Application

 Cambridge

 Christ’s

 Mathematics and/with Physics

 2007

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 overseas

 Ukraine

 Independent – non-selective

Kent College, Canterbury

 yes

A-levels

(A at AS (241 UMS))

(A at AS (268 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (287 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (254 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (267 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (300 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

IELTS at 7.5

Other universities

no

I’m considering to apply to Princeton or MIT

Decisions about the application

I applied to Cambridge, because it’s internationally known for its quality of education, especially at maths

Cambridge is better in Maths and Physics

Because I like maths and physics and I want to become a theoretical physicist.

I visited Christ’s and Sidney Sussex on an open day and I liked the accomodation in Christ’s

Preparation

yes

A help with an interview preparation, but not much

Do not sacrifice your prep time in order to prepare for the interview.
Do not spend too much time on the interview preparation.
Answer the letters and forms they send you as soon as possible because it will give you an advantage over other applicants.
Do some practice interviews with teachers from your school whom you don’t know.
If you are given an offer, you should seriously prepare for the STEP because it is difficult and unusual paper.
Think carefully on your personal statement. Don’t put on it books you never read or ones you read long time ago. Remember: your personal statement can make your general interview easier.
Read “anonymous” profile – this irish guy helped me a lot!

Interview

no

No

no

No

no

No

They were different.
General interview was absolutely fine. The atmosphere was friendly and I wasn’t asked any “tricky” questions. It looked like they don’t want to test me on anything, just find out some information about myself (the information was “neutral”, they couldn’t use it to put me down)
Applied maths interview was fine. The questions were not difficult. They seemed so. But I still made some silly mistakes, that I’ve never done before – mix sin and cos, for example.
Physics interview was just awful. I thought nothing can surprise me in physics. I was neither right nor totally wrong.
Pure maths interview consisted of 2 parts – interesting (maths challange questions) and boring (C4 questions). It was all right in general.

Advice – don’t panic! Don’t be nervous. If you’re feeling that they’re trying to put you in a trap, slow down and think. Or ask them for another question.

General interview – nothing “tricky”.
Just information about my previous schools in Ukraine and my life there. My personal statement made my life easier.
Applied maths interview:
1.Chat about understanding principles of relativity (speed of light is constant – what does it mean? -It means it’s constant in every frame of reference (inertial frame))
2.Sketch x^2/x^2-2x-5 or something like that (I forgot coefficients, but they don’t matter) It’s not a complicated task if you practiced graph sketching before the interview.
3.Solve a simple “slope at an angle to horisotal” problem, that looks really complicated and scarying, that puts you under pressure.
Physics interview:
1.Chat about my personal statement.
2.Question about the book I mentioned in my personal statement (Which part of the book did you enjoy most and why? – chat about it)
3.Chat about importance of physics in modern world.
Question – “If there are 4 people on a plane: a doctor, an engineer, a politician and a theoretical physicist and the plane is going to crash and there’s only 1 parachute, why should theoretical physicist get it?” I couldn’t answer it, but after a month I realised, that the physicist could invent time machine and travel back in time to prevent the plane crash from happening.
Question – “What maths models are of significant importance nowadays?” – Statistics in global warming. “Why is there a trouble with it?” – Because people intepret data in different ways “Why?” – Because some people buy scientists to lobby their interests to prevent huge money losses (about oil companies) “Your answer is not exactly correct” – Well, people also interpret the data in different ways, because statistical data can be interpreted in different ways “That’s better”
4.Sketch sin(x)/x.
It’s a really difficult task to sketch or even imagine the shape of the graph on the spot. Advice – sketch it on a graphical calculator and try to sketch it using algebra afterwards. (I don’t understand why was the graph given for sketching on physics interview more difficult then one given on the applied maths interview)
5. Complicated circular motion – gravity – tension – energy transformation question. It’s really dificult to explain the question without a piece of paper. Advice – try to find some physics “challange – type” questions on these topics and solve them as a part of your preparation for math with physics or natural sciences (physical) tripos.
Pure maths interview
1. You’re given scales (balance) and 3 coins. 1 of the coins weights more then the others (its mass is biased). How many times do you have to use the balance to find out which one is biased? (answer is, obviously,1)
Now – harder question. You have 9 coins. 1 is biased (heavier). How many times do you need to use the balance to find which one is biased? (Try to work it out by yourself and e-mail me if you need the answer)
Now – even harder question. You have 27 coins. 1 is heavier. How many times do you need to use the balance now? Why can’t you repeat the operation with the same number of tries (using balance) for 28 or 29? For 30? (You have to deduce the progression)
2.You have a chess board (8*8). Can you cover it with dominoes? (2*1) How or why not (solution or reasoning)
3.You have a chocolate bar (5*7 pieces) 1 of the corner pieces is poisoned (you know which one). You can brake the chocolate bar in 2 along one of the lines (randomly, but you have to “eat” the pieces on the line, that you broke.) What’s your winning strategy if you are allowed to start braking the bar (and eating it) first and you are playing against the teacher? (For answers – contact me)
Now – stupid questions:
1.Differentiate 3*x^2
2.Integrate 1/x^17
3.Differentiate tan^2*x (tan squared x)
4.Integrate ln(x). Advice – CARE! Revise it (the trick)

Suit – the won’t bring you down for wearing it.

Impressions

Good (better)

Good, size – quite big, comfortable.

Ok

They were quite pleasant and friendly (except from physicist, Dr Winter. It seemed to me that he looked at me as if I was a fool)

Haven’t seen any

Final stage

I tried not to think about it

I was preparing for 1st day of the term when 2 of my friends rushed into my room with the letter in their hands. I knew that my physics interview could bring me down, but I didn’t expect it to happen. The letter was thin and when I opened it it said “…due to the intense competition we are not able to offer you a conditional… I am sure you know that the competition for Cambridge places is very severe…” I threw the letter away from my eyes and sat on a chair. I felt nothing. Nothing, but emptiness. Later I found out that none of the overseas students from our college got an offer. There were about 10 of them, all brilliant students, some of them I deeply admire and I was sure they won’t fail even if I will. Regretably, that was not the case. However, all english guys from our school who applied to oxbridge weren’t rejected. I haven’t thought of all of them as of bright students. As for me, it looks strange. Maybe my school doesn’t have a sound name? Nobody knows the real reason. But I regret that I wasted so much time on my application and preparation. The opportunity cost of the time was “Biochemistry” module and differential equations topic (if you know what I mean).

Looking back

Probably not. It’s not worth it. However, Princeton is =)

1.Don’t try to apply to Oxbridge if you are an overseas student and if you don’t have a certificate that says that you are a genius (for example – we had a chinese girl in a previous 6’2 who got an offer from Oxford and accepted it. She was involved in some senior maths challenges and got a certificate, that she was in top 100 mathematicians of UK (top 83 if you want me to be precise))
2.For UK citizens – don’t worry, read my advice on interview preparation – and you’ll be fine.
3.If you are confused or you have any questions – contact me (“Andriy” – first name, “Lazorenko” – 2nd name, andreylazorenko@mail.ru) and I’ll be happy to help you.