PASSED/FAILED: Carol Vorderman

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The Independent Online
Carol Vorderman, 36, is the resident mathematician on Countdown, which was the first programme transmitted by Channel 4, and has just celebrated its 2,000th edition. She presents the technology series Hot Gadgets and is a regular presenter of National Lottery Live, both on BBC1 on Wednesdays.

Pre-school? I went for one term to Vale View, a nursery which I think I didn't like - although my mother says that's not true. I then went for two terms to Meliden School, where my mother was the Secretary.

Primary? Then at four I went to Ysgol Mair Catholic School, Rhyl, where I stayed until I was 10. We had little sum books; I used to race through the sums, which I knew I would get right, to finish first; it was a speed thing, like racing against the clock in Countdown. I loved the school and was one of quite a few who were put up a year. Fred Jemmett was the headmaster, a very funny man and very strict. On a Monday morning we had to thank God if Manchester United had won on the Saturday.

Secondary blessings? Then I went to the school next door to Ysgol Mair, the Blessed Edward Jones High School. The next Catholic school along the coast was the Blessed Richard Gwyn High School; Richard Gwyn was beatified, so it became the Saint Richard Gwyn High School, which was most annoying to us. I hated PE; I couldn't see the point in being frozen in your navy blue flannel knickers and getting mottled legs. A lot of sadism going on there, in my opinion. My mother would provide me with sick notes - and if she wouldn't I wrote my own.

Exam score? In O-levels, I got nine As and two Bs. Subjects included maths, physics, computer studies - this was the first year you could do it as an O-level - Welsh and cookery. I also got an OE in a maths paper which included calculus. In A-levels, I got an A in maths, plus an S for the special paper, an A in economics and a B in physics.

University challenge? Nobody in my school had applied to Cambridge and I could not have done a fourth term for the entrance exam; I was very lucky to get a conditional offer to Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, which I'd picked because the Alternative Prospectus said it had a comparatively high percentage of state school entrants.

Head in the clouds? I picked engineering because I'd wanted to be an airline pilot and thought I'd stand a better chance with that kind of degree. I ran the Stephenson Society, the Engineering Club in Sidney. I was duped into rowing, but after a term of five 6am outings a week, I quit.

Countdown to a media career? I was never, at school or university, involved in the media or performing. I had no desire to be in the media; it was my mother who saw the article on Countdown - and on Countdown all that mattered was that you could do sums. I'd never heard of the Footlights; one of the disadvantages of coming from a school which hadn't sent anyone to Cambridge was that I didn't know what the place had to offer.

Final score? I could have worked harder. I got a Third in my first and second years. In my last year I thought I had worked rather harder and when the results were put up on the board, I looked first at the 2.1 list, then I looked at the 2.2s and next I looked at the Firsts. When I saw myself under the Thirds I was hugely disappointed, until two minutes later I thought: it could have been worse. At least I'd got a Cambridge degree, even if with three Thirdsn