Cambridge Personal Statement for English

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hannahlili
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Hi, I have a few concerns about my personal statement as I am applying for Cambridge but feel that the texts that I have mentioned are a bit generic. I have mentioned texts by Hardy, Shakespeare and Orwell. At all of the Cambridge taster sessions I have gone to they have mentioned that using niche texts is really good, as it shows you have really researched your subject in-depth, but I feel like I know these texts really well and could talk about them in an interview so I don't want to put in random texts for appearances sake.

Would it be okay if I inserted some more unknown texts (eg a poem that I've found interesting) and perhaps some critical reading to make my PS more unique, or should I just completely change the books I mention?

Anyone who is also applying for English/has already applied for English, how many texts in total did you put on your PS- I don't want to mention too many texts that I can't show my understanding of them, but equally don't want to not include enough.

Thanks!
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JenTen
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Okay I can help with this as I'm studying English at Cambridge!!!
First things first, I would say don't worry about the texts you are picking to talk about being generic. I wrote about both Hardy and Shakespeare in my personal statement and it was fine (writing about Shakespeare actually is good because a whole section of first year is dedicated to studying him). The key is to write about things you are passionate about and if you write passionately about 'generic' texts it will sound better than if you try and pick something off-grid that you just aren't interested in. Also, if you get an interview, it will be a whole lot easier to talk about these things. You can even write about texts you are studying as part of A-Level if you really wanted to.
If you are interested in some more unknown texts, put them in!!! But if you're struggling to be passionate about them - don't. I know someone who got in and wrote about Bob Dylan lyrics so there isn't a list of what literature is 'elite' enough to write about. It just needs to be from the heart.
Literary criticism can be put in as well but again only if you are passionate about what you've read. If you've read criticism just to appear 'fancy' you probably won't be able to talk about it at an interview or convincingly write about it (especially as a lot of admissions tutors may have read the same criticism so know exactly what you're talking about!!!)
Finally the amount of books I referenced? I can't fully remember but I think it was around 10? There honestly isn't a right amount to talk about as long as you mention more than 1 book and let the books you reference kind of float into one another rather than looking like a list saying LOOK I READ THIS AND THIS AND THIS LOOK AT ALL THESE BOOKS I'VE READ.
With all this said, I'm sure you'll do great and if you need anymore help, just ask!!!
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Interrobang
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It's about quality over quantity regarding numbers - don't just name drop, make sure you have something proper to say about what you mention
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hannahlili
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(Original post by JenTen)
Okay I can help with this as I'm studying English at Cambridge!!!
First things first, I would say don't worry about the texts you are picking to talk about being generic. I wrote about both Hardy and Shakespeare in my personal statement and it was fine (writing about Shakespeare actually is good because a whole section of first year is dedicated to studying him). The key is to write about things you are passionate about and if you write passionately about 'generic' texts it will sound better than if you try and pick something off-grid that you just aren't interested in. Also, if you get an interview, it will be a whole lot easier to talk about these things. You can even write about texts you are studying as part of A-Level if you really wanted to.
If you are interested in some more unknown texts, put them in!!! But if you're struggling to be passionate about them - don't. I know someone who got in and wrote about Bob Dylan lyrics so there isn't a list of what literature is 'elite' enough to write about. It just needs to be from the heart.
Literary criticism can be put in as well but again only if you are passionate about what you've read. If you've read criticism just to appear 'fancy' you probably won't be able to talk about it at an interview or convincingly write about it (especially as a lot of admissions tutors may have read the same criticism so know exactly what you're talking about!!!)
Finally the amount of books I referenced? I can't fully remember but I think it was around 10? There honestly isn't a right amount to talk about as long as you mention more than 1 book and let the books you reference kind of float into one another rather than looking like a list saying LOOK I READ THIS AND THIS AND THIS LOOK AT ALL THESE BOOKS I'VE READ.
With all this said, I'm sure you'll do great and if you need anymore help, just ask!!!
Thank you so much, this is so useful! Can I ask how you prepared for the ELAT and interviews as I'm struggling a bit with this at the moment.

Just a quick question about Cambridge- which colleges are the best to go for, eg most friendly, nearest to the English department, etc?
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JenTen
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(Original post by hannahlili)
Thank you so much, this is so useful! Can I ask how you prepared for the ELAT and interviews as I'm struggling a bit with this at the moment.

Just a quick question about Cambridge- which colleges are the best to go for, eg most friendly, nearest to the English department, etc?
Okay preparation advice: I would say take the application process one stage at a time. The ELAT comes before the interview and so it is good to focus more on that right now. I found past/sample ELAT papers helped me a lot. I think if you just Google them, part of the Cambridge website should have them. I also looked at sample answers/examiner comments on these answers and a kind of mark scheme. From that, I made a list of success criteria and then when I wrote practice answers to past papers (I wrote these by hand as I would in the actual exam), I had the success criteria in front of me so I gradually got it into my head how to answer the question (because it is slightly different to A-Level and GCSE English answers). With that said however you don't need to stress hugely about the ELAT and revise loads - especially as you probably have so much else on your plate including A-Levels, personal statement and a social life. The paper itself is you analysing/comparing unseen texts so just know some literary methods (just like you would have used at GCSE) and you'll be fine!!!
Honestly every college is great in its own way and wherever you pick you would probably fit in fine. I ended up picking my college through looking at the pros and cons list on The Tab (which if you go on the Cambridge section should give you some idea of the different colleges). But (in my opinion at least) the college you put on UCAS isn't a huge deal. This is especially as some people do an open application or do get pooled to another college. That said, I go to Catz and it is known as the most friendly college!!! At the moment, because of COVID, location doesn't have the biggest bearing on learning but that should change by next year. Some colleges are in the city whilst a few are a bit further out so if you were really wanting to be closest to where English lectures would be, I'd go for one in the city (but obviously there'd be other people doing English at your college who would get you where you need to be I'm sure!!!)
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