offer made






 Grammar School

My GCSEs were taken at a non-selective school, and I moved to grammar school for 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)

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

Details about the offer


A in Mathematics, A in Mathematics (Further), 1 in STEP II, 2 in STEP III

AAA, General studies was excluded.

*Either* (this was the nice bit, not sure if they’re still doing it) a 1 in step II or a 2 in step III



 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I was getting very good grades and wanted to go on to the best place to learn the most maths. Flicking through the syllabi of many universities there wasn’t much beyond further maths level for the whole of the first year – at least lack of work isn’t a problem at Cambridge

Many people told me Cambridge had a much better reputation for maths. The admissions requirements seemed to suggest this too (only Cambridge and Warwick wanted STEP in my year)

Because there was a bad joke in the prospectus – there was a picture of a rugby player and a ballet dancer both on one leg, and the caption “Queens’, a well balenced college”!

No, seriously, at the time I was trying to choose between Kings (very pretty, doesn’t ask for Step, horribly oversubscribed because of this) and Trinity (has “Trinity Mathmo” reputation of being the best for maths if a little cold / weird / impersonal. Also would probably have offered a 1 and a 1 in Step 2 *and* 3…)

Queens’ has most things you need, great facilities for drama, musical stuff even if your not very good (ie magsoc), room in college for 3 years, and it’s a proper pretty, old, by-the-river college. Also, it’s got a very good reputation for maths, (probably second to Trinity and is a lot friendlier) Although (obviously) I didn’t know it when I applied, 10 out of 16 of us got firsts in the first year.

Oh, and Queens’ was the only college that didn’t mind mathmos taking gap years. I didn’t actually want a gap year (I was a year young, and so couldn’t go abroad or anything as they’d only take 18+s) but I liked the attitude 🙂

While I’ve said that , Queens’ sometimes seem to have a bit of a downer on people who are a year ahead. I was alright because my birthday’s only October, so it wasn’t a huge difference, but I know a couple of people who are more out of their year group that have been turned down / advised to gap year.



A guy in the year above me had a step offer for a 1 and a 2 from Fitz, and missed it (getting a 2 and a 2). So I was really panicy about Step, and so managed to persuade the head of maths to give us step lessons (instead of compulsory PE 🙂 ). But there were two of us with Step offers (the other wanting to do engineering at Johns) and we both went to the same lessons and she failed, so I’m not sure if it actually made any difference or just made me feel better. Oh, and we had a mock interview, but everyone had that. Mine was horrid, the new maths teacher who I didn’t know at all and who’d been to Warwick grilled me about “proof”. So it made the Cambridge interview seem nicer by comparison.





2 interviews, both with maths people.

The first one (Dr Weber), I was on a huge sofa, and trying to do maths on a coffee table, which I couldn’t read (I’ve only got little arms, and the sofa was slowley eating me) So I ended up leaning right off the sofa until I was pretty much crouched on the floor next to the table, and I remember thinking what a prat I must have looked. Lots of (well, 3 or 4) questions, most of which I got wrong, or did in unbearably stupid ways. There was one on probability (the small world 7 step theory) where I forgot to subtract 1 from the denominator for choosing the second person (as you’ve already used the first one!) and there was the square root of i question, which I agonisingly worked out by (a + ib)^2 algebra for what felt like ages, only then to be shown that you can do it in about 2 seconds by just thinking (e^ipi/2). And then at the end there were two doors on the same wall, and I couldn’t remember which one I’d come in through, and walked into a broom cupboard.

Second interview was with Dr Glass, and was very weird, as I felt I didn’t show I knew anything for the entire interview. We chatted a bit about the interests I’d put on my personal statement (leaving me with the wonderful interview story “Ah yes, we talked about shags on the north norforlk coast”) and then as I’d put down bell ringing on the form he took me over to the desk and proceeded (in beautiful calligraphy with a real pen and inkwell, which was fascinating enough on its own) to give me a supervision in group theory. Except I’d never had a supervision or done any group theory, so I didn’t have much of a clue that not knowing anything might not be a Bad Thing. You know the feeling, when things are going just a little bit too fast, but they’re interesting, and you can just about see the shape of them and you’re holding on with whatever the brains equivalent of fingertips are? Well, I didn’t really, before that interview, so came out feelling really really dumb.

See above.

Suit (a nice new one from Principles that my over excited mother decided to treat me to) with a blue blouse.


Queens’ is great, but a bit cliquey (you can escape this quite easilly by doing university stuff) Very good for doing sport and going to bops, neither of which I was interested in, but I loved it anyway.

Accomadation fine, except that second years are expected to share sets… that’s two rooms with two beds, so one person always has to walk through the others room to get in and out. Not everyone has to, but the majority do, and most of the second years live in the building that’s nearly all shared sets. I wasn’t very good at sharing, and (although I had a lovely open minded room mate) a lot of people found it a bit of a drag on their sex life.

Edible but not great

My tutor fine, very good at making sure I get Newton Bursarys etc.

Looking back

Yes – I’m still at Cambridge now doing the optional forth year maths course and holding a PhD offer, and I’m very happy about this!