Application

 Oxford

 St John’s

 Mathematics

 2001

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (4 A*,3 A,2 B,1 D)

A-levels

(C 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)

Details about the offer

 conditional

Merit in AEA Mathematics

AAA

yes

Oxford firm choice, Bath insurance. If I don’t get the grades I’m not re-applying, I’m going to go to Bath.

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Nothing to lose by applying, liked the town-centre atmosphere as opposed to a campus, was impressed by an open day visit

Cambridge asked for Physics A level as a suggested prequisite along with Maths and Further Maths. Also wanted to avoid STEP exam (did not succeed…..)

I only looked at Balliol and St John’s and it seemed nicer, I’m sure the rumours about its untold wealth aren’t totally fictional. Also I felt I had nothing to lose by applying to the best one, since I’d have ended up in a different college if I weren’t good enough for there (did not realise at the time that some colleges set different conditional offers to others).

Preparation

yes

2 practice interviews in the week before interview (from head of 6th form and deputy head).

Don’t panic, be ready for the standard questions at the start (which are mainly just to relax you anyway). Don’t be afraid to stop and think before you answer a question because that’s still better than blurting out the first thing that comes into your head, you’ll be banging your head against the wall for the next few days if you do that!

Interview

no

no

yes

Sunday afternoon 150 minute maths paper. Best preparation is to get the 2 practice papers from the Maths Institute website. The later questions in the paper (2-5) could be prepared for by looking at easier STEP exams but no advanced knowledge was required beyond the single Maths A level.

Monday) Group chat. No interviews due to scheduling in alphabetical order.
Tuesday) St John’s interview:.
Tuesday) Jesus interviews (2×15 mins): All mathematical discussion.
Wednesday) St Anne’s interview:

(My 3 colleges of preference were St John’s, Jesus, Worcester, but St Anne’s called me instead of Worcester).

A few brief and unimportant questions about why I wanted to study maths etc, then I had to answer a question about proving the lengths of the 2 diagonals of a quadrilateral are greater than the perimiter of it or something like that, which then led into a harder proof question.

A coloured shirt, black trousers, black shoes (no tie). I wouldn’t recommend going any more casual than that. I reckon about half wear a suit and half don’t, so do whatever you prefer.

Impressions

St John’s- Brilliant facilities and very friendly student body. Hope to spend the next 3 years there.
Jesus/St Anne’s- No great impression as I was only there for an interview briefly, but I definitely preferred St John’s.
Worcester- Saw on open day, again didn’t see enough to get a big impression but it has lovely gardens!
Balliol- Saw on open day, similar to St John’s in many ways.

St John’s- Room was huge, bathrooms were unisex on my staircase. Game room well worth a look.

Good

All free whilst at interview. I had the driest Chicken Tikka the world has ever seen but apparently this was a one-off and the food is usually excellent. Fried breakfasts a definite plus.

Friendly in a business-like way rather than a old chum way. Probably better to ask a current student.

The JCR were very helpful and welcoming. Definitely put my mind at ease.

Final stage

I got phoned up the Friday evening after I came back from interview, and was told I had an offer, so the letter wasn’t really a surprise.

Looking back

Yes i would still apply because I got an offer! Probably a better one for current students.

Don’t be put off applying because you don’t have flawless GCSE grades. What matters more than a brilliant all round set of grades is your passion for the one subject you want to do. You should know which course you want to do before you decide to go to Oxford/Cambridge, otherwise you’re going to be more interested in the town and the experience than the education. I knew from a very early stage that I wanted to do Maths which probably helped my cause, whereas some people I know with better GCSEs than me found it hard to choose a university course and ended up on the wrong one for them, and it also makes it harder to field the questions at interview if you aren’t brilliantly keen on that course.