Applying for Medicine in the UK

Medicine and UCAS: The toughest thing you’ll go through as an A-level student

I remember hearing from my family members and seniors about how tough it is to be a medical applicant to UK universities. In fact, getting a place at any university seemed close to impossible. And this is the point of this article: to debunk that myth. Do not be mistaken – medicine is by far one of the toughest courses to get a place for. However, if you know how to prepare, what to expect and assuming you give twice the maximum effort you could give, you can get a place.

Firstly, I will explain the medical application process (as everyone else does), type of medicine courses, tips (my experience going through interviews) and finally how I handled receiving bad news! (i.e. getting rejected)

Medicine Application Process

UCAS allows students to apply to 5 UK universities. However, for reasons I cannot comprehend nor know of, we can only apply to 4 universities for medicine. Bummer. Fret not, you only need ONE offer – still possible.

Prior to the application process, you will need to undertake an attachment programme, for whatever length of time, wherever, and in any field you want. I shadowed a medical officer in a private hospital. Not the most exciting of options but it got the job done. The point of this is to grant you a glimpse into the medical profession and everything that it involves. The length and the activities you choose do not determine anything – it is what you learn from it and how you reflect on experiences that determines whether it will be fruitful.

During the application process, you will be required to write a small essay about anything in the world, and this is called a personal statement. This is, some would say, the most important piece of writing where you must give them reasons why you should be allowed to study in their university: basically selling yourself. Most people find this essay to be the hardest thing they had ever done before, while some people write theirs in a week. I, myself, took more than 20 drafts to get it right and that took me just over 5 months. Long indeed. Now, you do not need to start that early – I only intensely worked on it for 1-2 months. I will include my own guide to writing a good medicine personal statement below – hopefully it will help.

Admissions Tests

Now, medical universities use entrance exams. They are really tough exams which absolutely test you and yes, you have to prepare for them. The entrance exams are called BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) and the UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test). The UKCAT can be taken before or during your application (or even after, though I would not recommend that). The BMAT can only be taken after submitting your application, usually in the first week of November.

UKCAT: 5 sections – one of which is the situational judgement test (SJT). Some universities do not take into account the SJT, but some do. Each section comes up to 900 marks. Total score is 2800 for the four sections and you are graded in bands (Band 1 to 4, I think) for the SJT. The total score (out of 2800) is averaged over the four subjects and that is your UKCAT result. Try to aim for 700 and above – some universities are very competitive, and 5 marks can make a huge difference. In addition, this test is taken on a computer at the test site: your results will be given to you immediately.

BMAT: 3 sections – Section A: Aptitude; Section B: Theory based on maths and science; Section C: English essay. A tough exam. Sections A and B are graded out of 9. Average is around 4. Section C is graded based on the quality of the essay (1 to 5) and your English (A to E). Work hard and start early – aim to get above 5 or 6 in Section 1 and above 7 or 8 in Section 2. A score of 4A and above in Section 3 will get you anywhere (even Oxbridge!).

After submitting your application, you will be put onto UCAS Track where you will begin the seemingly-endless days of checking Track in the middle of the night awaiting any updates. Tip: they always email you if there is an update so do not do what I did, please!

Once that is all done, and you have done your entrance exams, you begin the wait (AGAIN!) to see if you get shortlisted for the interview process. All universities have interviews (except Edinburgh – they have a criterion whereby they rank their candidates). Interviews will take a long time to master and prepare for – they are hard work indeed. Some universities have their interviews in Singapore/Malaysia, whereas others require you to fly over to the UK. Blimey. I would advise you not to get too worried about the prospect of having to go through the interviews. It is really a good experience, once you’re there it’s not at all daunting and really enjoyable. Interviews are an opportunity to have a friendly chat with top professors in the field! Generally here’s when you’d be notified:

Cambridge & Oxford: 2nd week of January

UCL: 3 days after final date of interview for international applicants – can take 2-4 weeks depending when you get the interview. [some people have said they have received it 3 days after the 1st interview date – so it can vary]

Queen Mary: 2 weeks after interview

Edinburgh: Late February/Early March

By March, you should have gotten your decisions. Do not fret over what the outcome could be (unless if its motivating you to work harder!). It is alright to get rejections. I myself got rejected by Cambridge, even after working mightily long and hard for it. Think of it as a learning curve – you are meant to grow and improve every step of the way.

Personal Statement (PS)

This is a 4000-character essay where you are given the seemingly impossible task of selling yourself to convince them to take you on as a student. Hard. But doable. Though, you are not going to sell yourself through describing what you have achieved and done: what they prize most above everything else is a good thought process. Explain how you think and reflect in each sentence. Ask yourself why, why and why all the time and then you will find yourself inferring and thinking critically.

In your PS, you should ideally explain your motivations behind this career choice, show a deep understanding of what the profession is all about (including the negative bits of it all), show what you have learnt from extra-curricular activities (no more than one paragraph) and finally, show what you have learnt from your attachment and how that has cemented your career choice. Good personal statements will be more academic and reflective than descriptive (and about your achievements). Talk to them about something sciencey. If you are planning on applying to BMAT universities, and especially Oxbridge universities, you should include at least one paragraph talking about one scientific topic which interests you, which also contains your reflections. For example, talk about cancer/infectious diseases etc.

I would recommend you to only put in 1 paragraph for your extra-curriculars – they can go into your reference (which is done by your teacher/someone in Sixth Form). Try to get them to write something good for you and if possible, let them know what you’d like to see in your reference (as in, what extracurriculars you think are necessary to include in the personal statement)!

Avoid jargon, waffling (unnecessary sentences) and overly emotive descriptions – they do not really care. They care more about what you learnt from your experiences and your thoughts on everything. Reflect, reflect and reflect should be your mantra for personal statements.

Here’s how I wrote my PS: one paragraph of introduction explaining why you chose medicine (only briefly! ‘Why medicine’ has to be evident throughout the PS and they must be able to see that, so you should be capable of expressing that passion very well). Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 should contain one theme each [related if possible but varying at the same time]. This will show that you are a wholesome person – always thinking of varying perspectives. Your PS should, in overall, carry one overarching theme/point. Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 should reflect that if possible. Paragraph 5 should be about extra-curricular stuff and more importantly, what you have learnt from it or how you have grown because of it.

INTERVIEWS

Every medical school requires an interview bar one – University of Edinburgh. A friend once told me: medical interviews are basically a platform where you try to teach them something whilst learning something from them. You are teaching them about your mindset – your perspective of things and maybe they’ll actually learn something! In addition, listening to whatever they say, you are inadvertently learning. It is also an intellectual conversation – simple. Talk to them like how you’d speak to your headmaster/head of sixth form or even any teacher. They want to pick your brains, nothing else: not your physical prowess or other, but to assess whether you can be a good student, doctor and ultimately contribute to society (or the university) down the road.

Some interviews are long, some are short – it matters, but arguably it should simply be an incentive to give it your best shot if you’ve been shortlisted for it. Just 15 minutes with the professor/doctors of your dreams. You can handle it 😊

Interviews come in mostly these forms:

  1. Panel (2/3/4 on one) – most universities
  2. One-on-one – Cambridge (if you opt for an interview in Malaysia)
  3. MMI – multiple stations where you move around, completing a task/answering a few questions at each station, each of which is manned by different interviewers.

Every interview will be different and there is not one method which will help you go through each brilliantly. The following is what I know about interviews. My knowledge regarding MMI is not very good – I did not apply to MMI interviews nor did I get any interviews that were MMI-based.

Types of interviews/format:

  1. Science – mostly Oxbridge
  2. General/about anything – UCL [they think interesting people make good doctors]
  3. Traditional – the usual type of interview where you get ‘why medicine’ etcetera.

Challenge of interviews:

  1. They go through thousands of candidates – the pressure of trying to stand out.
  2. Nerves! Some of you may not have gone through any interviews before or even anything as important as this. Trust me: it is completely fine to be nervous. I would be worried if you weren’t!
  3. Body language – trust me when I say 25-40% of the decision process goes into demonstrating yourself as someone sociable, open, trustworthy, passionate and simply good company. Basically, whatever a good doctor should be.
  4. Insightful opinions – it may be hard to think of the best answer when you are put on the spot. Sometimes, you finish the interview thinking you could’ve done better, or said something smarter. I have had those thoughts after every interview I’ve gone through. What I now realise is that if you went through that, everyone else probably has too.
  5. How do I remember everything? If I forget, and what if I stutter (etc.)? → It is completely fine. It is expected of you!
  6. 15 MINUTES? HOW?? What if I mess up?

If you notice, most of these challenges take place within your own mind. How can you then solve them? → Do what trains the mind, which is practice! Build confidence, train your mind to generate better and more wholesome ideas and Bob’s your uncle!

My experience in interviews:

  1. Cambridge:

I sat for my interview during my AS exam in KL, before my BMAT because I opted to do it here. Crickey.

This interview is not really an interview but more of a private tuition class (i.e. supervisions). They are not interviewing you to see your capability of being the best doctor out there, but the ability to cope/thrive under the supervision system, which is small-group tutoring.

The pro of doing it here – cheap, no jet lag!

The cons of doing it here:

  1. During AS/A2. [which may be good because it forces you to remember your academics, but in my case, it was a con – Maths was long and gone and I had lost my understanding about some topics which hence resulted in my being unable to answer one question]
  2. 30 minutes to convince them where you’d have twice/thrice as long in Cambridge itself. If you mess up one question – chances are, you may not get in.
  3. Conducted by someone who may not necessarily be your college admissions tutor/academic professor. Thus, your college is acting on the recommendations of someone, so although they have been doing it for a long time, it is not the same!
  4. Unlucky – some people get similar, easier questions whereas others get more complex problems. It really depends on your luck!

Now, what do I mean by answer questions correctly/mess it up?

Answering it correctly means to explain them your thinking process, refer to the basics to solve the complex problem and then get to your answer. You may stumble and be inaccurate/wrong but that does not matter. You just need to think out loud, express your rational opinions (think of every question as a KBAT/HOTS question or Moral essay question – just ‘goreng’ your answer).

For more advice/thoughts, email me! Preferably if it aids in deciding your uni choices/if you have gotten the interview!

  1. UCL

This is more of an interview than the above but it felt more like a conversation. We chatted about some weird things which were sometimes unrelated, but at the same time it was really engaging. They were trying to dig into your brain/thinking process like Oxbridge does but instead of using science/maths to do it, they wanted your general thinking process.

The format of this interview is unique – they somehow manage to obtain a copy of your BMAT essay, which is used as a topic of discussion in the interview. The interview is thus split into two ‘parts’, each conducted by another interviewer within a panel of three. The third interviewer is more of an observer – not to ask questions at all. The first part is usually regarding your personal statement, and any general questions. The second part is about the BMAT essay that you have written.

During the first part, they did not ask me about anything even remotely related to medicine, yet still stemming from my PS. Point is, they don’t care if you’re the most academically gifted. They think interesting people make good doctors, so try to be as interesting as you can be, i.e. in your opinions/thoughts.

  1. Queen Mary London/Barts

Queen Mary is another special one – they base half their interview on an article that they would have sent to you two weeks prior to the interview. Besides the interview, the questions that they asked me were very generic. In addition, they used the same questions for everyone – to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed!

Receiving bad news – how?

I received my Cambridge result in the toilet of UCL’s Rockefeller Building – where they interview you at UCL. Not the best of times to have gotten it but again, my word of advice is to always just get it over and done with. Bad news means it just is not meant for you. I had many uneasy nights/sleeps thinking about all the ‘what ifs’, but the end result will not change. I would suggest you to learn from the experience and work on it – you may end up getting a better learning experience in some other university.

Tips

  1. Start early – starting earlier means you have a longer time to develop your PS, the way you think and to develop your character.
  2. Read books – non-fiction books – for this is the best way to learn new concepts/ideas and to develop your character.
  3. Do not ask for too many people’s opinions for your PS. Stick to two persons – but you must ensure they give you good feedback!
  4. Work as hard as you can to improve and get to where you want to get to. It takes smarts and hard work to get into any medical university. Work hard.

Hareneshkaran Kirubakaran, a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Emas Scholar, is currently a first year at University College London pursuing a degree in Medicine. He is of a calm and composed nature and one can often find him in the kitchen, attempting futilely to cook curry. Sadly, that is just the tip of the iceberg for Harenesh’s sorrow as he will be single on Valentines for the 20th time this year. If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at contactus@collegelah.com.

Law Personal Statement

Ariana Ng  is currently a first year undergraduate reading LLB Law at University of Nottingham. This personal statement was part of his successful application to University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University of London for Law.


A conversation with a law student sparked my interest in law. She suggested that it would be possible to sue your neighbour if a leaf from your neighbour’s tree fell on your property. After some research, I concluded that she had over exaggerated the situation as you could only hold your neighbour liable if it caused nuisance or damage. However, I realised how every aspect of a person’s life was governed by legislation that even included the simplest of things: a leaf.

The complex arguments behind cases fascinates me. For example in Mayor of Bradford v Pickles, Mr. Pickles deliberately intercepted the water supply on his land, which flows to the city of Bradford. Lord Halsbury LC said: “If it was a lawful act, however ill the motive might be, he had a right to do it” when ruling this case. Lord Halsbury’s reasoning was surprising as I assumed that laws exist to prevent those with malicious thoughts from actualising them. “What About Law?” by Barnard et al inquires further into this with a hypothetical case in which David tries to kill his girlfriend through voodoo. His motive could justify a conviction even if the intended harm is impossible. I noticed that the defendant’s motive was more critical in the latter case as attempted murder is a more serious offence than the right to use one’s water supply. However, other legal findings such as interpretation of the statute may change the final ruling of either cases. The intricacies of the law inspired me to research further.

I decided to explore the workings of the law by writing an EPQ on the reliability of eyewitness testimonies. My initial research from journals by E. E. Loftus proves that eyewitness’ testimonies are fallible due to the malleability of one’s memory. I questioned why eyewitnesses’ testimonies are still used in court as innocent people had been wrongly convicted. A discussion with a visiting law professor made me aware that eyewitness’ testimonies provide closure and act as a means to serve justice especially if victims themselves testify. I only looked into the injustice faced by innocent defendants and neglected how the acceptance of these testimonies was a safeguard to protect victims. Through my EPQ, I learnt to address conflicting interests and present a non-biased argument – skills which I hope to develop further by reading law.

I came across a module about International Law by Dr. Tzanakopoulos during my Oxford Summer Camp. I was intrigued by this new topic but I contributed little to the discussion and kept questions to myself – a weakness I knew I had to address. I joined the Model United Nations club to ensure that my questions would no longer be left unanswered and honed my debating skills.

My internship with Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill, a Malaysian law firm that specialises in civil law, enabled me to help in the research of the associates and chambering students. It was a very fulfilling experience especially assisting in pro bono work that involved defending ethnic minority children that were discriminated against by their local authority. I realised that lawyers play a vital role in upholding the rule of law by ensuring everyone has access to legal redress.

My scholarship with the Central Bank has reinforced what my role will be in preserving the stability of the financial system through the law. The response to the 1MBD scandal failed to hold those who had created insecurity in Malaysia accountable. The lack of judicial power and ineffective institutional framework have formed an executive with little constraints and this may have stemmed from the 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis. As a central bank scholar who may one day initiate or be part of the necessary reform to prevent these financial scandals, this issue hit close to home.

It is my ambition to read law and I am keen to return to Malaysia with some possible remedies to the issues faced in Malaysia.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Economics Personal Statement

Zulhaiqal Iqmal  is currently a first year undergraduate reading BSc Economics at University of Warwick. This personal statement was part of his successful application to LSE, UCL, University of Warwick and University of Nottingham for Economics.


Microeconomic frameworks are fascinating! The engineering of socially optimal outcomes led me to explore Becker’s exposition of a framework to find the optimal responses that minimised the social loss from crime. Inspired by his approach, I completed an EPQ on the economics of crime. The first part of my research analysed how an individual’s decision to commit a crime could be explained by rational choice theory; if a rational individual commits a crime, the expected utility they get from doing so must be higher than the expected utility obtained through any other path. I then used this simple framework to judge the microeconomic optimality of anti-crime policies in the US. Through this research, I was exposed to the concept of the Lagrangian in simple static optimisation, and enjoyed this mathematical approach to economics. As a scholar of the Malaysian Central Bank, I want to use sophisticated microeconomic models to craft robust regulations for Malaysia; I look forward to learning optimisation techniques at degree level.

My interest in rationality and microeconomic regulation led me to consider whether governments could employ frameworks like Becker’s to achieve efficient outcomes. I think that the government should exploit the individual’s tendency to maximise utility through the use of nudge theory, which presents a socially desirable choice as the one which maximises their personal utility. One example I found particularly interesting was Volkswagen’s ‘piano stairs’; the simple act of turning stair-climbing into a fun activity made stair-climbing the utility-maximising option compared to escalators and elevators, even though climbing the stairs still required more physical effort and time. Such policies can be viable alternatives to conventional intervention like taxation and subsidization. However, the literature on behavioural intervention – for instance to reduce smoking –  is inconclusive. For instance, Gine et al. conclude that “quit and win” contests had clear success in getting people to cease smoking long-term, but Cahill and Perera concluded the exact opposite – they found that the use of “quit and win” contests caused fewer than 1 in 500 smokers to quit. This demonstrated to me that using behavioural policies is risky; costly intervention may accrue no significant benefits.

Evidently, working with existing utility functions may not be satisfactory; if individual utility functions can be modified, the effectiveness of microeconomic policies can be amplified.  As a Muslim living in Malaysia, where Islam is the religion of the majority, I was intrigued to discover Ahmad’s work in ‘A Macro Model of Distribution in An Islamic Economy’. He explains that in the institutional framework of an Islamic economy, the fear of God is present, which causes individuals to not only be motivated by self-interest, but also by the fact that they will be held accountable by God in the hereafter. Furthermore, tithing is practiced in the Islamic economy as an inviolable pillar of Islam. I postulate that the concept of brotherhood inherent in Islam causes individuals to include the utility of other individuals in their own utility functions – this might explain the altruism I often observe in the Islamic community. Historical studies posit that when Prophet Muhammad brought the migrants from Mecca to Medina, he declared the migrants and the Ansar (the original citizens of Medina) to be ‘brothers’. This brotherhood was based on mutual socioeconomic support, and caused two previously disparate groups to work for a common good, transforming Medina into the economic hub of the Islamic world. This role of institutions like religion, which can alter the incentives of microeconomic agents, is something I am keen to delve further into.

I love the rigour and richness of Economics, and am excited to gain a grounding in economic theory at university.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Actuarial Science Personal Statement

Fok Sing Tian is currently a first year undergraduate reading BSc Actuarial Science at London School of Economics and Political Science. This personal statement was part of his successful application to LSE, Heriot-Watt University, University of Manchester, Cass Business School and University of Kent for Actuarial Science.


Mathematics, to me, is a discipline that requires one to possess an analytical mind and sufficient critical thinking skills in order to truly comprehend its depth. My curiosity brought me to venture deeper into the world of Mathematics, and eventually, I caught myself dwelling on the link between statistics and uncertainty. After reading ‘How Long Is A Piece of String?’ by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham, I was particularly enticed by the feasibility of Benford’s Law and Kermack-McKendrick Model in detecting fraud and predicting the distribution of infectious diseases, respectively. My fascination for the versatility and practicality of statistics in the process of risk analysis ultimately led me to understand that a degree in Actuarial Science might suit me the most.

Further research on the career enlightened me on stochastic simulation. I was stumped when I came across the Monte Carlo simulation, which involves the computation of probabilities of different outcomes in an event which is influenced by random variables. Deeply intrigued, I discovered that this simulation is used in determining the premium price for term life insurances. I feel that this simulation has greatly contributed to the prediction of uncertainty through a more holistic approach and it compensates for the limitations of deterministic models. It is the eagerness to understand the principles behind predictive models that sparks my interest in Actuarial Science.

‘Probability: The Science of Uncertainty’ by Michael A. Bean, impressed me with the ingenuity behind the derivation of Law of Large Numbers, a fundamental principle in insurance. It was then that I finally understood that as more people become involved in loss sharing, the monetary amount that one must bear in the case of catastrophe becomes more certain and insubstantial. I believe that this law helps in formulating more stable premiums capable of accounting for larger variations and thus preventing credit risks. In the future, I look forward to obtaining further statistical knowledge and eventually run my own calculations.

My internship in an accounting firm gave me the opportunity to gain first-hand exposure to the financial world. During my tenure, I familiarised myself with Microsoft Excel for bookkeeping, data entry as well as calculating taxable income and depreciation of assets. Furthermore, I learnt how data collected were analysed to ascertain company performance and had the chance to witness the process of auditing a client. This experience allowed me to hone a meticulous attitude and adopt some soft skills, in addition to greatly contributing to my overall confidence in my decision to pursue this path.

My interest and proficiency in Mathematics propelled me to join numerous competitions. I was awarded the Prize Certificate in Australian Mathematics Competition and clinched the Honourable Certificate in National Mathematics Olympiad. I also won the Best Year 10 Team Award and the Individual Bronze Award in Malaysia Asean Science & Math Olympiads. These competitions helped me to improve my problem-solving skills and maintain a critical thinking process even under stressful environments.

As the Vice President of Mathematics Club, I equipped myself with leadership qualities and management skills by organising activities and competitions for students. Being part of the Model United Nations enabled me to practise essential communication skills in a variety of situations. Moreover, I am learning basic coding through Udemy courses as I am aware that programming plays a big role in easing the tasks of an actuary, such as in data massaging.

I envisage myself to be a part of the actuarial team which devises effective statistical models and utilises them in risk analysis. Having secured a scholarship from the Central Bank of Malaysia, I look forward to embarking on an intellectually rewarding journey in world-renowned institutions in the UK that will aid me in achieving my goals.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Cambridge Economics Interview

Preparing for an interview can be pretty daunting at first, and a Cambridge interview, no less (those can get pretty intense). In this article, I will share my personal experience of the interview day with you.

Arriving at the Scene

I did my interview at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya and was allocated to (probably) the last slot of the day at 4.30 pm, so you can quite imagine the anxiety that had slowly built up throughout the day as I waited for my turn.

Reaching the waiting area 30 minutes early, I tried my best to kill the butterflies in my stomach by praying and recalling everything I’d prepared. Suddenly, someone tapped my shoulder from behind. When I turned around, to my surprise, it was the interviewer himself! (You will know your interviewer beforehand via email.) That caught me totally off-guard and almost gave me a heart attack. And that was how I went into the interview room.

The Interview Proper

Though I was still recovering from shock, things escalated right off the bat! After a quick introduction, he wrote a pretty complicated equation and asked me to sketch a graph based on it. Caught off-guard at how quickly things started, I took a few seconds to calm myself down and analyse the equation before asking him about the few unknowns in the equation. He then wrote down on paper the parameters for the unknowns and explained them to me.

I managed to determine how the first part of the equation would only affect the gradient of the graph and not its shape. The shape can only be determined from the 2nd part of the equation by first deducing how an e−x graph would look like, and work my way towards the end product by slowly explaining how the graph will be affected step by step. After a few hiccups here and there due to panic and carelessness, I managed to complete the sketch with to his satisfaction. He was there to guide me whenever I got stuck.

Next, he then asked me a few more questions regarding what I’d talked about in my personal statement, regarding the effectiveness of microcredit in reducing poverty and the various factors that would affect this proposed solution. Hence, you need to be thoroughly well-versed with all the books and concepts that you have mentioned in both your PS and COPA.

Before concluding the session, he asked me if I had any questions. Trying to leave a meaningful impression, I asked for his view on the effectiveness of supply side policies in combating poverty. That didn’t end well for me: he stopped me midway and said that he didn’t have the time for that. So, maybe ask something simple or don’t ask at all. We then bid farewell to each other and that was it.

Lessons Taken

To sum it up, Economics at Cambridge can be very mathematical and so your interview would most likely be similarly so. Make sure you have a strong grasp of A-levels maths and economics concepts before the interview. Further Mathematics knowledge is definitely an added bonus. I find it very helpful to vocalise your thoughts so that the interviewer can understand your thought process and assist you if you get stuck. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. At the end of the day, the interviewer is trying to find someone who is a good fit at Cambridge and not someone who knows everything. All the best to you if you are applying!


Aaron Goh Zhong Fu’, a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholar, is currently on a gap year and will be reading an Economics degree at Cambridge University come September 2019. Besides playing a ton of futsal, there is nothing he enjoys more than binge watching a good anime series. Aaron is as humble as it gets and one can frequently hear him say, “All glory to God.” If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at contactus@collegelah.com.

Economics Personal Statement

Shanker Sreetharan  is currently a first year undergraduate reading BSc Economics at University College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to UCL, University of Warwick and University of Nottingham for Economics.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the UN’s targets for poverty eradication, environmental preservation, and achievement of prosperity. Initially, I was interested specifically in the target of eradicating poverty within 15 years, which seemed overly optimistic. In ‘The End of Poverty’, Sachs estimates that with planned developmental aid, poverty can be eradicated by 2025. This argument is predicated upon the existence of the poverty trap (represented by the S-shaped curve), which he argues a one-time injection of resources will help the poor escape.

Contrary to this, economists like Easterly reject his notion of a poverty trap, and instead argue that poverty can be tackled by educating the poor as to the efficient way to benefit from their existing resources. Personally, I do not think the two ideas are mutually exclusive; greater efficiency and information will increase the efficacy of aid. However, research I conducted during an economics internship at Malaya University suggests the existence of thresholds in corruption and governance, which prevent aid from serving its intended purpose.

I am eager to further explore growth and development models at university. The SDGs detail far more than just poverty, but I think that there are multiple conflicts between the different targets. For instance, the goal of speedily eradicating poverty conflicts with that of controlling climate change, since the UN’s time targets would require heavy industrialisation. Growing up in Malaysia, I have witnessed the harms of overly rapid development first-hand. Cities like Kuala Lumpur experience flash floods, landslides, and pollution due to over-urbanisation. I am therefore convinced that sustainable development must be the overarching goal.

To explore the subject further, I took Columbia’s online course, ‘The Age of Sustainable Development’. I learnt that growth must comply with planetary boundaries in order to be sustainable. While researching the link between development and sustainability, I was fascinated to stumble upon the environmental Kuznets curve. If the hypothesis of increasing development leading to environmental improvement after a point is true, then concerns of sustainability will sort themselves out naturally. However, empirical work by Levinson et al. has found little support for an inverted U-shaped relationship between national income and environmental indicators.

Competing in the Malaysian Public Policy Competition, I employed this knowledge to conclude and argue that development policies must be designed to be sustainable. My EPQ on sustainable development argues that development policies need to strike a balance between neoclassical and ecological economics. Neoclassical economics considers the environment a subset of the human economy, focusing on maintaining a constant available capital stock by ensuring a high savings rate; this investment then drives technological improvement. On the other hand, ecological economics rejects the subsuming of the environment, instead arguing that it is the human economy which is a subset of the environment, since natural resources are not perfectly replaceable by man-made capital.

I argue in my EPQ that firms must move towards investments with positive externalities, and that this is the only way to ensure that the micro-foundations of development are sustainable. Businesses could invest in waste management, ensuring safe work environments, education and reducing carbon footprints. This ultimately generates dynamic increases in productivity, achieving growth while preserving the environment. Therefore, I suggest that governments should move to subsidise and encourage such investment; failure to do so spells doom in the long-run.

As a scholar of the Central Bank of Malaysia, I will have a platform to craft policies and models for sustainable development. I am keen to explore the intricacies of sustainability and development through economic theory at degree level.


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History Personal Statement

Terence Khoo Rong Her  is currently a third year undergraduate reading BA History at King’s College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to King’s College London, LSE, University of Exeter, University of York and University of Bristol for History.


History has a special place in my life due to visits made to my grandfather. His wartime stories brought me closer to him. One particular account that still fascinates me is the first that he ever told me. Images flash through my mind as he describes his youthful curiosity of the roar of the Japanese planes flying overhead their village. Curiosity turned to terror when he relives the anxiety shown in his mother’s eyes when rumours spread that Japanese invasion was imminent thus leading them to seek shelter in the nearby jungle. It was rather disconcerting to pass by the usually vibrant downtown areas of my hometown, Ipoh, knowing that in the past, the same place was a backdrop for horrendous atrocities which occurred there. It’s hard to envisage that almost seventy years ago, people, especially of Chinese ethnicity, lived in fear of the Japanese and the atmosphere of oppression that gripped the city rather than the lively and vibrant city that it is today.

As I grew older, what started as an in-depth look at Malaysian history has progressed to a passionate love of both European and world history. I am fascinated about the interlinking events that occurred in 20th century Europe and how these have a profound effect on the rest of the world. Indeed, how the actions of one individual can have such a grave effect on the history we study today. For example, a craving for a sandwich by Gavrilo Princip after a botched assassination coupled with the jamming of the gears of Archduke Ferdinand’s car culminated not just in his death but more significantly the trigger event of WW1. Indeed, the impact did not stop there as Germany’s eventual defeat in war and its humiliation in regards to the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of Nazism and the eventual outbreak of a further war in 1939. The ending of WW2 saw a new conflict in regards to that of East vs West and likewise the creation of Israel in 1948 has ramifications for peace in the world today.

History allows us to ask questions. Indeed, what if Princip was not hungry, how would the world look today? The fact that History is a huge story filled with tragic coincidences and intriguing human behaviours are what makes the study of history so appealing. Increased understanding of human behaviour empowered me to study A Level Psychology as it enhances my knowledge of how the mind works thus gaining a deeper insight into people’s actions. For example, was it Stalin’s paranoia that led him to purge so many people and likewise was it Hitler’s failure to deal with rejection by Jewish owned artist galleries that led to the holocaust? Solving these dilemmas is like deciphering through a mathematical equation – a skill I have primed during my study of this subject. Likewise, just as History taught me to see things in perspective, economics elicited my ability to translate theory into practice.

My internship at a local law firm certainly gave me an insight into the real life pressures of work. In particular, it enabled me to understand the need for thorough analysis as I was involved in undertaking research of clients and companies. More importantly, it taught me the importance of having the right information for as in history, having the wrong information may lead to misguided conclusions.Outside of academia, I am a keen musician and sportsman. I have achieved Grade 8 in piano and have also been elected as head of the Sports Committee within the college’s Student Council. This has enhanced my communication skills which in turn have aided my oral development during classroom discussion.

The intention to pursue History at undergraduate level comes after much deliberation. However, A Level history has eroded any doubts in my mind as the learning experiences I have gained has strengthened my passion to delve further into this wonderful arena. I am strongly motivated to continue these studies as this will act as a platform for me to contribute back to a society of which I have freely taken from.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Mechanical Engineering Personal Statement

Arijey Sura  is currently a first year undergraduate reading MEng Mechanical Engineering at University College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to UCL, University of Manchester and University of Bristol for Mechanical Engineering.


Speed. My love affair with engineering began with speed; the cutting edge technology of Formula 1 racing. The Kinetic Energy Recovering System, hitched my heart immediately. Kinetic energy recovered during braking is stored as electrical energy, then used to boost torque between the fly and drive wheels. Such sophistication ignited my curiosity to explore this field of mechanics leading me to spearhead the Robotics Initiative of my school. We designed and programmed robots with ultrasonic and light sensors, integrating data received to perform various tasks. By equipping solar panels to the motors, our robots raised the Malaysian flag when the Sun was up. Despite complications due to energy-load proportions, we achieved success by manipulating gear ratios, increasing total force.

Engineering however, isn’t limited to moving particles. Its versatility complements my profound yet diverse passions. The Physics A-Level course supplemented my interests. As a pianist I was curious as to how 88 piano keys produced various pitches. Deriving the standing wave equation relating tension and frequency, explained this. I investigated the piano further, noticing the thickness differential in the wire wound strings. The different materials used fascinated me; lower pitch wires were coated with copper to increase mass yet maintain string stiffness. Appreciating this detail, the length-mass-tension ratio, in producing seemingly asynchronous waves that formed perfect melody, made music more colourful. I admire the application of Maths and Physics in this manner and my achievement in the National Science Challenge, that tested proficiency of both fields, reflects this.

Studying Economics provided a new viewpoint of the engineering world as I learnt the cost benefit analysis that tests the practicality of projects. My internship with United Engineers of Malaysia (UEM) reinforced this as I engaged in discussions to migrate the mechanical systems of UEM towards green engineering. Ideas of equipping thermocouples to condenser units of air conditioners; using unwanted heat as an energy source, intrigued me. However its feasibility was questioned, when implementation costs outweighed benefits. I learnt of the financial truth behind engineering and how economics links a concept to its reality.

Engineering inspires. The philosophy of the small but powerful carbon nanotubes (CNTs) captivates me. Superficially, it’s just another allotrope, graphene; mere pencil lead, but under the lenses of engineering, endless possibilities unveil. Humble upbringings made me relate to this simple pencil. Yet, with positive pressure and support I received, as do CNTs through orbital hybridisation, I displayed strength. 2 years ago, a football injury left me on crutches. My inability to walk led me to empathise with amputees who suffer worse. I realised my passion of prosthetics through this and researched its future prospects. I read up on CNTs, an immensely light body with greater tensile strength than steel. Its ability to contract rapidly when connected to a significant voltage meant, CNTs could potentially be more efficient than organic muscles. The works of Easton LaChappelle inspired me. At 17, he started Unlimited Tomorrow, producing affordable prosthetics using 3D printers. Till now my passion remains. I aspire to further integrate CNTs in prosthetic development to reduce its cost and reading engineering would support this.

The two greatest days of a man’s life is the day he’s born, and the day he finds out why. Job shadowing an engineer highlighted the latter. Designing actuator valves in refrigerant flow cycles to increase its efficiency, prompted me of what I already knew – that second great day was when I realised, relating to a pencil was alright. My past brought rationality and flexibility to detect mistakes, quickly sketching new ideas. A trait valued in every field, especially engineering. That second great day, ignited my passion in engineering.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Civil Engineering Personal Statement

Tan Wei Hoe  is currently a second year undergraduate reading MEng Civil Engineering at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London, University of Edinburgh, University of Manchester and University of Bath for Civil Engineering.


Many a times I’ve asked myself, “What is my passion?” and many a times I could not muster an answer. Though, I’ve always loved to play Lego. I would indulge myself for hours in it. As I grew older, my perspective towards the world changed. Curiosity led me to a construction site near my house. How structural elements were pieced and combined to produce spectacular structures deeply related to my time playing Lego. It was then and there that I knew, Civil Engineering was, is and will be my passion!

Fascinated by how natural resources can sustain humanity, I’ve led many construction projects in Scouting. The remarkable achievement to me was the construction of a 12 foot tall two-tower archway. Taking into account structural stability and material suitability, the archway had to support the weight of pupils as they walked across it. This particular aspect required me to do independent research on Structural Analysis. How does loads affect the equilibrium of the structure? How will the structure be built based on soil strata? This allowed me to apply concepts in physics and mathematics which I’ve only learned theoretically. Finding practical application to abstract concepts gave me a sense of satisfaction which strengthened my zeal for Civil Engineering.

3D Printing Construction, I believe, is the future of Civil Engineering. Envision a world where we can just ‘print’ buildings into life. Like the ink in our printers, we need only input a certain quantity of building materials. This can drastically reduce cost and material wastage. However, to achieve such advancements, I believe that priority in research must be given to two key fields, namely Robotics Engineering and Materials Engineering. Intelligent systems capable of interpreting abstract blueprints and translating them into concrete elements complemented with flexible ink-like material which can be moulded to mimic materials such as steel and concrete. As companies such as Dutch company MX3D have already made headway in research, I strive to be one of the pioneers of 3D Printing Construction for the future of Civil Engineering.

My work attachment for a day to a power plant opened a new world of perspective for me. I witnessed how different fields of engineering complemented one another. As it was located in an oil palm plantation, Civil Engineers were responsible for laying the foundations of oil mills and power plants. Chemical Engineers then devised methods to produce biogas from the biomass harvested. The biogas is then combusted to produce mechanical energy to turn the turbines. As electricity is produced, Electrical Engineers plans and builds the necessary electrical framework for distribution. My personal experience taught me that to achieve a sustainable world, we must unify the fields of engineering.

My involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and winning the Gold medal in 2016 has developed my confidence and understanding of my potentials. My first taste of entrepreneurship came when I founded SEALS, the abbreviation for Sea, Air and Land Survival in Taylor’s College. This, together with my journey towards the King’s Scout award, sharpened my leadership and organisational skills. Knowing of the importance of Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, I have participated in the National Olympiad Challenge in Mathematics and Chemistry. The Olympiad challenge provided me with accelerated learning complemented with critical thinking skills. As for Physics, I’ve managed to build a LED display board with a group of friends for the Engineers’ Club. The process was exhilarating as we planned and built the electrical circuits from scratch. I realised that through teamwork, anything is possible.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. In the wise words of Friedrich Nietzsche, I hope to take my first steps into Civil Engineering in one of the most esteemed universities in the United Kingdom.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Law Personal Statement

Jansen Law Zhen Hao  is currently a first year undergraduate reading Law LLB at University College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to UCL, LSE,  King’s College London, University of Bristol and University of Warwick for Law.


The judicial state of Malaysia is worrying. The catalyst of change for the prejudiced has been freedom of speech. Malaysia’s strengthening of the Sedition Act has harshly restricted this freedom as illustrated in 2015 whereby surges of government critics were prosecuted under the Act. It baffles me how a bygone act, abused by autocrats, is justified due to Malaysia’s racially tensed past and multi-faceted society. Democracy in Malaysia is dissipating as lines of permissibility are contingent on political convenience rather than legal foresight. The discussion on what laws should be universal, and variable based on the society it serves, is one that has sparked my interest in law.

Amidst questionable laws, the recent decline of respected lawyers has left citizens in a limbo of mistrust. “A strong legal system prevents tyranny” becomes an unattainable statement. The rule of ‘separation of powers’ in Malaysia has disorientated into a farrago of chaos. No thanks to politically motivated legal members and absurd constitutionally-granted power of parliament to amend free speech laws. The way faults in a legal system can change a country’s path is both a fearful and riveting trait that I would love to explore.

My interest led me to an internship with the chief criminal lawyer in Malaysia. Knowledge of legal terms and concepts made trials and commentaries easier to process. Mr.Salim developed my analytical skills by presenting me legal principles and asking for their applications in scenarios. While interning, I discovered a trend in Malaysian rape cases showing that a defense counsel had to not only raise doubt but actively prove an accused’s innocence. Due to cultural disgust for sex offenders, the rule of law has been distorted. This reaffirmed my view that the Malaysian legal system has been controversially morphed based on non-legal reasons. Differences between morality and legality interest me as it results in the discrepancy in punishments.

I had the opportunity to substantiate my views on the Sedition Act in my EPQ. My essay focused on how the Act deviated off legal principles and how these deviations weren’t justified in other contexts. I assessed that the Sedition Act was unlike other strict liability offences. Statutes of traditional offences clearly detail provisions to justify that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Yet, there has been prosecutions under Malaysia’s Sedition Act based on broadly undefined terms such as ‘feelings of ill will and enmity’. I also questioned the proportionality of the punishment in the Act. I found a Malaysian Law, requiring proven intent, punished those that made offensive racial remarks with a lesser imprisonment time than Sedition. This was in spite of how those remarks would also constitute Sedition. Through my survey and interviews with lawyers and politicians, I was also able to contextualize Sedition in a political and social landscape.

The prospect of compounding my views with greater legal knowledge in university motivates me. Love for greater knowledge and varying planes of logic culminated in my election as President of the Debate Society. Debating refined my verbalized thoughts and enabled me to pick out main points of contention. I have learned that verbal smokescreens and clutter were prominent in my court visits – the ability to pick out the main issues would be vital. The opportunity to be a trainee judge at national level competitions solidified my debating prowess. Judging allowed me to critically contrast the pros and cons of an argument and analyze a participant’s thought process and logic post-debate.

I look forward to studying Law as the debate is a cornerstone of the course. My experiences have equipped me with discipline, persistence, and consistency to fulfill my potential in law and consolidated my interest. Studying Law will allow me to navigate through political discord and influence people on juggling Malaysian intricacies and democracy through laws.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.