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Covid has forced us all to change how we do things in 2020, and practising for university admissions interviews has been no exception. Ambitious students from schools in the East Midlands region and beyond, who’ve been attending the AMSP’s STEP Online preparation course and who’ve applied to Cambridge and Oxford, have been sitting practice university admissions interviews online. These interviews have taken place on an online; as real interviews have moved online this winter, it’s entirely appropriate that our mock interviews have also moved online.

The purpose of giving students mock interviews is to give them a taste of the experience that they can expect in a real interview. Conducting a mock interview is a delicate balancing act – the questions must be challenging enough to make the exercise meaningful, but the interview must also bolster the candidates’ confidence. Moreover, I try to give candidates practical tips, encouraging them to express their thoughts verbally, to be receptive to hints and steers given by the interviewers, and to be positive and confident.

Here are a few examples of the questions that we discussed (the last one is for Computer Science):

  • One end of a rod of uniform density is attached to the ceiling in such a way that the rod can swing about freely with no resistance. The other end of the rod is held so that it touches the ceiling as well. Then the second end is released. If the length of the rod is l metres and the gravitational acceleration is g metres per second squared, how fast is the unattached end of the rod moving when the rod is first vertical?
  • I have 6 cards, numbered 1 to 6. After shuffling the cards, I deal the cards in a row. What is the probability that no card is in its numbered position?
  • There are n people, each in possession of a different rumour. They want to share all the rumours through a series of bilateral conversations. Show that it must be possible for the people to share all of the rumours so that the total number of bilateral conversations is not more than 2n – 3.
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