Speaking from experience I got 3A*'s 6A's 1B in my GCSE's one of those A's being in maths, enjoying the subject but finding it difficult. I started initially with maths,physics,art,economics and general studies for AS level, not even contemplating further maths until I began to find P1 (the old C1 and a bit more) very easy and enjoy M1 and S1 i decided to take the plunge and drop economics, which I wasnt finding wildly exciting and take on further maths a term into the year. I had D1 and most of P2 to catch up with off my own back and in the end I got straight A's at AS level and the highest maths marks in the year. I decided to apply to do maths at Gonville and Caius college, cambridge. I went for interview was not asked at all about my A in GCSE maths. I wasnt given an offer straight away but I was pooled but wasnt lucky too have any college take me on.
I got 4A's at A level in maths,f maths,physics and art with 540+ /600 in all and also a distinction in AEA maths. Ive just finished my 1st year at Warwick studying maths and got a first in the exams, coming in the top 50.
the main message is a lot can change, GCSE's are a lot different to A Levels and degree maths even more different. What they are looking for is an enthusiasm for maths and a willingness to work at it. At an interview where your faced with difficult maths problems they want to see how you think about it, how you use your logic to appoach it wether or not you get the right answer. I flourished after GCSE and Im sure thats happened/going to a lot of other people. If you have a willingness and determination go for it!
Remember that If your rejected it doesnt mean your not good enough its just more than likely that they probably just didnt have enough room to take you, theres more good applicants than places.
There are many other fantastic uni's too. Warwick has a fantastic maths department, the course is challenging but really enjoyable and varied. I've had a really enjoyable year both academically and socially.
Getting to cambridge, while being a place with a fantastic reputation and a department and history second to non is not the be all and end all. I dont regret applying in the slightest and I encourage people to go for it!
I imagine one thing which will be very important if you didn't get an A* in maths GCSE (and your other grades were below the averages for Cambridge) would be the reference you get from your teachers. If they are certain you're an outstanding mathematician and you're confident of As in Maths and Further Maths, along with coping well with STEP questions, they might not be so worried about your GCSEs.
It's worth noting that on average a Cambridge applicant's GCSEs will include 5 or 6 A*s and the rest mainly As, but of course there is variation above and below this. Also, since STEP is taken after you apply, and all applicant's will be predicted A in Maths and Further Maths, there will be a need to impress through other means, most likely in the reference and interview.
Well my reason for not getting an A* was because the exam was far too easy. We were not tested on any remotely difficult concepts at all, which was bad news because our school prepares us more for the hard stuff than the easy stuff. I ended up getting 90% in the exam but around 75% in the coursework. The A* boundary was 90% so I got 87.3% overall.
But yeah, I think I'll try to convince my school to let me do STEP 1 in year 12.
I don't want to hijack the thread, but could I ask my own version of this problem?
Right. Do you think good GCSEs would help to counter average (average in most people's eyes is disgustingly worthless in Cambridge's XD) AS levels?
I got 10 A*s and 2 As last year - but this year, I think I'm only gonna get ABB (A2 maths isn't certificated for some reason...not entirely sure why, but I'll put down my marks anyway, since they were probably of A standard).
Or possibly ABC, depending on how much I cocked up the philosophy exam...
Well, I might have got an A in physics (depends on how badly the rest of the country did, really)...
So anyway, do you think good GCSEs and average ASs are acceptable?
I think I can make AAA next year (depending on what A2 physics looks like)...but this STEP is worrying me muchly.
I just don't see myself ever being any good at it. xD
What I've gleamed from talking to tutors etc. is that if you are good enough to be a Cambridge mathematician, you will become a Cambridge mathematician. So if you're worried about playing a numbers game, don't - instead, apply for the college which tugs at your heart (I've finally convinced myself that even though Merton is more academic, I prefer Worcester as a whole). If you don't get in, by the merit of the other candidates that have applied to that college, the college to which you applied originally may well recommend you to other colleges once you have been placed into the pool. My way - you might get into your favoured college, and then get into a worse college, or you get into a worse college by your way... I know which I would choose!
I took the STEP 1 this year but vastly underprepared for it... (only started lightly revising about 3 days before the exam. I was under the impression it was difficult but had no idea it was meant to take months of work) I think I got a 3, if I've got a 3 is it worth writing it on the form (and is it if I scrape a 2 which I think is unlikely?)