Maths (With Physics) @ Peterhouse, Cambridge in 2015

Interview format

3x interviews (30-40 mins each); 2x tests (45-60 mins; 30 mins)

Interview content

First interview (maths): mechanics; graph plotting; Second interview (maths): test answers, mechanics; Third interview (physics): EPQ, test questions, geometry

Best preparation

A-Level content practice; mock interviews; STEP questions

Final thoughts

Relax as much as possible and make it clear you're interested

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

I stayed overnight beforehand and got a free breakfast in the college. I had 3 interviews and 2 tests. My first 2 interviews were mathematical, with the second one based around the test; the last was for physics and based on the test. There were 2 interviewers in each, I think. They were all technical interviews, with some discussion of my EPQ in the physics interview. Between interviews I sat in the Common Room chatting with the other interviewees. The maths test had a lot of questions, I remember one was a probability question. In the corresponding interview we discussed the questions I'd tried (they hadn't been checked in advance I don't think) and we looked at some of the other questions. I felt really comfortable in the interviews. I think they were probably all around 30-40 mins, and the maths test was probably 45-60 mins, the physics test 30 mins.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

Maths Interview 1: We discussed a mechanics question that was quite complicated but based on A-Level content, and a graph plotting question with the modulus function. I made a sign error but the lead interviewer was nice and asked about it but said it was ok.

Maths Test: I don't remember much, think I answered 2 or 3 questions and tried 1. There was a range of topics.

Maths Interview 2: We went over the test and the interviewer went through some of the other questions with me. There was some question about mechanics needing integration which I hadn't yet studied but the interviewer helped me through it.

Physics Test: It was a question about a pulley. I can't remember if there was just 1 question or we only had to answer 1.

Physics Interview: We talked a bit about my EPQ, then spoke about the test question and expanded on it a bit, then did a question about geometry. When expanding on the first question we used differential equations, which I hadn't studied yet so I pointed this out but we pressed on anyway.

How did you prepare?

It was important to be up to scratch with all the A-Level content we'd done so far. The most useful thing was definitely doing mock interviews with my teachers. Practicing STEP questions is good for the maths interview (and the mechanics questions would also be good for a physics interview) - they're probably harder than the interview questions but that makes them even better practice! Also just Googling past questions.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

It's obviously not this easy but try and relax in the interview - you probably actually quite like maths/physics and the questions you're being asked should be interesting so try and enjoy it and make it clear you're interested in what you're doing.