Ask Uncle Colin is a chance to ask your burning, possibly embarrassing, maths questions -- and to show off your skills at coming up with clever acronyms. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and Uncle Colin will do what he can.
Dear Uncle Colin,
Do you have any advice about Cambridge interviews? I have one coming up.
How About Wanting Kings (If Not, Girton)
My Cambridge interviews were a couple of decades ago, so I don’t know how current my advice is. A few things:
- be ready to demonstrate that you’re interested in maths/physics beyond the syllabus. What extra-curriculum stuff do you do? What maths books have you read? What are you looking forward to studying?
- be ready to talk through problems/puzzles and explain your thinking.
- anecdote: I got to my interview early. While I was waiting, someone came out of theirs and said they’d asked “If you’re on a boat floating in the middle of the lake, and you drop a rock into the lake, does the water level go up or down?” He explained it to me, and then they asked me exactly the same question. I rattled off the answer, and they said “You’d heard that one before, hadn’t you?”
- Cambridge thinks it has the best maths course anywhere. That may be true. It doesn’t mean it’s the best maths course for everyone. It certainly wouldn’t have been for me. Think carefully about where you want to go. (That’s not meant to discourage you from going to Cambridge, just to remind you not to pick it automatically if you should get an offer.)
Hope that helps!
— Uncle Colin