I remembered arriving at RJC in the afternoon for my Cambridge interview, wanting to get there early with time to relax, I took a bus and alighted somewhere around upper Thomson where I took a very short cab trip to RJC itself. The cab driver actually told me that the venue is a short walk away, but he drove me there anyway, so the fare was essentially just surcharge haha.
When it was my turn, the interviewer will actually come out and invite you in, very warm and welcoming indeed which lightened the anxiety- well, a little. In the interview, he told me that I came from a rather interesting background, I was the first person who came from a non-Junior College background which was rather refreshing. So he asked me about what we do in Polytechnic, what we do learn (as polytechnics are essentially considered an institute of higher learning), etc then he asked me about the awards I’ve got.
Then he went on asking me about the Motion simulator which I built in Polytechnic for my final year project, which I wrote about in my personal statement. So I explained it to him how it works together with a sketch and details of it’s axis of motion and the various components which made it tick. So that was pretty much the icebreaker which kept me rather comfortable in the dimly incandescent lamp lit room.
Then next was the question part. As I understand that many students will still be taking the interviews and tests over the coming months, and in the interest of the Director of Studies (DoS) and other candidates, I will not post the exact questions my interviewer asked, only a general picture of what to expect.
There were a series of maths questions which he wrote on a piece of paper, each with increasing difficulty. The first ones were done without a hitch. If you did C3 or C4 maths, let be Mathematics and Further Mathematics at ‘A’ levels in Singapore, you should not have much of a problem getting through the question at all. I had some problems with the last one, but the last question is of course usually planned the hardest where the interviewer will come in and help you out with it. So he kinda nudged me in the right direction at times when I strayed off and eventually we got the solution!
Then came the very general engineering questions where anything under the sun could be asked. I like this part of the interview as it actually allows you to expand on the question from almost any aspects and build on it using the theories you know (or at some points, maybe an educated guess will help!). Then it can just lead to anything else which in-turn leads to you explaining another question/theory. For this part, I can say that you can’t “learn” the thought process, it’s more like testing your raw unlearnt knowledge and your ability to apply what you know in very strange unfamiliar situations. Thereafter, we also talked about my Defence science scholarship on how it will sponsor my whole academia in Cambridge.
My interviewer really made me feel that Cambridge is the right place for me. I was really enjoying myself in the interview and just before you know it, opps we are out of time.
My interviewer opened up for questions. As defence Research & Development will be part of my chosen carrier path, I asked him about the undergrad research opportunities we can take as a student, as well as the Engineering competitions in Cambridge we can participate and contribute to the the university as a student, like the Eco-challenge Solar Race held in Australia next year (which Cambridge will be participating in as well) and the Formula Student, very interesting indeed.
Due to time constraints, I only asked these 2, though I also wanted to ask find out more of the Stimulus project/program I read on the internet which allows undergrads to help out students in need and promote the interest in learning, just like what I did teaching students in Medan Indonesia before.
Initially being the only Polytechnic student in the Singapore race for Cambridge, I thought that I will lose out to the bulk of the ‘A’ level students who are applying for their places in Cambridge as well- considering that they are all still very fresh in their ‘A’ level syllabus with the examinations currently on. But I guess the test the interview will give will tax you far than anything you can learn (or regurgitate) from the textbook, which I feel is very fair indeed.
With the anticipated interviews finally over. It is more than 1 hour after my interview and I am still all jumpy from the adrenaline, maybe I should expend that all out with a 10km run later, at the same time test out my new Nike Luna Racers!