars, tutorials and discussion groups.

Assessment, both formative and summative, plays a significant role throughout. The ongoing progress of students is reviewed weekly and termly by their College supervisors. Formal assessment, which determines one’s ability to proceed with the course, includes written and practical examinations, coursework submission and clinical assessments.

Successful completion of the first three years leads to a BA degree and on successful completion of the clinical studies in Cambridge students are awarded two degrees, the Bachelor of Medicine and the Bachelor of Surgery (MB, BChir).

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*A*A
- IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

My impression had always been that Cambridge was better for science. Also I liked the fact that Cambridge was dominated by the university and the city was more an afterthought while Oxford was half city and half university. (Profile 474)

Cambridge accepted more Medics and put less emphasis on GCSEs. They also looked at AS Module scores. (Profile 618)

My sister was at Cambridge, and I fell in love with the place when I visited her. I like the fact that the town is much smaller, so friendlier and less impersonal. Cambridge is better for pre-clinical medicine. (Profile 237)

Did you have to sit any pre-interview exams?

The MVAT. I did some past paper questions and discussed them with my chemistry teacher. I also did some past paper questions from the UK mathematical challenge as they seemed similar in style to sections 1 and 2. In section 3 you get the chance to show how much you know so if you can bring in things you've read from outside the A-Level syllabus it may help. Also I think in 2003 they will ask about scientific epistemology - it might be worth looking it up. (Profile 474)

MVAT test about a month before interview. I just read some general science books, but it tests aptitude rather than knowledge (Profile 27)

BMAT was rather tough, and my score wasn't fantastic. If you're from Malaysia and have entered kuiz sains nasional or any other maths/science quizes, and have done well in them, the scientific paper shouldn't be too tough for you. (Profile 317)

I got 23.3 on the BMAT. (6.1, 6.7 and 10.5) (Profile 618)

BMAT exam... I got 6.2, 5.0, 12.0 (if I remember rightly). The practice book really helped me, esp. for the written section, getting used to writing in the time limit. Revise GCSE level science. (Profile 204)

MVAT-it covered Biology, Chemistry, Maths & Physics, so I revised those subjects (especially physics, which I didn't do at A-level) (Profile 237)

How was/were your interview(s), in general?

I stayed overnight in the college and met some of the other interviewees who were reasuringly friendly and nervous. My first interview was the next day and I thought I would be asked lots of hard science questions but was asked mainly about ethics and only a little science. The second interview was split half and half between questions on my motivation for medicine and science. The third I had thought went disastrously for the reasons I will outline below. (Profile 474)

In the first one, the interviewer said "I've got 20 minutes to ask you academic questions" and so he did. I got given some graphs showing insulin concentration in the blood to talk about.

In the second interview, I was given a can of Heinz Baked Beans to talk about!!! I also had to talk about my interests, which led to a discussion about sport and health. I was shown some histology (microscope images of body tissue) pictures to analyse as well. (Profile 27)

There were two subject specific interviews. They went reasonably well. The interviewer will keep pushing you and you will inevitably feel uncomfortable and often quite embarrassed. The key is to keep working at any problem you are given, even if your logic is a bit patchy at times. As long as you get to the solutions in a relatively logical manner, you will be fine. (Profile 618)

The first interview was general, and was pretty friendly. Two interviewers, who were talking to me about why I wanted to do medicine, relevant things I'd read recently, and generally asking about me. The second was subject based, and was scarier. Just one interviewer, who asked me one of the essays I hadn't answered in the MVAT paper. Also asked me about nerves - a topic I hadn't covered yet in Biology. He was looking for what I could work out, rather than what I knew. (Profile 237)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

In my first interview I was asked expected questions such as why did I want to become a doctor and what the positives and negatives of life as a doctor were etc. This was followed by questions on the ethics of Professor von Haegan's televised dissection. Here I tried to explain why proponents of both sides of the argument thought what they thought and then gave and reasoned my own opinion. I was then asked what I thought the biggest advances in medicine in the past twenty years were and what diseases were the biggest killers. I was finally asked how blood is returned to the heart. In my second interview I was asked again why I wanted to be a doctor and why I wanted to study at Christ's and Cambridge. I was then asked to explain how embryonic stem cells differentiate into specialised tissue and this led on once again to questions on the ethics of this. We finished by the interviewer asking me to take him through the process of evolution with reference to the shells he had in front of him. In my final interview I really thought I'd messed up. He fist asked me again why I wanted to be a doctor etc and then said that since this was the college of Darwin we should perhaps talk about evolution and speciation. He asked me what a species was and how speciation took place. I messed this up but instead of giving me another bite at the cherry he continued to talk for a long time. I hadn't said much after about ten minutes and was getting worried and so I started to interject with hopefully intelligent questions and comments E.G. "Is that an example of positive feedback?" and "Is that similar to the recent sequencing of the mouse genome?" etc. Each time I said something, the usual reply was that I was correct but only partially or that there was a better answer. I came out feeling like I'd blown it but in hindsight having received an offer I think that the interviewer was looking for me to engage him in discussion and make rational propositions which showed thought even if they weren't correct. Don't let me put you off, the interviewer was extremely nice, I just didn't like it because I thought I'd messed up. Be confident but not cocky. If you have any questions just e-mail me, I'd like to help if I can. (Profile 474)

Really odd questions, i had to devise experiments and everytime i answered the interviewer would say "good, but pretend i dont believe you, give me another answer!" I was asked "why dont proteins fall out of membranes" questions on BSE and prions and loads of other random questions that i really didnt know the answers to- i just made up some logiacal stuff and they seemed to like it (Profile 132)

I was asked to explain the membrane (biphospholipid layer) and also what would I do to prove that it really is that. I was also asked bout my school trip to Manchester,and my opinion on the trip, etc (Profile 317)

Mostly AS Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Make sure you, not only know what bullet points of the specification are examined at AS, but also the conceptual knowledge behind them. It is key that you understand your subject well. (Profile 618)

General biology-related stuff, all very medical and the sort of questions you had to think around rather than having an instant answer. There was some stuff about blood circulation and also mother/baby immune system interactions, and some questions about a skull. (Profile 204)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

Read around your subject. Try your best and if you don't suceed be glad you tried. Don't apply if you can't handle being rejected. The most important thing for me was to become a doctor; Cambridge was an afterthought. (Profile 474)

Read a few science journals, and look around online for nuggets of science and health info. But really, there is only a limited amount of preparation you can do. Just relax and talk at the interview - talk as much as you can. The longer you can talk, the more impressed they will be (as long as you are not just waffling) and the less time they have to ask you questions. (Profile 27)

Read up a lot about medical related stuff. Read new scientist and stuff like that. If you have a genuine interst, they will see it. (Profile 132)

Read around your subject, ie for medicine pop-sciency books such as Richard Dawkins, Matt Ridley and also New Scientist. Aside from being really interesting anyway it gives you something to talk about in the interview. (Profile 204)



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Applying to Medicine Course at Oxford University

The practice of Medicine offers a breadth of experiences impossible to find in any other subject. Every day brings different patients with different needs. It’s a great choice for scientists who strive to understand and apply research findings to improve the lives of the patients in their care. It offers a meaningful career that is prestigious, secure and well paid. However, practising Medicine can be arduous, stressful, frustrating and bureaucratic and is not suited to everyone. You need to be sure that Medicine is the right choice for you. These pages will help you work that out, but there’s no better way to find out for sure than by gaining insight of medical practice by seeing it in action and talking to those who provide healthcare. Studying Medicine because that is what is expected of you is never a good idea; make sure that your motives for choosing to do so are well reasoned.

The Medicine course at Oxford provides a well-rounded intellectual training with particular emphasis on the basic science research that underpins medicine. We have retained a distinct three-year pre-clinical stage that includes studying towards a BA Honours degree in Medical Sciences, followed by a three-year clinical stage. The Medical School at Oxford is relatively small, allowing students and staff to get to know one another and benefit from a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

With separate pre-clinical and clinical sections to the course, students on the Oxford standard medical course first gain a comprehensive grounding in medical science, before applying that scientific foundation in the clinical setting.

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: A*AA in three A-levels (excluding Critical Thinking and General Studies) taken in the same academic year. Candidates are required to achieve at least a grade A in both Chemistry and at least on of Biology, Physics, or Mathematics. We expect you to have taken and passed any practical component in your chosen subjects.
- Highers: AA (taken in the same academic year and to include Chemistry, plus one from Biology, Physics, or Mathematics) plus Highers: AAAAA (taken in the same academic year).
- IB:39 (including core points) with 766 at HL. Candidates are required to take Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics or Mathematics to Higher Level.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

I visited both - both are great unis but the atmosphere at Oxford seemed more vibrant. I also quite liked the idea of having 2+ interviews at Oxford compared to at Cam where it may all rest on 1 because it felt like I had a greater chance to prove myself.

Also, I didn't know this when I applied but it could be useful for future applicants - Oxford had a new application procedure this year - only 35% of medical applicants were interviewed mainly based on BMAT results and GCSEs. This means if you are strong on paper than it could be more worthwhile to apply to Ox - however beware that quite a few 'perfect' applicants were rejected pre-interview. (Profile 102)

I went to both and prefered the look of Oxford. Oxford's prospectus was better in terms of presentation and content. Without A-level Maths most of Cam's NST was not available to me. Dyslexia institute coincided with own interest (Profile 197)

Oxford medicine course is less anatomy-heavy. Was told that (at least the first year) was slightly less work. Seems to be more time for extracurricular activities, has better nightlife, Oxford Union etc. (Profile 570)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

Do cartloads of background reading - become a human sponge - you can find some fantastic articles from the internet. Read the medical sections on the New Scientist. Read the 'medical' topics in your big fat bio text books. Read a book by Richard Dawkins (good because he is a fellow at Ox) - the Selfish Gene perhaps - his books are actually really entertaining! Read up on the NHS and current issues - know who won the last Nobel Prize. If you're interested in say genetics (like myself) then know some key dates (1953) and general history (Watson, Crick, Franklin etc). (Profile 102)

Interview: read through all your A Level textbook, including those you haven't covered yet. Read your personal statement, if you have written something like: I have good knowledge in drugs, then they will ask you what do you know about it.... so get prepared. (Profile 199)

- OAF: A very simple form - if you have any specific interests relevant to Oxford enter them here
- Interview: Remain calm, although challenging it is a good experence and I enjoyed all but 1 of mine.
- Practice interviews are useful but by no means essential. (Profile 197)

Go over organic chemistry especially, and other chemistry and biology for A Level. Try and read around medical topics using New Scientist / Scientific American / Student BMJ. read up on a scientific topic you're interested in so you can talk about that topic in interview. Read you personal statement at some point before so you remember what you said in it. Read The Times in the run up to your interview so you know what's going on in terms of medically related news. (Profile 570)

Did you have to sit any pre-interview exams?

BMAT - buy/borrow CGP books - know them from cover to cover. Do the timed practice papers on the BMAT website. It is also a time management exercise so be quick but stay calm - my time management flew out the window on the day because I was panicking.

My score wasn't too dazzling but once you get through the deselection pre-interview I don't think it matters as much, it pretty much rests on the interview. My essay was horrific but thank god they didn't ask about that. (Profile 102)

BMAT exam in November. Prep is difficult but a revision of GCSE Science and Maths is a good idea. Try practice paper from www.bmat.org.uk -  WORK QUICKLY- you have around 30sec per question. (Profile 197)

Big time pressure. Don't bother leaving questions for later, as you probably won't have time to go back to them - just guess. Make sure you save the last few seconds to mark random boxes for questions you haven't managed to get round to. (Profile 570)

Yes, BMAT. Any questions I didn't know, I guessed, I ticked all of the ones I didn't know as A, or B etc (even though some of them have more options than others) I think it's better to do that as opposed to randomly ticking boxes, as you're more likely to get some of them right (probability wise). You won't have time to go back to consider any questions you missed out properly so work efficiently and move on if you can't answer a question. Also, do a plan for your essay as you only get one sheet of paper and I ended up filling mine with lots of crossing out! (Profile 882)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

First interview was a logical problem which was good because it doesn't matter if you get the answer (after I said my ideas, the fellow said that all my answers were wrong but it didn't matter) because it's just to see how you think. There was also ethics and we touched upon the NHS and how to improve things (I got a bit controversial and said scrap IVF, being sterile is not an illness, it's just a status, 20% chance of success, what sort of odds is that!). Oh yeah also he said "What interests you in bio?" - talked about british bio olympiad and then went on to describe the co-ordination of the heart. Second interview was a lot more of my background reading. Talked about books I read (all genetics) went on to gene therapy. Current issues (MRSA - went on to talk about bacteria and antibiotics), retroviruses, MRI, basically a hell of a lot! This interview was very testing, they kept firing question upon question at me so you have to be sharp! Then went on to talk about using stats in medicine/randomised controlled trials. (Profile 102)

Maths: prove root 2 is irrational. Physics: if you tie a helium balloon on a car, how is the balloon's motion as the car is moving, etc. Chemistry: describe a drug/medicine you know and how it functions. Biology: if I have a new medicine, it function well during experiments, but when a patient eats it, it is functionless, why? (Profile 199)

On estimating blood volume; what would i bring to uni; describe an object; identify death rates; and reasons amnioscentesis; bird behaviour; drug testing; photoelectric effect and compton scatter; NHS problems; Designer babies (Profile 197)

Brasenose and Balliol, two interviews each: Analysing graphs based on heart and lung function (though wasn't told that before) and asked to make deduction based on the data presented. How to deal with patient who is scared about an operation. There was a news story at the time about patients who were overweight being refused operations on the NHS, was asked pros and cons of this. Question about patient confidentiality, and whether there were cases when it would not apply. Conducting an experiment based a on a hypthesis I've now forgotten, including what statistical techniques could be used. Question about whether all swans were white (they aren't), and devising and experiment to test whether they were. Discussion about genetics (molecular rather than mendelian). Question about benzene. Discussion about bacteria and viruses. (Profile 570)

I was asked questions to do with respiratory system (Balliol tutor Piers Nye is doing research into things involving respiration) and it involved analysing ECGs and graphs. I was also asked about X rays and how they work. At my second college, there were a few questions about genetics related diseases (tutor specialised in genetics and molecular biology, i think) and about the different types of diabetes and how you might increase your chances of getting it. In terms of ethics, there was a question about whether the NHS should operate on fat people, and what would I say to a patient who needed an operation but was overweight. (Profile 882)



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Applying for Modern Languages at Oxford University

Modern Languages have been taught in Oxford University since 1724. The faculty is one of the largest in the country, with a total intake of more than 250 students a year (including joint courses). Undergraduate students have access to the Taylor Institution Library (the largest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages) and the University’s central library the Bodleian, as well as many online resources. Oxford’s well-equipped Language Centre has resources specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Language students.

Language is at the centre of the Oxford University course, making up around 50% of both first-year and final examinations. The course aims to teach spoken fluency in colloquial and more formal situations, as well as the ability to write essays in the foreign language, and the ability to translate into and out of the foreign language with accuracy and sensitivity to a range of vocabulary, styles and registers. 

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

On Oxford Application Form: Be honest and genuine. Don't be modest, but don't make yourself sound arrogant. The tutors have to teach you for 3/4 years, they'll want to teach someone they can get on with.

On preparing for interview: try to read as much as you can, in the language if possible, but if not then translations. Revise your grammar before interviews. (Profile 258)

You have to already be in the mindset of wanting to improve your French on your own. Read a variety of texts - french newspaper websites can be dry so also find a french blog or something that interests you. Read short stories and plays. Try poetry. Think about what you read and write about it in french. Ask a teacher to set you open-ended essay questions. Make notes on new grammatical structures and informal language you pick up. Watch videos on french tv channel websites. Do all this safe in the knowledge that you are doing yourself a favour whether you get an interview or not! (Profile 766)

Read around the subject, practice with a mock interview, don't be afraid to question the interviewers and be prepared to defend your views when they're challenged. (Profile 316)

Prepare, by all means, but don't get into the habit of thinking that they *will* ask this question and *won't* ask that one. I was told to prepare answers for, "Why did you choose Trinity?" and "Why Oxford?". They never asked me those questions. (Profile 354)

Did you have to submit any written work prior to the interview?

The work i submitted was rubbish. i didnt have any essays in english, so sent in two spanish ones and an italian one. for the two spanish essays (one literary and one discursive) i had got barely half-marks, and the italian one was a rubbish business letter. but the invited me for interviews, so they can’t look at it that hard. (Profile 354)

2 pieces of marked written work for each subject because they asked for it! (Profile 258)

One translation into german one essay on a german text (in german) one essay from my english course (Profile 316)

2 pieces for each language (Profile 912)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your Modern Language interview(s)?

Grammar test at interview (Profile 766)

Yes- a 30 minute German grammar test- it is vital to do preparation for this. I had extra lessons for this and my mark was still not brilliant. Its vital to know your german grammar inside out- declensions, adjectival endings and which tenses go with which verbs. (Profile 316)

I had to take a spanish exam and a language aptitude test. prepare for the spanish exam - the grammar is slightly more difficult than a-level. the aptitude test i actually found quite fun, not gruelling at all. there are various different questions, some working out patterns in english, others working out patterns in icelandic or Wolof or some other obscure language, and they also ask a set of questions by the end of which you should be able to work out a paragraph of some made-up language. there are practise papers - do them. (Profile 354)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

What books have you read? Why do you think xyz about this passage? What was your A-level course? Questions about my gap year (spent in Versailles). Why study this course? (Profile 258)

I was asked to comment on aspects of the texts. Beware of opening your mouth before thinking something through - they have the nasty habit of asking you to explain what you mean / why you think that in mid-flow. 5 minutes of french conversation which was general in nature until I was asked to explain something about two composers I had unwittingly brought up and for which I did not have the vocabulary! Don't be afraid to ask them how to say things. I'm quite sure I hadn't ever spoken worse french than in that interview. (Profile 766)

1st interview- When i arrived in college i was given an english passage to discuss in interview. In the interview i was also asked to read a german passage and then discuss it. there was also a brief discussion on my submitted work. 2nd interview- a discussion of linguistics including looking at various linguistic problems, a look at synonyms and a discussion of problems for Germans learning English and vice- versa. 3rd interview- a further German interview this time with two interviewers includng translating some non consecutive sentences an a discussion of German literature which somehow turned into a discussion of Blackadder! Before going into this interview I had to chose one passage in German to discuss- from a choice of 3 or 4. a dictionary was provided for this and i had 5 minutes to look up any words I did not know. (Profile 316)

Some examples: repeat these russian sentences after me... are you sure you want to study russian? look how much work there is... talk to me about the other languages you've learnt in the past... so tell me, how did the latin 'civitas' get to 'ciudad' in spanish and 'cittŕ' in italian?... you mentioned 'families' of languages, what do you mean by that? in which family would you place english? (Profile 354)

What did you wear to your interview(s), and why?

I wore smart casual, eventually opting for no tie. Imagine my dismay when I walked into the Italian interview to see my tutor in a tailor-made Gucci suit... but he didn't seem to mind! Relax: they're used to students wandering into tutorials wearing whatever, so being not too formal may help them feel tutorials with you would be a good idea and therefore accept you. (Profile 258)

Shirt and tie. Whatever they say about smart casual, at least look like you want the place. (Profile 766)

A suit- so as to make a good impression (Profile 316)

Something smart, but that I felt comfortable in - lots of people didn't wear smart clothes but I felt I should, didn't want to be too smart though. (Profile 912)

A dark suit and shirt. (Profile 354)






Posted

Applying for Mathematics at Cambridge University

Cambridge University is renowned for the excellence of its Mathematics course. Equally challenging and rewarding, it offers the opportunity to study a wide range of subjects: everything from abstract logic to black holes.

Two aspects of the Mathematics course that Cambridge students greatly appreciate are its flexibility and the breadth of subjects offered. The amount of choice increases each year and after Year 1 students may choose the number of options to study. Some students take as many options as they can; others take fewer and study them very thoroughly.

This structure allows students to keep their options open, giving them the opportunity to discover their strengths, extend their knowledge and develop their interests before specialising.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*AA to include Mathematics and Physics. The A* must be in Mathematics, Physics, or Further Mathematics
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 should be in either Physics or Mathematics)

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Cambridge supposedly has a better reputation for the sciences. Having had a look around the place, and fallen in love with it, the decision was easy. (Profile 505)

Cambridge seemed more scientific. (Profile 168)

Differences between the courses on offer, and just heard that Cambridge had a better reputation for maths. (Profile 521)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

Practise the bread-and-butter maths that's likely to come up. Graph sketching, calculus, the easier mechanics. If you're going to mention a longish book in your personal statement, refer to a specific part of it, so that you can be fairly sure what the questions will consist of. (Profile 505)

Make sure that the work that you have done at A-Level is comparable to what other students are likely to have done. I thought that I had had a similar level of mathematical input as anyone else, but it turned out that students from other schools/VI Forms had been taught far more than I. (Profile 168)

The practice interviews really are useful, but only if you prepare for them as if they are the real thing. It doesn't matter how good your interview skills are if you can't remember the formulae for circular motion or whatever the question is on. Revise all your AS work because this is probably what the interview questions will be based on- they don't know how much of the A level course you will have studied. I think I made the mistake a couple of times in my interview of trying to do things the hard way when all the questions required was basic C1/C2 knowledge. Most interview questions involve applying old knowledge in new ways so maths challenge/BMO questions are quite useful preparation for this. Trying out STEP questions can also be a good thing and Oxford admissions tests are good because they are the right standard and questions aren't too long. But the best preparation is definitely practice so badger your school/teachers/family friends/anyone you know who is already at oxbridge to give your a sort of mock interview. Even if you just try to solve a problem in front of a few friends this can be useful as it gets you over the barrier of being embarrassed to say what you're thinking (not sure if boys have this problem but most girls seem to). (Profile 735)

Revise all your basic rules. Also, have a go at some of the questions from "Advanced Problems in Mathematics" by Dr Siklos. (Profile 511)

How was/were the interview(s), in general?

The personal interview was just about me: plans for the future, interests, hobbies, activities I would persue in the college. The applied maths interview began with a couple of curves to sketch. With a little prodding in the right direction I managed to draw something resembling the actual graphs. Then there was a mechanics question. A bead on a wire: simple constant acceleration stuff with a bit of trig to complicate things. The pure interview was mainly about calculus. Differentiate this, integrate that. I completely forgot the easy was to integrate tan x, but I managed to do it very long-windedly with a substitution. Also a question about binomial coefficients and Pascal's triangle (prove that every number in the triangle is the sum of the two above it). (Profile 505)

I had three interviews. In the first we worked through some Applied Maths (Mechanics) examples, talking about what I had done in the past. Next was pure maths, a similar style. Finally there was a social interview with the Senior Tutor, I was able to talk about my own experiences. (Profile 168)

First Interview (with two maths fellows: one who spoke, one who wrote):

At the time, felt fine about it. Actually after waiting for 3 hours in the Marshall room (JCR), I quite enjoyed it just because it was something to do. The interview went really quickly and I was worried about how few questions I answered and also some of the stupid things I'd said/done, including twice missing a incredibly obvious answer and doing things a much harder way. However, was reassured that I could see the notes one of them was writing and although I only dared take brief glances, I saw he first word was "excellent". So all in all, went to bed feeling quite happy.

Second interview (with Dr Siklos, director of studies or some other important title):

Was quitely confident after the first interview had gone OK, and even more so after I'd seen the problem we were left to do beforehand and found I could actually do all of it, which I hadn't been expecting. But when I got in, Dr Siklos gave me quite a hard time, questioning everything I said. I couldn't tell if this was because he was trying to push me or because I was getting everything wrong, but it did stress me out more than I would have anticipated and I spent a particularly panicked 2 minutes trying to explain why a straight line crossed the graph y=sin x only in the twice in the range 0-pi/2 when all that was in my head was "because that's what sin x looks like". The only thing I could say was "because it bulges up a bit" which he repeated back to me in a slightly sarcastic way and then let me sweat for a few minutes before saying "I think the word you were looking for is convex". He also asked me one question about Music of the Primes, which I'd put on my personal statement, because apparently everyone does. Annoyingly, I've read the book several times and still didn't answer the question very well. Overall, didn't enjoy that interview as much as the first. (Profile 735)

The first question on the test was very easy, I think it was just to put you at ease. I didn't quite finish the second one.Then I went through the questions with the maths tutor who helped me with ideas etc. to finish the other question, then went through another one with me. Supposedly like the supervisions for students.

The second interview was with the admissions tutor, who talked more about my other subjects and related maths to them. Was very interested in critical thinking. (Profile 521)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

The interview was almost entirely done on paper: the questions were simply mathematical fragments to work through. (A-Level standard) (Profile 168)

All maths questions apart from one personal statement question in the second interview. Most questions on either properties of prime numbers, intergration of graph sketching, often involving a combination of the last two.

Was told several times not to reveal this sort of info, but here is a question I was asked in a practice interview which I found useful in my interview (interview question involved the same idea about divisibility by three):

Show that if x is a prime number greater than 3, x^2-1 is divisible by 24 (Profile 735)

The test questions are the same every year I think... The other interview I was asked about how maths fitted in with my other subjects, and talked about how 'pure' I considered maths. (Profile 521)

Oh, so what you're doing this [gap] year? have you been to Cambridge before? You are done with all A-levels? Good...do you still remember Maths? :) here we go... 1) Sketch the curve (y^2-2)^2+(x^2-2)^2=2. I told them i thought there were 2 'rings'? and they pressed on me until actually 4 rings were found...phew... 2) 3 girls and 4 boys were standing in a circle. What is the probability that two girls are together but one is not with them. After flawed reasoning i told them answer..."yes, but..." was response, it got bit blank and intolerable, until they made me draw all possible arrangements...but worse was about to come 3) Guessed algorithm right...but had to show why it was a solution to x^4+....i fiddled with graphs showing them how it converged...They set me straight again, but I had no frigging clue to what their hints were leading to...messed binomial theorem up...Oxford history repeats itself! 4) Is there such number N that 7 divided N^2-3? Tried contradiction, nowhere...Then I asked them another expression for N, which turned out to be N=7r+s....Then i blurted out "oh no the question just repeat itself!" until they they led me to see that s had only values between 1 and 6. hence... Oh dear... 5) prove 1+1/2+1/3+...+1/1000<10. I said "hey, that's 10=e^ln10 and then Taylor series!" "Oh no" the prof winced and it was quickly seen that geometric series was needed....then fiasco again with simple mental arithmetics, could hear them he-he-he...whilst i desperately tried to find the product... Ok..Who is helping you with preparations for STEPs? Any questions? (Profile 496)

Graph sketching, relationships between primes and other number, integrating things like 1/(1-lnx) (Profile 511)


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