Application

 Cambridge

 St John’s

 Mathematics

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Grammar School

 yes (10 A*,2 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(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

yes

Cambridge as firm,
Warwick as insurance.

yes

yes

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I wanted to study on a course that stretched me intellectually, and I felt that Cambridge would be the best place for this. I also liked the idea of a collegiate University.

Cambridge seemed a nicer place, and its maths department has a better reputation.

It’s a large, well equipped college, with great architecture and is well-located (on the Backs, and near to Sainsbury’s!).

Preparation

yes

I received a 30 minute mock interview around a month before my actual interview.

Make sure that you thoroughly understand all of the topics that you’ve met at A-level. Extra reading is nice, but I don’t think that it’s required (I’d done a bit of number theory before my interview, but wasn’t tested on this). Having said that, reading some “general interest” maths books is probably useful insofar as it shows interest in the subject.

Interview

no

no

no

I had three 25 minute interviews. The first was a general interview, and the other two were subject specific.

General interview: This was pretty informal, and served to calm me down before my more “intensive” maths interviews. A number of topics were discussed (although little comment was made on my extra-curricular activities, which was what I was expecting this interview to be about!). The main questions asked are given below: “Why is there a shortage of mathematicians today?” “Which is more important: representing your college or completing your maths assignments?” “Is maths a universal language?” 1st and 2nd maths interviews: No general chatting here, just lots of maths! I felt that these had gone atrociously (as, in retrospect, I struggled at some very easy questions), but I think the interviewers are aware that interviewees are going to be exceptionally nervous and so take this into account.

In the first interview I was asked to decide whether a certain type of arithmetic (a form of summation of columns of numbers that the interviewer had made up) was commutative. I was also asked how many digits there were in the binary representations of certain numbers, and was asked to sketch graphs of inreasingly complicated functions. In the second interview, I was asked how I would test a hypothesis involving numbers and shapes on playing cards (though I think that this may have been because I’d studied Critical Thinking), what shape is obtained when a cube is cut along the plane bisecting two opposite vertices, various questions on AC current (although these were really about transformations and properties of sine curves), and a few other question that I can unfortunately no longer remember (I basically went to pieces in this interview, and my memory of it is just one big nervous haze!).

Smart trousers, jacket, shirt and tie, as this is what I’d worn to all my other interviews, and this is what most others had worn at my previous interviews.

Impressions

Excellent! I was very impressed on the Open Day, and everyone seemed really friendly and helpful. On the day of the interviews, there were a number of current students in the JCR to chat to applicants.

I only had a brief glance at college accommodation, and can’t add any information to what’s given in the prospectus.

Excellent, based on a free lunch ticket.

The three interviewers that I had all seemed pretty nice, but beyond my interviews, I didn’t get a lot of discussion with tutors. Dr Dorrzapf gave us a talk about maths and St John’s on the Open Day, and impressed me with his enthusiasm for his subject and concern for the welfare of his students, but this the extent of the interaction that I got with tutors.

Everyone I met was very helpful, although I was slightly put out by one of the students helpingout on the Open Day who told me that the course was too difficult and that he wasn’t enjoying it!

Final stage

General happiness all round! I subsequently received quite a lot of correspondence from Cambridge asking for information on various things, which seemed a bit excessive, but was dealt with very effeciently by the college.

Looking back

Definitely. I got an offer, and (STEP permitting) I’m going to get to study at one of the best Universities in the country.