Cambridge Computer Science Interview: Questions & Tips

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This article guides candidates on how to best prepare for the Cambridge Computer Science interview, with guides on past Cambridge Computer Science interview questions, interview tips, mock examples and real experiences from students who have sat the Cambridge Computer Science Panel Interview.

cambridge interview questions computer science
Cambridge interview questions computer science

This article has been made from a collection of accounts from Oxbridge applicants.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge uploaded sample Computer Science interview questions to YouTube. This allows candidates to see how an online interview may be conducted and see some sample computer science Cambridge interview questions, so it could be very useful to watch.

What is the Cambridge Computer Science interview structure?

Each candidate will typically have one or two interviews. These will likely be held by the college that they applied for. 

At some colleges, candidates will be required to sit a written assessment prior to interview. This assessment may be something like the CSAT (the Computer Science Aptitudes Test). Candidates can read about and practise for the CSAT at the Climb Foundation website. Although candidates may not have to sit any assessment before interview, it will be useful to prepare for the possibility.

During the interview, candidates may be asked a few questions concerning their personal statement – so they should make sure they are familiar with the materials they’ve mentioned within it. For computer science interview questions Cambridge admissions tutors will ask candidates both academic and technical questions related to mathematics and computer science.

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What are the Cambridge Computer Science interview dates?

The Cambridge Computer Science interviews for 2025 entry will mostly take place in the first three weeks of December. Some may be a little earlier.

Some interviews will be held online. For UK based applicants to Trinity College – these applicants will be interviewed in person.

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Example Cambridge Computer Science Interview Questions

  • General Cambridge computer science interview questions:
    • What interested you about Computer Science at Cambridge?
    • Why do you want to study Computer Science? 
    • What do you know about the Computer Science course at Cambridge? 
    • Questions on your personal statement: asking you to talk about some parts of it briefly.
  • Egyptians: The Ancient Egyptians used marbles rolling down shutes to create NAND gates, using these for traps. We know that a computer can be made from only NAND gates (aside from the peripherals, such as the keyboard, monitor etc.). Does this mean that the Egyptians invented the computer? If not, why?
  • Sin and cos: Can you draw a sketch of sin(x)? How could you increase your confidence that the graph you’ve drawn is a sketch of sin(x) and not cos(x)? How does cos(x) relate to sin(x) conceptually? Can you draw a triangle and use it to tell me something about sin(x) (such as what sin(45) is)? Could you draw a sketch of sin(x)x?
  • Factory: The question concerns categorisation of integers and creating operations for an automaton. To see the full question (and a discussion around it), you can watch Sidney Sussex College’s sample Computer Science interview for examples of Computer Science Cambridge interview questions.
  • Show me a sorting algorithm. Can you tell me how efficient it is? Can you think of a way to improve its efficiency?
  • Do you know about any programming languages? What can you tell me about their advantages and disadvantages?
  • Discussion about binary searches and how efficient they are
  • Computer security and how we can ensure security between two agents
  • Proofs by induction
  • Testing your knowledge of logarithms and exponentials, including graph sketching. They may ask a series of follow up questions to test the way you handle new and challenging concepts and scenarios.
  • Questions on recursions and iterations. They may ask you to apply these concepts in more difficult scenarios. 
  • Automation of human roles by technology
cambridge computer science interview questions
Cambridge interview questions Computer Science

Insider Guides: Cambridge Computer Science Interview

What happens on the day of your Cambridge Computer Science interview? 

My interview was held online. An hour beforehand, I received pre-reading material. This was something specific to my college (it won’t happen at everyone’s interviews). I was allowed to read through it independently for the hour prior to the interview, but they told me I could not access the internet.

This reading is what my interview was based around – they asked me problem solving questions surrounding the reading, and were essentially testing how much of it I could understand within an hour.

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What do you have to bring to your Cambridge Computer Science interview?

I did not have to bring any equipment, I had my drawing tablet, but they said that it was not needed. Depending on your interview, you may be asked to write down something to show the interviewers. So it is a good idea to have a drawing tablet or pen and paper on hand.

In terms of dress, I just wore a pretty normal jumper. I was not dressed particularly smart, so it probably does not matter much. Going back, I might wear a shirt with a jumper over it. I don’t think wearing a suit is the best course of action (for me) because I would not be particularly comfortable in one. Comfort is key!

What is the interview setting and how long is it?

The interview was online on a Zoom call. So, the setting was just in my room.

I had two interviews in a row, with a break in between. They were 40 minutes each, and there were two interviewers in each interview.

Both of my interviews started with asking two questions from my Computer Science personal statement (asking me to explain/tell them about certain things in my statement). There was no mention of any questions such as “Why cambridge?”, “Why Computer Science”, etc. For the technical part of the interview, I was tested on the pre reading that I had received. There were no A Level Maths style questions (such as graph sketching), it was more problem solving based in the sense that you had to read a sheet and try to understand it within an hour. 

cambridge interview questions computer science

What are the Cambridge Computer Science interviewers like? 

I had 4 interviewers. 3 of them were very friendly, (one more so than others), and there was one that was a bit expressionless. However, they were all nice. My internet cut out right at the beginning of one interview and they gave me a few minutes extra at the end because of it.

They didn’t follow up on any of the personal statement questions. However, there were definitely a lot of follow up questions for the actual technical part of the interview.

What are the best tips for planning my trip for my Cambridge Computer Science interview?

My interview was online, so I did not have to plan my trip to Cambridge. The only advice I have is that you should dress in something comfortable, but still professional. You should also make sure to be well-rested for your interview.

If you were to travel to Cambridge, make sure you have your revision notes on hand for those few days, a pen, and maybe a book or something else to help you relax. 

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Are there any academic or challenging Computer Science questions at the Cambridge interview?

Yes, most of my Cambridge University computer science interview questions were technical, academic questions. They were definitely unlike what I had seen before. It really tested your understanding of the material. Saying this, I did have to receive a lot of hints throughout too, so you don’t have to be perfect.

Are there any personality, work experience or extracurricular based Computer Science questions at the Cambridge interview? 

I was asked some generic questions about my personal statement, such as “tell me about this”, “explain what this means”, etc. They didn’t ask me any questions on personality, work experience, or extracurriculars.

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Top Tips for the Cambridge Computer Science Interview

  1. Read through your personal statement. I personally made a list of all possible questions I could think of and some of them did come up!
  2. Get mock interviews with people through Discord/Linkedin, or a mock interview service. This helped me a lot because they asked me questions about my personal statement and they also gave me some of their own interview questions. Of course, I did not get asked the same questions as them, but it still was useful to learn more about the understanding behind questions.
  3. Work on your mathematical problem solving. Even if you don’t get asked about it directly, the interviews are all about problem solving. Not only is it about problem solving, but it’s definitely about speed too! Speed without being correct is useless of course, but so is the opposite. My interview pushed me for time and yours might likely do so too!
  4. You DO NOT have to be perfect. I received a good amount of hints. Saying this, you do also have to come up with original ideas, but don’t think you’ve failed if you’ve received a few hints.
  5. Try not to stress – the interviewers are nice people, and they want you to get in. If you face a technical error or whatnot, email them quickly and they likely will put in extra measures for you.

Top Tips for the “Why Cambridge” interview question

  1. I would mention the great Mathematicians and Computer Scientists that went to Cambridge (Alan Turing comes to mind), and the great researchers here (I would search one up beforehand, so that I am familiar with one).
  2. You should research the course, and find specific parts of the course which you enjoy that are unique to Cambridge (for example, a 2nd year group project or the dissertation in final year). 
  3. You could also talk about the area if that was a contributing factor to your application: the beauty of Cambridge as a city, etc.

My Favourite Things about Studying Computer Science at Cambridge University

Definitely the people. I am learning a lot here, including the fact that I know very little compared to others, but I would definitely say that is something important and interesting, as it gives me more chances to learn. 

The opportunities here are great too. There are regular events such as talks, career fairs etc.

Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge Computer Science Interview

  • Make sure you are familiar with your personal statement.
  • Read books on computer science. It can be useful to do some wider reading on computer science, including books and key advanced research and news topics. This will also allow you to show independent interest in the area if they ask you about it.
  • Revise your basic knowledge of computer science. It can be useful to brush up on your core computer science knowledge before the interview. 
  • Mock interviews for Cambridge computer science interview questions. Practice makes perfect, and it is definitely useful to practice mock computer science interviews with a Cambridge Computer Science interview tutor or family member. 

To find out how we can support you in your preparation, call us today to find out more about Oxbridge Computer Science tutoring.

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