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Do You Think You're Clever?: The Oxbridge Questions [Hardcover]

Libby Purves , John Farndon
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 2009
'What happens if I drop an ant'? 'What books are bad for you'? 'What percentage of the world's water is contained in a cow'? The Oxbridge undergraduate interviews are infamous for their unique ways of assessing candidates, and from these peculiar enquiries, professors can tell just how smart you really are. John Farndon has collected together 75 of the most intriguing questions taken from actual admission interviews and gives full answers to each, taking the reader through the fascinating histories, philosophies, sciences and arts that underlie each problem. This is a book for everyone who likes to think they're clever, or who thinks they'd like to be clever. And cleverness is not just knowing stuff, it's how laterally, deeply and interestingly you can bend your brain. Guesstimating the population of Croydon, for example, opens a chain of thought from which you can predict the strength of a nuclear bomb ...and that's just the start of it.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (1 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848310838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848310834
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'As well as putting your most smug relatives to the test, this book is an entertaining way of encouraging unusual thought and debate' --The Oldie

'Test your knowledge and see where you rank in relation to the nation's elite with this light-hearted and informative quiz book. Featuring actual questions taken from undergraduate admissions interviews' --Woman and Home

"The book celebrates being 'clever' in its widest possible sense, championing the free thinker, the alternative, the individual, the power of deep thought." --Judges Comments, Society of Authors Education Award, 2010

"A great book to dip can hardly stop yourself wanting to see the next question." --Evan Davis, BBC Radio 4, 'Today' Programme

"'Do You Think You're Clever?: The Oxbridge Questions', brings together the toughest, most esoteric examples of the genre, and writer John Farndon - a graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge - sketches out winning responses to each." --Daily Telegraph

"immense fun to read and surprisingly inspirational." --Forlorn Hope, Ops-Centre

About the Author

John Farndon graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge with a degree in English Literature. Libby Purves OBE is a radio presenter, journalist and author. Best known for presenting BBC Radio Four's Midweek, she also writes regularly for The Times and has published twelve novels. She is a graduate of St Anne's College, Oxford, with a First in English Language and Literature.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
122 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining 18 Oct 2009
There are a whole lot of guides for sale on how to get into Oxbridge, but this isn't really one of them. It's not that it won't help you, but it's a whole lot more entertaining than that.

There are a lot of myths about the Oxbridge entrance procedures, a lot of them true (somehow I made it into Cambridge, so I know). But the greatest myth is that the questions they ask are somehow impossibly esoteric and unanswerable. In truth, the questions they ask relate to the subjects they teach, and test not just intellectual rigour, but intellectual curiosity.

This book will appeal to the intellectually curious. The rigour is there in the hands of the author, who has covered an impressive amount of ground in researching and contemplating the answers to interview questions from across the spectrum of subjects. (A quick Amazon search, and you'll see he's pretty well qualified to do so.) For every question, taken from real interview, you get a quick few pages' worth of insight.

This is fun, just for the drama of seeing the question, thinking, "God, how would I answer that", and then rolling on to a reassuringly clear and well thought out response, and then wondering, "could I ever have come up with that?". Always interesting, always entertaining, this is highly recommended. (And a good gift for anyone who might be applying.)
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm starting to think... 28 Oct 2009
This isn't just a book for Oxbridge hopefuls. It's great for anyone with an inquiring mind who likes the idea of firing intelligent comebacks to some of the most bizarre, interesting, and loaded questions that the Varsity's finest have come up with.

There's lots of fun to be had posing the challenging questions to friends and seeing how they cope. And John Farndon's conversational, often humorous tone keeps the book light enough to hold your interest without losing any of its sharpness. Reading `Do You Think You're Clever?' made me think that if I could answer just one of the abstract questions even half as well as the author, then I'd be very pleased with myself - perhaps even smug enough to answer an immodest `yes' to the title question!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe I'm not so stupid after all! 28 Jan 2014
By J Gozzi
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating and reassuring read that I can see myself re-reading a few times, and recommending wholeheartedly to anyone who rates themselves a clever-clogs!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Every one can learn from this ebook 14 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Typically most of us might think we are clever, some may even be arrogantly so.
This ebook has something to offer all that might fall in this category.
I recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good fun reading the questions 22 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the challenge of some of the questions and would have answered them differently from the author....but then that's the point. I'm not sure I would have been able to handle the questions so well at 18.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Do You Think You re Clever? 16 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I found this book interesting but disappointing. The questions themselves were thought provoking but Ifound the answers less than convincing.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
What inspires me about this book lies in its ability to halt the oncoming calculating and conditioned way of answering questions seen in GCSE and A-Level papers. It probably won't help you that much in terms of succeeding academically, not just because its answers are far too 'out-there' to provide these conditioned answers, but also because it is far too entertaining to be of genuine interview use! To be able to see the face of the interviewer whose prospective undergraduate receives the answer to "Are you cool?" of "I'm mildly tepid" (which Farden suggests in the conclusion to this question as an appropriate answer).

This book will appeal to those who think outside the box - i.e. those who have the intellectual curiosity which is so necessary to getting into Oxbridge. I would thoroughly recommend it as a gift for those applying: the author unpacks the questions to make them slightly more manageable, and slightly less daunting. John Farden also manages to capture what Oxbridge are really looking for in their student - they are not interested so much in what you have to say, but rather how you get about saying it. Farden manages to capture this in the way he answers the question. By reading his book, which is fundamentally about thinking in a different way to our mundane daily lives, the reader thinks in ways in which Farden does not - and so further capturing the aim of the book; we think beyond the ideas which are portrayed and so we become more aware about things we would not usually think of or contemplate.

Well done! A thoroughly interesting read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat engaging 24 Aug 2011
This book has some interesting answers to questions that cover a reasonably wide range of topics.

However, if you're looking for a book to help you with your Oxbridge entry: this isn't it. The answers are rarely ones that someone without access to the Internet or previous knowledge of the topic could produce.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars AMUSING
Published 2 months ago by CENTRAL LONDON MAN
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as interesting as you would think
Not as interesting as you would think. Quite disappointing really. I suppose I expected lots of interesting conundrums or scenarios. Don't bother
Published 4 months ago by J
4.0 out of 5 stars good fun read
Don't take this book to be a gospel of information on how to get into oxford or Cambridge. However it is very interesting and informative from the authors point of view. Read more
Published 5 months ago by B. Butt
5.0 out of 5 stars So you think you are clever
A gift for a youth - because he is to be applying to universities, I have every hope that this will help
Published 15 months ago by lois lay
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly makes you think outside the box
Mostly very thought provoking and I"m sure readers will have plenty more off the wall questions that remain unanswered. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Wizard_of_Odds
4.0 out of 5 stars Do you think you're clever enough to read this book?
The answer is, of course, yes. You don't have to have a degree in science to read it. But, it is quite confusing. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr .X
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
brilliant examples and descriptions of those impossible to asnwer questions. of course they aren't impossible and this gives an 18 year old with hopes of an interview lots of... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Anon
2.0 out of 5 stars Dubious facts
The questions are good but the answers are far less impressive. Whilst some of the observations are thought-provoking and may, indeed, impress the interviewers, the inclusion of... Read more
Published 18 months ago by D. Allen
3.0 out of 5 stars OUT OF TOUCH?
Reading this book brought back memories, but it doesn't very accurately reflects the questions most students are asked these days. Read more
Published on 13 April 2012 by Paul Szegett
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