Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cambridge Interview

Okay, first of all, this post are way old news...
I was suppose to post this but didn't really want people to know bout it yet. But what the heck... Here I am, posting bout this because its an experience not be forgotten. Was really cool and panicky thing being there and doing it.

Cambridge Admission Interview
Date: 22nd October 2010 (Friday)
Venue: Sunway College
Time: 10.30 a.m.
Interviewer: Dr. Vis Ravaratnam


Like any others would do on an interview,
I bought myself a silver tie, dressed in a black/dark blue striped Padini shirt, white Padini khakis (My family likes to shop at Padini, I don't know why) and black Lois leather shoes. Colour contrast, works most of the time. It was quite some time since the last time I dressed up formally. Its nice to do so.

Luckily I've got friends staying/ studying at Sunway.
I've got a free driver/ tour guide to bring me around the college.
Thanks Christine!!! =DDD

So, I went all the way from TARC to Sunway via LRT. (Wangsa Maju>Kelana Jaya)
Got Chris to pick me up with her red Toyota Swift... (Sunway students = rich people =P)
We reached earlier than the interview time and Chris brought me to their library which apparently allows anyone to go in as long as you look like a student. After a while, I went to the 'waiting room' to wait for my turn to the interview.

10.10 a.m.
The lady-in-charge of the interview asked me to go to the sits outside the interview room and wait for my turn. Apparently there is a guy who missed out the interview time. I just sat there and look through the magazines on the coffee table to burn the time. Saw the other guy in the interview room with Dr. Vis talking and the guy showing all sorts of hand languages. (It helps to describe stuff I suppose) I was telling myself this, 'No panic!'...

10.20 a.m.
The guy in the room stands up and got out the room. Finally, my turn...
Dr. Vis is certainly have a very demanding figure - tall, big Sri Lankan man with a stern yet friendly face. He got a coarse voice which probably due to the extensive hours of interviews. Like any other interviewers, he is the man who finds flaw in your personal statements and make it a weapon of his to see what you've got to get into his university, in this case, Cambridge. You gotta be top to deserve a place at the top university. The interview progressed like this:

Dr. Vis(standing at office door): You're Ivan?
Me(standing at the waiting area): Yeah. Ivan Ho Yee Man from TARCollege. (shakes Dr. Vis' hand)
Dr. Vis: Come in.
Both of us sat down and the interview started.
Dr. Vis: Your parents are ready to fork out 15k pound a year? That's not quite enough. It be tough for you to survive. Have you thought of applying any scholarships?
Me: Yeah. I realise that. And of course, I will be applying for scholarships.
Dr. Vis: What scholarships do you have in mind?
Me: A few of them, JPA-Public Service Department, Khazanah and possibly any other undergraduate scholarships I can get except Petronas.
Dr. Vis: And why is that?
Me: Because my brother is currently under Petronas scholarship and apparently they have this rule that it is only possible for one children from the same family eligible for the scholarship.

Dr. Vis: I see... Never mind, the others will just be fine. Carry on shall we? I've read your personal statement. In your personal statement, you did really spend a lot of your time defining and explaining what is important to be a great scientist. It is quite general in a sense. You defined science as 'the studies of the environment around us'. We do study a lot on the universe and materials and so... But actually, we do study a lot on the environment within us.
A moment of silence. I was stunned for a while, panicking already.
Me: Yeah, I realised that...
Dr. Vis: I can't say you're wrong because you're explaining science in general. What are the main elements in our body?
Me: The few elements that makes up organic molecules - Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen.
Dr. Vis(writing on a piece of paper): What about other elements?
Me: Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, Phosphate.
Dr. Vis: What about metals like magnesium? What do you think they are important in our body?
Me: They act as catalysts in our body for metabolic reactions. Some initiates reactions.
Dr. Vis: Obviously, Oxygen is very important to us. How much oxygen is in the air?
Me: Around 21-20% of the total volume of air.
Dr. Vis: The people trapped in the mine is living in a bad situation. They might die due to the lack of oxygen. If this room is sealed, how long do you think the air can last?
Me: Maybe a few hours or possibly a day.

Dr. Vis: Do you think you can calculate how many GRAMS of oxygen in this room?
Me: Yes. That is possible.
Dr. Vis: Show me how. (Pulls out a piece of paper and pen) You can write on this while you explain.
Me: Okay. (Write down stuff) First, we have to calculate the volume of air in this room. (Rough calculation).
Dr. Vis: And how does that lead you to get your answer? Why you're using cm instead of m?
Me: I can change the cm to m later. By getting the volume of air in this room times the percentage of oxygen in the air, I can get the volume of oxygen in this room.
Dr. Vis: But I'm asking for GRAMS of oxygen.
Me: We can use the volume of oxygen to divide the standard gas volume. Then times the answer with the molecular mass of oxygen.
Dr. Vis: How much is the standard gas volume in this room?
Me: Since we are at room temperature, the standard gas volume should be 24.0 dm3.

Dr. Vis(Pointing at plant beside door): Do you think that plant over there can help us?
Me: Yes, of course. It takes in carbon dioxide and produces oxygen.
Dr. Vis: Describe the mechanism of food synthesis.
Me: Can I have a minute? I need to write down the process before explaining.
Dr. Vis: Go ahead.
Me: Map down process: uv > photolysis > H + OH + e- > reaction centre > ETC > ATP produced > Calvin cycle > starch = food.
Dr. Vis: What other things do you think light is important to plants?
Me: Light gives plant their colour.
Dr. Vis: Why is that important?
Me: The colour of an object is the light reflected by the object where the other spectrum are absorbed by the object. In the case of plant, it absorbs mainly red and blue spectrum.
Dr. Vis: Does that help the plant?
Me: Yes, different light spectrum have different energy value. Plants absorb the blue and red spectrum which have high energy value to produce chemical energy.

Dr. Vis: What do you think about photo-tropism?
Me(blurred): The conversion of chemical energy from light energy.
Dr. Vis: But that is food synthesis.
Moment of silence as I'm trying to figure out an answer, totally blanked.
Dr. Vis: Why do you think plants grow toward light?
Me: Because they want to get more light for photosynthesis?
Dr. Vis: That is desire. You are saying plants have desire? Why plants react to light? Plants are very curious. Some flowers even faces the sun whenever it changes position. Why is that?
=.="... Zha dou already. Plants can't have desire but can be curious?
Me(came out with answer): Light from the sun is used to produce energy. This energy will be used for processes in the plant. The energy is used for growth. The part of plant that faces light produce more energy. So, the part that faces light will grow more. That's why the plant grow towards light.

Dr. Vis: In the mine oxygen can only sip through cracks that leads to outside. They have to bore a hole if there are no cracks to allow oxygen into the mine. Apart from oxygen, what do you think is important for the miners if they are trapped under the mine? Obviously they need food and clean water. What else?
Me: Light.
Dr. Vis: Why light is important?
Me: To allow them to see? To keep them sane.
Dr Vis: How light allows us to see? Describe the mechanism.
Me: When light falls on an object, it is reflected according to the shape of the object. The light then falls on the retina and is inverted. (talking halfway)
Dr. Vis: Do you think pigments are important in the mechanism?
Me: Yes.
Dr. Vis: Besides allowing animals to see, why do you think light is important?
Me: It allows the animal to know when to be sleep and when to wake up?
Dr. Vis: You are saying the rhythmic life of animals? Any others?
Me: Yeah, rhythmic life, thats the word. Erm... I can't think of any others.
Dr. Vis: Light is also important in reproduction. Some animals will only reproduce in presence of light.
Me: Oh, okay...
Dr. Vis: We are done with Biological Science. Lets move on to Physical Science.

OMG, he is asking me a freaking physics question??? Worst thing - I've to keep a calm face. T.T
Me(thinking hard): The energy emitted by an radioactive substance that either be felt or not by living organisms.
Dr. Vis: Name me an radioactive substance.
Me(first thing in mind): Rubidium.
Dr. Vis: Lets take an easier example. Do you think carbon have an isotope?
Me: Yes, carbon-12 and carbon-14.
Dr. Vis: Do you think carbon-14 will decay?
Me: Yes, it will decay to carbon-12.
Dr. Vis: How long do you think carbon-14 takes to decay?
Me(tembak): Probably a few minutes, just enough for an MRI scan.
Dr.Vis: Do you think you can get the age of a carbon?
Me: Yes. By using carbon dating.
Dr. Vis: Carbon dating? Can you describe the process?
Me: Researchers over the years have done many experiments on carbon and have results on that. We can check the radioactivity of the unknown carbon then compare it with the data that the scientists have. That can tell us the exact year of the unknown carbon.
Dr. Vis: Interesting.
What the heck? Did I just said anything wrong? Feeling like a leaf.
Dr. Vis: Do you think you can draw a graph of radioactivity?
Me: Yes. (Draws graph)
Dr. Vis: Can you represent the radioactivity and time algebraically on the graph?
Huh? What's that? Try la, try la.
Me: Wrote R to represent radioactivity and T to represent time.
Dr. Vis(pointing on line) : Do the graph touches the x-axis?
Me: No.
Dr. Vis: Why?
Me: Because the radioactivity will not drop to zero.
Dr. Vis: And the y-axis?
Me: No, because we do not know the initial radioactivity.
Dr. Vis: Can you express radioactivity with a mathematical term?
Me: Yes, using the radio decay formula.
Dr. Vis: But that is radio decay formula. Never mind, show me the formula.
Okay.... I'm dead...
Me(wrote a few terms): It is roughly like this. (its the wrong formula, I know) I've not study on this yet.
Dr. Vis: Yes. You are having your written test tomorrow. Make sure you're ready for it. Any more questions?

Me(making a cover story): Yeah, Dr., I was wondering how anti-viral drugs work.
Dr. Vis: I'm not a biologist but I can roughly give you a picture of what it does. The anti-viral drugs inhibit certain processes of the virus so that it will not be expressed.
Me: Oh, I see. Can it really cure HIV?
Dr. Vis: We don't have the cure for common cold.
Me: Oh, then what can we do about viruses?
Dr. Vis: They are very few anti-viral drugs now. The scientists are working on it but I thnik the only thing that we can really do now is just to improve our immune system.
Me: Okay. For example like HIV, can we like take out the retro-virus out of the virus shell and introduce the empty shell to the body so that our body will produce antibodies against the virus. So when the virus gets into the body, the antibodies will destroy them?
Dr. Vis: Yeah, that is quite possible. Anything else?
Me: No, thats all. Thank you for your time, Dr. Vis.
Stands up and give Dr. Vis another hand shake.
Woot!!! Hopefully my cover story manage to pull a few marks into my interview. =D

The interview is really exciting.
It was a great experience and hopefully, what I've said is good enough. The conversation above might make me sound convincing minus the expressions. The thing is, I was really panicking during the whole process and sounded quite unconvincing...

Chris and I managed to meet up with Xuan Lin and Richard.
Both are our friends in Benum Hill Resort NS camp. All of us are pretty much the same except Rich and I have longer hair. Xuan is still the short girl I know from camp. And both of them are university students... Jealous... =( We catch up with the good old days and shared stories.
The next day I had my written test.

Cambridge Admission Written Test
Date: 23rd October 2010 (Saturday)
Venue: Sunway College, Multi Purpose Hall (MPH)
Time: 12.00 p.m.

At first, I thought of wearing jeans and casual wear for the test.
But first thing in mind: FIRST IMPRESSION.
Wearing casually might be an insult to the test. So, I took the slacks and wear it with a purple semi-formal shirt (Which Kelvin said looked more like clubbing shirt). I was afraid I would be the odd-ball if I wore casual. Guess again... I was the odd-ball for wearing formally... Only a few people wear formal attire. =..="... Alright!!! Yay!!! LOL...

The written test was okay I think.
We had our first 1 hour 30 minutes spent on doing the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) which is similar to critical thinking skills but slightly above that. Most of us did not have enough time to finish and are forced to guess like 10 questions in the last 10 minutes. Initially I thought I were the only one that did badly. I met Saiful, Wai Choon(he cheated me by saying he didn't get the interview.. >,<) and Wei Han there. And they all can't finish the TSA in time.

Then, the next 30 minutes were spent on essay.
The essay questions given depends on our choice of course. In my case, its Biological Natural Science. Saiful are applying for Econs, Wai Choon aiming Chemical Engineering through Natural Science whilst Wei Han going for Engineering. Each having a field of his own I would say. My essay was quite short and direct compared to many of them. Some even wrote 3 pages of essay in 30 minutes. I use mechanical pencil, they must have mechanical arms. =P

Oh, and guys,
Cambridge is not just for the brainy, geeky and nerdy. There are many cool looking guys and pretty girls in the hall taking the written test. Life is not all boring at Cambridge I guess... Seriously wanna get into Cambridge... Hopefully the ang mo gives me a green light! =DDD


  1. hey, good luck to you, no matter how, i think u really did a good job.... btw, i think it's really scary during the interview! haha

  2. Good luck to you! What sort of essay did you write? Was it on latest developments in Bio Sciences?

  3. Thanks, mind to intro? Was some random essay... 3 topics to be chosen from:
    a) Discuss the importance of H-bond in human reproduction
    b) Is it good to produce a "better" RuBisCo enzyme? What does it do so differently?
    c) Why do plants does not have a heart?
    I did question b...