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Question about Cambridge and whatnot

  1. Feb 19, 2010 #1
    I'm a secondary (high) school student in Ireland and I'd just like some of your advice on regards to some questions I have about universities and things.
    I'm in 5th Year now, which means I'll be taking my Leaving Certificate (Final Exams) in 2011, the subjects I'm taking and my predicted grades in them are:
    Maths: A1
    Physics: A1
    Chemistry :A1
    Biology: A1
    Applied Maths (Mechanics): A1
    Geography: A1
    English: B1-A2
    French: A1
    Irish: B2

    I won a bronze medal at the International Junior Science Olympiad in Korea in 2008, and am on the Irish team for the EUSO in Sweden this year.

    Anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm telling you all this and the reason is this: It's my current dream/whatever you wanna call it, to study Mathematics with Physics at the University of Cambridge. However, I think that this will be far more difficult to get into than the Natural Sciences course at said university, and that I, in particular, would have a higher chance of succeeding in getting into the Natural Sciences course than Mathematics with Physics. However, to be frank, I'm far more interested in the mathematical aspect of physics than I am in chemistry or biology and I don't think Natural Sciences would be provide me with this to the same degree. Basically I was wondering if I should apply to Natural Sciences instead of Maths and Physics, because I feel it would be easier to get admitted into..

    I know this is rather incoherent and rambling but hear (read?) me out..

    In most of the universities colleges, AS Level Further Mathematics, is an essential prerequisite.. however, there is no equivalent in Ireland, and also the Irish school curicullum is much less specialised, i.e. 7 subjects (in my case 9), instead of the 3/4 A-Levels that British students take, and I was wondering whether this would disadvantage my application.

    And yes, I know there are other colleges, and I'm still seriously interested in Imperial, and University College London and several others... though Oxford is an impossibility due to the UCAS system. And also Irish colleges such as Trinity College Dublin, and maybe American ones, though they are shockingly expensive.

    And there's not really any rush either, I know, UCAS deadlines aren't until October or something so I plan to have my mind properly made up by then.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2010 #2
    I think most undergrad applicants need to take the "STEP exam" to get into Maths at Cambridge, though I don't know whether the exam is available in Ireland. The test is more difficult than A-level maths exams. Also be prepared for a tough interview. There may even be another tricky test preceding the interview.

    I'm sure that the people involved in the admission committee understand the difference between Irish and British education systems. If you are among the top students in the Irish system, you will certainly be considered. Since Cambridge uses the STEP exam and academic interviews to further distinguish between candidates, you don't need to worry about your Irish curriculum as long as you get high grades.

    As shown by your record in competitions, you have a very good physics background. If your maths is anywhere as good as your physics, you should have an excellent chance of getting into Cambridge.

    Cambridge may not be the ideal place for physics study. Basically the first year contains very little physics, no matter whether you take Maths with Physics or Natural Sciences. If you intend to be a die-hard mathematical physicist and won't mind lacking broader understanding of physics, the Cambridge Maths Tripos is very good. If you want to do inter-disciplinary science and learn about chemistry and biology as well as physics, Cambridge NatSci is a good option. However, if you just want to be a physicist, you might want to consider oxford instead.
  4. Feb 20, 2010 #3
    Thanks for that, actually over the last few days I have been reconsidering the Oxford physics program, and it may actually be more suited to me.
    It seems like good advice as I've thought for a while that there is no ideal course for me in Cambridge, and now that I look at it again the Oxford course looks pretty ideal.
  5. Feb 24, 2010 #4
    Although NatSci is very intriguing..
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