Interview at Pembroke

Date: 12/12/2002 - 13/12/2002

My second interview in as many days - and far more nerve wracking than the first

Today I arrived at Pembroke College for my interview. I would be staying at least one night there, as the interview would last at least one day, and possibly two. When I got to Pembroke the first thing I had to do was go to the porters lodge to collect the keys to my room. However when I got there I was told that some people from the last batch of interviews had not given back their keys yet, so me and the other people waiting for rooms trooped of to the junior common room to wait.

After a while a Pembroke student came and asked if anyone was waiting for a room, so I went along with her back to the porters lodge, where I was given a key, and also a big pack of information including a timetable, map and other useful stuff about Pembroke. I was then shown my room, which seemed to be on about the 5th floor, so there was a lot of walking up stairs. When I got there I quickly unpacked, then had to walk all the way down to go the first event on my timetable, a welcome meeting with one of the tutors.

At the meeting I was able to see everyone else who had applied for economics and management, there were about 20 or so people in the room, and Pembroke was offering something like four places - not exactly good odds. The tutor didn't say a lot, just a little introduction to the course and Pembroke, and a little talk about the format of the interviews. Soon after this we all went to sit the economics and management test.

See the economics and management test

The test wasn't too bad, the first section was pretty much just a comprehension exercise, with a passage relating the growth in the production of food and the growth in the population. This passage needed to be summarised, and then discussed to whether it was relevant to today. The second section seemed more business orientated. First there was a mainly maths question about a farmer selling sheep, which I think I handled fine, but I struggled a bit because I'm not great at probability. The last section was more business, and looked at finding the best outcome for different situations. This went ok, except for the fact I hadn't bought my calculator so struggled with some of the maths.

After the test, I had to go almost straight to my interview, as by some chance I was the first person in the list of interviews. I felt pretty nervous about it but once I got into the interview I was ok. I was being interviewed by two people, one was the tutor I had seen in the welcome talk, I didn't know who the other person was. They started out with some easy questions about my economics website (see my personal statement), which I answered ok, and then I was asked a kind of logic problem.

At first I didn't listen and just blurted out the first answer that came into my head, the interviewer repeated the question and I thought about it a bit more. My head had gone pretty blank, so I just told the interviewer I didn't have a clue. He started explaining the answer and about five seconds in I could see what it was, I interrupted him and managed to answer the question correctly.

After that I was asked some real economics and management based questions. Rather than the interviewers asking questions, it was more the interviewer would ask a starting question, I would respond, and we would move onto a related area. The two areas I covered were internet stores and online patents, and the chain store Mark's and Spencer's. I answered most of the questions alright, but struggled when a concept I hadn't heard of was introduced.

All through the interview I got the feeling that the interviewers were leading me leading me two the answers. It felt very patronising, as if they thought I hadn't answered properly and were trying to rephrase questions to give me another go. I suppose they were testing to see how well I could reason, but it just made me feel stupid.

The interview must have lasted for around 20-25 minutes, and wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, though I was glad to be out in the end. My opinion was, though the interview went ok, I hadn't revealed anything particularly impressive about myself, and so was unlikely to get a place.

The next day there was a seminar, which was a chance to meet with current students and other prospective students and get a feel for what the work and the college would be like. The format of this was similar to the interview, except there was much more of us, and the pressure was off. There were two current students chairing the lecture, and about 10 prospective students including me.

We were first given an introduction to the university by the students which was pretty standard, and then were given some more logic problems like the one in my exam which I seemed to do pretty well at. Then we went though some economics stuff about the theory of the firm.

After the seminar, I had to stay at the college for the entire day checking the notice board every so often to see if I would be called for another interview. At the end of the day it turned out I wouldn't be called for any other interviews, so I locked my room, handed in the key and left Pembroke wondering how I would do.