Application

 Cambridge

 Trinity

 Mathematics

 2006

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

 yes (11 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)

Cambridge STEP Maths

(predicted S; gained S)

(predicted S; gained S)

The A-levels were all sat on or prior to the end of year 12, rather than the end of year 13. (I took a gap year in place of year 13).

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

no

 offer met

Decisions about the application

Cambridge is prestigious internationally, particularly in maths, and I did not want to study in the US. Also Oxbridge have a greater historical significant than any other university (except possibly Paris, and I cannot speak French).

Cambridge is much stronger at maths. It is also (I think) a much pleasanter place to live.

Because maths is what I most enjoy doing.

Trinity is significantly better than the other colleges at maths. It also has the most beautiful architecture and by far the most notable alumni.

Preparation

no

I was doing a gap year at the time I applied so no assistance was available from my school.

Focus almost entirely on improving your mathematical problem solving abilities. Other things such as general maths reading are of limited importance.

Interview

no

no

yes

Trinity sets an hour long test immediately prior to the interview, which then provides a basis for interview discussion.

The interview consisted entirely of maths problems – they did not ask anything about my wider interest in maths or my hobbies and achievements. I think this is typical, at least for Trinity – the one thing they care about is how good you are at solving maths problems.

We went through the questions from the test that I had not been able to do. (Examples of the test can be found on Trinity’s website.) Once we had finished these we then went through some additional work on Taylor series.

A suit, as that was what I felt most comfortable in.

Impressions

Very beautiful.

I am living here now, and the facilities are excellent – rooms are large and well fitted-out, the porters are friendly etc.

Good.

Very friendly.

I am one of them now, so I am perhaps a little biased, but pretty much everyone here is a nice enough person, and the general atmosphere is good.

Final stage

I hardly thought about it – I guess I am just lucky enough to have that sort of temperament.

I opened it, rang up the college because there had been a clerical error giving me a conditional offer instead of an unconditional one (and I really didn’t want to have to sit STEP again), and felt generally pretty happy.

Looking back

Without a doubt.

Do a lot of problem-solving practice beforehand. Practice explaining your thinking out loud to someone else (or even to a brick wall, that will work nearly as well in helping you learn to articulate your thoughts); you are likely to come unstuck if you just mumble to yourself in the interview rather than making it clear exactly what your lines of thought are and where you have got stuck.
Do not worry about memorizing answers of how you have behaved responsibly, and reading books about chaos theory to prove you are interested in maths – I think they realise that this is all just a game. And do not worry about doing lots of preparation – no amount is going to help you very much as the interview it is quite an accurate test of your intrinsic mathematical abilities. You are better off getting a good night’s sleep and remaining relaxed!