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Zapsta
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I'm applying to do CompSci at Cambridge, and, to cut to the chase, I want something good to write on my personal statement and discuss at interview (if I get that far). I know Liberty Basic (kind of), soon to move on to Smalltalk. So far in Liberty Basic I've made a text based Blackjack sim . Okay, that's probably not going to be that impressive, but once I've learnt Smalltalk, has anyone got any suggestions for programs I could write (not too complicated) to impress?

Also I want to read a few books, but I really have no idea what sort of thing to go for. Should I look at the ones they've recommended for students starting next year or something simpler? Or should I do some maths and physics reading, or even some of all three? Is there any point in reading the sort of thing maths applicants will be (Fermat's last theorem et al)?

Or am I just worrying about this too much? Thank you for any help I receive .
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Soulfish
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In the interviews they will ask you maths based questions - just make sure you're good at A-Level maths topics, and are able to solve a problem and explain what you're doing.

I know that in both my general and subject interviews I was asked maths based questions.
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Nylex
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I only got asked Maths questions in one of my interviews. In the other two, I got asked some computery stuff and the last one was Physics based stuff.
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Mighty
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Any suggested reading lists? Come on, I need something to do over the summer -_-
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Alaric
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(Original post by Zapsta)
I'm applying to do CompSci at Cambridge, and, to cut to the chase, I want something good to write on my personal statement and discuss at interview (if I get that far). I know Liberty Basic (kind of), soon to move on to Smalltalk. So far in Liberty Basic I've made a text based Blackjack sim . Okay, that's probably not going to be that impressive, but once I've learnt Smalltalk, has anyone got any suggestions for programs I could write (not too complicated) to impress?

Also I want to read a few books, but I really have no idea what sort of thing to go for. Should I look at the ones they've recommended for students starting next year or something simpler? Or should I do some maths and physics reading, or even some of all three? Is there any point in reading the sort of thing maths applicants will be (Fermat's last theorem et al)?

Or am I just worrying about this too much? Thank you for any help I receive .
The interviews can range from maths to compsci to physics to general questions. It's quite difficult to predict. I wouldn't really suggest bothering with Smalltalk for the cam course even if they do recommend it on their preparatory reading list. Read through the Foundations of Computer Science first year lecture course (excellent notes by Larry Paulson) and learn Java if you want to do something in OO and useful.
Ignore the tickable exercises and this year's IA Java course, the lecturer messed up big time and it's going to be someone else again next year. Look at the 2002-3 notes for Java if you do want to learn it from their, but personally I'd recommend Bruce Eckel's free online Thinking in Java book from http://www.mindview.net/ . Take a look into writing something simple like an IRC client using a bit of sockets and gui, extra bonus points for multithreading - but worry about that last.

I'd suggest some general scientific reading:
The Code Book (Simon Singh)
Fermats Last Theorem (Simon Singh again)
The Emperors New Mind (Roger Penrose)
Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking)
Of which Penrose is probably the most challenging, most of the computer lab staff will have read it by now too.

Reading a book on data structures and algorithms or something like the Mythical Man-Month might go down well but could be a bit dry.

Makesure you have some idea of an area you'd like to specialise in or are interested in and try to choose one the DoS of the college you're applying to doesn't specialise in.
The lab used to recommend a really old book as an 'introduction to computer science' (Goldschlager and Lister were the authors iirc) and although many of its principles hold still it pre-dating international networks means it shows its age in a few places. I'm told the new Turing omnibus is good, but I haven't read it myself.

Before my interview I mainly revised some maths and physics (made sure I could do the trickiest stuff - which actually caught me out on two problems but oh well), but felt under-prepared when I was asked a couple of compsci related questions. Mersenne primes was one for instance.

Oh and EVERYONE reads new scientist, but make sure you know a couple of recent stories from it you'd like to talk about as I've heard of people using questions like that to calm down nervous candidates.

Out of interest - which college are you intending to apply to?

Alaric.
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Zapsta
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(Original post by Alaric)
Out of interest - which college are you intending to apply to?
Thanks for all that. Should be enough to keep me going over the summer .
Unless my school for some reason is strongly against it, I'll be applying to Queens'.
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Alaric
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(Original post by Zapsta)
Thanks for all that. Should be enough to keep me going over the summer .
Unless my school for some reason is strongly against it, I'll be applying to Queens'.
Doc Walker ( the Queens DoS ) is supposed to be a real dude, I'm sure he'll be fairly reasonable in interviews. There are quite a few compscis every year in queens and they seem to socialise with each other a lot - more than some colleges at least.

It's the accommodation of Queens I'm always not sure about, other colleges seem to have nicer rooms, although it is all on one site which is a lot better than Clare has.

Alaric.
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Squishy
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Alaric, were you asked to read that Modern Introduction to CompSci book by Goldschlager and Lister? I notice it's been taken off the required reading list for this year, although it's a good book (if a little dated).
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Alaric
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(Original post by Squishy)
Alaric, were you asked to read that Modern Introduction to CompSci book by Goldschlager and Lister? I notice it's been taken off the required reading list for this year, although it's a good book (if a little dated).
It was on the mandatory preparatory reading list in my year, so I did, I think it was taken off the reading list for the year after mine. People aren't really going to check up and ask you questions about it in most colleges, so the reading list isn't really very important. Some additional introduction to put concepts in peoples' heads and create an overview of he subject is useful, from the blurb on amazon it seems the New Turing Omnibus is the new book for doing that.

Alaric.
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Squishy
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(Original post by Alaric)
It was on the mandatory preparatory reading list in my year, so I did, I think it was taken off the reading list for the year after mine. People aren't really going to check up and ask you questions about it in most colleges, so the reading list isn't really very important. Some additional introduction to put concepts in peoples' heads and create an overview of he subject is useful, from the blurb on amazon it seems the New Turing Omnibus is the new book for doing that.

Alaric.
Hmm, how many people bother with the reading lists then?
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Alaric
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(Original post by Squishy)
Hmm, how many people bother with the reading lists then?
Probably about a half, I think some colleges do base stuff on it for introduction supervisions, so it's probably safer too. Though if you can't be bothered then it wouldn't be a disaster, no one cared much at Clare.

Alaric.
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