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Author Topic: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?  (Read 16978 times)

Offline Nabean

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I have my cambridge interview in just over a week to do Natural Sciences (Physical). I am absolutely terified and was wondering whether anyone has some good tips and best ways of preparing myself for it?
Thanks
« Last Edit: 05/12/2008 08:42:33 by chris »


 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #1 on: 04/12/2008 21:58:34 »
Hello, Nabean, and welcome to TNS.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for interviews. Have a read of this.

If it's any help, I was really nervous leading up to my interview, but once it started the interviewers quickly made me feel at ease.

Good luck. Please follow up this post and let us know how you get on.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #2 on: 04/12/2008 22:09:33 »
I have been told by an Oxford prof. that they are not looking for people that are well rounded and have done lots of extra curricular activities. All they want is intellectuals that are in love with learning and are passionate about the subject they are about to study.
I don't know much about the process but the usual interview skills are required. Make eye contact with the interviewer. Listen carefully to the questions they ask you. Don't rush into answering the questions. Think for a moment before you turn into motor mouth. Make sure you don't fidget. Also do your homework. Get straight in your head as to why you want to study at Cambridge and why you have chosen this particular topic. Get someone to ask you some set questions in a rehearsal type interview. The children at my son's school actually have rehearsal interviews for Oxford and Cambridge.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #3 on: 04/12/2008 22:20:40 »
Good points, Sharon. I believe you attended not so much an interview as an audition.
 

Offline Nabean

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #4 on: 04/12/2008 22:24:51 »
Do you think its more important to read a lot outside the subject (i have read a few books about string theory, quantum mechs, relativity and things like new scientist, scientific american) or should i focus more on areas I have convered in lessons and make sure I know my stuff inside out?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #5 on: 04/12/2008 22:30:21 »
Certainly make sure you know your subject and, as Sharon said, why you want to study at Cambridge. There is not much point learning about subjects that will be of no concern on your course. Learn about the college you want to attend, the social and academic life, professors of your subject etc. Make the panel realise that you have genuine reasons for wanting to attend a Cambridge college. And BE YOURSELF!

I apologise for not thinking of any of these when I first replied. My excuse is that I'm old
 

blakestyger

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #6 on: 04/12/2008 22:32:17 »
Question stuff - the things that tend to get taken for granted. Most received wisdom/knowledge is flawed.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #7 on: 04/12/2008 22:32:56 »
Question stuff - the things that tend to get taken for granted. Most received wisdom/knowledge is flawed.

What do you mean by that?
 

lyner

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #8 on: 05/12/2008 07:56:12 »
Question stuff - the things that tend to get taken for granted. Most received wisdom/knowledge is flawed.
Be careful of that approach; you don't want to appear like a smartarse.
 

Offline dentstudent

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Re: What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #9 on: 05/12/2008 08:01:06 »
Do you know who is going to be doing your interview? If so, find out about their own CV, what projects they are involved with,, what is their specific interest and scientific background, and perhaps prepare a couple of questions to ask about them. If you don't know, then read up about the particular institute as a whole and its involvement in scientfic projects.

I think that it is difficult to be too prepared!
 

Offline chris

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #10 on: 05/12/2008 08:44:08 »
Please note that this thread should really be in Just Chat, because it is not actually about science.

Nabean, if you could acknowledge that you've seen this then we'll move the thread to "Just Chat"; this is to let you know so that you don't struggle to re-locate the thread.

Chris
 

Offline techmind

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #11 on: 05/12/2008 13:53:15 »
I have my cambridge interview in just over a week to do Natural Sciences (Physical). I am absolutely terified and was wondering whether anyone has some good tips and best ways of preparing myself for it?
Thanks

As I wrote on a previous thread:
Quote
...if you're a reasonable student with good grades in your previous studies, then for most of the UK Universities (even the older "red brick" universities), the "interview" often proves a fairly informal chat. By comparison, Oxbridge interviews are liable to take the form of a very rigourous oral examination (especially if you choose not to go down the entrance-exam route). You should expect to do mental calculations, derive or reason things on a blackboard, even face a panel of interviewers. One of the easier questions they asked to get me (physics applicant) warmed up was to mentally calculate the G-forces on a mouse in a washing-machine on spin-cycle. The more input parameters you can estimate along the way, the better.
You have been warned! (I wasn't)

They are liable to test you on all the A-level maths and science you've done - so make sure you're up to date with that.

Practice keeping a cool head, thinking laterally etc. Practice some mental arithmetic, and remembering intermediate answers (if poss). Know by heart the various physical constants from your A-level physics or whatever. Know some useful figures such as size and weight of earth, distance to sun - not crucial, but if they come up in a mental calc and you know the answer, that's a bonus mark. What you don't know they might ask you to make a reasoned estimate - they're looking at your thinking/reasoning process.
They will ask you progressively harder questions to test you to your limit, until you fail. The game is to keep going as long as possible. That said, they will try to help you, so that one or two minor gaffes (or initial nerves) won't wreck your chances.
Similarly, think about any calculated answers you give. They'll look at your method at least as much as your answer, but if you can comment whether or not the answer seems reasonable (by example/comparison etc) then so much the better.

Try not to freak out at any question, but step back and think "how would I go about answering this question?". Some interviewers like it when you "think out loud" (if the thinking is good, at least!)

Know your subject inside-out, to at least the stage you've got to in your A-level teaching. And be enthusiastic!
« Last Edit: 05/12/2008 14:01:08 by techmind »
 

Offline Nabean

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #12 on: 05/12/2008 16:22:52 »

What do you think they are looking for most? Is it more a combination of ability and ethusiasm or just purely ability? I get the impression the interview is the main way they make their decision and that they don't really rely on grades/references etc
 

Offline rosy

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #13 on: 05/12/2008 17:49:16 »
A certain level of ability (as far as that's possible to determine from A-levels, which to be honest aren't a great way of discriminating between the able and the very able), is required.
On the other hand, the Cambridge teaching system is very heavily dependent on small-group teaching, which obviously depends on sufficient interest and enthusiasm to participate and get the most out of the teaching.
Basically, all the admissions interviewers I've discussed it with (all chemists) are looking for candidates they think will get a respectable 2.i and should be capable of getting a 1st with a following wind (at least) and any other characteristics are secondary to that.
Obviously you need to be familiar with the material you've covered at school/college, but more importantly you need to be able to think a bit outside the "box" of the taught school curriculum. You'll almost certainly be asked to apply what you've been taught to a situation not included in your taught course.
 

Offline Nabean

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #14 on: 07/12/2008 17:07:43 »
Thank you very much for your advice. At the moment I am getting very nervous about my interview and doing as much as I possibly can to prepare myself for it by revising everything I've done and making notes on all the books I've read, and doing some practice interviews.
Do you have any tips on things certainly not to say or do at interview?
And what is a good way of answering why you chose that particular college? Is it best to focus on the academic staff that work there or should you keep it a bit 'lighter' and talk more about the location size etc? I'm particularly attracted to my college due to its history and the fact that there is a very good balance between male and female professors within the physics department, which is unusual. Is answering the question along those lines asking for trouble as it might make me come a cross like a crazy feminist?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #15 on: 07/12/2008 19:59:08 »
Relax a bit. The worst that can happen is that you don't get in; it won't kill you.
Anyway, the only thing that would be "asking for trouble" would be lying. If your reason for choosing the college is the mix of staff then say so. (They probalay think they have a good mix of staff too).
 

Offline Nabean

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #16 on: 18/12/2008 21:26:55 »
I had my interview on Monday. I was so incredibly nervous but it turned out to be OK. I absolutely loved the college and the people were really friendly. I find it really hard to judge what my interviewers actually thought of me. I think I managed to complete most of the problems they set with some help, but I really don't know whether I did them well or badly or if I took way too long over the problems or anything. I know for sure I sketched a graph incorrectly so I'm a bit worried about how much that'll be put against me. Would like to thank everyone for there advice, it has been very helpfull! Now I just need to wait and see. I really want to know now, because I keep relaying my interviews in my mind, which I know I really shouldn't be doing but cant help it!
Thanks
 

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What should I expect at a Cambridge University interview?
« Reply #16 on: 18/12/2008 21:26:55 »

 

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