Application

 Oxford

 St Catherine’s

 Computer Science

 2007

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 FE College

 yes (10 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics, B in Mathematics (Further)

AAAB

yes

yes

yes

Recieved offer from UCL, but have decided to decline due to location – don’t want to study in London.

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Reputation. liked the course – v maths-based, and liked the options. Tutorial system sounded good.

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

3 years accomodation, very close to computing labs, and reasonably close to centre of town.

Preparation

no

A few meetings for Oxbridge candidates, but that was about it.

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

Interview

yes

Had to sit a maths test in my college (as in school, not oxford college). It was hard, but I’d looked at the practise ones on the oxford website, and knew what kind of questions would come up.

no

no

Hard to judge. I had 5 (which was unsual; most people got about 3 – 2 in the chosen college, and one in another random college), 3 in St Catz, 1 in St Johns, 1 in Merton. My first interview didn’t go very well – I was nervous, and just couldn’t work out the solution to the question, although I did get there at last, after a LOT of prompting and help. My interview at St johns went very well – I got the answers quickly, apart from a few silly mistakes. I wouldn’t worry too much about stupid mistakes like adding up wrong etc. – the tutors will just put it down to nerves, they know you can add up normally, or you wouldn’t be there.

Apart from a couple of personal statement based questions, most of the questions were maths problems, mostly one easy-ish one to start with, and then one or two harder ones. I had 2 tutors interviewing me in all but 1 interview; mostly one would be asking a question while the other took notes.
Most of the time the way to solve the question was to start with simple cases, and work up. The tutors prompted me if I seemed to be getting lost, and I tried to say what i was thinking in terms of solving the problem – which at least showed I wasn’t just staring blankly at the sheet of paper.

In most interviews the first 2 questions were ‘why computer science’, ‘why oxford’, then it went to maths problems: (by interview)
1st – asked to write down 3 consecutive numbers and spot a pattern. minimum number of breaks needed to break a choc bar into single pieces.
2nd – number of rectangles that can be fitted into a n by m rectangle. this was quite complex, and i got somewhat lost on a bit the tutor was explaining to me.
3rd – a worded problem that turned out to be a sorting algorithm with a difference to normal. then some graph problems
4th – logic problems – which of a group of statements are true or false

un-scruffy jeans and a nice top – ie not a t-shirt. I didn’t feel comfortable in a suit, and all the advice I’d heard was that most people don’t dress that smartly. Which was true.

Impressions

St Catz – nice, modern, I liked the JCR.
St Johns – pretty, but somewhat shabby inside – same for merton

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

Pretty good, with a wide choice. Self service breakfast and lunch, and served dinner.

Friendly, not at all intimidating.

Somewhat disinterested, but not unpleasant.

Final stage

Just wanted to find out and get it over with.

Got phoned by sister to say the letter had come – I told her to open it and tell me, and I had got in.

Looking back

yes. I got in, but even if i hadn’t, i think it was still worth it (unless you’ve got very important things happening in the autumn term, as it was very time-consuming and distracting). really enjoyed the interview days – met loads of nice people, played jenga and pool and cards all day, basically had fun.

prepare for the interview, enjoy yourself at the interview days