I struggled adjusting A-Level to Degree level Maths, now I’m on track for a 1st! AMA

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Shay- student at UEA
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My name is Shay and I've just completed my second year studying Maths at UEA.

You often hear talk about how big a jump it is going from A Level to uni, but it is really hard to understand exactly what is meant when people talk about this, as there is just so much to uni life and studying at uni that I definitely had no idea about when I was at college.

The obvious jumps from A Level to degree level come with the level of difficulty of the content you'll be learning and the skills, motivation and interest required to undertake the course. The jumps that aren't talked about as much though are those relating to exactly how you will learn, and the differing teaching styles.

At A Level you are following a quite well structured specification and everything you need to know for the exam will be given to you in lesson time. I didn't do a lot of work outside of the classroom at A Level and I got by quite well by doing that. I really focussed on making sure I knew exactly what I needed to know for the exam and saw anything extra as a waste of time.

Coming to uni, things really are turned on their head in that regard. The study you do outside of the lecture theatre is the most important study there is. Whilst lectures, workshops and any other contact hours will guide you, it is fully on you to motivate yourself to learn and to ensure you understand all the content you're required to understand. You're not at school anymore; you're an adult!

It is with this that I struggled and although my grades don't reflect it, I really did have a hard time getting to grips with this new style of learning for a while and so first year was a real learning curve for me. Come July last year, I got my results for first year and I was over the moon to have achieved a first class result overall, despite the initial struggle, and I'm now on track to achieve a first this year too.

So go on, Ask Me Anything and I'll be happy to answer!
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etotheipi12
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What would you recommend doing in the summer before university (between year 13 at sixth form and first year) to prepare for the jump?
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by etotheipi12)
What would you recommend doing in the summer before university (between year 13 at sixth form and first year) to prepare for the jump?
Good question! You don’t need to do TOO much over the summer but there’s lots of videos on YouTube about the jump to uni and these helped me a lot. People like Eve Bennett, Ruby Granger and any of those involved in the StudyTube Project (https://youtube.com/channel/UCgqGpYjhnWvhE5-QrmXLkoQ) have made some really great videos in the past which help a lot, so I definitely recommend them!
Another great thing you can do is look up your course’s reading list and get a head start on some reading. That way, you can afford to play around with different learning styles, etc. when you do come to starting your course as you’ll have already covered some of the material on your own.
One final recommendation I have it UEA’s preparing for university MOOC. This was recently refreshed so it’ll have some good information in it! You can find it here:
https://www.uea.ac.uk/study/short-co...paring-for-uni

I hope this helps!

Shay
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Anonymous #1
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How much module choice did you get? I'm nervous I'll be spread across lots of different elements of maths and struggle to focus on all of them at the same time.
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Hey I'm going to be studying maths aswell, how do you organise your notes and how do you study?
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wht subjects did u do for alevels and wht did u get in them?
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by Anonymous)
How much module choice did you get? I'm nervous I'll be spread across lots of different elements of maths and struggle to focus on all of them at the same time.
Another brilliant question! It varies between uni but on the Maths course at UEA it is structured so that in first year you’ll have all compulsory modules spreading across both pure and applied and then when you get into second year you’ll have four compulsory modules which again spread across pure and applied and you’ll also have a choice for two modules which can be within the school of maths or from other schools too, like computer science modules, biology modules, economics, physics, etc.
When you get into third year (and fourth year too on the masters course), you really get a chance to make the degree your own with a free choice of 6 modules from a list of choices. Here you can really specialise in what you are interested in which you’ll very likely be certain about after the first two years!

(Original post by Anonymous)
wht subjects did u do for alevels and wht did u get in them?
I took Maths, Physics and Sociology at A Level which I’m often told is quite an odd combination! I got an A in maths (just missed out on an A* which I was gutted about!), C in physics and B in sociology.
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Superdupernova
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did you feel as if you were at a disadvantage at the start because you didn't do further maths at a-level? also, could you tell me a little about how you find the teaching in general with lectures, seminars and stuff like that? thanks
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Shay- student at UEA
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Hey I'm going to be studying maths aswell, how do you organise your notes and how do you study?
Awesome, that’s great to hear you’re planning to study maths! Are you coming to UEA or will it be elsewhere?
That’s a good question and definitely something that will have a very different answer based on who you’re asking in maths!
For me, I take my notes digitally in lectures using an iPad and Apple Pencil with the Notability app. It’s really nice to be able to have all my notes and the provided lecture notes and any books that are relevant all on my iPad so I’m not having to carry loads around with me and it also eliminates the risk losing things too with the ability to have it all backed up on iCloud or Google Drive. There’s loads of ways to organise notes on there too and ways to pretty up your notes with colours and highlighters, etc. so I’d recommend this always!
When it comes to studying in my own time though, I’ll often type up notes and use both my notes from the lectures and the lecturer’s course notes to compliment each other to make some really nice typed notes which have everything relevant in. I find that typing the notes really works for me as it allows me to think more about the content because I’m not spending too much time worrying about making it look neat, and it saves a lot of time too when doing pure maths as there is quite a lot of writing for definitions, theorems, etc.
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by Superdupernova)
did you feel as if you were at a disadvantage at the start because you didn't do further maths at a-level? also, could you tell me a little about how you find the teaching in general with lectures, seminars and stuff like that? thanks
Good question! I honestly thought I might be at a disadvantage but when I actually got to uni that wasn’t the case at all. The first semester really focussed on bridging the gap between A Level maths and degree level, covering all of the content of further maths with no presumption that we’ve ever seen it before which was really nice. It’s done in a way so that anyone who didn’t do further maths can easily learn everything they’ve missed but so anyone who did do further maths isn’t left feeling bored as it does go slightly beyond what they’ve seen before too.
You’ll definitely find it a bit easier to start off with if you’ve done further maths but if you haven’t you won’t be disadvantaged at all, and after christmas the content we were being taught was brand new to everyone anyway, even the people who did do further maths!
In terms of teaching, for each module we have 3 contact hours a week and these are generally split to be two hours of lectures and a one hour workshop where we’ll be given a problem sheet (sometimes in advance or sometimes in the session) which we can work through and get help with either from the lecturer or from a PhD student who will be floating around to help out. The lectures are just where you’ll be talked at for an hour and be introduced to new content and be shown examples to help you understand it and the workshop sessions are where you’ll have a chance to apply what you’ve learned in the lectures and they will help you a lot in understanding the content. I find that these sessions are really the most important ones in terms of learning!
Does that help?
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MajorFader
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(Original post by Shay- student at UEA)
My name is Shay and I've just completed my second year studying Maths at UEA.

You often hear talk about how big a jump it is going from A Level to uni, but it is really hard to understand exactly what is meant when people talk about this, as there is just so much to uni life and studying at uni that I definitely had no idea about when I was at college.

The obvious jumps from A Level to degree level come with the level of difficulty of the content you'll be learning and the skills, motivation and interest required to undertake the course. The jumps that aren't talked about as much though are those relating to exactly how you will learn, and the differing teaching styles.

At A Level you are following a quite well structured specification and everything you need to know for the exam will be given to you in lesson time. I didn't do a lot of work outside of the classroom at A Level and I got by quite well by doing that. I really focussed on making sure I knew exactly what I needed to know for the exam and saw anything extra as a waste of time.

Coming to uni, things really are turned on their head in that regard. The study you do outside of the lecture theatre is the most important study there is. Whilst lectures, workshops and any other contact hours will guide you, it is fully on you to motivate yourself to learn and to ensure you understand all the content you're required to understand. You're not at school anymore; you're an adult!

It is with this that I struggled and although my grades don't reflect it, I really did have a hard time getting to grips with this new style of learning for a while and so first year was a real learning curve for me. Come July last year, I got my results for first year and I was over the moon to have achieved a first class result overall, despite the initial struggle, and I'm now on track to achieve a first this year too.

So go on, Ask Me Anything and I'll be happy to answer!
What did you study at A level?

What has been your favourite modules from your degree so far?

What are you planning to do after your degree?
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by MajorFader)
What did you study at A level?

What has been your favourite modules from your degree so far?

What are you planning to do after your degree?
Hi! At A-Level I studied Maths, Physics and Sociology which I’m often told is a strange combination!

So far I’ve found the algebra modules of my degree course the most interesting. In the compulsory second year algebra module we did group theory and ring theory and I was really interested in those, so much so I’m thinking of pursuing them further in a maths project I’ll be doing in third year! I also really enjoyed a Java programming module I took from within the school of computer science as it was a nice break from doing maths all the time and it was something I’ve always been interested in too.

For as long as I can remember I was always set on going into teaching as a career but I’m actually quite tempted by a PhD at the moment. I’ve still got a couple of years to decide though so I’m going to let the third year project help me decide on whether I think I’ll enjoy a PhD, but as it stands I think the PhD will be my primary plan and then I’d go onto lecturing or if I don’t go for the PhD, A Level maths teaching will be my backup plan!
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liv_yolo
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How many hours do you do on your own each week?
Has it been harder to study and maintain your grades during coronavirus?
Any advice for new maths students starting uni this year, especially as it is all online?
Many thanks x
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(Original post by Shay- student at UEA)
My name is Shay and I've just completed my second year studying Maths at UEA.

You often hear talk about how big a jump it is going from A Level to uni, but it is really hard to understand exactly what is meant when people talk about this, as there is just so much to uni life and studying at uni that I definitely had no idea about when I was at college.

The obvious jumps from A Level to degree level come with the level of difficulty of the content you'll be learning and the skills, motivation and interest required to undertake the course. The jumps that aren't talked about as much though are those relating to exactly how you will learn, and the differing teaching styles.

At A Level you are following a quite well structured specification and everything you need to know for the exam will be given to you in lesson time. I didn't do a lot of work outside of the classroom at A Level and I got by quite well by doing that. I really focussed on making sure I knew exactly what I needed to know for the exam and saw anything extra as a waste of time.

Coming to uni, things really are turned on their head in that regard. The study you do outside of the lecture theatre is the most important study there is. Whilst lectures, workshops and any other contact hours will guide you, it is fully on you to motivate yourself to learn and to ensure you understand all the content you're required to understand. You're not at school anymore; you're an adult!

It is with this that I struggled and although my grades don't reflect it, I really did have a hard time getting to grips with this new style of learning for a while and so first year was a real learning curve for me. Come July last year, I got my results for first year and I was over the moon to have achieved a first class result overall, despite the initial struggle, and I'm now on track to achieve a first this year too.

So go on, Ask Me Anything and I'll be happy to answer!
Hey I'm planning studying Maths at uni, what are your plans for when you finish university?
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by Anonymous)
Hey I'm planning studying Maths at uni, what are your plans for when you finish university?
Good question! You’ll hear a lot of maths students wanting to go into teaching and this was my plan for as long as I remember but on seeing some higher level maths when I came to uni I had a slight change of heart and I’m swaying towards pursuing a PhD now and from there I’d go into lecturing hopefully. Teaching maths at sixth form level is my backup plan though!
Have you got any ideas where you’d like to go with it?
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by liv_yolo)
How many hours do you do on your own each week?
Has it been harder to study and maintain your grades during coronavirus?
Any advice for new maths students starting uni this year, especially as it is all online?
Many thanks x
Hey!

So each module has 3 contact hours a week, two of which are lectures and so I like to spend some time of my own looking through the lecture material in advance and making some notes on it. Generally I’ll match the lectures one-to-one, so it’ll be two hours of my own study for each module every week, so around 10 hours in total. It really depends on how you learn best though and what you need to be doing to ensure you’re understanding the content, so different people will spend different amounts of time and you’ll really have to have a play around to see how you learn best!

I wouldn’t say it’s been TOO much harder to study due to coronavirus but it definitely became harder to stay motivated and I think this may have just been down to the fact that I wasn’t getting out at all and lack of socialisation, but now lockdown measures have been eased a little I imagine it’ll be a bit easier. The way all the lectures were moved online so seamlessly really worked well though and if you’re already doing work in your own time (which you should be at uni!) then it doesn’t make too much difference!

If I had to give some advice to new maths students for this year I’d say that it’s really important to spend time working through problem sheets for workshops/seminars. This will help you a lot in understanding the content and at UEA the exam questions are all taken from these problem sheets!

I’d also strongly recommend putting yourself out there to meet new people on your course, especially if it’s all going to be online. The last thing you want is to be working through it alone! If there’s a group chat for your course, make sure you’re in it (and if there isn’t one, make one!). It’ll really help you a lot to have people to discuss the content of lectures and problem sheets with and it’ll obviously be nice from the social side of things too!

I hope this helps!
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MK Mike
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1. What are the main differences between A-Level maths and Uni Maths?

2. Does STEP help in preparing for uni maths?

3. Do you intend to pursue a PhD in maths, and maybe even work in academia, doing research etc.?
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Shay- student at UEA
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(Original post by MK Mike)
1. What are the main differences between A-Level maths and Uni Maths?

2. Does STEP help in preparing for uni maths?

3. Do you intend to pursue a PhD in maths, and maybe even work in academia, doing research etc.?
Hi Mike, good questions!

I’d say the best way to explain the difference between A Level and degree level maths is by talking about how you’d answer a coursework/exam question. With A Level you can easily get by just by showing your method and the marker can give you the marks just from seeing what you’ve done and taking that you’ve understood it all. At degree level it’s all about writing what you’ve done and why you’ve done it. Some of the coursework/exams you’ll do will be more writing than numbers! (Especially with things like algebra and analysis). At A Level you can get by learning the methods almost as algorithms whereas at degree level you really have to understand the methods and reasoning for things, and you have to have the ability to think really outside the box in some cases.

For your second question, I didn’t actually do STEP but I know of a few people who did and it seems that the stuff they covered for that was stuff that came up in first year, so it will help you in the sense that you’ll have seen some of the content before, but you definitely won’t be at a disadvantage if you haven’t seen it before because it’ll be introduced as if you haven’t seen it before, similarly to the content of further maths.

I would really like to pursue a PhD in something algebra related and go into lecturing afterwards but I’m only now going into year 3 of 4 on my course so I’m not 100% yet, I’ll hopefully be more certain on it by the end of this year though as I’ll be undertaking a research project as one of my modules and that will give me a good taste of what a PhD might be like.

Does this answer your questions?
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Shay- student at UEA
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Thank you everyone for your brilliant questions - I hope my responses were helpful; it really was a pleasure to speak to you. I wish you all the best in getting to uni and I hope all goes well when you get there. Thanks for stopping by to ask me anything!
- Shay
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(Original post by Shay- student at UEA)
My name is Shay and I've just completed my second year studying Maths at UEA.

You often hear talk about how big a jump it is going from A Level to uni, but it is really hard to understand exactly what is meant when people talk about this, as there is just so much to uni life and studying at uni that I definitely had no idea about when I was at college.

The obvious jumps from A Level to degree level come with the level of difficulty of the content you'll be learning and the skills, motivation and interest required to undertake the course. The jumps that aren't talked about as much though are those relating to exactly how you will learn, and the differing teaching styles.

At A Level you are following a quite well structured specification and everything you need to know for the exam will be given to you in lesson time. I didn't do a lot of work outside of the classroom at A Level and I got by quite well by doing that. I really focussed on making sure I knew exactly what I needed to know for the exam and saw anything extra as a waste of time.

Coming to uni, things really are turned on their head in that regard. The study you do outside of the lecture theatre is the most important study there is. Whilst lectures, workshops and any other contact hours will guide you, it is fully on you to motivate yourself to learn and to ensure you understand all the content you're required to understand. You're not at school anymore; you're an adult!

It is with this that I struggled and although my grades don't reflect it, I really did have a hard time getting to grips with this new style of learning for a while and so first year was a real learning curve for me. Come July last year, I got my results for first year and I was over the moon to have achieved a first class result overall, despite the initial struggle, and I'm now on track to achieve a first this year too.

So go on, Ask Me Anything and I'll be happy to answer!
My case is the exact reverse. I began studying A level the wrong way (the undergraduate way)! Sadly, my initial results reflected this but I realized my mistake and will never have to look back at the A levels .
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