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Mathematics at Oxford

I'm thinking of applying to oxford to do maths, I do maths further maths and physics and I am fairly good at it. However I feel like I lack the problem-solving skills, I'm very good at learning whats on a spec but can't do much else beyond that. Does anyone know any programmes/ work experience or just general advice that would ready me for such a rigorous interviewing process.
Original post by elliie90z
I'm thinking of applying to oxford to do maths, I do maths further maths and physics and I am fairly good at it. However I feel like I lack the problem-solving skills, I'm very good at learning whats on a spec but can't do much else beyond that. Does anyone know any programmes/ work experience or just general advice that would ready me for such a rigorous interviewing process.


@Oxford Mum may be able to help :smile:
(edited 1 year ago)
Oxford is bad for maths. you can try looking into teesside uni
Remember that the interview and hence getting into the course is just step one - you then need to actually do well on the course! Degree level maths is vastly different to A-level Maths, so I'd definitely recommend if you're interested in a maths degree you look at some content which is representative of degree level maths. Any kind of introductory analysis textbook or similar would be suitable, as would potentially be an (abstract) linear algebra book or something on number theory or foundations.

The chapter zero of Munkres' A First Course in Topology I think covers a lot of stuff which is indicative of degree level maths study and should be reasonably accessible from first principles I think (the rest of it not so much probably). Spivak's Calculus is written specifically to be accessible to both high school and degree level students. There are also lots of "bridging the gap" type books applying and presenting A-level Maths topics (e.g. matrices) in a more rigorous way like Earl's Towards Higher Mathematics.

In terms of preparing for the interview (and the MAT), doing MAT practice papers would likely be helpful. For the interview more specifically looking at some STEP preparation resources may be useful. Likewise UKMT prep resources might provide some relevant practice. Also generally thinking about what you have studied and a) how/if you can generalise it and b) how you can apply it to unusual/unfamiliar problems. Note I don't think any of those are necessarily that similar to degree level maths in of themselves though...
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by elliie90z
I'm thinking of applying to oxford to do maths, I do maths further maths and physics and I am fairly good at it. However I feel like I lack the problem-solving skills, I'm very good at learning whats on a spec but can't do much else beyond that. Does anyone know any programmes/ work experience or just general advice that would ready me for such a rigorous interviewing process.

UKMT questions? Have your school started MAT prep yet?

Look at places like NRICH: https://nrich.maths.org/post-16 and Underground Maths: https://undergroundmathematics.org/
Reply 5
Original post by artful_lounger
Remember that the interview and hence getting into the course is just step one - you then need to actually do well on the course! Degree level maths is vastly different to A-level Maths, so I'd definitely recommend if you're interested in a maths degree you look at some content which is representative of degree level maths. Any kind of introductory analysis textbook or similar would be suitable, as would potentially be an (abstract) linear algebra book or something on number theory or foundations.

The chapter zero of Munkres' A First Course in Topology I think covers a lot of stuff which is indicative of degree level maths study and should be reasonably accessible from first principles I think (the rest of it not so much probably). Spivak's Calculus is written specifically to be accessible to both high school and degree level students. There are also lots of "bridging the gap" type books applying and presenting A-level Maths topics (e.g. matrices) in a more rigorous way like Earl's Towards Higher Mathematics.

In terms of preparing for the interview (and the MAT), doing MAT practice papers would likely be helpful. For the interview more specifically looking at some STEP preparation resources may be useful. Likewise UKMT prep resources might provide some relevant practice. Also generally thinking about what you have studied and a) how/if you can generalise it and b) how you can apply it to unusual/unfamiliar problems. Note I don't think any of those are necessarily that similar to degree level maths in of themselves though...

Thanks so much this is really helpful! I’ve tried some UKMT questions and majority of them I can do eventually but given time constrictions I’ll have to practice.
Reply 6
Original post by Proxenus
Oxford is bad for maths. you can try looking into teesside uni

Yeh Oxford is only one option, I’m looking at other places too! Imperial UCL Warwick are all meant to be good for maths, thank you :smile:
Reply 7
Original post by Muttley79
UKMT questions? Have your school started MAT prep yet?

Look at places like NRICH: https://nrich.maths.org/post-16 and Underground Maths: https://undergroundmathematics.org/

I’ve tried some UKMT, no my school is dreadful, they told me they’d offer me further maths and then when I got there in September they changed their mind so doing it independently lol. I’ve asked for MAT prep and interview prep but who knows. I’ll check this out thank you!!
Original post by elliie90z
Thanks so much this is really helpful! I’ve tried some UKMT questions and majority of them I can do eventually but given time constrictions I’ll have to practice.

Assuming youre in y12, a few things (partial repetition of the previous posts) you could do to get started before hitting the mat papers and their livestream https://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduate-study/maths-admissions-test/mat-livestream
* Step foundation https://maths.org/step/assignments
* Step/mat/tmua courses and book https://amsp.org.uk/students/university-admission-tests/step-mat-tmua and https://www.hoddereducation.co.uk/subjects/maths/products/16-18/step,-mat,-tmua-skills-for-success-in-university
* ukmt/mat/step stuff at drfrostmaths https://www.drfrostmaths.com/page.php?id=4
* Youve already said youre covering the ukmt stuff, it may be too late to get on their mentoring scheme but your school may have some copies of their sheets.
* There are quite a few decent overviews of problem solving. I like https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9478 which has an introductory chapter download.
* Books like Zeitz (art and craft of problem solving) are good and Siklos step book and Gardiners essence of maths are at
https://www.openbookpublishers.com/section/56/1

There is a fair amount of overlap in the above stuff.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by elliie90z
I'm thinking of applying to oxford to do maths, I do maths further maths and physics and I am fairly good at it. However I feel like I lack the problem-solving skills, I'm very good at learning whats on a spec but can't do much else beyond that. Does anyone know any programmes/ work experience or just general advice that would ready me for such a rigorous interviewing process.

Hi there, Ellie! I can remember talking to someone who was a maths undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge. She told me that many applied for Cambridge maths, because they were very quick and efficient at maths, however what they were looking for was someone who could solve maths problems as part of a group.

As a comparison, here is the Oxford Demystified Maths chapter

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6465960&p=88358268#post88358268

And the Cambridge one

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6467624&p=88369390#post88369390

Here is also the Oxford Demystified chapter on how to approach the admissions tests/cope with the interviews, written by successful applicants

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6891280&p=93381234#post93381234

Hope this helps
Original post by Proxenus
Oxford is bad for maths. you can try looking into teesside uni

Oxford is ranked second best in the UK for maths at university (1st is Cambridge) but the research quality is actually ranked the highest in the UK.
Reply 11
From what I experienced :
- Oxford Maths offers are bit mysterious (or not so logical). Because during the MAT practice webinars/open days, they keep repeating that Oxford only care about AL results and MAT score only and no preference to PS. However, you can see from the MAT exam feedback even people with highest MAT scores /AL prediction not called for interviews while lower MAT scores got offers.
(e.g : 4A* prediction with 80% in MAT may not get you an interview)
- In contrast Oxford Physics interview/offers seems very much inline with PAT scores and very consistence
- Cambridge seems more consistent and has higher interview ratios for maths.
- for Maths Acceptance : Cambridge 14% and Oxford 11%
Original post by mqb2766

* Youve already said youre covering the ukmt stuff, it may be too late to get on their mentoring scheme but your school may have some copies of their sheets.

UKMT aren't taking any more mentees on this year - and next year is bit late. Generally you can only join at the start of an academic year :smile:
Reply 13
Original post by mqb2766
Assuming youre in y12, a few things (partial repetition of the previous posts) you could do to get started before hitting the mat papers and their livestream https://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduate-study/maths-admissions-test/mat-livestream
* Step foundation https://maths.org/step/assignments
* Step/mat/tmua courses and book https://amsp.org.uk/students/university-admission-tests/step-mat-tmua and https://www.hoddereducation.co.uk/subjects/maths/products/16-18/step,-mat,-tmua-skills-for-success-in-university
* ukmt/mat/step stuff at drfrostmaths https://www.drfrostmaths.com/page.php?id=4
* Youve already said youre covering the ukmt stuff, it may be too late to get on their mentoring scheme but your school may have some copies of their sheets.
* There are quite a few decent overviews of problem solving. I like https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9478 which has an introductory chapter download.
* Books like Zeitz (art and craft of problem solving) are good and Siklos step book and Gardiners essence of maths are at
https://www.openbookpublishers.com/section/56/1

There is a fair amount of overlap in the above stuff.

These resources are all really helpful thanks so much!
Reply 14
Original post by DCHIL
From what I experienced :
- Oxford Maths offers are bit mysterious (or not so logical). Because during the MAT practice webinars/open days, they keep repeating that Oxford only care about AL results and MAT score only and no preference to PS. However, you can see from the MAT exam feedback even people with highest MAT scores /AL prediction not called for interviews while lower MAT scores got offers.
(e.g : 4A* prediction with 80% in MAT may not get you an interview)
- In contrast Oxford Physics interview/offers seems very much inline with PAT scores and very consistence
- Cambridge seems more consistent and has higher interview ratios for maths.
- for Maths Acceptance : Cambridge 14% and Oxford 11%

This is actually really interesting because I was led to believe Cambridge was the harder one to get into for maths, do you think it's worth having a look at Cambridge rather than Oxford?
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by elliie90z
I’ve tried some UKMT, no my school is dreadful, they told me they’d offer me further maths and then when I got there in September they changed their mind so doing it independently lol. I’ve asked for MAT prep and interview prep but who knows. I’ll check this out thank you!!


I am preparing students now so do reach out. Have you looked at Dr Vicky Neale's you tube lectures?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh7zVQy4XD0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSw5RUy9W5E

There are plenty of others :smile:
Reply 16
Original post by elliie90z
This is actually really interesting because I was led to believe Cambridge was the harder one to get into for maths, do you think it's worth having a look at Cambridge rather than Oxford?

Personally I think yes definitely worth checking at Cambridge. There is a believe MAT is easier than STEP but I don't think that is the case.
Reply 17
Original post by Muttley79
I am preparing students now so do reach out. Have you looked at Dr Vicky Neale's you tube lectures?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh7zVQy4XD0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSIw5RUy9W5E

There are plenty of others :smile:

I haven't but I will defo check these out, thanks so much!

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