Brighton's pebbly beach provides clues for aspiring Oxbridge students

Posted On 06 Sep 2010 at 11:12 pm

How many pebbles are there on Brighton beach?

If you want a place at Cambridge University, you might want to head for the seafront and start doing your sums.

A report in The Sunday Times yesterday gave examples of brainteasers posed by Oxbridge dons to test potential students’ powers of original thought.

And one of them was: “Estimate the number of pebbles on Brighton beach. If one was given to each person, would there be enough for the entire population of the world?”

Spacewords Brighton

No answer was supplied – and apparently there’s no right or wrong answer!

Other teasers included a question asked during an Oxford University interview: “If you leave a fridge turned on in a thermally isolated room, what happens to the room?”

The questions feature in a new book – So You Want To Go To Oxbridge? Tell Me About A Banana – edited by Rachel Spedding and Jane Welsh.

The Sunday Times report – headlined “Answer this and you’ve got the Ox factor” – says that one Oxford history candidate was asked: “What is not history?”

The question has echoes of the one put to the fictional character Rudge in Alan Bennett’s play and film The History Boys. He is asked, what is history?

He replies: “It’s just one fucking thing after another.”

And he wins a place at Oxford – although not necessarily on the strength of his answer.

  1. mike Reply

    well, here is an answer for helping any one stuck, over the second question. i have put my fridge in my airing cupboard, the little radiator on the back of the fridge, gives out heat (when thermostat active), drawn out of the inside of the fridge, by the heat pump, to make the fridge cool inside (to thermostat temperature). the heat given off by the radiator warms the airing cupboard, enough for me to air dry, my: tea cloths, shoes, and rinsed milk and ribena bottles for recycling. that just reminded me, i could put my rain soaked socks in to dry too. my friend garon hawes helped me think of putting my fridge in my airing cupboard, because he had asked me the question ‘how can you recycle the heat given off by the radiator on the back of a fridge ?’ my first answer was to make a shoe drying box out of corrugated cardboard that sits on top of a fridge, with a cardboard air duct fitting to the back of the fridge to collect the warm air current, into the box on top, which you can put your worn washed damp shoes into air dry.

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