Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Do You Still Think You're Clever? review

John Farndon, the author of Do You Still Think You're Clever?: Even More Oxford and Cambridge Questions! is, very sensibly, a believer in 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' In this follow up to Do You Think You're Clever? he takes exactly the same approach of collecting a series of the more bizarre questions asked in Oxbridge interviews and providing his own suggested answers.

As Farndon says, you may not always agree with his answer - but that's part of the fun, because when you're dealing with questions like 'What makes a strong woman?' in a theology interview, it's really up to you how you answer - and what the interviewer is looking for (if he or she is any good) is not so much someone who comes up with a pat answer, but someone who can demonstrate how to think through a question, and this is something that Farndon excels at.

Thankfully, the reader doesn't need to know too much about the subject. In fact I found questions like 'Was Shakespeare a rebel?' much more interesting than more science-based ones like 'Why does a tennis ball spin?' I have both taken a Cambridge entrance interview and interviewed for a company that used a fiendishly evil question in their interviews (or at least did until it got too well known) - in the latter case, it was always the interesting answers that came at the problem laterally that were considered to indicate better candidates rather than the straightforward attempts at a solution.

(As an aside, the company interviews had a senior and junior interviewer. The first time I took part, other than being interviewed myself, the senior interviewer said to the first candidate 'If you need to know any statistical formulae don't worry, just ask Brian.' (B*st*rd.) I was taken totally off guard. I'm not good at remembering formulae, and it's a red herring - the question doesn't require it. But of course the first person said 'What's the formula for standard deviation?' and my mind went totally blank and had to ask for help. Next interview I had a cheat sheet.)

In the end, the reader's thoughts are as interesting as Farndon's answers. I found, having put the book down part way through, that I was thinking about how I would answer the next question up - in fact probably the best way to read it is one question at a time, then put it down while you think about the next one. This makes it a great loo book - but also a great gift book (I'm sure it's no coincidence it's going on sale this time of year) and it will certainly be one I'll be giving to a few people.

I feel I ought to say something negative about any book I review - all I can really find to say here is that I hate the cover. Please don't judge the book by it.

You can find out more or buy it at and

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