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?”
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.