Application

 Cambridge

 Sidney Sussex

 Modern & Medieval Languages

 2006

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

 yes (10 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS (283 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (276 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (271 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (265 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in French, A in German

A

yes

no

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Widest range of topics covered, best teaching, college system appealed to me.

Oxford course far too literary. Doesn’t offer ab-initio Portuguese.

Have always had a flair and enjoyment for languages, want to become fluent, year abroad looks like a great opportunity, best chance to learn a new language from scratch.

Went to the open day and got a good feeling at this college. I wanted somewhere small and central, plus the admissions tutor at Sidney had visited my school and seemed very friendly.

Preparation

yes

I had weekly lunchtime sessions with a French teacher to practice translation, some extra grammar and the written test. I had a general mock interview that wasn’t specific to Cambridge (or even university), a very short mock with my French teacher (in French) and another mock with an ex French teacher, which was quite similar to my real one but easier.

Mock interviews are useful even if they’re nothing like the real thing, just to get used to talking to a stranger. It’s good to read (and then think about) some literature in the language, because you’re very likely to have to read a passage before your interview. For ab-intio languages, read something in translation, teach youself some basic vocab, read up on the culture and make sure you know why you want to study it. Don’t write loads of books on your personal statement that you haven’t read yet…I mentioned 4 and had only read 1 when it was sent off, therefore month before interview = major cram, but I did it.

Interview

no

yes

I sent in my Year 12 history coursework about the french revolution and 400 words in French about Simone de Beauvoir.

yes

45 min, 250 word essay in a foreign language to sum up and give personal response to an English article. The topic when I did it was a chimpanzee who does art. Surprisingly, it turned out ok. Think it was testing quality of written language more than original ideas.

The part in French was difficult, in English not too bad. Second interview got progressively harder. Interviewers were nice and not overly formal, but didn’t give much indication of how I was doing. I had 2 interviews of 20min and prepared a passage half an hour before each. They were quite interesting and not too intimidating, but I thought that my answers were pretty average really.

A recurring theme was art. Was asked about books I had read in both interviews, as well as general history.

Read aloud from a passage, translate parts of it, explain the title, what is the author saying about x,y and z. Few questions about how the French Rev is seen today, how it influenced literature. What I liked about ‘Un Sac de Billes’. What can historians learn from literature. Is film academic enough to study at Cambridge. What did I like about the course. General questions on culture and travel. Why Portuguese. Style and themes of a Portuguese book I’d read.

Black trousers, yellow top, sparkly shoes and a big warm coat. Reasonably smart but really just what I’d wear to school. Cambridge in winter is tres cold.

Impressions

I visited 5 colleges on an open day and they were all reasonably similar: pretty, facilities about equal and the students were nice. I liked Sidney because it’s right in the centre of town but still had massive gardens and was peaceful. Seemed to have a good community feel.

Rooms were basic but a good size. Kitchen facilities looked a bit rubbish to be honest. There was a library, computers, dining hall, a chapel that’s more like a cathedral and a student-run bar. What more could you want?

Don’t know, but I’m sure it is edible.

They seemed quite easy-going, welcoming and very clever.

I only met 2 and they were helpful but not too biased.

Final stage

I had dreams/nightmares about it and it was always in the back of my mind because I’m not very patient, but luckily Christmas and New Year gets in the way to stop you going mad with the waiting.

so SO happy, excited and relieved that what I said in the interviews can’t have been complete rubbish.

Looking back

Yes

You really can’t guess what you will be asked, because the interviewers will probably take a new angle on a topic you know a bit about. Think before you give your answers but give your real opinions. Don’t worry if they contradict you…it’s probably just to make you think in a different way. Read around your subject and try to enjoy the experience.