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Earth Sciences

Punakaiki Rocks

Punakaiki Rocks, West Coast of New Zealand. Credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn

What is the Earth made of? What processes shape and change it? What's happened to it in the past 4.5 billion years, and how do we know? What will happen to the Earth's climate in the future? The Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences has released a very useful introductory film:

If you'd like to find out more about physical and biological aspects of the Earth, here are two books that provide a good way into the subject:

Earth Sciences is just one of the many options available in the Cambridge Natural Sciences course, and no previous knowledge in geology or geography is required. You can combine it with your interests in other sciences, and you can specialise in it if you later choose to. Do explore the Department of Earth Sciences website for more detail.

Date posted: 

Saturday 22 November 2014

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Great Writers Inspire

Great Writers Inspire is a University of Oxford website which brings together a wealth of literary resources for sixth formers. 

You might like to explore the work of particular writers, such as Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, or Jane Austen (to name just a few examples), or you could explore themes and questions, including Carribean writers, The Victorian Gothic, Political Literature, or What is literature and why does it matter?

Date posted: 

Tuesday 18 November 2014

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Year 12 Politics and International Relations Essay Competition

Polling Station sign

Credit: secretlondon123

Here is some food for thought from an essay competition set by Corpus Christi College:

  • Is economic globalisation helping or hurting democracy in the world?
  • Are most citizens knowledgeable enough to vote in their own interest at the ballot box?
  • Should democracies try to promote regional stability in their foreign policies even if that means supporting authorotarian regimes?
  • Is it desirable to limit the effects of money on politics even if doing so inhibits freedom of political expression?
  • Would eliminating all nuclear weapons make the world a safer or more dangerous place?

Which question do you find most interesting? What approach would you take? Can you think of /research some examples to draw on?

If you are in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school in the UK) and would like to enter the competition itself, please see the details (the deadline is 15 February 2015). Further essay competitions are available in Law, English, Theology and Computer Science.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

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Preparing for interviews

How Stuff Works magazine

We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).

We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.

How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:

Long-term preparation (before you apply)

  • If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
  • Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
  • Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful. 
  • Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this.  This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.

Short-term preparation (after you have applied)

  • See this advice and our interview guidelines.
  • Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
  • Carry on developing your academic interests.  Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
  • Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
  • Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s),  so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
  • Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 4 November 2014

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Cambridge Subject Films

Marking on a map

Geography fieldwork. Credit: Richard Allaway

Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.

The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have  current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.

You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.

The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?

Date posted: 

Thursday 30 October 2014

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Competition: Engineering in Sport

Tennis racquet

Credit: Basheer Tome

Have you thought carefully about the role of Engineering in sports that you enjoy?

EngineerGirl (a US National Academy of Engineering website) is running a competition asking you to describe the technology used in a sport of your choice. The competition is open to male and female school students both in the US / Canada and beyond.

You may also enjoy reading the rest of the EngineerGirl website.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 29 October 2014

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Headstart: Try Before You Apply

Container ships in the Port of SouthamptonContainer Terminal, Port of Southampton. Image credit: Garth Burgess

Are you a student who loves science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and is currently in Year 12, Scottish S5? Are you thinking about what you might like to study at university, but find it difficult to make up your mind?

Headstart provides engineering taster courses to encourage young people into technology-based careers. You could try Marine Engineering and Nautical Science at Southampton, Computer Science at DurhamElectrical and Electronic Engineering at Newcastle, or Material Science here in Cambridge.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 28 October 2014

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Dylan Thomas poetry

Dylan Thomas birthplace

The boathouse in Laugharne (Camarthenshire), where Thomas lived and wrote in the last four years of his life. Credit: Les Haines

If you enjoy language and thinking about how it can be used and the effects it can create, you might like to explore some of Dylan Thomas's work. It's a particularly good time to do this, as 2014 is the centenary of his birth. 

Do you like one or more of these? Why? How would you describe Dylan Thomas's writing to someone who has never read any? Can you see any connections with other poets & poems that you have read?

Further reading & events

Date posted: 

Saturday 18 October 2014

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Physics. You work it out.

Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi (1995) on the British Library PlazaNewton in Bronze, by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1995) on the British Library's Plaza. Inspired by Newton, by William Blake (1795) at Tate Britain. Image credit: Chris Beckett

The Rutherford Physics Partnership runs an online platform for prospective Physicists, Engineers, and Mathematicians called Isaac Physics. It will help you to bridge the gap between your A Level and undergraduate studies by working through problems online.

Get started:

Date posted: 

Tuesday 14 October 2014

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