tiwikiwi
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Hi, I have something of a dilemma with regard to my course choices. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I love Maths and Maths+CS absolutely equally.

The deadline to choose my degree is approaching, and I'm stuck between the two. Since I'm terrible at geometry, but great at logic, I score much higher on the MAT version for Maths+CS applicants than on the version for straight Maths applicants. This makes me inclined to apply for M+CS, but that would mean that I'd be applying for a degree with (a) more competition and (b) a CS interview on top of a maths interview (I don't think I'd do too well at a CS interview). At the same time, the impact of the MAT score on admission chances cannot be underestimated. So which one should I choose?

Before you say that I should just choose the one I love more, or that my decision should determine the exam and not the other way around, recall that I see them as equally awesome, so it's simply a matter of taking the path of least resistance. This isn't like applying to Classics because 40% of applicants get in, even though I don't like Classics, just to get into Oxford. It's choosing between paths that I'd genuinely enjoy, with a mind to maximize my chances of being able to pursue one of those paths.

Rather, it's choosing between applying for a course with fewer barriers to entry (only a maths interview, lower applicant-to-places ratio) but with a lower MAT score and a course with more competition, but with a higher MAT score.

Any advice?
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04MR17
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(Original post by tiwikiwi)
Hi, I have something of a dilemma with regard to my course choices. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I love Maths and Maths+CS absolutely equally.

The deadline to choose my degree is approaching, and I'm stuck between the two. Since I'm terrible at geometry, but great at logic, I score much higher on the MAT version for Maths+CS applicants than on the version for straight Maths applicants. This makes me inclined to apply for M+CS, but that would mean that I'd be applying for a degree with (a) more competition and (b) a CS interview on top of a maths interview (I don't think I'd do too well at a CS interview). At the same time, the impact of the MAT score on admission chances cannot be underestimated. So which one should I choose?

Before you say that I should just choose the one I love more, or that my decision should determine the exam and not the other way around, recall that I see them as equally awesome, so it's simply a matter of taking the path of least resistance. This isn't like applying to Classics because 40% of applicants get in, even though I don't like Classics, just to get into Oxford. It's choosing between paths that I'd genuinely enjoy, with a mind to maximize my chances of being able to pursue one of those paths.

Rather, it's choosing between applying for a course with fewer barriers to entry (only a maths interview, lower applicant-to-places ratio) but with a lower MAT score and a course with more competition, but with a higher MAT score.

Any advice?
My advice would be to think about what you are doing a degree for? If you have a specific career in mind, then choose whichever course is more suitable for that. Don't be too concerned about the interviews now because quite frankly you haven't applied yet, so might not get to interview (I'm not casting aspersions on your ability, I'm suggesting you be open to all possibilities).

You have to have a purpose in studying a degree (if not, Oxford will notice). Know what you want to do with it, and use that to determine what your degree should be in.

I'm not sure whether you can apply to Maths and then take some parts of the CS course on too when you're there.:dontknow: Might want to check that out if it could influence your decision.
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tiwikiwi
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(Original post by 04MR17)
My advice would be to think about what you are doing a degree for?
I'm not entirely sure yet. I think I might do postgrad studies, so working in industry is definitely more long-term. Either way, I definitely have a passion for both maths and computer science, and at this point it's just a matter of which one will be easier for me to get in for.


(Original post by 04MR17)
so might not get to interview (I'm not casting aspersions on your ability, I'm suggesting you be open to all possibilities)
Indeed, interview isn't guaranteed, but to maximize chances of getting interviewed, I'd want to maximize my MAT score (read: apply for M+CS). At the same time, if I'm invited to interview for M+CS, then I'll have to face a difficult CS interview and a more competitive cohort overall. That's the quandary.


(Original post by 04MR17)
I'm not sure whether you can apply to Maths and then take some parts of the CS course on too when you're there
I'd possibly be able to change course, which means it's best for me to apply to the one for which I'm a stronger applicant (since I could just transfer later, if need be).
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gavinlowe
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(Original post by tiwikiwi)
Hi, I have something of a dilemma with regard to my course choices. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I love Maths and Maths+CS absolutely equally.

The deadline to choose my degree is approaching, and I'm stuck between the two. Since I'm terrible at geometry, but great at logic, I score much higher on the MAT version for Maths+CS applicants than on the version for straight Maths applicants. This makes me inclined to apply for M+CS, but that would mean that I'd be applying for a degree with (a) more competition and (b) a CS interview on top of a maths interview (I don't think I'd do too well at a CS interview). At the same time, the impact of the MAT score on admission chances cannot be underestimated. So which one should I choose?

Before you say that I should just choose the one I love more, or that my decision should determine the exam and not the other way around, recall that I see them as equally awesome, so it's simply a matter of taking the path of least resistance. This isn't like applying to Classics because 40% of applicants get in, even though I don't like Classics, just to get into Oxford. It's choosing between paths that I'd genuinely enjoy, with a mind to maximize my chances of being able to pursue one of those paths.

Rather, it's choosing between applying for a course with fewer barriers to entry (only a maths interview, lower applicant-to-places ratio) but with a lower MAT score and a course with more competition, but with a higher MAT score.

Any advice?
There's not a huge difficulty in the difficulty of getting into the two degrees. The MAT scores for borderline candidates are pretty similar between the degrees.

Also, I don't understand why you think you would do badly in a CS interview. You say that you're great at logic, and CS interviews are basically logical thinking (plus a bit of discrete maths). Have you looked at the sample interview questions on our webpage?

I think you should apply for the degree you'd enjoy more, although I realise that you're currently undecided on that front.

Gavin
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RichE
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(Original post by tiwikiwi)
I'd possibly be able to change course, which means it's best for me to apply to the one for which I'm a stronger applicant (since I could just transfer later, if need be).
This is by no means guaranteed and so a very dangerous strategy.
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tiwikiwi
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(Original post by gavinlowe)
There's not a huge difficulty in the difficulty of getting into the two degrees. The MAT scores for borderline candidates are pretty similar between the degrees.
Indeed, but at the interview stage, aren't there fewer places for each applicant for the M+CS degree? Or maybe I got the statistics mixed up?

(Original post by gavinlowe)
Also, I don't understand why you think you would do badly in a CS interview. You say that you're great at logic, and CS interviews are basically logical thinking (plus a bit of discrete maths). Have you looked at the sample interview questions on our webpage?
I'm pretty good at the logic problems like the saint/liar/wildcard and the black/white hats problems. The interview problems listed on the website are sort of related to this, but on the whole, they didn't seem very logic-related (perhaps with the exception of the chocolate bar problem). That's why I feel comfortable with the M+CS question on the MAT, but not necessarily with those that will be asked at interview.

Additionally, I've heard that applicants may be asked to come up with algorithms to solve certain problems. I've been programming from a young age, but my programs were always functionality-based (e.g. automating emails), as opposed to algorithm-based. One former student told me that he was asked to come up with an algorithm to solve the 2SUM problem at interview, and I doubt I'd be able to do the same, especially in a stressful interview environment. Should I expect such problems to be asked, or has the department shifted away from such questions in recent years?
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tiwikiwi
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(Original post by RichE)
This is by no means guaranteed and so a very dangerous strategy.
Really? I thought you just had to take an exam to switch?
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gavinlowe
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(Original post by tiwikiwi)
Indeed, but at the interview stage, aren't there fewer places for each applicant for the M+CS degree? Or maybe I got the statistics mixed up?
Last year, the ratio for M&CS was 7.3, and the ratio for M and M&Stats (combined) was 7.0 -- so very little difference. The ratio for straight CS was higher, but that's more a reflection of a larger number of less strong candidates, rather than a difference in standards. We aim for the same standards in all degrees (although it's not an exact science).

I'm pretty good at the logic problems like the saint/liar/wildcard and the black/white hats problems. The interview problems listed on the website are sort of related to this, but on the whole, they didn't seem very logic-related (perhaps with the exception of the chocolate bar problem). That's why I feel comfortable with the M+CS question on the MAT, but not necessarily with those that will be asked at interview.

Additionally, I've heard that applicants may be asked to come up with algorithms to solve certain problems. I've been programming from a young age, but my programs were always functionality-based (e.g. automating emails), as opposed to algorithm-based. One former student told me that he was asked to come up with an algorithm to solve the 2SUM problem at interview, and I doubt I'd be able to do the same, especially in a stressful interview environment. Should I expect such problems to be asked, or has the department shifted away from such questions in recent years?
Yes, you're right: algorithms questions do sometimes get asked. However, it will normally be the case that the interviewer will give you hints rather than necessarily expecting you to come up with an algorithm yourself.

Gavin
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RichE
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(Original post by tiwikiwi)
Really? I thought you just had to take an exam to switch?
What exam? But basically no - changing courses is never automatic and I know of a college in the last year that said no to the change you are suggesting,
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tiwikiwi
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(Original post by gavinlowe)
However, it will normally be the case that the interviewer will give you hints rather than necessarily expecting you to come up with an algorithm yourself.
This relates to something I've been wondering about. At interview, to what extent should one depend on the tutors' input? I've read that being completely self-sufficient often comes with a dearth of interaction with the tutors, which tends to make them think that such an applicant isn't suited well by the Oxford tutorial system. Yet I've also heard that every time you get stuck, ask a question, and have the tutors show you the way forward, you lose interview marks. (And some say they like it when you ask questions, but why ask questions if you're not lost and you know the concepts of a question deeply?)

In short, how should applicant-tutor interaction at interview be? What kinds of questions should be asked? What kinds of questions shouldn't be asked? What things add to your score, and what things take away from it?

Lastly, does the interview have a well-defined markscheme (even if it's not available to the public) that interviewers use? How much of the score is subjective?

Thank you so much!
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