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Posted by Celine Wan
This blog post of mines was written two years ago. Since it has captured the attention of many recently by consistently being one of the most popular post for these past few months (deadline to apply to OxBridge is coming soon), I thought it would be great to repost this here!
"Do not listen to what others have predicted for you. Just because a want is difficult to achieve, doesn't mean that it's entirely impossible. The only absolute way for you to be certain that you'll never get it is if you never try, and for once, believe in yourself and stop listening to others' opinions about you (just because they found it difficult or they can't do it). What's there to lose?"
Just saying. Since I got comments like "why bother applying. it's just a waste of time"
Random: Please tolerate my perpetual abusal of rhetorical questions and parentheses. It's a habit for me to type this way when I'm mentally-- and informally-- talking via writing. (well, when you read, you're dwelling into the inner thoughts of others, and this is how I really sound like in my mind. Pretty pathetic I know)
When I've decided to apply to UCAS, it was a week before the Cambridge application deadline. So you can guess: sleepless nights because I started my UCAS from scratch! Not to mention the additional essays and stuff in COPA. In all honesty, I do not think that Cambridge even bothers about your essays because I wrote mines in 5 days or so. If they do care, I don't know how I got accepted (or maybe it's because I work best under stress). The reason why I applied to Camby despite the 5 days mania is because of the course structure. I really wanted to apply to Oxford but I soon realised that they only have the general engineering route, and I was immediately taken by Camby's Natural Science route (it's Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences if you don't get what I'm talking about). There's a general engineering route too. Some may say that Bio or Phy Nat Sc is the same but for Chemical Engineering, it should be physical..? But I'm determined to do lots of Chemistry in my tripos! And so, I've applied to Cambridge and not the latter. (not because it's more famous for science and oxford, the arts...okay..)
Since I've applied for Chemical Engineering, I was required to take a Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) on a separate day from my interview (which is a day or so after). It's a one hour paper consisting of 50 questions. I had a 76% or 78% for the mock test (which is available online) and was pretty satisfied with it, till I know of a friend who got a 86% for it T_T I don't think this is significantly important too because some colleges don't even bother about your TSA. And we don't get to know our actual TSA results. But since I'm an overseas applicant being interviewed in Malaysia....I really don't know, for it's made compulsory regardless of the college I'm allocated to. Also, since I'll be interviewed in Malaysia, I was required to write a 30 minute essay (written assessment) in place of a second/third interview.
I had my interview in Taylor's College and my written test in Sunway College two days after. Speaking of TSA and written assessments (I'll start with that), our essay was right after our TSA. We were in the hall with the rest of the Cambie applicants (not including BMAT and stuff). There were lots of Caucasian people in the hall too, obviously representatives of the university. They weren't smiling so I got a little nervous; not to mention that they were wearing formal suits! I got really emo after the test because I wasted 10 minutes after my TSA wondering what was happening-- when everyone else was working on their essay! I thought my 20 minute work would ruin my entire application. The questions are very technical and course-related. So know your stuff. TSA was generally fine, though I couldn't solve approximately 5 questions or so (not enough time). After the tests, I went window shopping with my long lost friend-- Xuelin-- AND WE GOT INTO THE SAME COLLEGE! (still can't believe it) She is my best friend since I started my A levels...we were once classmates until JPA took her away...
Then came (actually this was before my TSA and written test) the notorious Oxbridge interview: what everyone has been talking about since I entered college. Unlike other interviews, an Oxbridge interview involves a lot of technical questions and doesn't bother much about your life and eca. Familiar with Taylor's College (I graduated there so duh!), I involuntarily wore a turtle neck t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of snickers. I thought that was okay, because based on the sample interview video in Emmanuel College's website (the one for Chemistry), I saw that the boy was wearing t-shirt and jeans.. so I thought it was okay here too...........The look on my face when I noticed that EVERYONE was wearing (I only saw guys...engineering ==) a suit!!! WITH A TIE!!!AND I WAS WEARING A T-SHIRT AND THREE QUARTER JEANSSSS Got so embarrassed I felt so....it looked as if the Cambridge interview didn't matter at all to me -_- (but it really really did!). I had my interview in a really quiet meeting room (pin drop silence kind of quiet). It was bad enough that I could hear myself breathing, the chair was so big and I was sitting at the very end of the long table! And he was next to me! It felt nothing like my casual chat in Starbucks for my MIT interview (got gobsmacked when I heard someone brought an invention in his interview). In fact, the one for MIT lasted for an hour till I had a really bad stomachache after that (from talking while drinking). Still, 30 minutes was just too fast.
Side note: Mock interview was kind of helpful.
The Caucasian man must've obviously been a Chemistry expert because all his interviewees applied for Chemical Engineering and the like. He was very friendly and PROBABLY tried to calm me down when he noticed my tensed up demeanor. He smiled and said "I see that you've got 4A*s in your A levels *smiles* Good good, Cambridge likes that *smiles and stares at me*" I got so nervous from the silence all I could do was to smile back. I think my hands were shaking when he gave me a pen and a paper. Then the questions began. (my 4 subjects in a levels were: bio,chem,phy,maths.. i didnt take further maths but im currently self-studying it, including economics lol)
If I have readers who are applying to Oxbridge, here are my advises (otherwise you can ignore this bit of my post)
Based on experience in an Oxbridge interview, I would say that I am generally lucky to not get creepy questions like "talk about a banana" and "how is snow formed?" (true story, friend who applied for medicine in Oxford got these questions). There are many more really awkward questions but I don't know if I'm allowed to tell them all here without formal approvals. So I'll just let that be. There isn't any standard/general model of a Cambridge interview too because some have claimed that theirs were strictly A levels, and some totally awkward (not even course-related I was shocked!). In summary, we can't really prepare much for it because based on my opinion, the questions are devised in such a way that last minute preparations will not be that helpful anyway. I've prepared random questions after re-reading my personal statement (because some have been asked based on that) and general questions like "why Cambridge?" Anyway, the questions that I got are not strictly based on A levels. I would generally feel that it has nothing to do with it. Why? I was given random mathematical equations and was asked to draw them out. I was also asked to interpret the graphs he drew. There are many more questions that are pretty surprising (as in, one wouldn't expect to even think of such a question). I had 3 "long" questions in total which was a combination of maths and chem (but everything included a lot of critical thinking). I had spent most of my time 'problem-solving' them on the spot. The interviewer had helped me along the way too, i.e when I got stuck during the 'deduction process.' Although 3 questions seem to be short, I'd spent most of my time "developing my thoughts" so it's something like I'm "learning on the spot."
In conclusion (just for the interview), the most important element is not the answer, but the process of getting it. Also, an interview is to see if you're teachable; thus, try not to act too stubborn, pompous, or anything else they'll not favor from a prospective student. More importantly, don't get too upset about getting anything wrong. Because I had one wrong out of three very open-ended, subjective questions and emo-ed till I received my offer. Even when I had the final question wrong, my interviewer asked me why was the correct answer--well-- the correct one! The 'lol' moment when I figured that out. It is expected to be hard anyway because they don't expect you to know that answer immediately, but a progressive discussion till you get it. Moments of serendipities :')
|Am I dreaming?|
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