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    Hello. I'm in Year 12 and have just started my a-levels which are Maths, Further Maths, Geography and Economics. I know that applying to Oxbridge is very competitive and that lots of different things matter but how could I improve my chances of getting considered for maths? My GCSE grades were 7A*'s 4A's and a Distinction with the A*s in Maths (8) English Language (8) Core Science, Additional Science, Spanish, History and Business Studies. I know that I should focus on getting good grades in my A-levels but I was just wondering if there is anything else I could do, because neither of my parents have been to university and I'm not sure if I stand a realistic chance.
    Thanks
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    (Original post by Moppet)
    I know that I should focus on getting good grades in my A-levels but is there anything else I could do?
    Thanks
    You will need to take either the MAT (Oxford) or STEP (Cambridge) as well. Preparing well for these is very important (and the MAT in particular has a tendency to sneak up on people as it happens relatively early in Y13).

    For maths, the only thing they really care about is how good you are at maths, so don't worry about trying to find extra-curriculars etc. (Unless you actually want to do them, of course).

    If you need help with any actual maths (questions you can't do, exam tips etc), the "other maths forum" http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=38 is the place to go.
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    No grade 9 in Maths, yet your applying for one of the most difficult undergrad maths course in the country/world (arguably)?

    But maths offers from Cambridge (and oxford too) are relatively not that hard to get, it's achieving the grades and especially STEP that's the main bit. I think it's something like 50% fail to get the STEP grade. Considering that all those people who failed probably spent the majority of the time between getting an offer and doing STEP practicing for it, that just shows how difficult it is - and we are talking about the best of the best of the whole country's mathematicians.
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    (Original post by Moppet)
    Hello. I'm in Year 12 and have just started my a-levels which are Maths, Further Maths, Geography and Economics. I know that applying to Oxbridge is very competitive and that lots of different things matter but how could I improve my chances of getting considered for maths? My GCSE grades were 7A*'s 4A's and a Distinction with the A*s in Maths (8) English Language (8) Core Science, Additional Science, Spanish, History and Business Studies. I know that I should focus on getting good grades in my A-levels but I was just wondering if there is anything else I could do, because neither of my parents have been to university and I'm not sure if I stand a realistic chance.
    Thanks
    Really there is only one thing about your application that matters - how good you are at maths. There are several different methods for measuring this, but they're all looking for the same thing.

    For Oxford or Cambridge you'd have to sit some kind of extra exam. This is the MAT for Oxford, which is used to shortlist for interview, or STEP for Cambridge which is done alongside your A levels. Start looking at papers for these as soon as you can. Also have a look at maths competitions you can enter. Have you ever done the UK maths challenge?

    Also consider dropping one of your A levels - it's perfectly normal for a maths applicant to have just 3, especially if you're doing STEP, which is a lot of work (and also what half of Cambridge maths offer holders lose their place over).

    In terms of your chances it's pretty impossible to say for now, although to be honest your 8 at GCSE maths isn't the best sign. However, excellent sixth form performance will override that.
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    (Original post by Moppet)
    Hello. I'm in Year 12 and have just started my a-levels which are Maths, Further Maths, Geography and Economics. I know that applying to Oxbridge is very competitive and that lots of different things matter but how could I improve my chances of getting considered for maths? My GCSE grades were 7A*'s 4A's and a Distinction with the A*s in Maths (8) English Language (8) Core Science, Additional Science, Spanish, History and Business Studies. I know that I should focus on getting good grades in my A-levels but I was just wondering if there is anything else I could do, because neither of my parents have been to university and I'm not sure if I stand a realistic chance.
    Congratulations on your results so far. You certainly seem to have the ability to stand a chance, although it is very competitive.

    Four 'A' levels is not required. If you have any difficulty, I'd drop one. Please do apply - you have nothing to lose.

    You should start attempting old MAT type questions. Do not run for solutions if you have problems, but wrestle with the questions yourself. Play with them, trying different approaches and verifying each step wherever you can. This is what builds understanding and will (eventually) give you more confidence.

    The MAT is extremely important for securing an interview. After that, it's really down to how your academic ability and potential are rated. There will be lots of enthusiastic and talented people applying, but the MAT and interview are your chance to shine.
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    Thanks for your advice everyone I will definitely start looking at STEP or MAT papers. Do you think it is worth re-sitting GCSE maths to get a grade 9? I was only 3 marks off but I've heard Oxbridge look down on GCSE resits
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    Look into BMO
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    Pretty much everyone applying has the grades so it will be how much you can show you enjoy maths and how you apply maths outside of lessons that will make you stand out. Volunteer to help teachers out, help fellow pupils out, get involved in any maths challenges and find out any other ways to apply maths - for example, I know someone who used maths to solve a Rubik's cube and put that on his personal statement.

    You have to show you have a passion for maths.
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    (Original post by nutz99)
    Pretty much everyone applying has the grades so it will be how much you can show you enjoy maths and how you apply maths outside of lessons that will make you stand out. Volunteer to help teachers out, help fellow pupils out, get involved in any maths challenges and find out any other ways to apply maths - for example, I know someone who used maths to solve a Rubik's cube and put that on his personal statement.

    You have to show you have a passion for maths.
    This is basically completely wrong for Oxbridge admission.

    The only thing they care about is how good you are at maths. They don't even (in my experience) care much about how interested you are in maths. Certainly having 20 maths extra-curriculars won't help at all if you do badly on the MAT/STEP.

    Maths challenges are good if they make you better at maths.
    Helping fellow pupils is good if it makes you better at maths.
    etc.

    Basically, concentrate on your maths.
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    (Original post by DFranklin)
    This is basically completely wrong for Oxbridge admission.

    The only thing they care about is how good you are at maths. They don't even (in my experience) care much about how interested you are in maths. Certainly having 20 maths extra-curriculars won't help at all if you do badly on the MAT/STEP.

    Maths challenges are good if they make you better at maths.
    Helping fellow pupils is good if it makes you better at maths.
    etc.

    Basically, concentrate on your maths.
    That is terrible advice.

    Getting into Oxbridge is all about backing up your actual grades plus MAT/STEP with anything that can show off your maths abilities and your passion for maths. It's not much use getting A*A*A* if everybody else gets exactly the same grade and same UMS. How do you think they decide who to interview?

    A bland PS with no extra-curricular maths activities will not get you an interview. There are only so many ways you can say you love maths but plenty of ways to prove it.

    Extra-curricular maths activities will give you a much better chance of getting an interview and it is something that they will want to discuss with you at that interview.

    I actually know what I am talking about as this got my son his interview at Cambridge this year!
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    (Original post by nutz99)
    A bland PS with no extra-curricular maths activities will not get you an interview. There are only so many ways you can say you love maths but plenty of ways to prove it.
    I got in with an incredibly bland PS.

    I actually know what I am talking about as this got my son his interview at Cambridge this year!
    I actually know what I'm talking about because I was specifically told this by the admissions tutor for mathematics at my college.

    Edit: also, see the post above from RogerOxon (who is actually an admissions tutor I believe).
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    (Original post by DFranklin)
    I got in with an incredibly bland PS.

    I actually know what I'm talking about because I was specifically told this by the admissions tutor for mathematics at my college.

    Edit: also, see the post above from RogerOxon (who is actually an admissions tutor I believe).
    All I can say is that you were a very lucky person with a PS like that.

    You are suggesting that for Oxbridge purposes it doesn't matter what you put on your PS and for all intents and purposes they ignore extra-curricular activities even if they apply to the subject. How do you then separate and classify applicants based purely on grades if they all have the same grades?

    Anyone can talk a good game but I would have thought cold hard facts have to count for something.
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    (Original post by nutz99)
    All I can say is that you were a very lucky person with a PS like that.
    Yeah, lucky that I applied with AAAA11.

    You are suggesting that for Oxbridge purposes it doesn't matter what you put on your PS and for all intents and purposes they ignore extra-curricular activities even if they apply to the subject.
    I can't find the post, but someone recently posted that their college actually told them "Aim your PS at the other universities you're applying to, we don't care about it" (not exact words). That said, colleges will vary, and I wouldn't literally assume they don't care about it. But for sure, anything you can do to improve your maths is more important than an extra-curricular that doesn't.

    How do you then separate and classify applicants based purely on grades if they all have the same grades?
    They don't all have the same UMS, they don't all perform the same at interview, and they certainly don't perform the same in STEP.

    Anyone can talk a good game but I would have thought cold hard facts have to count for something.
    Some cold hard facts:

    Cambridge state that they aim to interview anyone with a reasonable chance of acceptance, and in fact around 75% of Cambridge applicants will be interviewed. In other words, if you have strong grades, it's overwhelmingly likely you'll be interviewed. Obviously if 75% of applicants are interviewed, it can't require an amazing PS to make it to interview.

    Something like half of candidates who are made an offer will fail to make it. In other words, even amongst people who receive an offer, there's significant variation in their exam results.

    Anecdotal, but every time this discussion has come up on TSR over the last 10 years, I can't recall a single person actually at Oxbridge saying that the PS was that important.

    Again, I refer you to RogerOxon's comment (emphasis mine):

    (Original post by RogerOxon)
    The MAT is extremely important for securing an interview. After that, it's really down to how your academic ability and potential are rated. There will be lots of enthusiastic and talented people applying, but the MAT and interview are your chance to shine.
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    (Original post by DFranklin)
    Edit: also, see the post above from RogerOxon (who is actually an admissions tutor I believe).
    I'm not an AT - just an (old) Oxford graduate. Oxford places a lot of importance on its own assessment of candidates. When I applied, I sat entrance exams, and got a matriculation offer (two 'A' level passes, i.e. EE). Their offers are higher now, but still appear to be below the level of some others (e.g. Imperial).

    The MAT feedback shows a strong correlation between MAT score, interview and offer probability.
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    About extracurriculars, here is Cambridge's opinion about them:
    https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....d-out-more/faq

    Name:  evidence.JPG
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    Tldr, Cambridge only takes in account extracurriculars that are relevant to whatever you want to apply for.
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    (Original post by nutz99)
    You are suggesting that for Oxbridge purposes it doesn't matter what you put on your PS and for all intents and purposes they ignore extra-curricular activities even if they apply to the subject.
    Relevant ECs do help, but you must have the academic side. Oxford do give guidance on writing your PS and publish their selection criteria:
    (Original post by http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/ucas-application/writing-your-personal-statement)
    Tutors at Oxford are only interested in your academic ability and potential. They want to see that you are truly committed to the subject or subjects you want to study at university but it’s not enough just to say that you have a passion for something: you need to show tutors how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond whatever you have studied at school or college. This can include any relevant extracurricular activities.
    There’s a myth that Oxford is looking for the most well-rounded applicants, and that you will only be offered a place if you have a long list of varied extracurricular activities. In fact, extracurricular activities are only helpful in so far as they demonstrate the selection criteria for your course.
    For Mathematics:
    (Original post by https://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/study-here/prospective-undergraduates/how-apply/admissions-criteria)

    During the selection process, tutors will seek a demonstration of the skills and/or the aptitude necessary for the successful study of the course in question together with the motivation to undertake a demanding programme on that course, and will assess these via
    (i) the Admissions Test, and
    (ii) interviews (when held),
    taking into account the level of relevant existing knowledge and experience.
    Tutors will, in addition to assessing aptitude and technical skills, seek in successful candidates
    A. a capacity to absorb and use new ideas,
    B. the ability to think and work independently, and
    C. perseverance and enthusiasm,
    in each case to be assessed in respect of the course applied for.
    Evidence of the extent to which these criteria have been met will be taken from the performance in (i) and (ii) above, together with
    (iii) past examination records, and
    (iv) references and the personal statements contained both on the UCAS form.
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    (Original post by RogerOxon)
    I'm not an AT - just an (old) Oxford graduate.
    Sorry, had you confused with someone else! {oops}
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    (Original post by RogerOxon)
    Relevant ECs do help, but you must have the academic side. Oxford do give guidance on writing your PS and publish their selection criteria
    Thank you Roger, that's the point I was trying to make.
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    (Original post by stoyfan)
    ..
    (Original post by RogerOxon)
    ..
    It's also worth noting that maths is somewhat notorious for the somewhat extreme "all we care about is how good you are at maths" attitude relative to other courses.

    I've heard (2nd hand) about personal tutors discussing some emotional entanglements between undergrads they were having to sort out, and one of them commenting "why is it always problems with the mathematicians?" The rueful comment between the actual mathematicians was "well, we are are the one group where you expressly say you don't care about our personalities..."
 
 
 
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