UK Dentistry Application

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Hello to all the teeth lovers! I’m here to help you through the dental application. Here’s some of my advice.

Work Attachment / Job Shadowing

Work attachment is of utmost importance, not only because it can be one of the university’s requirements, but also because the valuable experience that you gain from it can help you to decide if you really like dentistry. Unfortunately, it could be pretty hard to find work attachment opportunities, especially in government hospitals. Instead, you can try to contact private clinics or even volunteer in the dental department. It would be best to do a two-week work attachment as some universities make it a must. During the work attachment, make use of this opportunity to the fullest to observe and LEARN!

  • Bring a small notebook and jot down the interesting things that you have observed.
  • Try asking the dentists some questions if you want, for instance, about dental stuff, their work experience, etc. But of course, this must be done when there is no patient.
  • Try talking to the dental nurses during break as they are the ones who work closely with the dentists. From there, you will realise the importance of good teamwork.

Personal Statement

Writing personal statement could be tedious because if you want to stand out from thousands of applicants; it’s no easy task.

  • Some might tend to use all those very bombastic words to make it impressive. I would advise you to keep it simple and show yourself clearly in your personal statement. Let the admission tutors feel your passion and picture you.
  • Avoid redundancy as the admission tutors might get bored as they read your personal statement.
  • Avoid letting too many people to check your personal statement. Too many opinions will definitely distort the originality of your personal statement.
  • Avoid faking experience or achievement. You can’t really fake it when it comes to the real interview.
  • Be yourself.

UKCAT

This admission test is all about timing, I would say. Practise your speed! You can buy books, get some practice online for free or buy the online practice.

  • Verbal reasoning – Practise speed-reading as it would be of great help because the time provided is very limited. Get the gist of the questions and then answer them.
  • Quantitative reasoning – Practise your speed again! Get used to the PC calculator as provided during the test. Always make use of the UKCAT mock exams as the format is entirely the same. Let me remind you that you can actually use keyboards to key in numbers and for me, it is way faster. Do mental calculations if possible to save time. To be honest, the real exam questions are rather straightforward compared to what you find in some UKCAT books such as the 600 UKCAT Questions book. So don’t worry if you score very low for this section during practice.
  • Abstract reasoning – Do as much practice as you can. You will figure out the common patterns (number of edges, vertices, etc.) after a lot of practice. During the real test, if you get stuck at one question, skip the question and flag it. The clock is ticking. Get back to the question after you’ve completed all the other questions. You can just randomly choose one answer first, in case you don’t have time to get back to this question later.
  • Decision Analysis – Read the code carefully and there shouldn’t be any problem as the time provided for this section is quite ample. Nonetheless, don’t take it lightly. Link the codes and think carefully.
  • Situational Judgement Test – There’s not much practice for this new section. Just do your best!

Overall, focus and don’t panic.

Choosing universities

There are UKCAT and non-UKCAT universities. You can make your decision based on your UKCAT score. Try to check out on how each university uses UKCAT score in the selection process. The weightage might vary between universities. All in all, you must choose the universities that you like as you’re going to spend five years there.

Interview

Once you’ve gotten an interview offer, congratulations, you’re almost there to step into your dream university. Please note that some universities hold their interviews in UK so you have to fly over to UK for your interview. If you have more than one interview in UK, you can contact the universities and try to reschedule your interviews. Make all the interviews in one trip as travelling to UK would be quite exhausting and expensive. Normally, the interviews start from November up to April. Some interview preparation tips are as below:

  • Have a look at normal interview questions (“Why dentistry?”, “Tell me about your work attachment”, etc.) as you can expect these questions in most interviews.
  • Read up on dental ethics. You will be given a scenario and asked what you should do in this case and why. Remember to discuss it from different perspectives.
  • BASIC dental knowledge. I couldn’t stress more that it is BASIC dental stuff that you should know unless you’ve stated some other dental stuff in your personal statement.
  • Have a glance at the dental care system in UK and your home country. Sometimes, you might be asked to compare them.
  • Revise your personal statement and know them inside-out. Some interviewers will ask you questions solely based on your personal statement. So again, don’t try to fake any experience or achievement. It would be very obvious during the interview.
  • Do some research on the university before interview. You might get asked “Why this university?”. Before interview, try to walk around the campus to have a look at the environment and maybe talk to the current dental students there. It is your only chance to get to know the university better.
  • During the interview, be confident and just be yourself!
  • Keep in mind that your interview performance is very important. For some universities, it is the sole determinant to decide if you can actually get the offer. So rest well on the day before your interview.

Post-interview

Waiting for the universities’ reply can be very torturing. Nevertheless, honestly there’s nothing much that you can do at this moment. Focus on your studies now and go all-out for your A-levels! If you got an offer, congratulations! What you need to do now is to meet the conditions offered by the university. Study hard! If you got rejected, don’t give up! You can always take a gap year and reapply next year if you’re really into dentistry. Utilise the gap year to the fullest by volunteering, doing more work attachment and so on.

Useful links

UKCAT

https://ukcat.medify.co.uk/50-top-ukcat-tips

http://www.getintomedicine.co.uk/ukcat-practice-questions.php

 

Interview

http://www.studential.com/interviews/dentistry-questions

http://multipleminiinterview.com/

http://www.dentalethics.org/ethicaldilemmas.htm

http://www.dentalprotection.org/dpl/australia/students/yourfuture/a_dozen_steps

http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx

http://www.bda.org/

 

To sum up, the whole dental application is not easy but it is not “mission impossible” either. Don’t feel intimidated by the limited international places. If dentistry is really what you want, go for it and you will have no regret! All the best in your application!


Chong Xue Mei is currently a second year Dentistry student at the King’s College London School of Dentistry and Medicine.

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Oxford Chemical Engineering Application

mqdefaultBackground

Hi, this is Christopher Lim Zi Kai from the land of agriculture, Kedah! I’m born in 1994 and am currently 20 years old now. After graduating from SMJK Sin Min with 9 A+,

2A in 2011, I was awarded a bursary offer to pursue Cambridge A-Levels in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. My subject combination was Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Further Mathematics.

However, my life was not as smooth as the life of other scholars you may come across before. In 2012, I was selected to attend the second batch of National Service. During that period, I was involved in an accident which resulted a brachial plexus injury. For your information, it is a nerve injury which causes the loss of feeling and control of my right hand, which happens to be my dominant hand. Back then, I was told by doctors that they had never seen this case before and none of the doctors dared to guarantee that I would make a full recovery

After countless sessions of physiological exercises and treatments from traditional doctors all over Malaysia, my hand managed to recover fully after 1 year. Then, the time for university applications came. Initially, I was reluctant to include the famous Oxbridge universities in my application. However, thanks to a classmate persuading me that I should never give up before trying, I decided to include University of Oxford as part of my UCAS application for Chemical Engineering.

Hence, if you are still feeling doubtful whether to apply to University of Oxford, please do not hesitate any longer. If someone with long-term physical injury like me can go through all the challenges, there is no reason why you don’t stand a chance of being offered a place to study in the university of your choice. Take ACTION now to enter your DREAM university!

What was included in the application process?

As a summary for those of you who are interested to apply to any engineering subjects in University of Oxford, here’s what’s included in the application process:

  1. a) UCAS application
  2. b) Physics Aptitude Test (PAT)
  3. c) Interview Session (may be one or two session depending on your subject and college you apply to)

What did I include in my personal statement?

Here’s a list of the points I included in my personal statement:

  1. a) How I develop my passion for chemical engineering;
  2. b) Why I choose chemical engineering;
  3. c) Awards in various Mathematics Competitions;
  4. d) My experience of brachial plexus injury;
  5. e) My future vision of being a chemical engineer and how can I contribute back to society
  6. f) Strength of my character;
  7. g) Activities which I participated in and what I learnt from them, such as what had I learnt from being the Treasurer of Taylor’s College Toastmaster Club, President of Computer Club in SMJK Sin Min, etc; and
  8. h) Why I want to study in the UK.

PAT and Me

This test consists of 2 sections, which is Maths followed by Physics. Unlike A-Levels, there are no mark schemes available online for the past year questions. At the same time, although the questions can still be solved using A-Level knowledge, the solutions can be quite lengthy.

So, I started off by practicing the specimen paper. Initially, I got a false impression that PAT was quite easy as the level of difficulty of the specimen paper was almost similar to what we learned in A-Levels. However, when I started doing the actual past year papers, I was in a shock to find how tricky the questions could be! The solutions will require you to use the knowledge you learn from Cambridge A-Levels (refer to the syllabus section in the link below for more info) and manipulate some equations or linking theories between a few chapters in order to solve them.

I found out that I was quite comfortable with the standard of Maths question as I had practiced solving questions from Australian Mathematics Competition and Euclid Mathematic Competition before (Yup, I had no experience solving Mathematics Olympiad questions at all) and the questions were more or less on a similar level. The only difference was that NO CALCULATOR is allowed during the test (which made life more difficult)!

However, the Physics part was relatively tougher as I did not have much experience in attempting problem-solving questions. In addition, the Physics section can be further split into 2 parts, the objective questions and the long structured questions. At the same time, my lecturer had not finished certain topics from the A2 syllabus. Hence, a lot of self-study was needed in this aspect in order to achieve the level to solve the questions.

Hence, every time after I completed a past year paper, I would find my classmate who was also practicing the paper, and we cross-checked our answers. If either one of our answers did not tally with the other, we engaged ourselves in an intellectual discussion on how to solve the problem. If we failed to come to a consensus, we engaged our lecturer to discuss and find the solution.

Refer to this link for more information about PAT: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/studyhere/undergraduates/applications/physics-aptitude-test-pat

The Moment I Had Been Dreading: The Interview

Surprisingly, a month after PAT, I was invited to an individual Skype interview with two professors from the University of Oxford, one who was responsible for asking me Maths questions and another who was responsible for asking me Physics questions. Personally, I wasn’t expecting to get that far, that’s why I was quite worried about the interview as I did not even have the experience of a mock interview. Nevertheless, I just surfed online and read through how previous candidates performed in the interview. Also, I applied some tips which I got from a senior, which was “Think Out Aloud” – saying out what you are thinking consistently so the professors can understand how you process information and how to help you out when you are stuck.

The interview started off with a maths question. The professor asked me to sketch the function, y= sin (ex). Initially, my reaction was “Oh no, I’m so gonna fail this”; however I just smiled and sketched the shape of a sine function and exponential function next to each other and continue to stare at the paper (Oh ya, you have to prepare your own papers and stationery beforehand). After 2 minutes of silence, the professor asked me if I would like any advice. I accepted his advice and he asked me to analyse the graph from 3 aspects, when x<0, x=0, and x>0. Hence, I followed his advice by substituting x=0 into the equation and managed to get the y- intercept, which was sine 1 radian. Similar to the PAT test, no calculator is allowed during the interview, so I had to convert 1 rad to degrees, using the value of pi divided by 180. The professor then asked me to round off the value to 60 and hence that’s how I obtained the approximate value of the y-intercept, which was 0.866.

After that, I went on to analyse the case where x<0. So, all the values of ex is now smaller than 1 radian. Hence, I know that all the solutions would be positive as they all lie on the first quadrant. The smaller the value of x, the closer the line will be approaching zero from the positive side (Further Maths student should be able to understand what I am saying). On the other hand, for x>0, since the value of ex increases exponentially, the period of the sine function will decreases as x increases. Put together all 3 parts of the graph and you will get:Sin

My next question was all about the interpretation of data from a “Stress versus Strain” graph. Attached is an almost-the-same graph which they showed me:

Stress

I was asked about the gradient of the graphs, Young Modulus, and identifying which object belongs to which category. The most interesting thing that I will like to point out is the professor related an item which I wrote in my personal statement, “Thera Band” to the graph. Hence, make sure that you know what you are writing in your personal statement before you go for your interview. Because this definitely proves that the professors have read your personal statement before interviewing you!

Moreover, after I finished answering this question. I was asked 2 personal questions.

1) Why do you want to study Chemical Engineering, apart from what you have written in your personal statement?
2) Why do you want to study in UK?

In conclusion, rather than calling it an interview, it is more of a stimulation of the actual tutorial system in the University of Oxford. The only reason why I can remember the questions is because I really have learnt from the interview. Personally, I felt that the purpose of the interview was not for them to eliminate students’ applications, but to find potential students who they like to teach for the next 4 years. If they find you teachable, you definitely have a high chance of succeeding the interview!

The interview is definitely something worth experiencing in your lifetime and you will certainly learn something from it!

Here’s a link that tells you further on how the admission tutors select potential students: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29222233


Christopher
Christopher Lim is a dynamic young adult who is pursuing Engineering Science- Chemical Engineering in University of Oxford under JPA scholarship. Being a fan of self- development courses and books, you will find him attending seminars after seminars especially during weekends. He is also the co-author of the book “Gen Y : Code of Success”.

Application to Cambridge Engineering

19-10-09: Cambridge University Department of Engineering

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About Myself

Hi! My name is Gan Jia Min. After graduating from KDU University College A Levels, I headed off to the University of Cambridge in October 2014 to study Engineering.

Engineering In Cambridge

The Engineering course in Cambridge is designed such that all would-be engineers (with the exception of chemical engineers) have a common first TWO years (meaning the same courses, etc). Chemical engineers only have a common first year. The good part about this is that if you are still uncertain about which field of engineering you would like to specialise in (for instance civil, mechanical, electrical), the common first two years allow you to explore the different fields of engineering in greater depth before you ultimately make an informed decision. However, let us say you are certain that you would like to be a computer engineer; it may seem redundant to learn how beams bend when subjected to a load or to learn the properties of steel in your first two years whilst your peers at other universities are learning (for the most part) purely computer engineering modules. For more information about how the Engineering course is structured, you may like to visit http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/engineering/

Application Procedure

There are 5 simple steps to follow if you wish to apply for Engineering in Cambridge.

Firstly, fill up your UCAS online application. You will need to include a personal statement in this form.

Secondly, find out if you have to fill up another online form called COPA (Cambridge Online Preliminary Application), which can be found here (international applicants have to fill this up, so if you’re applying from Malaysia, you have to submit this).

Fill it up if you are required to and submit it before the deadline.

Thirdly, fill up another online form called SAQ (Supplementary Application Questionnaire). If you have already filled up the COPA form previously, you should indicate that you have done so and you will be guided to the relevant section of the SAQ to submit the form. Again, please check the deadline of submission of these forms.

Next, keep your fingers crossed and wait for an email inviting you to an interview and a written test.  The interview and the written test are most likely to be within a few days of each other.

Lastly, wait for their decision, whether or not to accept, reject or pool you. This decision can come via email or (more traditionally) by post, which could take up to a week or longer than by e-mail. Whether or not you will be notified by e-mail or post will depend on which college in Cambridge you applied to.

Personal Statement

It is important to show the university that you are passionate about your chosen course. In doing so, you may want to elaborate on what inspired you to pursue Engineering in the first place. For me, I wrote about how the construction of the Petronas Twin Towers coupled with my love for Mathematics and Physics fuelled my passion for Engineering.

As far as personal statements are concerned, words have little meaning if you cannot back them up with actions. Elaborate on what you have done to learn more about Engineering. For example, reading a relevant book, fixing a bicycle or signing up for an attachment at an engineering firm. Merely stating “I have fixed a bicycle before” is not good enough because it sounds shallow. Elaborate on what needed fixing and how you did it. Explain what you have learnt from this and how it relates to your passion for engineering.

You should include any relevant ECAs as well. For example, an engineering competition you participated in. Once again, add depth to your points. What have you learnt from the competition, etc. Personally, I wrote about the experience and knowledge I gained from participating in several Mathematics competition as well as a Surveyors’ competition.

Of course if possible, your personal statement should be proofread by someone experienced. If you are in Malaysia, MABECS offers this service free of charge (http://www.mabecs.com/).

Interview

If you wish to be interviewed in Malaysia, you will only be interviewed once before your college decides to accept, reject or pool you. Note that you may be re-interviewed via Skype by another college if you are pooled.

Before attending your interview, make sure you know what you have written in your personal statement inside out. If you talked about reading a book, make sure you really know the book because the interviewer can ask you about it. Also, revise your school work, especially the chapters you said you would have covered by the date of the interview in your COPA. These are usually rich sources of questions.

During the interview, you will be asked academic questions. Try your best to answer them. Make sure you think aloud. It is important that the interviewer knows your train of thought. Whenever you get stuck, do not worry, the interviewer will give you hints for you to proceed.

Engineering applicants are, not surprisingly, usually asked Mathematics and Physics questions. Usually the questions will start simple, and then become more complex as you go along. Very frequently, you will be asked unfamiliar questions and be expected to apply what you have learnt in that situation. Let us look at two questions I made up below.

A usual Mathematics question will be graph sketching. Say, sketch y=x and y=sinx. So far, so simple. One is a straight line through the origin and the other a sinusoidal graph. Then, maybe, you will be asked to sketch y=(sinx)/x. This may not be immediately obvious. However, do not panic. Remember, think aloud. You may not immediately know the answer, but tell the interviewer how you wish to proceed. For instance, you could say for x>0, as x increases, the denominator increases whereas the numerator oscillates from 1 to -1 and back to 1 again. So, as x increases (for x>0), (sinx)/x must also be oscillating with decreasing amplitude. After that, the interviewer may ask you to sketch y=xsinx. The point here is, tell the interviewer your train of thought. Do not remain silent.

Let us look at another example. An engineer must be good at estimating quantities. Many errors can be avoided if you have a rough idea how large a number should be. So maybe the interviewer can ask you to estimate the mass of oxygen in the room you are in. So, once again, explain to the interviewer how you wish to tackle the question. Maybe you can estimate the dimensions of the room, and from that, its volume. Then maybe you proceed to say oxygen makes up approximately 20% by volume of our atmosphere. From the volume, you can use the ideal gas equation to estimate the number of moles of oxygen molecules and multiply this with the Relative Molecular Mass of O2.

Written Test

All Engineering applicants will have to sit for the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). You will also have to write an essay about engineering from five choices. All I did to prepare for the TSA was to do a specimen test they have online which can be found here.

I did it just to get a feel of what kinds of questions they will be asking. Remember though, to always keep an eye on the clock. Otherwise, you may not be able to finish it on time, especially if you are not a fast reader.

All I did to prepare for the essay was to once again revise my school work. It is pretty much the same preparation as for the interview.


imageedit_4_8404278516Gan Jia Min is a Math/Physics lover who is pursuing his Engineering degree in the University of Cambridge under a JPA Scholarship. One of his prouder achievements was to become the high jump champion in his primary school in Primary 5!


Medicine in Cardiff University

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Rucira. I’m in Cardiff University. I did Cambridge A Levels in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya and my Malaysian exams in Convent Green Lane, Penang.

2. What was included in the application process to your university?

Firstly, you need to know what kind of universities you are targeting: overseas or local (public or private) universities in Malaysia.  For me, since I did the A levels, there was no way of applying to local public universities as they charge you international student fees.

Secondly, make sure you have fulfilled all necessary entry requirements prior to your application. For example, the UKCAT, BMAT, ISAT, SATs, IELTS. Also, you need to write a sensible personal statement and know your forecasted grades on the upcoming A2 examinations. For me, I did fairly well on my UKCAT with a 720 average and a scoring 900 under Abstract Reasoning. My forecast was 3As and 1A*.

Thirdly, I went to useful and trustworthy websites like thestudentroom.co.uk to read up and do a little research on the universities that I will be able to maximize my chances of getting a place. You need to know your limits and capabilities! I did not apply to universities that concentrate a lot on academics as my forecast grades were not very high. I also avoided universities that pay a lot of attention on the UKCAT. In my place, I applied to the universities that pay more attention on gaining an all-rounded student as I was active in the clubs and societies in my college as well as in cultivating self-development skills.

Next, once you have submitted your application, wait for them to call you for an interview. That’s the exciting part. Most of us students already have a ‘bible’ to literally memorize answers that will most likely be asked by the interviewer. But don’t only rely on that as interviewers themselves own that book as well. I recommend that you read up on the very small and down-to-detail stuff about the university that you are attending the interview for. Read about their medical system, the NHS and also the latest BBC news.

After that, it’s all praying time.

3. What did you include in your personal statement/essay(s)?

Well, my personal statement portrayed more of what I did during my hospital attachment and how I felt about the whole experience.

4. Did you perform any attachment?

I did my attachment in Island Hospital. It’s the largest and fastest-growing private hospital in Penang.

5. What are some of the activities you participated in that you think helped your application?

I joined a handful of clubs in college and held positions in two of them. I was the President of an art club (Free Arts Movement) and an Activity Coordinator for a charity club (Welfare And Charity Keen Youth).  Besides that, I also freely participated in any volunteer-based activity that was held by my college. For example, teaching at the Myanmar Education Center, visiting orphanages, helping out at an autism home. I also had the opportunity to participate in CAMPS International where we travelled all the way to Beng Mealea, Cambodia to help build classrooms for their local school, teach the school children English and also help out in their agricultural needs.

6. Did you have to take any tests?

I took the UKCAT. I only had 4 days to prepare for this. I bought the 600 UKCAT book, did the whole book, all the questions, and also practices online. The more questions you do, the better you get the hang of it. Most of the time, the questions are not hard, but they are time-consuming, and to answer a certain Reasoning, there’s a fixed amount of time. What I did was, I tried to answer as many questions as I can right in the beginning, and then when I have roughly 1 minute left, I just randomly choose the best-fit answer.

7. How was the interview session?

I was called for 6 different universities’ interviews. They were all different. Unfortunately, I can’t share the questions with you as I have signed a confidential release. But you should be prepared for anything they ask you.

If I were you, the smartest way is to go on to student blogs and read up on past student experiences. Some universities will tell you beforehand what to expect, so don’t worry. Nothing could be harder than preparing for SPM.

8. What do you think contributed to the success of your application?

I included most of my ECA, as the universities that I applied to concentrate a lot on gaining a student who is both academically good and active in extra-curriculars. I also included my self-development skills: for example, I’m a KUMON completer, and I took ABRSM piano up to Grade 8 for both theory and practical. I also took part in a lot of NGO competitions that are internationally-recognised, such as the Commonwealth competitions, the AMCHAM award, FedEx International Trade Challenge/Junior Achievement competition.

9. What advice would you give to future applicants?  What are some of the useful resources you used?

I would say, know your limits and capabilities. Play to your strengths! I did a lot of reading on thestudentroom.co.uk, the NHS, BBC news and also the respective universities’ websites. And if you ever fail, I hope you have the courage to try again.


imageedit_2_8264332927Rucira Xiu Xian Ooi is an all-rounder who will be pursuing her medical degree in Cardiff University under private funding. There’s never a dull moment when you’re with her and she is also a very good listener.


Medicine Interview in Cambridge

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King’s College, Cambridge

I first laid eyes on Cambridge when I went there for my interview in December 2013 and I must say, it is indeed every bit as beautiful as it appears in photos and postcards. Upon arriving at Cambridge, I immediately realised that I had forgotten to bring formal shoes to match my suit. It caused me great distress as I looked to my worn-out sneakers, which even had holes (on the left near my little toe) in them and I was so sure that I was going to give a horrible first impression. Shopping for new ones were out of the question as I didn’t have much cash on me at the time and I was already due to fly back to Malaysia the day after my interview. In the end, I decided that I’d just hope that nobody would notice that my shoes were completely out of place.

My misadventure then started when I was dropped off by the taxi at the Gonville & Caius main Porter’s Lodge (or as they call it, the ‘plodge’), when in fact I was supposed to check into my room at Harvey Court plodge. Luckily, a kind senior who happened to be there offered to show me the way, and led me to Harvey Court by passing through King’s College. I should take this time to mention that King’s College is what most people think the whole of Cambridge looks like, as it’s always shown in postcards and pictures of Cambridge. I collected my room key from the porter’s lodge and proceeded to lug my suitcase up two flights of stairs to a room in the K-block near Harvey Court. I remember spending the night worrying over my interview, and desperately trying to memorise the process of aerobic respiration.

The next day, I spent most of my time in the JCR at Old Courts, waiting for my interviews and generally having panic attacks while listening to other people talk about their interviews. My first interviewer started the interview by asking me a few questions about my work experience to help me settle down and make me less nervous about the interview, and followed this up with questions relating to my work experience. Since I talked about how I had learnt to take blood pressure while volunteering at a nursing home and mentioned that I shadowed a urologist, I received questions pertaining to these experiences. I was also asked about the latest issue of biological sciences review and what the main story was, but I could not give an answer as amidst all my other interview preparations, I did not manage to find the time to keep up with it. That made me feel pretty bad, and was definitely not the best morale booster.

My second interviewer also tried to make me less nervous by talking about his experiences in Malaysia when I told him I was Malaysian, but soon after, he cut the chit-chat and moved on to the serious stuff. This interview was mostly a discussion about the various organelles inside a cell, specifically focusing on mitochondria and their respective functions.

The third interview was the one I felt I screwed up the most, but I suppose it was my fault for not studying my AS syllabus in enough detail. We discussed about the organelles of the cell again (mostly about the mitochondria) and then moved on to discuss the sex chromosomes, followed by a series of questions about kidneys and oxygen dissociation curves.

I made sure to thank each of my interviewers after the interview for their time and also for teaching me something new, because I truly did learn something new in each interview. I should also note that each interview is conducted sort of like a typical supervision, so as to give a taste of what Cambridge life would be like.

If you have any questions or would like more details, I can be contacted via:
Facebook: Victor Teh
Twitter: @Zenxenitious
Ask.fm: ask.fm/Zenxenitious


Victor TehVictor Teh is a first year medic in the University of Cambridge. His phone is permanently on flight mode but you can always catch him online (details found above :P)

My journey applying for Economics & Management at Oxford

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Hey everyone! I’m Esther Ng and I will be reading Economics and Management (E&M) in Oxford University this October.

I applied to read pure economics at Warwick, LSE, Bristol and UCL. However, as Oxford did not offer a pure economics course, I chose E&M instead. (UCAS only allows you to apply to a maximum of 5 universities). Moreover, E&M appealed to me as it combines my interest in the management of business with my passion for economics, and is also less mathematical than a pure economics course in say, LSE or Cambridge.

Personal statement (PS)

Next, the dreaded PS which you would spend centuries redrafting. A personal statement is your opportunity to write about your achievements, passion in the subject and differentiate your application from the others.

I only had 3 weeks to draft and submit my personal statement so, I would really recommend you to start your PS as early as possible to allow yourself ample time to redraft and perfect it.

As you are limited to 4,000 characters (about 1 A4 page), it is vital that you focus your PS on your achievements and experiences that reflect your passion and interest in the course you are applying for.  Below is how I structured my personal statement:

  • Introduction. Why economics? What sparked the interest? Instead of merely mentioning my involvement in community service and mission trips, I’ve linked this to how it initiated my desire to study economics – i.e. “to explore economic policies which would reduce chronic destitution and poverty”
  • Books I read which supplemented my interest and articles which I found thought provoking. i.e. The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier, Paul Krugman’s End this Depression Now!
  • My achievements which linked to economics (i.e. UKMT math challenge competition), and the transferrable skills I gained from the subjects I took in A levels (Further Maths and History) and how they further propelled my desire to study economics.
  • Interest in management. i.e. Link to the practicality of economics/ any experience you have in business management (Enterprise CCA)

UCAS only allows you to submit 1 personal statement so if you’re applying for E&M to all 5 universities, then you may want to give equal weighting to both subjects. However, since I applied for  slightly different courses (E&M and pure economics), I only had a small section on management to acknowledge and show interest in it, as I did not want it to affect my pure-economics application to the other 4 universities.

  •    Conclude

TSA Test

The Thinking Skills Assessment is a pre-interview test held in early-November, with the intention to test applicants on their critical thinking and problem solving skills. This is only applicable to certain courses and universities, so do check if you need to take it!

The admission test consists of 2 sections.

  1. Section 1: 50 MCQ in 90 minutes
  2. Section 2: Answer 1 essay from a choice of 4 in 30 minutes which would be reviewed by the admissions tutor of your chosen Oxford college

It’s useful to gain an insight to the structure and time constraints of the paper by looking at specimen/ past papers.

Interview

If you’re shortlisted for the interview, you can decide to fly to the UK or hold a Skype interview.

You are expected to be reasonably well-prepared for your interview.

  • practise answering typical questions like “Why Economics and Management
  • ensure that you are able to discuss anything you mentioned in your personal statement
  • read about your subject, like current affairs/ latest happenings
  • have mock interviews with your teachers/ subject specialists (if you think it will help you, I found this useful!) My economics teacher held a mock interview with me which I recorded to see which areas I could improve on.

For my interview, I decided to fly to UK so that I would be able to visit the campus and my college. I applied to Trinity College and had 1 interview there with 3 interviewees and a 2nd interview at Keble college. Both interviews were starkly different, with my 2nd interview being much more math-based.

Example of parts of my E&M interview:

  • Simple math equation which I had to sketch and questions relating to it. I was not really expecting math questions (I don’t know what I was thinking :/)
  • Interviewer asked me about the Keynesian stance which I mentioned in my personal statement
  • ‘What would I say about a government that keeps using fiscal stimulus however, there is no improvement?’
  • Summarise some articles (mine was on employment) which they allowed me to read before the interview

I was nervous for both interviews and felt like I performed terribly especially for the math questions. However, the interviewers were very friendly and would guide me along the math problems whenever I was stuck.

What are the tutors looking for?

  • Confidence and clarity in expressing and discussing ideas
  • Interest and passion in subject
  • Flexibility and ability to construct and assess arguments
  • Teachability

I almost considered not applying to Oxford due to the limited time I had to prepare my personal statement, and the “certainty” that I would be rejected. What stirred me on was the belief that ‘I know I’ve tried’, so regardless of the outcome, apply to your dream course and university. #noregrets

All the best for your application!


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Esther Ng Kah Wei is delighted to be reading Economics and Management in the University of Oxford. ‘All Glory to God!’, she says. She’s a huge fan of chocolate crepes and loves travelling around the world!

Cambridge Engineering Application

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m studying Engineering in the University of Cambridge under the JPA scholarship. In my free time I play the guitar (as an amateur), read, and help out with my school’s Christian Fellowship. I have no pet dragon.

What was included in the application process to your university?

The main things I had to do were
1) decide to apply to Cambridge,
2) fill in a (quite tedious) online form called the COPA,
3) sit for an interview and
4) do some written tests – the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) and a short essay on Engineering.

What did you include in your personal statement?

My personal statement consisted of a brief introduction explaining why I wanted to study Engineering, followed by a few paragraphs on some loosely Engineering-related things that I did, and lastly a bit about my extracurricular activities in school.

When I wrote my personal statement, I had really done very little that was directly related to Engineering, so I had to find some rather creative ways to link the things that I had done to the subject. Nothing I did was really spectacular, so I mainly tried to show (and kindle!) my inward enthusiasm for the subject.

I wrote 80% of my personal statement in one 1-hour sitting, to get it over and done with, like ripping off a band-aid. The rest consisted of minor tweaks here and there. My lecturer was unsatisfied with it, but in the end I submitted it anyway, thinking that any rewrite would probably not be much better (I have friends who rewrote the entire thing several times). I read my personal statement recently, and I think my lecturer was right – it wasn’t very good, so I think it would be best not to enclose it. It’s a good thing Cambridge also has your interview to go on!

Did you have to take any tests outside your normal course for your application?

The only test I did besides A-Levels was IELTS. Cambridge asked for a relatively high grade, an average band score of 7.5 with all of the individual components having a score of 7.0 or higher. English is my first language. I didn’t go for any classes, but I did go online and find out the format of the test, as well as borrow some example questions from friends who did go for classes. I ended up getting an average of 8.0, with the writing section dangerously close to forcing me to redo the paper at 7.0.

If you have trouble with English, try to find an IELTS class. Some colleges, like KDU (IELTS classes in KDU: http://www.kdu.edu.my/school-of-pre-university/english-language/149-ielts-preparatory-course) and KYUEM provide them. If you can’t find one, try to find past papers and answers online or from a friend.

How was the interview session ?

The interview was by far the most interesting part of my application, and also the most distressing. The questions were fairly simple maths and physics ones, and the interviewer mainly wanted to test my understanding of basic concepts (which was sometimes lacking, but he was nice about it). The room had only me and a lone interviewer in it. The interviewer was quite friendly, though he dived almost immediately into the interview questions. He drew diagrams and equations on sheets of paper, then asked me questions based on them.

If I answered correctly, he would probe deeper into my understanding (“Why do you say that? What makes you think this way?”). If I answered wrongly (which happened more often than not!), he would guide me to the correct answer and see if I could follow. After 30 minutes of being corrected, I left the interview room more or less certain I wouldn’t be getting through (which goes to show sometimes you’re mistaken about your mistakes!). The only preparation I did was go to this website: http://i-want-to-study-engineering.org/. It’s set up by the Cambridge University Engineering Department, so there’s no better place to go.

What do you think contributed to your success of your application?

 I must say I am not sure what it could have been. As I have already indicated, my personal statement was nothing special (and devoid of any work experience or special projects) and my interview certainly could have gone much better, even considering the fact that they are not looking for first-time right answers. My answer to the written test that I did was similarly average. One thing I can say is that Cambridge asked for the UMS scores of my first few exam modules, and I had done very well.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

I suppose if there’s one thing to be learned from my experience, it’s this: you may not think you are a spectacular student, and you may not have done much related to your subject. It’s fine. If you want to go for it, just try; you may be surprised (as I certainly was!). Be warned though, while the application process itself is not really stressful, it becomes stressful once you invest yourself in it and put in the time and effort. When I decided to apply to Cambridge, I was quite nonchalant about it, but as time went by I got more and more invested, and more and more worked up, until the interview became a kind of shadow looming over the year. Try not to let it get to that. Getting into Oxbridge is not everything.


AndrewAndrew Foong is a JPA scholar pursuing Engineering in the University of Cambridge. He has a profound love for cookies, especially chocolate ones.

Mechanical Engineering at Oxford

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Intro

Hello! I am Chow Foo You from Kampar, Perak. I completed my A-levels at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. With the aid of the JPA scholarship, I am pursuing Engineering Science at Magdalen College, University of Oxford this October.

For your information, I chose a double Maths combination for my A-level course, and the combination comprises Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. In order to get to know about the university application process, I attended talks organized in my college and surfed through relevant websites.

UCAS

First of all, you must apply through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) for all UK university admissions. One of the sections in UCAS is the Personal Statement, and it plays a vital role in your university application. For this section, I recommend you to take your time in writing it. Do not rush it as you do not rush for your future. It is a piece of essay that is about you. Illustrate your passion towards the subject you choose. How to stand out from others? The answer is simple. Be original! However, you can always refer to lots of personal statements available on the web (or here on CollegeLAH of course!).

After completing your first draft, do ask other people such as friends, lecturers and MABECS staff to proofread for you. This process takes a long time. Therefore, start early for better preparation. You can even start now by jotting down some points on your notepad.

Admissions Test and Interview

From the 5 universities that I applied to (University of Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London, University of Manchester and University of Edinburgh), the only university that asked for admissions test and interview is University of Oxford.

The admissions test I sat for was the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT). You have to register yourself at a centre which provides this test. For my case, I sat for it at Taylor’s College. The test is free of charge but the centre where you sit for this test may charge an administration fee.

I really faced a hard time when sitting for the PAT as my Further Mathematics A-level examination was exactly on the same date. After struggling with the Further Maths paper, I had to deal with my PAT right after that, though there was a 30-minute short break in between.

As for the Oxford interview, there are two options that you can choose from. The first one requires applicants to travel all the way to Oxford to attend the interview. The second one, a Skype interview, would be better either to avoid the hassle or to save money.

I was interviewed by two interviewers and the session lasted 30 minutes. Three questions were thrown to me one after another. The first question was about sketching graph which involved simple calculus. An equation was given and it was obviously a negative exponential graph. However, due to my nervousness, I simply drew an exponential graph without any thinking. The interviewer asked me: “Why do you draw like this? Do you have any proof?” At this point only I realized my stupidity. Immediately I asked myself to calm down and asked for permission to do it again. Finally, I got the correct answer and the interviewers were happy with me. The lesson of the story: do not panic!

The second question was about circular motion and the third was about conservation of energy. These two questions involve real life situations – a rotating marble and a dam. Throughout the interview process, when you are stuck in a situation, you can actually ask for guidance. The interviewers are willingly to guide you. They do not expect you to know everything. They just want to look for your potential. They would like to make sure that you can fit into the tutorial system at Oxford which is basically a discussion-based learning process.

So, here is my story and I hope it does give you a little insight into the UK application process. If you have any inquiry, you can always contact me. This is my email address: fuyoh94@ymail.com. Good luck!


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Chow Foo You,the mathematical genius is going to further his Engineering Science in the University of Oxford under the JPA scholarship. He can travel around the Europe with his Adidas. However, with his pair of super minute eyes, we have no idea how would he view all the beautiful sceneries in England later.

Penangite Guide to Studying Medicine at Cambridge

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello there, my name is Ming and I’m from Penang. I studied at The International School of Penang (Uplands) for my entire secondary school, ending with the International Baccalaureate for my sixth form studies. The next step is Cambridge, where I’ll read Medicine and graduate in 2020. I haven’t ever been under a scholarship and won’t be under one at Cambridge as far as I know.

What was included in the application process to your university?

Well, like any other applicant to the UK, I had to go through UCAS, which means a predicted grade from the school, a personal statement of 4,000 characters and a boatload of information they requested. Then as a medical applicant, I had to sit for the UKCAT, an aptitude test for admissions to most medical schools in the UK. On top of that, as a Cambridge medical applicant, I had to sit for the BMAT, which (as far as I know) is an aptitude test only for medical admissions to Imperial, UCL and Oxbridge in the UK.

I had the option of writing additional essays for Cambridge on COPA, which is the application portal for Cambridge (basically doing UCAS a second time). I chose not to write additional essays because I knew I wouldn’t be able to write something of good quality within the short time I had.

How did you write your personal statement?

The personal statement has been described to me (by an applicant to the USA, might I add) as “mechanical” and “formulaic” although it is meant to be unique and personal, as its title suggests. Perhaps applicants to both the USA and UK may think that because they write touchy feely essays for Commonapp about how their life was shaped and all. In my opinion, you do need some structure to your personal statement, but you also need to make sure it doesn’t sound computer generated. I chose to include why I want to do Medicine, how I’ve shown to have passion for it and the skills required for it (and thus elaborating on my extra-curricular activities), and how my previous experiences in the field have affected me.

Did you perform any attachment before applying?

Attachments and internships are important not just for your CV and application, but to find out if you actually like what you think you’re interested in. I (rather obviously) chose to do a few attachments at a hospital, watching surgeries, shadowing consultants, observing in Accident and Emergency etc. I found that I didn’t particularly like surgery and that I’m rather interested in oncology, which I think was useful for me. If I could go back a few years, I would also do some care work, like volunteering at a home for the aged, as such things are quite common for medical applicants and are useful to talk about at interviews.

What ECAs did you participate in?

Leadership and organisation is something all universities and subjects appreciate. You want to be able to stand out in a crowd of thousands. I’d say stick to your strengths, wherever they may lie, and be the best at whatever it is. Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like because you want a nicer CV. You might hate it, and you might not do as well. For me, notable ECAs included music (orchestra), sports (basketball and badminton), leadership (Student Council), charity (founding a volunteer/charity organisation in my school), public speaking (Model United Nations), organisation (Student Council committee, organising an MUN conference, organising events for the charity organisation). So there you see I did things I like, and thus had the passion to excel at each.

How did you prepare for your admission tests?

I sat for the BMAT and UKCAT. Aptitude tests are generally difficult for me because my thought process is rather slow and my reading is yet slower. My tip is to just do lots and lots and lots of practice. A week before my UKCAT, I realised I was on track to get 50% (poor is an understatement), and so I put everything on hold and just did UKCAT for that entire week and ended up in the 98th percentile – I suppose it paid off. Don’t stress yourself out like that, learn strategies and do lots of practice early, using the ton of books available out there.

How were the medicine interview sessions?

I had three interviews in total, one for Cambridge, one for King’s College London and one for Southampton University. King’s and Southampton gave me very standard medical school interviews, asking questions such as “why do you want to be a doctor?” and “why not be a nurse or someone else in the medical profession?” At King’s, there was one interview; at Southampton, there was one group interview and one individual interview; and for Cambridge, I was interviewed in Malaysia and thus had one individual interview.

In each case, I tried to make the interview a discussion, which didn’t work at Southampton, but worked to an extent with Cambridge and King’s. This made things a lot less awkward and tense as I was much more able to connect with my interviewers. Most of them were friendly except those I encountered at Southampton, perhaps because they were medical practitioners while the rest were academics.

To prepare, I read up on medical news, be it advancements or ethical case studies (which are quite important). I also practiced some interview questions in a mirror to take note of my facial expressions and how to change them to reflect more positively on myself. I don’t think the latter helped me very much though.

What do you think contributed to the success of your application?

I believe universities look for individuals who add to and improve the standing of their schools. As such, you should look into the course you are applying to and the university you are applying to in order to know what sort of people they are looking for. In my case, it was a well-rounded, passionate and compassionate communicator and scientist, and so I included experiences and achievements that (I felt) showed/helped develop these qualities. I essentially moulded all the activities mentioned above to fit these and included the more significant and recognised ones.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

START EARLY! I think that’s the most important thing. Resources will be different for everyone, so starting early will give you the time to look up all the things you need to be the best applicant possible. If you’re stuck, look to forum sites like ‘The Student Room’ as you are almost definitely not alone in your struggles. Good luck!


imageedit_12_8589795891Lai Ming Yi is a Penangite heading to the University of Cambridge to read Medicine. He is interested in leadership, management and all things frisbee, and can be frequently found in hawker centers on the streets of Penang.

Chemical Engineering at Cambridge University

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1. What was included in the application process to the University of Cambridge?

For all UK universities, you need to apply via UCAS. I believe you all are quite familiar with it. If you really have no idea what it is, here is the link you can follow. However, there are a few things I want to share about the UCAS application:

  • There is no ECA achievements section in the UCAS form. Unlike normal (pre-university) scholarship application forms which allow you to enter your ECA achievements, leadership experience etc, UCAS doesn’t have this section. Therefore, please do include some IMPORTANT ECAs in your personal statement (PS). However, don’t overload your PS with ECAs because your teacher advisor might have included most of them in your reference.
  • For the education section, you can choose to put your grades OR UMS score. If you have impressive marks in your AS or IGCSE, you can choose to enter your score instead of grade.

For Cambridge international applicants, you have to complete an extra form called COPA. This is much more complicated compared to UCAS. You need to fill in your UMS marks for each subject and module you have taken. There is a myth saying that Cambridge will only accept you if you achieved 90+ in every AS module. I personally don’t think this is true because I achieved less than 90 in a few modules anyway. Then, there are another four short essays in COPA. The first one is an optional personal statement (1,200 characters). So, this is the time for you to say why you particularly want to go to Cambridge or a specific college. The next question is: Do you have any specific career plans? (300 characters). The third one is: How have you kept up your interest in the subject you have applied for? (300 characters). And the last one: Is there anything else you would like us to know (600 characters). For me, I put all the things I couldn’t put in my personal statement in response to these questions like my extra interests, hobbies, readings, thoughts etc. After COPA, there is the SAQ. This is pretty simple if you have done your COPA. Just one reminder here: Do send your SPM transcript (original and translated version) here because I didn’t know I needed to do that until the last day.

2. What did you include in your personal statement?

This is the most time-consuming part. I still remember that I included everything from reasons to study chemical engineering, internship, research review, suggestions to current technology, my subject combination, readings and thoughts, ECAs and leadership experience, to hobbies and interests, language abilities, voluntary work, etc. for my first draft, as suggested by this link: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Writing_Your_Personal_Statement. Therefore, my first draft had nearly 4,000 words instead of 4,000 characters. Only after that did I start cutting down on my word count, based on the criticisms and advice from teachers, friends, and some chemical engineers. Basically, the last version started with my reason to study chemical engineering and my internship experience, followed by some readings and thoughts, and my ‘mini research’. I then continued with the competitions that I took part in, leadership experience, and charity work. However, I didn’t include the reason for my A-level subject combination. Here are some extra tips for PS:

    • Use full chemical names instead of short form. Water instead of H2O because the UCAS form will read it as H2O and it will look quite messy.
    • Don’t be too ambitious because eventually you can’t cover everything.
    • If you have had the chance to share your thoughts with some university lecturers, it will be nice to put them in.

3. How was the interview session?

I had my interview in Taylor’s College. It was basically like some sort of discussion. The interviewer was quite friendly. He brought me to the interview room and started with the question “why do you want to apply for chemical engineering?” Then he continued by asking technical questions. There were basically three questions, and the interview lasted nearly 40 minutes.

First, he said, as a chemical engineer, you need to deal with scaling up the experiment. He then pointed at the beaker in front of me and told me there is a chemical reaction happening inside the beaker: X+Y → Z. where X, Y and Z are all liquid and this reaction will occur at 60 degrees Celsius. So, as a chemical engineer, what should be your consideration to produce 1 tonne of the product Z? 

First, I commented on the material of the reactor. (This is where SPM chemistry became important – all the alloys and composite materials); then he asked me how I’m going to heat and maintain the temperature at 60 degree Celsius. Since it is 1 tonne, we can’t just simply use water bath or Bunsen burner with thermometer (laboratory methods). I suggested to use an electric heater with a thermostat and stirrer. My internship helped me a lot in this part. I assumed that the reaction uses a catalyst, and hence classified the catalyst as being either an inorganic catalyst or a biological enzyme. I explained the difference in the method used to maintain the temperature for both kinds of catalyst. (I wouldn’t say much here, but the tip is that enzyme is super sensitive to temperature.) I then showed how the electronic circuit should be set up to allow the temperature to stay roughly constant. (It is just a simple op-amp circuit!) He then continued asking me on how to separate the products from the reactant. Fractional distillation was my answer, given that their boiling points are different. I also mentioned chromatography but I didn’t elaborate because he said we were running out of time. Then, he passed me a sheet of maths questions. If I am not mistaken, there was roughly 10 questions in that sheet and all were just normal A-level math questions. At first, I tried to explain aloud how I came up with the answers to the questions. However, he told me: ‘just shut up and continue doing it, you don’t have to explain to me.’ “Oh, Sh*t!” I was thinking; it was so different from what my seniors told me (they told me that I should be interactive and thinking aloud all the time). So, I did the rest of the questions in awkward silence. After that, I told him that I wasn’t sure if my solution was correct, and he just said ‘just do whatever you can.’ I was shocked and just passed up my answer sheet. After that, he told me ‘since we are running out of time, I will ask you a last question. Don’t worry, it is just a short question.’

He then put some geometrical shapes on the table while saying ‘In hot countries like Malaysia, petrol containers are designed to prevent the petrol inside from overheating, so from all the shapes I put on the table, which shape do you think is the best to keep the petrol inside from overheating?’ The shapes he put were: a cube, cuboid, sphere, cylinder, cone, and pyramid.

I thought about it for a while and explained how heat is transferred from hot to cold when in contact (Zeroth law) and how it is the same as diffusion of oxygen across amoeba cell. (I also don’t know how I came up with this answer, but the amoeba randomly came to my mind) and I explained how the amoeba increases the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide across the cell by increasing the ratio of surface area to volume. So to minimize the heat being absorbed, we should decrease the ratio of surface area to volume. I then said that I believed the sphere is the one with lowest ratio because when we get cold, we tend to position our body like a sphere in order to prevent heat from being lost (the air-con inside the meeting room is freezing cold as well, and that might’ve been the reason why I came up with such a solution). Of course, I continued my answer by showing that the sphere is the answer mathematically. However, I told him that, while the sphere might the BEST shape,  it is nevertheless not the most PRACTICAL one, as I noticed that he was attempting to make the sphere stand on the table. I then explained my observation on how hard he tried to fix the position of the sphere and continued with the inertia and transportation problems, before ultimately coming up with a final answer, where I said that the cylinder is the most PRACTICAL answer. After that, he told me that he didn’t expect me to come up with the solution this way. I panicked (and maybe my facial expression showed that too) but he told me that it was a compliment. (I was glad and of course relieved to hear that!) He then moved to his bag, took out his Macbook Air and showed me a picture of a spherical petrol container. He told me that he had seen spherical containers in China, and explained how they built the supporters to support them, and also how they are transported. The interviewer ended by asking about my IELTS results (because I left it blank in my COPA and UCAS) and told me that I MIGHT need to sit for it.  (PS: I didn’t have to sit for it in the end because my offer didn’t have an IELTS requirement!) So, I prepared for my interview by reading and doing an internship. They helped a lot in my interview, and the questions they ask you might be the ones you have come across in your internship! Reading and watching videos as well as taking online courses are very helpful as well. Personally, I loved the experience of applying to Cambridge. Links for some online courses: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm https://www.coursera.org/

4. Did you have to take any tests?  If so, how did you find the test?  How did you prepare for the test?  In your opinion, what are some of the tips & techniques to get a good score in the tests?

The admission test was a horrible experience for me. It was a day after my interview and was held at Sunway College. I took the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). It is a 2-hour test with 2 sessions:

  1. 1 .5 hours multiple choice questions on thinking skills. There are 25 questions that are mathematics and logic based, and 25 critical readings questions.
  2. 5 hour essay related to the course you applied to. For chemical engineering via engineering, you have to choose a topic out of 6 topics provided.

Ideally, I planned to use 45 minutes for mathematical questions and another 45 minutes for critical reading. I started with all the maths and logic questions because my critical reading was not as good. However, the logic questions were quite long and complicated. After attempting all the maths questions, I checked my watch. Half an hour left. I had wasted 1 hour just for the maths and logic questions. I panicked, and tried my best to answer the rest of the paper, which asked about assumptions, flaws, strengths, weaknesses etc. (they should be quite similar to AS Level Thinking Skills, I heard).  In the end, I only managed to attempt another 13 questions. I tried my best to simply fill in the answers but I was only able to fill in few because the essay task started immediately after the MCQ. Basically, I didn’t even have time to just fill in the answers. In the end, there were only 46 questions with answers. For the essay, I chose the topic which went something like ‘in order to solve real-world problems, scientists are not alone, engineers are essential.’ I wrote about how engineers are involved in the development of hydrogen fuel cell, solar panels, food technology, but at the same time how they created problems like making bombs, etc. I personally think reading magazines like New Scientist, BBC Knowledge, and Scientific American did help me a lot in constructing this essay. Reading books related to renewable energy, the environment, and the history of the development of science and technology might help too. I managed to write 1.5 pages for this essay. Try not to be one-sided. (I believed debaters should have no problems in this.) After the admission test, I was quite sure I wouldn’t get into Cambridge. I regretted that I didn’t practise a lot for the TSA MCQ. Therefore, I advise you guys to not overlook it. For practice, you can try this book. It is quite expensive, so try to look for it in your college library. This book has three practice sets (if I am not mistaken) and I only finished one. Explanations for the answers are included, so it is quite helpful. Don’t panic if you didn’t get everything correct because I was informed that the average score for successful candidates is about 35/50 and mine was definitely lower than that. If you need extra practise, you can try A-level Thinking Skills papers 1 and 3.

5. What advice would you give to future applicants?

Personally, I loved the experience of applying to Cambridge. Even though it might be more complicated than applying to other UK universities, I really learned a lot through this application process. Therefore, I hope you all will apply to the University of Cambridge not just for the sake of getting in, but for the learning process as well.

  1. Be prepared for the admission test (TSA)
  2. Don’t be upset if you can’t answer all the questions or get the correct answer for every question because they don’t expect you to get all correct in order to be accepted. (I think)
  3. Don’t be upset if you get rejected. I have a lot of friends who I thought were better than me but got rejected. Therefore, getting rejected doesn’t mean you are not as good; it may just mean you are not as lucky!
  4. Don’t waste too much time in choosing your college by looking at the admission rate because you might get pooled and then accepted by another college anyway.

I hope you guys find this useful!


The author, who chooses to remain anonymous, is a Bank Negara Scholar who will be reading chemical engineering (via engineering) in the University of Cambridge. He can be easily found with a big water bottle (Tupperware) and please save him if he falls into water because he doesn’t know how to swim even though he has told you he does.