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.

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NTU ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship

NTU

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What’s NTU ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship?

It is a scholarship for NTU students that covers the tuition fees and allowance per academic year while your results will be assessed every semester to make sure scholars get at least 3.50 out of 5.00 of CAP (Cumulative Average Point). The scholarship works in this way: half of the tuition fees is subsidized through Tuition Grant and the scholarship will cover the rest. There is no bond to the scholarship whereas the tuition grant provided by Singapore government has 3 years bond with any Singapore registered companies. Do note that this scholarship does not cover your hostel fees, so you have to use the living allowance to pay for that.

Cool! How do I apply?

To apply for this scholarship, you would need to fill in a scholarship application form after submitting your application form to NTU. The form is used for application for other scholarships as well, such as CN Yang Scholarship, College Scholarship, Nanyang Scholarship and NTU Science and Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship during my academic year, so it’s convenient for students to apply for multiple scholarships with just one application form. It requires students to fill in their past results, academic awards, extra-curricular activities and then write an essay not more than 300 words based on one topic chosen from 3 options.

So, what did you write about?

I chose the topic about the values and beliefs I hold strongly to. In my opinion, every essay that you need to write and submit before the interview is extremely crucial. This is the chance for you to express yourself truthfully while convincing the interviewers that you deserve to be awarded the scholarship. For my case, I wrote about the turning points in life that led me to my new beliefs. Students should look for something unique in themselves and write about it, instead of those same old stories about how determined or hardworking he or she is. Therefore, I would recommend people to try out new things and explore more, not only for the sake of applying scholarships but also for your personal development!

Ok! What’s after that?

If you are shortlisted for scholarship interview, NTU will notify you via email so keep an eye on that! NTU Scholarship Section of Financial Aid Office will come to Kuala Lumpur to interview all the applicants from Malaysia. If I am not mistaken, there is only one venue for the interview. My tips for the interview:

  1. Be prepared! Do your homework on the scholarships, the university, especially the courses you applied, and also some common interview questions. (Google! Google! Google!)
  2. Relax yourself by believing in yourself. Try not to compare with others, you must know that somebody will be better than you. That’s why you should focus on your unique personality.
  3. Be confident but not too arrogant. Avoid telling the interviewers that they will be living in remorse for the rest of their lives if they don’t offer you the scholarship.
  4. Be polite to the interviewers. Never forget to smile and thank them for their time in the end! First impression is extremely important.

During my interview, I talked about myself and shared my experience of backpacking in Bangkok. I related it to myself as that is my interest. After that, since I applied for Civil Engineering, they asked me a basic physics question of calculating force acting on a block on a slope. I saw a simple chemical equation on the back of the paper though. My friend who applied for Chemical Engineering was asked to differentiate methane and methene, and guess what – methene does not even exist! Then, they asked me about my favourite building in Singapore and what’s so special about it. Of course, you don’t have to answer the question like a professional; they are just testing your critical thinking skill.

Any last advice for future applicants?

Have faith in yourself and don’t stop believing!


The author, who wishes to be anonymised, is currently an undergraduate ASEAN scholarship holder at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

MyBrainSc Scholarship

MyBrainSc16Banner

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Editor’s Note: Please be advised the the renditions of the MyBrainSc Scholarship from 2016 and the foreseeable future no longer sponsor students to overseas institution. However, the basic principles behind the application process for the scholarship highlighted in this article still apply. 

Are you still scratching your head to look out more scholarships desperately on the Internet? Please take a serious glimpse of this article if you wish to know more regarding the details of this scholarship. MyBrainSc scholarship is offered by the Ministry of Education (MoE), and open to all Malaysians. This scholarship sponsors successful candidates financially to pursue both undergraduate and postgraduate studies (Bachelor Degree/Master/PhD level) in local and overseas universities. For your information, only four pure-science disciplines are sponsored by this scholarship- Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. If you wish to practise Chemical Engineering, Statistics, Forensic Science, Biomedical Science or Biotechnology, then you are barking up the wrong tree. Thus, I am writing this to share my experience and equip you with ample information so that you are not far from materialising your big dreams.

Stage One – Online Application

The online application is open from December to March. Make sure you always check out the website of Portal Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia (KPM) during the period. You must meet the minimum requirements before applying for the scholarship. The documents required in the online application are softcopies of your original ICs, passport-sized photos, SPM transcripts, Matrikulasi/STPM/Asasi/IB/A-level/Diploma/SAT transcripts and university offer letters (if available).

Stage Two – Psychometric Test

In the mid of April, you will start receiving an e-mail which demands you to sit for a psychometric test. This test is implemented to evaluate your main interests in particular fields, ambitions, mentality, emotionality, hobbies, potential abilities and other psychological abilities. It is almost like the test we usually did in our secondary school to determine which field or job you were excellently cut out for. Compared to the previous years, the psychometric test has taken the place of an IQ test without doubt.

The test embodies two sections- Section A and B. Each candidate will be allocated roughly 120-180 minutes which are quite adequate for him or her to complete both sections separately. The questions are in Bahasa Melayu. Examples of the test are: “Adakah anda suka membaiki mesin dan motor?”, “Adakah anda suka mencatat, mengira, menulis dan membaca?” & “Anda dapat menerima nasihat orang lain dalam satu organisasi.” It consists of 300 questions and repetition of multiple questions occurs in the two sections. The answers are only “Yes” or “No”. The questions are not esoteric and you will be having plenty of time to complete them. I am sure you can answer the questions well as long as you possess a moderate command of Bahasa Melayu. Even so, please do not make light of this test because many candidates are eliminated from this stage either.

Stage Three – Interview

Eligible candidates will be notified of the interview through e-mails in due course. Interviewees need to attend the interviews in different states as to your respective residences. The wisest thing to do at this stage is searching for plenteous interview tips on the Internet, for example, blog spots of the scholars and interviewees, CollegeLah, ScholarStories, Lowyatnet and etc. The tips obtained are requisite in giving you an idea on how the interview is conducted and what kinds of questions will be asked during the interview.

Two candidates will be paired randomly in a group after the registration together with a panel of two interviewers. The interviewers are normally the professors or experts in the pure-science related fields. In my case, I was paired up with another guy who was doing his first-year Physics degree locally. Our interview took about 45 minutes and was fully conducted in English. We took turns at answering the same set of questions. You can round your points out to enable your ideas to be graspable even further. Moreover, keep up with current issues nationwide. I would suggest chatting with other candidates first before the interview helps to relieve your pent-up pressure and disquiet.

Speak confidently to voice your own opinions even though you are stammering sometimes throughout the interview. It is a no-brainer everyone is not like-minded in essence, thus, you must be level-headed by the time you encounter rebuttals from the interviewers. Take it as a piece of advice from them as it is just an exchange of opinions between both parties. Just be frank if you are ignorant of ideal answers to a question, it will not impinge on your overall performance. Also, try to engage them in a conversation with you as it can make you be yourself more and mitigate your apprehension.

I am listing out the following questions asked during my interview session:

 

  • Introduce yourself briefly.
  • What would you like to be besides becoming a lecturer?
  • Which department would like to join after your graduation? (Private, government or university)
  • Besides being a lecturer in university, what else do you think the lecturer should teach his students other than emphasising on the academics?
  • To study in England, what do you think you can do so that the foreigners will appreciate Malaysian students?   
  • If you get an awesome offer from the overseas company, would you like to work there or come back to Malaysia?
  • From all the activities you joined, what is the most valuable experience you have gained so far?
  • How would you promote patriotism?
  • What is your biggest strength and weakness?
  • How do you overcome the weakness?
  • Do you think you deserve this scholarship?
  • Current issues asked in my interview- GST&1MDB

 

Scholar’s Advice

I would like to highlight that the MoE is not going to help you in the university application. All procedures are kindly handled on your own. If you wish to study in the UK, all you need to do is apply for the universities through UCAS. Getting the admission of universities done before securing the scholarship is sparing with time and efforts. MyBrainSc Scholarship does sponsor students, too, to study in the US, Australia and Canada aside from the UK. The lists of universities recognized by MyBrainSc are available on Portal KPM.

Plus, you will need to come back and serve Malaysia for 5 years upon completion of your studies. The job prospects offered are becoming lecturers or researchers who will be affiliated with educational institutions and research centres in Malaysia. You should leap at this golden opportunity without scruples provided that you have an eye to Pure Sciences. The interview results shall be set forth approximately around the UPU results week.

Truth to tell, I have been harbouring a hope to study in England come what may. Finally, I have come across this scholarship which can bring my dream to pass and let me head for my dreamland, England. Perseverance is the key to achieving success and goals. To err is human. I do sail through trials and tribulations which have dampened my spirits. However, it takes courage and faith to begin the first step of everything you embark on. After going through a bad patch, you will see light at the end of the tunnel. Be a go-getter, and keep in mind that success does not come easy for any warrior. I truly hope that the information shared here will come in handy for you all in time to come.


Ka Chong

Ngui Ka Chong is a scholarship holder who will be pursuing his Biology degree in The University of Manchester under MyBrainSc Scholarship 2015. He loves making new friends everywhere, listening to music, reading novels and being a zealous writer. The motto of his life is “go confidently in the direction of dreams, live the life you have imagined.”

Cambridge Mathematics Interview

Aerial View of Centre for Mathematical Sciences

Aerial View of Centre for Mathematical Sciences

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My interview session was held in Taylor’s College (where I did A-level), and was one- on-one. I forgot who my interviewer was, but I remember he was a math professor at Cambridge and had Erdos number 4 (whoa). The interview was scheduled for half an hour, and he pretty much cut me off at the mark. He started out asking me some questions about my family background, e.g. siblings, parents’ occupation, probably as ice-breaker.

Then we moved on to the fun part. He scanned my personal statement and realized I’ve done a lot of Olympiad math and chose a problem he thought was appropriately challenging for me. I don’t remember exactly what the problem was, but I remember it was something like proving that for any real polynomial, there is a root that has a certain property. The problem statement called for familiarity with polynomials and complex numbers, and the proof required some ‘well-known’ fact about real polynomials. Don’t fret if you are not too comfortable with those yet, as the interviewer should ask if you are familiar with them.

Solving the problem wasn’t straightforward, as it very well shouldn’t have been. The interviewer first asked if I preferred for him to give hints and guidance along the way or keep silent. I opted for silence. I started out working with a few test polynomials, e.g. X^2 + 1, just to poke around and see what I might find. The interviewer offered to give hints (perhaps I was slow), but I declined again. I looked at what was to be proved: some condition on some root… I tried to visualize the locus of complex numbers satisfying that condition, and of course drew it out so the interviewer can see my thought process.

After about ten minutes, clearly behind time, I asked for one of the two hints. The first hint was a fact I had no trouble proving, but didn’t really see where it fit into my progress so far. Then after a little while longer, I asked for the second hint. It was the ‘well-known’ fact that every real polynomial can be written as the product of real polynomials of degree at most two. I knew this fact, but didn’t think to use it until then. But once he said it I basically saw the rest of the proof and just blurted it out.

I asked the interviewer what was the shortest time someone took to solve it. He said five minutes.

My initial approaches were pretty much useless in solving the problem, way off mark from the intended solution, but maybe the interviewer saw something in my method that was intriguing. So write down and draw out and say everything you are thinking. And don’t be embarrassed to ask for hints. If the interviewer thinks the problem is challenging for you, then you should expect to need help.

Towards the end, the interviewer rushed through some questions not related to math and then basically shooed me out the door (because we were running a little late, me being quite slow on the problem).

 

Erdos number: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/ErdosNumber.html


tham-ying-hong

Ying Hong Tham is pursuing a Computer Science degree at Stanford University under Astro scholarship. You can find him sneaking into lecture halls at night to use the chalkboards for math scratch work and random doodling.

Top Tips for Scholarship Interviews

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Ahh, the season of scholarship interviews. Since most scholarships are going to have their assessments/interviews in this time range, I’ll try my best to give some advice on what to do in an interview. First, I would like to clarify that I am by no means a professional interviewer, and my advice may or may not be something that you would agree on. Nonetheless, I want to share these tips as they have certainly helped me in all of my interviews, so take them with a pinch of salt, will ya.. 😉

So here’s a basic guideline on what to prepare for an interview (Longkang Mee style).

  1.  Prepare an outline for your interview speech.

Scholarship interviews are pretty standard and you can pretty much predict the questions the interviewers are about to ask. The first and most fundamental question for all interviews is the “Can you tell me about yourself?” Yes it’s the ultimate cliche question, and many of you may or may not know how to approach it. I used to answer this question with really mechanical answers like my name, where I go to school, where I live, how many siblings I have, and etc. Now that I think of it, I would like to facepalm my past self. When you’re asked this question, try to focus the topic on yourself. After all, the interview is a process to extract the most interesting facts/stories about you. So, before your interview, prepare your cheat sheet (mentally or on paper) of your “Tell me about yourself” speech. Try to come out with interesting points about yourself, something only a few people know, and something that makes you unique. If you’re having a hard time figuring out stuff to talk about, you may want to start by talking about your hobbies, and go on from there.

  1. Don’t be nervous

Every normal human being will tend to feel a tinge of nervousness in an interview. So don’t fret if you’re dripping cold sweat or having raging butterflies in your stomach right before one. One of my favorite advice that I always tell people is to treat the interviewer as your relative. Okay, turn on your imagination gears and picture this scenario. Here’s your relative, an uncle/aunty that you’re really fond of. He or she lives out of town and you have not seen him/her for quite some time now. You finally meet him/her and you’re bursting with stuff to tell him/her. And as you start talking to your beloved uncle/aunty, you just can’t stop talking while your eyes light up with enthusiasm. In an interview, you might have an urge to tell the interviewer your biggest achievements – listing them one by one so that you appear as the crème de la crème, the top pile of the competition. But this kind of interview speech only bores the interviewer and shows that you’re just like the rest. When you’re giving your speech, do it more to express rather than to impress. When you’re talking to your relative, do you really want to impress him/her, or do you simply want to express your thoughts and share your experiences? Once you get rid of that psychological barrier of “trying to impress,” you will find that you can articulate yourself better, and your enthusiasm will take over.

  1.  Always and always tell the truth.

Though this might seem like the natural thing to do, I find that most people (including myself) try to exaggerate our achievements in order to put ourselves on top of the interviewer’s selection list. Truth is, once you’re telling something that is not entirely true, it greatly affects your flow of speech and you’re forced to keep track of what you have said (or, should I say, lied about) earlier. This can vastly affect your speech (leading to stuttering), body language, and pupil movement. All these signs can easily be interpreted by the interviewer that you’re not telling the truth and your previously good impression instantly goes down the drain. Unless you’re the ultimate con artist, don’t try to lie in an interview to place yourself higher on the podium. For example, if you placed second in a competition, don’t say that you placed first; instead, try to explain why you got second and how you learned from that experience. Remember that the interviewers are humans too and that they might relate to you on a deeper level if you actually are speaking sincerely.

  1.  Keep eye contact and give a firm handshake.

When meeting the interviewer, just give him/her a firm handshake followed by a short greeting of “good morning/afternoon.” You don’t need to be like super polite and ask, “May I take a seat here?” if there’s obviously only one seat. I mean, if I were the interviewer, I would be like, “you don’t say?” and might think you’re being superficial and someone you’re not. When talking to the interviewer, always try to look into the interviewer’s eye. Don’t go looking into the ceiling or at your hands/table/whatever. If looking into an interviewer’s eye gives you butterflies, try making some small finger movement with your thumbs, or tapping your toes to help ease the nervousness.

  1.  Always ask questions after an interview.

Usually after an interview, the interviewer will promptly ask you if you have any questions for him/her. Here’s your opportunity to ask anything you want to know about the interviewer and your chance to exchange the role of interviewee and interviewer for a brief moment. You can now be the interviewer and be the boss, you can ask anything about the interviewer, the company or anything in general. Do not let this chance slip away by just replying “no.” By asking questions, it shows your confidence and your interest in the specific company.

Here are a few questions that I have asked in an interview (out of my own curiosity about the interviewers):

  1.  What do you (interviewer) do in your daily job? And how do you like working in ___ company? (Axiata)
  2.  Which do you think is more important? Academic grades or communication and networking skills? (The Star)
  3.  Why should I accept this scholarship if I were selected? (Lion-parkson)
  4.  How many hours do you sleep at night, and do you think you are getting enough sleep? (Khazanah 2nd stage)
  5.  I used to think that I am unique, that when I sit in a car, I pretend that there’s an imaginary runner beside me jumping over lamp poles and trees. I later found out that there were many people just like me. Is there a characteristic that you think you have that is so unique that no one in this world shares? (Khazanah 3rd stage)
  6.  What is your motivation to be on the board of directors of Khazanah? (Khazanah 4th stage)

Last but not least, I will try to publish a sample outline of the interview speech that I used in all of my scholarship interviews. After preparing an outline, try to practice it with a friend/teacher/lecturer. Also, by applying for more scholarships, you will eventually go to so many interviews that it would feel like second nature to talk about yourself.

If you’re too lazy to read my whole post, here’s a summary of it.

  1. Prepare your speech.
  2. Pretend the interviewer is your relative.
  3. Tell the truth.
  4. Keep eye contact.
  5. Ask questions.

A blogger at http://longkangmee.blogspot.com/, Dylan Ler Hong Jing is a student in University of California, Los Angeles. You contact him at dylanlerhongjing@gmail.com if you have any questions regarding US, UK applications or anything related to education and scholarship.