Application

 Cambridge

 Queens’

 Mathematics

 2000

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 FE College

 yes (9 A*,1 C)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

1 in STEP II, 1 in STEP III

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I want to test myself against the best Maths course in the country, if not the world. I liked the idea of the collegiate system at universities also.

I had always preferred Cambridge. I liked the course structure more at Cambridge as well

Didn’t mind about mathematicians taking a year out (which I am sort of doing currently) whereas most other colleges say that they strongly discourage it because you will forget everything

Preparation

yes

We had mock interviews, and sessions once per week but these were very much optional, and were more sort of general discussion practice rather than Oxbridge-specific

Don’t try and impress them with your knowledge of very tough advanced maths. Concentrate on learning the basics of the subject (especially permutations and combinations, which most candidates may not have done for a long time) rather than trying to learn new stuff that will be covered at university anyway

Interview

no

no

no

It went awfully. The college had previously sent me a form to fill in and one section was ‘list some topics that you are interested in and may be discussed wth you at your interview’ After deliberating long and hard about this, I selected three topics carefully and then forgot to write them down on the form when I sent it back! The result of this was that they asked me questions about areas of maths which I hated. I apologised to them for this and they said it was OK, it meant they got to chose the subject material.
I had two half-hour interviews, each with one person, and a half-hour talk beforehand with all the interviewees for that day (about things like the pool, typical offers etc.) In the first interview, it was almost all maths, apart from the brief predictable questions: Why maths? why Cambridge? etc. He also asked me whether I would consider deferred entry, Queens’ seem fairly keen on this, and this question seems to be standard for all subjects at that college.
The maths then followed and was awful because I couldn’t do much of it although it wasn’t difficult.
The second interview consisted of a professor taking me through some advanced maths (in my case it was about Fermat’s Little Theorem and Carmichael numbers) without actually asking me any testing questions. We also had a brief discussion about common interests (walking and cricket in my case)

All of these questions were asked in the first interview: Differentiate x^x (That is differentiate x to the x) What is the square root of i? If I had a cube and six colours and painted each side a different colour, how many (different) ways could I paint the cube? What about if I had n colours instead of 6? (The above answer works out to be an algebraic fraction with a denominator of 24) How can I prove this expression is always an integer? What is the largest integer value of the denominator for which this expression is always an integer?

I wore a fairly smart white shirt (no tie) and dark blue trousers (sort of semi-denim, although not obviously jeans) These were the smartest clothes that I owned and I wanted to look smart without wearing a posh suit

Impressions

Didn’t see much of Queens’ but it looked fairly average as Cambridge colleges go.

Not Seen

NA

The ones that I spoke to seemed very nice and friendly although one or two seemed a bit lofty and slightly patronising

I didn’t see any.

Final stage

It was weird because my interview was so awful this time, worse than last time I thought and I got rejected last time, so I was expecting a rejection, with a very small chance of a place in the pool.

I had to read the letter several times before I believed it and I still read it almost every day to make sure that I’m not still dreaming or something! I was so certain that I was not going to get offered a place that I was totally amazed when the letter came.

Looking back

I would, as I still think it’s the best maths course in the country and I want to test myself

Put a lot of effort into your personal statement (both UCAS and Cambridge forms) and ensure that your teachers write a full reference for you. People tend to concentrate on the interview, which although it is very important, at some colleges the decision is split evenly, 1/3 on personal statement, 1/3 on reference and 1/3 on interview. As I had such an awful interview I can only assume that my personal statement and reference helped a lot.