Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Common pitfalls for UKCAT students and how to avoid them

The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is a widely-used admissions test which allows UK universities to evaluate the current skills and future potential of prospective medical students. Thoroughly preparing for the five separate sections of the UKCAT can be a daunting task, so the examination experts at Kaplan have pinpointed six common pitfalls that students should avoid.

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The representation of fathers in children’s fiction

There aren’t many areas in literature where men are under-represented, but it’s safe to say that in children’s fiction, men – and fathers in particular – have been largely overlooked. And deliberately so. Adult carers with a sense of responsibility have been ousted from the action because of their exasperating tendency to step in and take control. Children’s authors don’t want competent adults interfering and solving problems.

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Mathematics Masterclasses for young people

In fact the idea really goes back to Michael Faraday, who gave Christmas lectures about science for young people at The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London in 1826. Sir Christopher Zeeman, following upon Porter’s initiative, gave the first series of six one-hour lectures (Mathematics Masterclasses) to young people at The Royal Institution in 1981, about “The Nature of Mathematics and The Mathematics of Nature”.

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Coincidences are underrated

The unreasonable popularity of pseudosciences such as ESP or astrology often stems from personal experience. We’ve all had that “Ralph” phone call or some other happening that seems well beyond the range of normal probability, at least according to what we consider to be common sense. But how accurately does common sense forecast probabilities and how much of it is fuzzy math? As we will see, fuzzy math holds its own.

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Student debt: not just a millennial problem

When I was interviewed on the Kathleen Dunn Show, I was prepared to talk about the health implications of educational debt for students. That changed when a father called in and shared his story about helping his children pay for college. This father wanted to protect his children from debt and was trying to do the “right” thing by his children, and it almost resulted in the loss of his home.

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The mixed messages teens hear about sex and how they matter

Although they start having sex at similar ages to teens in many other developed countries, US teens’ rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancies, abortions, and births are unusually high. Besides high levels of socioeconomic inequality, a major reason is their inconsistent use of contraceptive methods and low uptake of highly effective contraception.

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The presence of the past: selective national narratives and international encounters in university classrooms

The question of how to remember past events such as World War II has long become official business. Governments, intent on sustaining unifying national narratives, therefore choose what and how the past should be remembered and told, for example through teaching history at secondary schools and memorials/museums. For how states choose to remember tells us something important about how they see themselves.

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Opening the door for the next Ramanujan

It is still possible to learn mathematics to a high standard at a British university but there is no doubt that the fun and satisfaction the subject affords to those who naturally enjoy it has taken a hit. Students are constantly reminded about the lifelong debts they are incurring and how they need to be thoroughly aware of the demands of their future employers. The fretting over this within universities is relentless.

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Diverse books in school libraries

Diversity continues to be a huge topic in the media. Each year seems to spark new debates about everything from the racial makeup of award nominee lists, to the people who are allowed into different countries. The wave of popularity surrounding this subject impacts upon every sphere of life and culture, including books and libraries.

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On the physicality of racism

When you talk about how the young boys that I grew up around walked through the world, when you talk about the fact that my brother had made a decision at 13 that he was going to carry a handgun, when you talk about the fact that that wasn’t even unusual, you are talking about the physical safety, the danger, the very health of the body. Conversations about race are filled with words and euphemisms to describe the impact of racism on people and communities.

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Liar, liar, pants on fire: alternative facts

Oxford lists several definitions of belief, but here is a paraphrase of their meanings: something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion; a religious conviction; trust, faith, or confidence in something or someone. How do truths believed by individuals or groups compare with scientific truths? On the face of it, scientific observations and experiments are backed by physical evidence, repeated in many settings, by many independent observers around the world.

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Transformative social work education: the time is now

In the first week of March, hundreds of social work educators from across the US will come together in New Orleans to discuss the future of social work education at the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD) conference. It is clear that the stakes for social work education are higher now than ever before. For my students who are working in field placements, there is a growing sense of dissonance.

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Replication in international relations

The integrity of science is threatened in many ways – by direct censorship; by commercial, political, or military secrecy; by various forms of publication bias; by exorbitant journal subscription fees that effectively deny access to the general public; by cheating and falsification of results; and by sloppiness in the research process or the editorial process prior to publication.

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Deconstructing pseudoscience

Can magicians (illusionists) really levitate themselves and others or bend spoons using only the power of their mind? No. Emphatically no. But they surely make it seem as if they can. Enjoy being fooled? Then you’ll love watching really good magic shows that allow people the opportunity to suspend their disbelief momentarily. But don’t let this suspension become permanent.

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