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? 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)


Applying for Mathematics at Oxford University

There are two Mathematics degrees at Oxford University, the three-year BA and the four-year MMath. Decisions regarding continuation to the fourth year do not have to be made until the third year. The first year consists of core courses in pure and applied mathematics (including statistics). Options start in the second year, with the third and fourth years offering a large variety of courses, including options from outside mathematics.

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: A*A*A with the A8s in Mathematics and Further Mathematics (if taken). For those wome Further Mathematics is not available: either A*AAa with A* in Mathematics and a in AS-level Futher Mathematics or A*AA with A* in Mathematics
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 must be in Higher Level Mathematics)

Why did you choose the Mathematics course at Oxford?

It's very flexible, and one of the most prestigious courses in the country. (Profile 592)

It was easy - perfect location and it had the tutor i wanted and besides, i was also tempted by lower application to places ratio which obviously doesn’t tell you how many geniuses flock into one college. (Profile 475)

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

The maths course is very appealing and is rated slighty lower than Cambridge, meaning that you can leave your room from time to time. (Profile 477)

Oxford seemed to have far more life than Cambridge and I thought I would have a more enjoyable 3/4 years. (Profile 572)

I went to an open day to Oxford and was pretty happy with what I saw. In all honesty, I also thought that applying to Cambridge to maths was going to be harder, and that I wouldn't get anything more out of going there. (Profile 469)

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

Review curve sketching and basic calculus. Make sure you know a little about the area of mathematics that you are going to say that you are interested in. Wear what you are most comfortable in to your interviews. (Profile 

Know C1-3 inside out. Otherwise hints given in the interviews may be meaningless, and the questions on the written paper may well be impossible. (Profile 592)

Review curve sketching and basic calculus. Make sure you know a little about the area of mathematics that you are going to say that you are interested in. Wear what you are most comfortable in to your interviews. (Profile 469)

Make sure you know how to draw graphs. Don't be phased by being asked questions you don't know they'll help you through it. (Profile 493)

Simply be confident about talking to someone you haven't met before. If you're not sure about doing that then definitely arrange a mock interview in your school. (Profile 754)

Read on everything in maths you can -it might seem very superfluous after the interview and most importantly practice STEP questions! Maths is very much like sport - talent needs practice training to get to top. Public school people are much better coached than state school people- so don’t let them win. (Profile 475)

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

There was a two and a half hour test to do the day before interviews began. I looked at the specimens on the Internet beforehand and although the actual test was a bit different, they are well worth going through. If there are questions you couldn't do, it might be worth thinking/talking about them so that you might have something to say the next day when you are asked about them in your interview.(Profile 469)

The 2-and-a-half hour written test - 40% is (varying from easy to tricky) multiple choice questions, 60% is on longer style questions, covering geometry, calculus, logic, functions. Anything can come up!(Profile 592)

3 hour long maths exam with no calculator and no formula book. I learnt how to add without using a calculator and tried to learn the stuff in my formula book i.e. no real preparation (Profile 493)

We did take two and half hours maths test - i didnt realize that there was specimen paper on the Net, but again it was much harder and I think it depressed us all until someone told me above 60% is good...Relief.. - or so I thought… (Profile 475)

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

Apart from reviewing the test I was asked questions on curve sketching, which appears to be a very common area of questioning. It’s probably worth going over that before your interview. I was asked about an area of mathematics that I was particularly interested in, so it important to have an area of specialism before you get there.(Profile 469)

One interview was based on curve sketching with the very same Biomath tutor whom i tried to impress by my knowledge of logistic equation (chaos theory). then late interview with tired professor based on very weird computer question - went through it like fog and didn't take all the hints he was trying to give and the only thing i got right was simple permutation question. The next day in Christ Church (amazing building!) a tutor started with question how bad was my hearing. After "Urgh.." he then asked which maths equation i could remember from book outside A-level syllabus and if i knew proof. I didnt know proof so there we went. In the end it turned out to be some consequence of the Taylor series of which i was still ignorant then. But it was about how i could approach to new things. And i got to the proof not without bored sighs of the tutor. Then it was another interesting number theory question to prove that if a large number is divisible by three then sum of its digits is divisible by three too- which went painfully slow again - more of him answering his own question than I did. (Profile 475)

First interview was mainly curve sketching, geometry, and combinatorics/probability. The questions were easier than I expected, but were still very much harder than the A-level syllabus required of us. Second interview was much harder than I expected, and was oriented about very abstract and logic-based problems. Third interview was based entirely about convergence and divergence and limits of series. (Profile 592)

St Johns:
- Draw a triangle, form inequality that the sum of any two sides is greater than or equal to the third side.
- Now draw a quadrilateral, draw in diagonals.
- Deduce that sum of the diagonals is greater than the sum of two opposite sides.
- There are a collection of points on a plane. Join them together to make a circuit. Uncrossed circuits can be made by finding crossings, and simply uncrossing them. Repeat until uncrossed.
- Deduce that there exists a shortest circuit - there are a finite number of points, hence there are a finite number of circuits. A finite set has a smallest member, hence there exists a shortest circuit. This circuit will not have any crossings, since the the length of the corresponding uncrossed circuit (created by uncrossing the crossing) would be longer (using result found above).

- Integration of some trigometric functions i.e. sin^2(x)cos^3(x)
- When f(x+y) = f(x)f(y), prove f(0) = 1 where f is a non-zero, real valued function.(Profile 839)


Applying for History at Oxford University

Oxford’s History course combines the examination of large regions over extended periods of time with more focused work on smaller social groups, shorter periods and particular themes. It provides a distinctive education by developing an awareness of the differing political, cultural, social and economic structures within past societies and how they interrelate. The course combines vigorous debate over questions of interpretation with rigorous attention to source material, while the constant enrichment by cross-fertilisation from other disciplines leads to new questions about the past.

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

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)

It's a bit complicated! When I was younger I had always intended to apply to Cambridge, because I knew it slightly better due to living about an hour's drive away. However when choosing my AS Levels I looked on their website and found that I was in a bad position from their point of view due to having not taken an MFL at GCSE. Although I have since rectified this, when I contacted them at the time about how strict this requirement was their response was less than friendly. On the other hand, when I contacted the Oxford colleges regarding the most appropriate AS Levels to choose, they were unfailingly friendly. By the time I had left the Oxford Open Day my Oxford loyalty was well and truly confirmed! (Profile 932)

The fact that Cambridge may not have been able to overlook my GCSE's and I preferred the atmosphere at Oxford, it felt more fun and sociable. (Profile 671)

Why did you choose the History course at Oxford?

Originally I had applied for a variation on politics or international relations at all of my other 5 choices, however Oxford doesn't offer straight politics. As a result I had to put down combined honours and have little interest in philosophy so PPE wasn't an option. However when they offered me single offers I took a lot of time to think about it and I realised I preferred history as a discipline. Also my ultimate aim is to join the FCO and this degree course at this institution will help me progress with that after graduation. (Profile 671)

I had originally intended to apply for English, then whilst looking at prospectuses became attracted to the idea of a Joint Honours degree in English and History, because they were both subjects that came naturally to me and that I really enjoyed. However, I came to realise that I would be better off applying for one or the other subject, since attempting to juggle both - and thus possibly missing out on the depth or breadth of both - would probably have frustrated me. By that time I had come to enjoy my History A Level far more than my English. My final 'test' of which was the best to apply to was in my Personal Statement; I found myself writing about how much I loved History and realising that it was quite true and that it was indeed the subject I wished to study for 3 or more years. (Profile 932)

I love history and politics from doing them at A level, and particularly political history and looking at the past and finding links and similarities to the present, so why not learn both together. (Profile 809)

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

If you are applying for history look at the online HAT tests, I hadn't and regretted it later. (Profile 671)

Don't worry too much about preparing; a mock interview is very helpful but don't expect it to be like the real thing, it's more to help you get used to thinking aloud than anything else. If you have to sit the HAT, I would definitely advise looking through a few past papers and mark schemes (available on the Oxford History Faculty website) so that you can get a feel for what they are looking for in your answers. (Profile 932)

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)

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

They requested an A2 level essay. This was problematic for me as we hadn't yet been set one at my college. As a result I submitted an AS essay. They had no problem with this (I explained at my interview) and in fact it was beneficial as much of the interview was based on the topic of my essay which was one I had enjoyed and felt comfortable talking about. (Profile 671)

One piece of A2 History work, marked and unchanged for Oxford entry. I found the stipulations for this (that it had to be a 'normal essay' rather than source-based etc) a little difficult to fulfil and so sent in an AS essay with a covering letter. They accepted this, although it did make for a few hairy moments in the interview when they asked me to explain my reasons for sending an AS, not A2 essay and I made a less-than-coherent response! I would advise future applicants to get the written work sent off well in advance of the date required; mine got there in the nick of time and made for a few very stressful days. (Profile 932)

One essay. Mine was simply a homework essay of about 1200 words.

My interviewers commented that it was on a topic which they had not seem from any other candidate. Lots of applicants had submitted their coursework, many on the same topics, so I would suggest that sometimes doing something different can set you apart. (Profile 713)

I submitted one of the A2 essays we'd been doing which was fine. I'd done quite well so I didn't have to do anything to it. (Profile 809)

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

Most of the questions centred around my essay in the history interview although they did ask me one question related to an activity on my personal statement (membership of an archaelogical society, which they followed up with - what does archaeology have to do with history?). Politics was entirely about what I chose to talk about within what I've studied as there was no written work submission requirement. Although the scary french research assistant asked me what the cause of wars was and gave me three options to choose from, the only problem being I agreed with none of them so babbled rather incessantly. (Profile 671)

In my first interview I was grilled on the 1930s and my perception of the Depression, and was then asked (regarding Russia) to give 5 points about industrialisation. In my second interview I was invited to ask questions about the source and we then discussed the motives of various figures featured in Luther's account and the possible self-bias on Luther's part. I was also asked about various elements of my Personal Statement, and the tutor very kindly recommended a book for me to read on one of the extra-curricular topics I had mentioned! (Profile 932)

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 realsied 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)

The head interviewer offered me a piece of advice during the interview which I think would serve all History applicants well: "Don't be frightened to state the obvious!"

First interview: half time was spent discussing submitted essay and the other half discussing general history topics, particularly concerning how you would go about researching topics.

Second interview: discussion of a set text, which we were given 1 hour before the interview. In my case, the piece was about 10/11 pages and was on a topic I had no prior knowledge of. Lots of the questions were thematic, rather than knowledge specific. (Profile 713)


Applying for Law at Cambridge University

Law has been studied and taught in Cambridge since the thirteenth century, when the core subjects of legal study in all European universities were Civil law (the law of ancient Rome) and the Canon law of the Church. Early graduates of the Cambridge Faculty of Canon Law held the highest judicial positions in Europe - in the Rota at Avignon - and two of them (William Bateman and Thomas Fastolf) wrote the first known law reports in the ius commune tradition.

At present, there are over 70 University and College Teaching Officers in Law at Cambridge University. They include specialists in almost every aspect of English law and its history, the laws of other countries (especially European), European Community law, public and private international law, Roman law, legal philosophy, and criminology.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

For my subject, I had the impression that Oxford had a better reputation and record of results. In addition, after visiting Oxford I found I liked the atmosphere of the city and university. (Profile 799)

Preferred Cambridge but only slightly (loved them both) but Oxford was about 1.5 hrs closer to home and took approx 8 people per college for my subject whereas Cambridge only took approx 3. (Profile 933)

Oxford as a city appeals more and, again rightly or wrongly, I had this feeling that Oxford was better for law. (Profile 772)

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

Read the papers, and don't lie on your SAQ because they ask you about it. Also, you should probably know about very common legal terms or you'll come out mouthing 'oh my God, that was awful' as i did. (Profile 936)

Just make sure you can show that you have a genuine interest in the subject you have applied for, show some enthusiasm and be yourself in every aspect of your application. Keep up to date on current affairs. Read into your subject a bit if you haven't already and be prepared to talk about that. (Profile 743)

for law - work exp (as much as possible to show your enthusiasm), times law supplement, law in action programming on radio 4 which covers topical legal issues weekly (listen again on the bbc website), read plenty of law books; from the set list and also others on topics that you might be interested in(eg medical law was my topic of choice) to show that you are willing to go out of your way to find a book and if the topic inspires you, you can write about it in your ps/talk about it in your interview. (Profile 641)

Read the Cambridge admissions website thoroughly; there is a lot of really useful advice on there. (Profile 1113)

They start out with the assumption that they would be happy to offer everyone a place, so don't make any stupid mistakes that give them a reason to reject you. Other than that, don't get your exam boards wrong (as I so nearly did), and check that you haven't been given a copy of last year's form (as I was). (Profile 228)

Did you have to sit any pre-interview exams?

LNAT - 19/30 in multiple choice 

also found the essay section atrocious as i hadn't really written one in quite a long time; read after that critical thinking essays are useful for practise, or in general persuasive essays and reading the guardian, or the times could help with learning how to formulate opinions etc (Profile 936)

The LNAT; pretty tough. Got asked about my essay at the interview. I got 23/30, if that helps anyone. (Profile 651)

What was the Law interview like? 

Given a text and half-hour to read it. Discussed text and this led to other aspects of it and then we leapt to Property law. Also asked about work experience, subject topics and given a second text and asked if scenarios fitted it. (Profile 936)

My interview lasted about 40 minutes. Prior to the interview I was given about 20 minutes to read and make notes on a case study. My interview then began. The first 20 minutes involved talking/debating about the case study with the Director of Studies and another Law fellow/supervisor. The next 20 minutes then involved answering general questions about my UCAS Personal Statement and some general law questions (e.g. Do you enter a contract when you get on a bus? I didn't actually know the answer to this but I think as long as you give a reasoned argument for your answer you will be fine). (Profile 743)

I really enjoyed the interview. It became progressively harder as it went on, but really it was pretty much what I expect a supervision would be like. In this sense I think they just want to get a feel for how you think and if they would enjoy teaching you. The scenario had various issues involved, both legal principles and social issues which were interesting and open for debate. I made some silly comments which I regret, but overall I think it was very fair. (Profile 975)

No legal knowledge was required, they genuinely do just want to see how you think. wasn't asked anything about any actual legal issues. 

First interview was just tutorial stuff (eg what do you do in your spare time) and a little legal..something about statutes and if one stated something what it meant, also the difference between principles and laws. then had to work through a scenario regarding a poor reference written for a student which consequently led to them not being hired and whether the referee would be liable to pay damages in situations a) b) and c).

second interview a few legal questions using different scenarios. (Profile 936)

It's hard to tell how well the interview is going when you're in there; the interviewers don't give anything away. I felt like I wasn't answering the questions properly; you don't know what they want you to say. I felt I did better in my general interview than my subject one. (Profile 651)

I had only one interview which was scheduled to last 45 minutes but, in the end, only lasted for about 30. It was in three parts, each part lead by a different interviewer. The first part focused upon my life and what had brought me to this point, the second was with the DoS for Law who asked me some legal/logic based questions. The third part discussed my current course and how I thought it would prepare me for study at Cambridge. (Profile 1113)

Questions asked: Would you be willing to take a gap year? What subjects are you studying at school? What's your favourite Subject? What do you study in History? Why do you find it interesting? Why was Hitler able to establish a dictatorship - his actions, or the actions of others? Would you buy the defence of the judges at the Nuremberg trials? Then I got asked a whole lot about extradition, which I can't really remember specifically. It ended with me saying I'd extradite people to Afghanistan for not wearing a burka... Suppose that you sell a car for Ł500 from your own driveway. The purchaser drives off down the road, but 10 feet along the car stops. He looks inside and there's a lawmower engine. He comes back , demands his money back, but is told "tough luck, you signed this contract". You're a judge - who do you find for? If it was sold though a car dealership, would it make a difference? If the fault was nothing obvious (problem in the fuel system), but ended up seriously injuring the buyer, who would you find for? This time, you sell the car, and it's fine, but you're paid with counterfeit money by a crook. He then takes it across town, sells it on, and flees the country. You're the judge again - who do you award the car to, the original seller or the second buyer? (Profile 228)


Applying for Law at Oxford University

There are two Law courses at Oxford: Course I is a three-year course; Course II is a four-year course which follows the same syllabus, but with a third year abroad at a university in France, Germany, Italy, or Spain (studying French, German, Italian, or Spanish law), or the Netherlands (studying European and International law). Students on Course II (Law with Law Studies in Europe) gain additional skills through exposure to different legal systems and the different approaches to teaching practised by our European partner institutions.

Students who have graduated in other subjects may undertake the accelerated ‘Senior Status’ version of Course I. For further information about the courses, please refer to the Law Faculty website.

Academic Requirements:
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AAB or AA with an additional Higher at grade A
- IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL

We’ve compiled some useful tips -- preparation leading up to the interview, and real world experiences describing the interviews themselves. If you find a tip particularly useful, click through the profile link for more information.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

For my subject, I had the impression that Oxford had a better reputation and record of results. In addition, after visiting Oxford I found I liked the atmosphere of the city and university. (Profile 799)

Preferred Cambridge but only slightly (loved them both) but Oxford was about 1.5 hrs closer to home and took approx 8 people per college for my subject whereas Cambridge only took approx 3. (Profile 933)

Oxford as a city appeals more and, again rightly or wrongly, I had this feeling that Oxford was better for law. (Profile 772)

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

Read "Letters to a law student" - essential. Then find a lawyer who has been to Oxbridge and get him/her to take you through legal problems. That is what you will get in the interview. (Profile 772)

Say why you are interested in law, what particular area (i said constitutional), what you've been reading and give this much more weight than outside interests (Profile 219)

Do not listen to anyone who says you cannot prepare! Especially those who say it with regards to law. Read law books like Glanville Williams, A.W.B. Simpson etc. in order to fine-tune a more logical way of thinking that the tutors are looking for. Read newspapers critically. N.B. Try and the find the decisive word(s); the thing on which your opinion on the article/cace/etc. Hinges. (Profile 864)

Look up all deadlines and course requirements well in advance, and comply with them as soon as possible.

If possible, arrange a mock interview with someone you don't know well personally, perhaps a head of Sixth Form. This will prepare you for the format of the interview and should make it easier to deal with the real thing. Unless your mock interviewer has specific knowledge of the Oxbridge admissions system, the actual questions will probably be nothing like the real thing, but it should get you into the right mindset.

Before the interview: Set generous margins for error in all travel arrangements to avoid panic. If you have a long journey it may be best to travel the day before and stay overnight.

Don't worry too much about doing reading in preparation. From my experience, the interviewers don't expect any specific subject knowledge (although this may only apply to subjects like Law that are not commonly done at A-Level) and you won't get much of a chance to use it. Try to relax so you can think clearly.

Have answers ready for 'stock' questions like "Why do you want to study ____?" These are normally asked at the start to put you at your ease, and won't make or break you, but giving a good answer will help calm you down and do better.

For the interview itself: Don't rush. Always allow yourself a little time to think about what you're going to say.

On the other hand, don't be so afraid of being 'wrong' that you don't say anything! You're allowed to change your mind. (Profile 799)

For law there is nothing that you can do to prepare! It is all questions based on an extract which you had half an hour to read before hand. There were no questions about my personal statement or why i wanted to do law- thankfully, i think thats a horrible question! (Profile 933)

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

We spoke about the following topics with regard to my personal statement:
- Article 23 (HK law)
- Work experience
- English literature

We then discussed a passage based on a law case for the rest of the interview. (Profile 1019)

I was ripped apart in the first one! Had never felt as stupid really! I was given a section from a statute and asked to interpret it and see which cases would apply. The second was aimed more at my interests and was about as difficult but more comfortable

What is your favourite subject? Why did you do mostly science subjects if you want to do law (they asked my friend why didn't he do sciences!)? They were the common ones. (Profile 219)

Things like. What is the diffetrence between Euthanasia and Assissted suicide? And then But what if this happened? and what about this situation? etc etc (Profile 933)

I was asked NOTHING about my personal life, sport, music, etc etc. It was all about law and legal problems. For the first interview I had half an hour or so to read an article on the meaning of "intent". It was complicated but there was enough time to read it thoroughly. The first part of the interview was on the article, and then some questions about intent as applied to murder. As I said, the interviewers were incredibly polite and friendly, but pushed me very very hard. After murder, I was asked questions about when you might/might not be obliged to pay someone who washed your car in a supermarket car park. (Profile 772)


Applying for Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge University

Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge can be tailored from the start. This means it’s suited both to students with specific subject interests and to students looking for a multidisciplinary degree. 

The course comprises three core disciplines, taught by globally respected departments:

(1) Politics and International Relations explores politics within and between countries, covering issues from human rights and democracy, to financial crises and international conflict.

(2) Social anthropologists address ‘what it is to be human’ by studying social and cultural diversity – how people live, think and relate to each other around the world.

(3) Sociology focuses on the nature of modern societies and the processes that shape social life, by examining social institutions and topics such as power and inequality.

Depending on the subject(s) you choose, there may  be options to take individual papers in the other HSPS subjects or from other courses as well.

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

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Only Cambridge did a political course encompassing sociology (Profile 213)

It was more that i chose between PPE and SPS, and not being very interested in econmics or philospohy, i applied to Cambridge (Profile 215)

Oxford only do Experimental Psychology (not my interest). I didn't get a good feeling from Oxford, but did from Cambridge. (Profile 216)

Cambridge do SPS, oxford do PPE, I prefer SPS (Profile 976)

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

I would suggest you do not waste time talking about your non-academic activites. Concentrate on your subject and also make sure everything is related to your subject. For instance I have a rather unusual hobby called Graphology. If you look up the dictionary definition then you will see how it is easily related to the psychology aspect of my course. Although they like to know if you are human or not, at the end of the day, you are going to Cambridge to study not to play. By relating everything to your subject additionally demonstrates your enthusiasm and passion which your interviewers will share. (Profile 213)

Don't worry too much if you don't know everything, just make sure you have a sound base of knowledge that you can apply to the questions asked. I think that is more impressive, to see you thinking of your feet, then you knowing everything. Make it obvious you're using knowledge and applying it by saying things like "I haven’t studied that area much, but I know this... and that might mean..." (Profile 976)

Don't bother filling in the extra personal statement bit at the end unless you have something very important to say. (Profile 215)

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

I had to submit 3 essays. I really did not have many essays to choose from but thankfully had 3 good ones. I submited one on the impact of the euro on UK businesses, one on British foreign policy between 1932-36 (I think), and another on why Lloyd George was not to blame for the disastrous treaty of versailles. It's best to submit essays which relate to your subjects again. (Profile 213)

Two essays that I had done for my A-Levels. The ones I submitted weren't really the best of my ability and didn't come up in interview, so don't worry too much. Make sure you post them in plenty of time. I left it to the day before and had to pay for special postage. (Profile 976)

3 essays - I sent 2 politics, and 1 english essay. (Profile 215)

How were your interview(s), in general?

I had 2 interviews - one general, one subject-orientated. The general interview still asks you subject-related questions here and there.

Advice to everyone: try and be as friendly as possible to the interviewers. They are partly there to assess your intelligence, but also to ascertain whether they would enjoy teaching you. They aren't going to enjoy teaching someone who is aloof and unapproachable.

It does partly depend on the personality of your interviewer, plus the atmosphere of the college. Applying to an informal college they probably enjoyed interviewing someone who is informal themselves. (Profile 213)

First one was amazing. Had to read an article then discuss that for a bit. Had a good raport with the interviews and they were really cool. Quite informal and went really quickly.

Second one was pretty dodgy. I couldn't answer a pretty basic question - "What does 'Social Construction' mean?", even though I knew the answer, I just couldn't express it well. They seemed disinterested and bored. I came across as pretty average and someone you would reject, but I think my first one swung it for me. (Profile 976)

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

I was asked questions related vaguely to what I had written on my UCAS forms. The hardest question actually sounds like the easiest: 'Why does America want to go to war with Iraq?'. It threw me because I wasn't expecting such an obviously topical question. The other problem was at the time I was slightly pro-war and they were blatantly anti-war. Because I hadn't thought much about any possible response I decided to go throw the reasons it wasn't. I pointed out it cannot possibly be about oil since over 2/3 of Iraqi oil goes to Russia. If America took the oil it would start another cold war. So if you don't know what an answer soundly vaguely correct might be, go through the process of elimination. I never got to the answer because we got side-tracked down a comment I made about the situation in Israel. (Profile 213)

Interviewer made me defend a view on a single topic for almost the entirety of the interview. It was extremely tough and she was intent on making me change my mind. These people are experts and unless you are hard as nails you will feel completely humiliated by the end of it. It was extremely enjoyable and stimulating though and I'd never been shouted down in such a way before. (Profile 717)

What sociological methods could you use to assess the problems of the rioting in France? Why SPS? Define a Nation-state. Do you agree with the view that the Nation-state is in decline and why? Why are you doing 4 A levels? (Profile 542)

Can't really remember but roughly:
- Discussed article
- Answered a few questions relating to content on A-Levels
- Discussed some more complex topics that I wouldn't have studied before and had the interviewer playing devil's advocate. (Profile 976)

Non-academic interview - he asked me those obvious questions that you're always told to prepare for, but don't because you're convinced they won't come up. I thought it went atrociously: 'How are you suited to this course?' - i mumbled something ridiculous about my analytical skills. Academic interview - much better - mostly politics orientated. He asked me about the interests i had highlighted in my personal statement - constitutional reform, liberalism, etc. Asked for a couple of definitions - HRA, EU, etc. Asked some questions based on the essays i'd submitted - (making sure i wrote them?) (Profile 215)


Applying to Engineering at Cambridge University

The Department of Engineering at Cambridge is one of the few truly integrated engineering departments in the world. It is also the largest department in the University of Cambridge. Its breadth and scale bring unique advantage. The research portfolio develops pinnacles of world-class excellence, which adapt and combine to address a vast array of engineering challenges. Graduate teaching brings students into the heart of the latest research and developments. The undergraduates gain a strong foundation in all engineering disciplines together with in-depth knowledge of their chosen specialist field. Across research, teaching and graduate study, the Department of Engineering offers all its staff, students and industry partners a highly networked community for sharing and developing engineering knowledge.

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

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

I liked the smaller city of Cambridge, and preferred the Cambridge course in my subject. (Profile 406)

Oxford didn’t offer aeronautical engineering - Cambridge does. (Profile 403)

Cambridge had better engineering reputation (Profile 405)

Why did you choose this course?

I intend to progress to Chemical Engineering later. (Profile 400)

It’s what I wanted to do, and the cambridge one is particularly good as you have two years general engineering where you do a bit of everything. (Profile 390)

They offered a general course with options to specialise in later years. (Profile 987)

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

Make sure you read all the interview information sent, through obscure links and the like. Some engineering students didn't see the additional interview tasks which were somewhat hidden. The shock of realising this is probably the only impact of this in interview (they wouldn't fail you for it) but still it would be one hell of a shock. (Profile 926)

Know your PS back to front and consider every possible question which may come of it. know your syllabus inside out for maths and physics. do some C1, C2, M1, physics papers in preparation. (Profile 987)

Read 'How things work. The Physics of Everyday Life.' Not only is it something to put in the PS but there is a good chance you will be asked at least one question on a subject covered by the book. Also make sure that you know your AS and A2 work inside out- anything they ask will most likely stem from this. (Profile 945)

The Forms: Be enthusiastic about your subject, and about the university you've chosen. Don't say anything you can't back up at interview, or contradict your UCAS form. They say extracurricular interests are unimportant, but mention them anyway - I had several questions on mine.

The interview(s): Do some wider reading around maths and science, e.g. New Scientist, popular maths and science books, before your interviews, in case you're asked about an area of particular interest. Try to arrange a mock interview with someone, but don't prepare your answers in too much detail. (Profile 406)

The Forms: I just copied my UCAS Section 10 and changed 2 words.

The interview(s): You need to be interested in engineering (obviously), and need to have some knowledge on the particular branch of engineering that you want to go into. It would be helpful if you had an idea of what you wanted to do after graduation. (Profile 403)

The Forms: Not specifically as I really can't tell how important it is. I filled in the form highlighting how I would benefit from the supervision system, a little about the college and picked on an aspect of the course (perhaps specific only to Oxbridge).

The interview(s): As you probably know, if you indicate an interest in chemical engineering, your interview will not differ in anyway from an interview for an engineer (i.e there will be no chemistry questions).

For engineering I found it useful to keep up to date on my A Level learning. I did do some wider reading around the subject although I found specialised books of little help (for that reason - they are too specialised and you'd be lucky to have a question on the book's subject). I did, however, read the Physics Review Magazines - they are useful in making you more aware of physics beyond the curriculum. I noticed that my friends and myself were being asked questions answered in these magazines. Have an interest in the subject and be able to speak enthusiastically at your interview, no matter if it's bridges you're enthusiastic about. (Profile 400)

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

I was asked mostly non subject-specific questions, e.g. why engineering, why Cambridge, why Christ's, extracurricular interests. My subject specific questions mainly did not require me to write anything down, and were easier than those in my mock interview. I was asked about: Newton's Laws of motion, circular motion and planetary orbits, pendulums, electromagnetic induction and transformers, finding the nth term of the Fibonacci sequence (using the trend towards a common ratio (Geometric Progression)). (Profile 406)

The first interview was a mechanics one. We talked over differential equations of motion, the objective of which to derive v^2=u^2+2as from a=dv/dt (and consequently a=v dv/ds). We then talked a little about circular motion (the direction of the acceleration in a whirled string, and the direction of velocity) and progressed this topic further. The second interview was a maths/physics one. I was asked to differentiate certain functions and draw their differentials. I was then asked the integral of 1/x between infinity and negative infinity. The next section concerned electrical physics and the base units (or more useful meanings of certain values). i.e a volt as a joule per coulomb. The third interview began on the subject of a guitar and how it produces a note/sound. the conversation progressed through Archimedes' Principle (how objects float), with a theoretical question of whether there would be an upthrust or not if a perfectly smooth object was on a perfectly smooth ocean floor). The final question was about the factors to consider in building a long span bridge - an open ended question which I was allowed to talk through for a couple of minutes. It was interesting to note that the interviewers made a point of asking me about my extra curricular activities - whether this was just a trivial matter or meant something to the interview, I am unsure. (Profile 400)

Tutorial: Why engineering Why Cambridge Math: SHM Calculus Derivation of golden ratio other equation formation and manipulation Physics: Projectiles up a slope mechanics of a pull-string car zero gravity combustion (Profile 405)

Looking at force as mass x change of rate in velocity. Then looking at how momentum and velocity vary as mass changes. Also a question looking at statics of rigid bodies in a slightly new way. The second interview was just a series of questions at the harder end of the A-Level specification but nothing to outrageous. (Profile 945)

In the first one there was a graph sketch (which was impossible and the interviewer had to basically tell me how to do it) then there were complex numbers, integration and differentiation questions.

After I had 40mins to prepare two out of three physics problems on a sheet, and in the interview went through my answers explaining what i did and it didn't seem to matter i got them all wrong.  (Profile 390)

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

Apply to Christ's if you have an excellent record at GCSE and good AS module results (they'll ask for your module results after you apply). Try to be yourself and not be too nervous at interview, and be prepared to go elsewhere if you don't get an offer. (Profile 406)

Relax about it all. Don't get too wound up in preparations: you cannot revise to imrove your mode of thought which is what they are after. (Profile 405)

If you think you have what it takes, go for it and be fairly thorough in your preparation- revise what you know, do some reading and find out about engineering in general. If you know at heart that you won't get a place, leave it- Oxbridge isn't the be-all and end-all!! And either way, GOOD LUCK!! (Profile 945)

It is not as daunting as you may think. Its a largely painless process (providing you do the preparation and work) and the tutors want to see you at your best not watch you suffer. Also be pleasant and greet them and generally be engaging - even if you're shy. (Profile 987)


Applying for Engineering Science at Oxford University

Engineering Science encompasses a vast range of subjects, from microelectronics to offshore oil platforms, and involves the application of creative reasoning, science, mathematics (and of course experience and common sense) to real problems.

The Department of Engineering Science at Oxford has a top-level quality assessment rating for teaching and a world-class reputation for research. Oxford believes that future engineering innovation will benefit from broad foundations as well as specialised knowledge; it’s undergraduate teaching is based on a unified course in Engineering Science, which integrates study of the subject across the traditional boundaries of engineering disciplines. Links between topics in apparently diverse fields of engineering provide well-structured fundamental understanding, and can be exploited to give efficient teaching.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*A*A to include Mathematics and Physics. The A*s must be in Mathematics, Physics, or Further Mathematics
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 40 (including core points) with 776 at HL (with 7x in HL Mathematics and Physics)

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

I prefer Oxford as a city. The Engineering course also has more flexibility in Oxford in that you can choose to study Engineering, Economics and Management in the second year (subject to prelim grades). (Profile 1044)

Thought that Oxford was better and more flexible for my course. Also had family near Oxford. (Profile 408)

I applied for a combination of Engineering/Comp Science which can only be studied at Oxford. (Profile 399)

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)

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

Do extra reading around your subject as that will demonstrate to the tutors that you're interested in the course. Read New Scientist, check the recommended reading list on the Cambridge website for any books related to your course that interest you. (Profile 1044)

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)

Know your calculus very well for engineering because in both of my interviews that was the only maths that came up. (Profile 895)

The Forms: Don't think too hard about filling out the additional info section of the form. I spent days thinking about it, but what I wrote was so simple but really put forward why I want to be at Oxford.

The interview(s): Make sure you know your stuff, so to speak, but don't overprepare, it really ends up being a waste of time at best. Just make sure you know what you wrote on your UCAS and application form. Most of the questions asked at interviews involve appling simple concepts in unfamiliar situations, so there is no need to spend hours revising as if for an exam! (Profile 408)

DON'T BE NERVOUS OR TENSE. Just relax and take your time answering the questions. When answering, literally speak your mind out. Tutors want to know your thinking process more than the answers. (Profile 742)

The interview(s): don't think the questions are easy, tutors look for depth, keep talking. (Profile 399)

Be meticulous with it because you don't know what will come up in the interview and you'd be kicking yourself if you hadn't revised something which was AS standard which you should have known. (Profile 895)

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

The first interview (at Balliol) was more conceptual in that they asked "imagine that you are in such and such a situation...". The questions required me to relate topics that I had learned at school and apply them to completely new types of questions. There were some short questions at the beginning involving maths, and then a long 20 minute physics question where I ended up deriving a formula and relating it to another topic. It was surprisingly interesting and entertaining.

Second interview had many more pure maths and physics questions, but they also asked a more general engineering question on a topic that you will not have studied at school. I only knew about this topic thanks to extra reading that I did on my own. (Profile 1044)

I was asked questions of circular motion, emf on a plane wing in the earth's magnetic field and problems of inert gas build up during the Haber Bosch Process at my Balliol interview. At the Somerville interview, I was given a problem on how much energy was required to fill a bath, which involve sensible estimation of average lengths and tempatures as well as specific heat capacity, and another question on the integration of 1/x, leading to the derivation of the estimation ln(1+z)=z when z is very small. (Profile 408)

At Brasenose he started from differential equations, asking what they were, how engineers use them, how to apply them when studying vibrations of aircraft wings. He asked why is aluminium still in aircraft used when composites are available (Got that one wrong). Also he provided a diagram and equations of a car suspension and asked how to improve it etc. Those at Wadham first asked the relation between F1 cars and aircrafts (from my statement), then asked me to form mathematical models of a ball attached to a spring regarding force, velocity, and the mathematical relation between current and time in an inductor circuit. (Profile 742)

To start with, a couple of non-important personlity/interest questions to settle me in. After that the questions were purely physics and maths based, where you need to think quickly on your feet, and think aloud because if you stumble onto the right track the interviewers generally give you a positive hint, e.g. why don't we explore that option? (Profile 895)


Applying for English at Oxford University

There are two main course offerings at Oxford if you’re looking to focus on English:
- English Language and Literature
- English and Modern Language

The English Language and Literature course at Oxford is one of the broadest in the country, giving students the chance to study writing in English from its origins in Anglo-Saxon England to the present.

The English side of the  English and Modern Language course offers students a choice of options covering a comprehensive span of literature written in the English language from its origins in Anglo-Saxon through to works produced in English-speaking countries across the world in the present day. The Modern Language study will give students practical linguistic training, encourage them to think coherently about language as a subject of study, and introduce them to an extensive and fascinating literature and thought written in European Languages.

The academic requirements are the same for both courses:
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

[English and Modern Languages] Because I thought it Oxford was the best university in the country, for both Modern Languages and English Oxford has the biggest departments (Profile 732)

[English Language and Literature] I preferred the town and the course. I also preferred the Oxford emphasis on the arts. (Profile 1082)

[English and Modern Languages] Oxford has a superior reputation for English and has the Bod - what other reason do you need? Also, the city itself is supposed to be a little more fun. (Profile 639)

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

[English Language and Literature] Keep a journal of what you are reading from about six months in advance of the interview - include articles, excerpts and poems as well of summaries of books. You may be asked about literature which you haven't read in about a year so ensuring that you have as much as possible in your journal helps you prepare directly before the interview and will also help condense your ideas. (Profile 1082)

[English Language and Literature] Read whatever gets YOU going. Don't try and tick boxes - I read four Jane Austen novels for the sake of it, but I don't think I could sustain a conversation about them for longer than ten minutes. If you read what genuinely interests you, you'll be able to talk about it at interview much more easily. Of course, read widely, but not at the expense of enjoyment. (Profile 959)

[English and Modern Languages] Read lots and lots, and go and see plays and films of the books you're reading so you've got a lot to talk about. read widely, but have a couple of things that you specialise in (Profile 732)

[English and Modern Languages] Definitely seek out people to give you mock interviews - teachers, guidance counsellors and family friends - if you've had practice at verbalising your opinions about literature, the interview will feel far more natural and enjoyable. 

Know your written work well and don't pretend to like a poem/novel/play which you hate. Being honest about your opinions is the best way to go. Also don't focus on extra-curriculars... these seem to hold little or no importance. (Profile 639)

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

[English Language and Literature]
- Why do Shakespeare's Tragedies interest you, as opposed to his other plays?
- Why do you think the rounding of characters in Measure for Measure is weaker than in Shakespeare's tragedies?
- Discuss the theme of 'evil' as it is manifested in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear.
- Attribute one of the following types of evil to each play: Metaphysical evil, Natural evil, Human evil.
- Contrast the idea of time in Macbeth and Hamlet.
- What does Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' lack that is present in his other works?
- Why are the natives in 'Heart of Darkness' voiceless?
- Is Conrad rascist, as Achebe has argued?
- Are there any glimmers of hope in Conrad's bleak portrayal for the human condition?
- What is your perception of the dynamic between nature and humanity in Conrad's fiction?
- Discuss the theme of fate in Thomas Hardy's novels. (I showed them my fortune cookie and told them I was inclined to side with Hardy. I got it in my first night in Oxford, and it read 'Congratulations! You are on your way')
- In what way is character linked to fate?
- How does Hardy portray woman, specifically, Tess from 'Tess of the D'Uberville's'?
- How does Hardy portray the dynamic between women in his novels?
- To what extent is Tess a victim?
- Discuss the authorial voice in Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair'
- What is your opinion of Becky in Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair'?
- How does Thackeray communicate his own feelings to his readers? Does he do this effectively? (Profile 959)

[English Language and Literature] I was asked general questions about why I like Hopkins and the questions grew more specific: what made me think Hopkins' style was similar to that of Keats? Compare the ways in which Eliot and Hopkins talk about Spring. Did I think that it was possible for a poem to sound masculine or feminine based on the use of phonics in the poem?

We moved on to the Romantics - questions were very specific - what was it about the first line of 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge' which made it so resonant? 

Finally we discussed Shakespeare; I was asked about my favourite Shakespeare play and why I liked that one best. I was then asked why it (Romeo and Juliet) was similar to Othello, what I thought of Othello's last speech and why I thought the final scene was set in a bedroom.

In the second interview I was asked to discuss the poem line-by-line and was asked questions about the significance of the rhythm of certain words and asked to explain some of the metaphors which the poet used. (Profile 1082)

[English and Modern Languages] In French I spoke about Baudelaire, Macbeth and Sartre, and studied a ridiculously difficult extract- a modern poem in english. I also spoke in French about Bonjour Tristesse shortly.

English I analysed On My First Sonne by Ben Jonson, then I spoke a bit about James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Then I spoke about Hamlet and the differences in Beowulf translations (Profile 732)


Applying for Economics & Management at Oxford University

At Oxford University, the Economics and Management degree examines issues central to the world we live in: namely how the economy and organisations function, and how resources are allocated and coordinated to achieve the organisation’s objectives. 

Economics and Management are ideal intellectual partners, each particularly fitted to strengthen and cross-fertilize the other.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: A*AA including Mathematics at grade A or above
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

I prefer the way the Oxford course is structured (less mathsy - Cambridge would prefer further maths I think). Also, Oxford is bigger than Cambridge (the city not the uni) so there's more things to do and places to see etc. (Profile 820)

Wanted to do management as well, and so Oxford was the obvious choice. Oxford's a nicer place too (Cambridge is just a dump) (Profile 141)

(Oxford) claimed to place extra emphasis on tutorial teaching, although I've found this to have little basis in truth. The reputation of the food was another important factor - and that IS true!

Since coming here, I've also found further advantages - the central location is a wonderful thing, and at a time when so many of my friends are desperately searching for private accommodation, I'm glad to be in a college that offers accommodation for your entire course should you need it. (Profile 471)

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

MAKE SURE YOU REVISE A/S AND A2 STUFF. I cannot stress more the importance of being well revised. This was something I did not do particularly well, as i was told simply to keep up to date with current economic events. For the economics interview, all they care about is theory. So make sure you know it. (Profile 141)

Read as much as you can. My interviewer didn't ask anything about the books I wrote about in my personal statement, but it definitely gave me background knowledge to strengthen my answers. It shows interest if you are prepared to read outside the A Level topics. (Profile 820)

Read. Firstly, read a book. Maybe one for each subject. Don't go overboard and clear out your library, I'm sure one will do. Make sure you think about it and be able to talk about the issues it raised.

Secondly, be aware of current affairs, and if you've studied either Business or Economics (NOT a requirement, I might add), try to apply your theory to what's going on in the real world.

Personally I took a copy of the Financial Times with me when I went up to Oxford to interview, but by the time I arrived, I was too nervous to read it and spent my time pacing around my room. When I got back from my Management interview, I found pages two and three of it devoted entirely to what I'd had to talk about. If only, if only… (Profile 471)

Did you have to sit any pre-interview exams?

I sat the TSA. I thought the questions were ok but was short on time on the essay. I prepared for the questions by doing a practice paper off the website, but there's no way you could revise for the essay - the titles on offer were too obscure! (Profile 820)

I took the standard university-wide E&M exam, a specimen example of which is available on the Oxford website. Glancing over that was the only preparation I did; this exam tests the way you think, and you cannot really prepare for it. To be honest, though, though it seemed frightening, it was actually quite enjoyable - not something I often say about exams! (Profile 471)

Had to sit the TSA, and am still awaiting the results. These were supposedly used to cut off 50% of applicants pre-interview, so are quite important. You can't really revise too much for this, but try and look at some BMAT stuff, there's more of that available than just the 2 past papers for TSA. (Profile 833)

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

About the Target 2.0 competition, monetary policy, credit crisis, how I would reform the banking system, possible ways of administering mortgages in the future. Management questions were about an article. What is this about? What are the author’s feeelings on....? Read this extract.... what is the problem here? Why might managers having shares be a good idea? Why might it be a bad idea? But you just told me it was a good idea, which is it? (Profile 820)

In Management, I was first asked if I'd read anything in the subject, and then had to briefly discuss it. Then we moved on to discuss private sector involvement in health care. Economics centred quite a bit on me and my reasons for taking the course. I believe this is rare, however, and they just wanted to clear a few things up; don't assume it to be generally true. I also had to explain some things about the theory of perfect competition. (Profile 471)

I had to take a written test before my interviews. You can download a sample paper from the Oxford Website. Make sure you go through this, and make sure you understand how to get the answers to the mathematical questions, because the style of questions are similar in the real test too.

Management Interview : Q. There are 2 economists who are going to predict the headline rate of inflation. One is called Bob (who is old, more experienced, and has been correct 50% of the time). The other is Alan (who has just graduated from university and is familiar with the latest statistical techniques used to make economic forecasts. He is not very experienced, and has also been correct 50% of the time.) Which economist will you believe and why ? A. If you do want to choose one economist, don't be scared to go either way as long as you can back up your answer. However, a professional manager might be inclined to combine the works of both economists (e.g. take an average of both predictions or make them work together). Economics Interview : (Mostly questions based around what you're studying at the moment, or some stuff based on your essays you've sent. So when they ask you "what are you studying at the moment in Economics?", make sure you say something that you're comfortable talking about, because that's what the focus of all their questions will be. That was my biggest mistake. I said the truth, and I ended up being asked questions about topics that I had only just covered in class.) Q. Why should Britan join the Euro ? Q. What is a public good ? why is a public good something which has to be provided by the government and not by the private sector ? Q. What are the disadvantages of the regulation of Privatised Industries ? (Profile 141)

Through your work experience, and being Secretary of the Economics society, tell me what you have found the most important aspect of Management to be.

What do you think about debt relief to developing countries?

Long discussion about current affairs, after reading an article on the planned bail out of the US car industry. 

I had to plan a tariff for a bus route, after being given some information and assumptions. It was basically a logic exercise. The assumptions were then changed, and I had to figure out how this would change the tariff structure.

You are a buyer and want to buy a car. There is a seller, with a used car worth 1000 and a new car worth 2000. These are worth 1100 and 2100 to you. How much are you willing to pay for each car. If you didn't know what type of car it was, then how much would you be willing to pay? etc. Basically it was meant to be solved using basic probability and arithmetic. I messed this up though, as my mind went blank when it came to calculation. (Profile 833)