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)