Interviewing for Economics at Cambridge is a nervous yet rewarding time, knowing what to expect will help you achieve the perfect preparation.
Being invited to an Interview at Cambridge is a massive achievement and something to, rightfully, be proud of. This is your time to shine.
The Admissions Tutors have questions at the ready that allow you to make a lasting impression of yourself, which is an opportunity to be seized upon.
On the face of it the questions asked may seem like they are not relevant, but they all serve a purpose.
What Makes The Cambridge Economics Interview Different?
Cambridge Economics is probably the most mathematically rigorous Economics course in the UK and as such, you should expect the Interview to have some form of mathematical focus. The Admissions Tutor will get you to discuss some material you would have seen before the Interview but expect the Interview to have a mathematical focus.
It is important to remember that A-Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics are by far your most important A-Levels for the Economics degree at Cambridge.
You will be given preparation time before the start of the Interview, along with a handout with three questions of analytical/mathematical flavour and a recent article from a newspaper.
Use this time to make notes which you can refer to during the Interview when you discuss it with the Admissions Tutor.
You will also be asked to solve new problems during the Interview, and no calculators are allowed.
What Is The Purpose Of These Common Questions?
Every question asked of you has a meaning whether you realise that or not. They are designed to asses your academic potential and your enthusiasm for Economics.
It is important to note as well that the Admissions Tutors are the ones who will be teaching you throughout your time at Cambridge so they want to get to know you. Your grades and Personal Statement only tells them so much.
The Interview is designed to mimic the supervisions you will attend as a student and the Admissions Tutor is looking to see how you deal with such an environment.
The questioning you will be faced with is designed to allow you to demonstrate that you have the skills required to be successful at Cambridge in Economics.
As a result of this, the Admissions Tutors will pose the questions to you in a way that allows you to showcase these abilities.
This is your time to show your creativity and knowledge. These questions are designed to challenge to allow you to show off your full potential.
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Common Questions Asked In the Economics Interview
The point of the Interview is to show your interest to study Economics at Cambridge, do not be disheartened bout being asked Economics questions when you have not studied it before.
Admissions Tutors know you will not have extensive Economics experience, they want to know why you want to study the subject and what you have done to help foster this interest.
Your Personal Statement will be one thing that the Admissions Tutors look to when planning the questions to ask you. Make sure you refamiliarize yourself with your Personal Statement to not be caught out by these questions.
A common question of choice related to your Personal Statement looks at any wider reading you may have mentioned. The Admissions Tutors will ask you to expand further on what you had said and see what Economics concepts you have gauged from it.
Of course, you could likely be asked why you have chosen to study Economics. This should be an answer that just rolls of your tongue, it is not to be overthought. You do not want to mess up on what is essentially one of the easiest questions you will be asked.
Ultimately, the key thing the Admissions Tutors are looking for is that you can show interest in and commitment to Economics, and the ability to think critically and independently.
An example of a question where you can demonstrate this is:
“Inflation is often talked about as a bad thing, but governments don’t try to prevent inflation from taking place, why do you think this is?”
This question allows the candidate the opportunity to show the extent of their understanding of current policies and additional knowledge they have established with their further reading.
An example of how to answer this question is demonstrated below:
“0% inflation may seem like a good idea as lower prices provide consumers with the opportunity to get more for their money. Price increases are often poorly received by consumers as they have to reduce what they buy. However, there is often a trade-off between inflation and economic growth and aiming for zero inflation may lead to stagnation in an economy. Inflation only forces a reduction in consumption when prices are rising faster than wages, so a government may compromise on inflation – such as the Bank of England have done with their 2% target – in order to ensure that economic is being achieved.”
In this example, the candidate effectively pre-empts and dispels arguments in favour of 0% inflation goals. Given that this is probably a topic that the candidate has never had to tackle before, it is advisable to ensure they can present a structured logical argument before attempting to answer.
This may involve asking for a moment to think, and a good candidate should not be discouraged from doing just that as it allows for a moment to collect your thoughts. It is also important to remember to voice your thought process aloud, this is what the Admissions Tutor wants to see.
Cambridge Interviews are often known for their seemingly bizarre questions but remember each and everyone has a purpose.
One such question is presented below:
“Sadly, we aren’t allowed to just sit down with you and play a game of Monopoly, but if we did, how would you try to win? Would your strategy also work in the real world?”
Being asked about Monopoly does seem slightly less serious, but it is still clearly grounded in Economic theory and should form the basis for your answer. If you happen to be unfamiliar with Monopoly or are not clear on the best way to win it, then make sure to ask for clarification.
Do not struggle to try to answer a question, thinking it makes yourself look better by doing so, the Admissions Tutor will think more highly of you for being honest about not knowing the concept.
What the Admissions Tutor wants to see is how you apply the method to reality and the subsequent discussion of whether this is possible.
A candidate who gives a strong answer may say:
“In general, the best way to win monopoly is to play it as aggressive as possible. This means buying up every single property that you land on or that becomes available to buy in some way. Your ultimate aim is to acquire sets and owning as much as possible gives you a much larger degree of bargaining power over other players.
You should not save any money as it is easy to instantly mortgage and unmortgage properties to pay anything that you owe. To apply this to real life, we need to consider what the overall goal of monopoly is.
In order to win, you need to bankrupt every other player and by doing this you accumulate all of the available money and assets. For the sake of discussion, we will assume that the goal of real life is to achieve economic success through the accumulation of wealth.
The monopoly strategy does have some real-life application. It makes sense to accumulate as many safe assets as possible (property in this case) and then accumulate a steady flow of income in the form of rent.
Bargaining power is also important in reality, and a strong set of assets is a useful bargaining tool. The crucial difference in monopoly, however, is that resources (properties) are so scarce, and you are one of a small number of people trying to acquire them.
In reality, both the pool of assets and potential buyers is much greater. This means that accumulating one extra property has a far smaller impact on your bargaining power.
Furthermore, it is useful in real life to have some savings and liquidity to fall back on. You cannot instantly mortgage and unmortgage assets in the same way as you can in the game, and as such having no savings as coverage will increase your chances of going bankrupt.”
In comparison, a poor answer will be one that does not take this question seriously and treats it as more of a joke. While the question is not serious in tone, you need to make sure that you are still treating it with care and using it as an opportunity to show your Economics knowledge and relate concepts to the specific question.
Kings College has some examples of the mathematical questions that are asked during the Interview itself, these are helpful to gauge an idea of what they are like.
There are no answers with these so they can be put to good practice of being able to form an answer to a Cambridge Economics maths question.
One of the samples given is:
“A fair coin is tossed but you cannot see whether it is heads or tails. In order to learn the outcome, you ask three friends who all see the outcome clearly. Each friend has a habit of lying one-third of the time at random. If all of them say that it is heads, what is the probability that it is indeed heads?”
This provides a solid representation of what these questions are like and the general theme that they follow. Getting to grips with what these questions are like will play a big part in succeeding in your Cambridge Economics Interview.
These questions are not designed to catch you out, and all serve the purpose of assessing your ability to succeed at Cambridge in Economics.
As long as you can clearly and effectively demonstrate your capabilities of thinking critically and logically, and also expand on your existing knowledge, it will go a long way in helping you achieve this success.
Don’t wait until you are invited to Cambridge for the Interview, early preparation is key to being successful.
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