Edwin Teo, a Cambridge University Admissions Specialist at QC, provides valuable insights on the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences programme at the University of Cambridge. Having been a student at Cambridge from 2018 to 2022, he possesses extensive knowledge of the essential academic and non-academic prerequisites for college applications. Edwin has also helped over 33 high school students with their college applications and offers a wealth of guidance on the subject.

Qn: What subjects did you do at high school (e.g:IB/A Level/AP etc)and what did you score?

Ans: At SJII, I pursued the IB Diploma Programme and opted for Biology, Chemistry, and Math as my HL subjects, achieving a perfect score of 7 in each. For my SL subjects, I selected Econs, Chinese B, and Language and Literature and obtained a score of 7 in Econs and Chinese, and 6 in Language and Literature.

Qn: What were your CCAs and Leadership positions in high school?

Ans: As the Green Team President at SJI, I was involved in various activities including Project Embellish – a collaboration with TWC2 where we sold jewelry to raise funds for migrant workers. Additionally, I also participated in contemporary dance.

Qn: Could you highlight 5 questions in your entrance interviews and your answers to them?

1. The interviewer picks up a coin and asks “’what happens in my brain when i pick up this coin?”

Ans: The coin is registered by the visual system, which prompts the brain to command the motor system to pick it up. Upon touching the coin, the tactile and sensory feedback received by the brain includes information about its weight, texture, and more. Based on this information, the brain generates value-based judgments about the coin.

2. The interviewer shows graphs and asks for interpretation/what is missing

Ans: The error bars, uncertainty measures missing – its unable to draw conclusions without these

3. The interviewer asks you to draw a neuron, identify different parts and make adjustments to neuron according to different demands (i.e. is it possible for neurotransmitters released from a neuron to act back on the neuron?

Ans: Draw auto-receptor

4.The interviewer asks what color is the wall in this room

Ans: white

5. The interviewer asks “ If I brought my cat into this room would the cat see the wall the same way as we do?”

Ans: I outlined how cats and humans have different visual systems and brain structures, I also pointed out that I cannot communicate with cats and thus we can never really exactly understand the subjective judgements of another

Qn: How does the workload of university compare with IB/A Levels?

Ans: The workload was more than double compared with IB.

Qn: How did you decide on your final university? Did you get offers elsewhere?

Ans: I got another offer from University of Glasgow (partial scholarship) and UCLA. I decided to study in Cambridge because of the world-renowned reputation- it is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, known for its academic excellence and research achievements. As such, studying at Cambridge can offer students the opportunity to learn from some of the most distinguished academics in their field.

Qn: What is the cost of Living and cost of school fees for the entire duration of the undergraduate degree?

Ans : Altogether, my family budgeted around 40-45k per year, with 28k allocated for university fees and 8k for college fees.

Qn: How is the teaching and learning work in your school? Are the faculty accessible?

Ans: We have minimal contact hours weekly and a lot of independent work is expected of us. Generally, each subject consists of department organised lectures and college organised supervisions (1-3 students to 1 teacher). Supervisions typically require prior work (reading, essays, problem sheets) and allow students to engage more deeply with material. Faculty are generally highly accessible during working hours, but in busy periods certain professors may take more time to get back.

Qn: How large is the cohort for your courses? How many Singaporeans are there?

Ans: There are 66+ Cohorts, 3 Singaporeans in the batch.

Qn: Are people very competitive academically? How many exams are there in a year? What happens if one fails the year?

Ans: Yes, it is a fairly competitive environment. There is only one final exam each year and failing the year would necessitate re-taking it.

Qn: How would you describe the school culture?

Ans: I would describe the school culture as a rich and vibrant one, with a long and distinguished history of academic excellence. Students at Cambridge tend to be highly motivated and driven, and the academic standards are extremely rigorous. The university is known for its intense workload and high expectations, but students are also encouraged to explore their interests and pursue extracurricular activities outside of their studies

Qn: Is there an established Singaporean presence at your university? How many Singaporeans are there per batch?

Ans: Yes, we have a Singaporean society known as CUMSA (Cambridge University Malaysian and Singaporean Association) established by Lee Kwan Yew; There are ~80 Singaporeans per batch.

Qn: How are freshmen/freshers welcomed to your university?

Ans: Freshers week is a series of college-led and university-led welcome events where students are brought around the campus. Most colleges assign freshers college parents who study the same subject and who can serve as a resource to turn to. There is also a Freshers’ Fair where university-wide CCAs set up booths where you can sign up. They also sell discount bikes and usually have free pizza there.

Qn: Is your school “cliquey”? Do people tend to hang among people of their own major/course/social class/race/nationality only, or is there a high degree of integration?

Ans: The school isn’t inherently cliquey but international students generally gravitate towards one another. However, it’s really up to you who you spend your time with as there are plenty of opportunities to interact with people from different demographics in your course/CCA etc.

Qn: How would you rate the following “scenes” in your college and its surroundings: shopping, drinking, clubbing, fine arts, and sports?

Ans: I would like to rate the shopping 3 out of 5, while drinking and clubbing is 2 out of 5. Fine arts is of 4 out of 5, and sports also scored a 4 out of 5.

Qn: How’s the accommodation? Do most people stay in college dorms/halls, or independently? How should one look for accommodation?

Ans: College accommodation is typically arranged and most students choose to reside in college.

Qn: How is the transport like? Does one need a car? If so, how should one go about getting a car?

Ans: Cambridge is highly conducive to walking and biking, but not very accommodating for cars.

Qn: Is Asian food readily available? If one is to cook, where can we get the Asian food from?

Ans: Asian food is readily available but not very good. Asian groceries can typically be bought from Mill Road or Jiamart.

Qn: Do most people cook, eat at a catered facility or cafeteria, or eat out? How’s the catered food?

Ans: Eating in the dining hall is common, but the quality of catered food may vary depending on the college. As an alternative, many Singaporeans either eat out at the market square or prepare their own meals.

Qn: What are the laundry arrangements like?

Ans: They generally have laundry rooms equipped with washers, dryers and ironing boards and using either laundry cards, laundry tokens or coins. Prices can vary quite a bit.

Qn: What’s the best experience you’ve had so far in college?

Ans: Living with friends in a flat during my second year was a great experience. We shared expenses, supported each other, and created lasting memories. It requires mutual respect and communication, but it’s a valuable and enjoyable part of university life.

Qn: Any final things you’d like to tell juniors about your school?

Ans: Cambridge can be a highly stressful environment, but it can also be rewarding if you balance your workload, avoid burnout, and engage in activities beyond studying. Despite the pressure, I had the opportunity to meet amazing people and make some of my closest friends. Ultimately, the level of stress in Cambridge is largely determined by the individual, and it is possible to manage it with proper self-care and a supportive community.

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