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Maths at Oxford or Cambridge?

Few months ago after I applied for uni (all non-UK) to study CS, I realised that I actually wanted to do Maths, but not CS.

Initially, I planned to take a gap year but somehow one of the uni decided to give me a scholarship and I ended up studying there as a back up while applying again this year for Maths, which mean I will be applying as a university student.

My question is, is Oxford or Cambridge a better choice? Some colleges (but not all) at Cambridge does not allow me to apply unless I have a reference from my current uni, which is impossible. Oxford on the other hand, do allow me to apply but they would often expect higher MAT score, which I think is a bit risky here as although I often achieve 92-96 while doing the past papers, sometimes my score could fall to as low as 60. For STEP, I however find it quite easy to get double S but I am still not sure about the interview tho. If say I might be pooled, then there maybe a chance that no college may accept me.

I did not do GCSE and self-studied A-levels. Took the exam last November and achieved 4A* in Maths, FM, Chem and Physics.

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Somebody please help me.
I know it’s a bit late but please I need some advices
Please give me some advices.
Reply 4
Original post by tungxuanle2005
Please give me some advices.


Stop bumping the thread - it's against the rules.

Where did you get the idea you can apply to Oxford?

"If you are currently studying at a UK university and are thinking of applying to Oxford to start the first year of an undergraduate course, please note that normally we will only consider such applications in exceptional circumstances and you should make very clear in your application why you do not wish to continue on your current course. Please note we are not able to give examples of these exceptional circumstances as applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis."
Original post by Muttley79
Stop bumping the thread - it's against the rules.

Where did you get the idea you can apply to Oxford?

"If you are currently studying at a UK university and are thinking of applying to Oxford to start the first year of an undergraduate course, please note that normally we will only consider such applications in exceptional circumstances and you should make very clear in your application why you do not wish to continue on your current course. Please note we are not able to give examples of these exceptional circumstances as applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis."


I apologise for bumping. I didn't know it's against the rules. What you've included there was for applicants from UK uni, and my case is different as I am currently at a non-UK uni. I emailed the Maths department directly and also some colleges. They all verified that I can apply, and they would only expect a higher MAT score + a reason why I reapply.

Do you have any advice? Thank you.
Reply 6
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I apologise for bumping. I didn't know it's against the rules. What you've included there was for applicants from UK uni, and my case is different as I am currently at a non-UK uni. I emailed the Maths department directly and also some colleges. They all verified that I can apply, and they would only expect a higher MAT score + a reason why I reapply.

Do you have any advice? Thank you.

They may have said that but I think you'll be at a disadvantage compared to those not at uni. I think Oxbridge is risky - high MAT is not easy and half of Cambridge offers fail the STEP requirement.
(edited 5 months ago)
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I apologise for bumping. I didn't know it's against the rules. What you've included there was for applicants from UK uni, and my case is different as I am currently at a non-UK uni. I emailed the Maths department directly and also some colleges. They all verified that I can apply, and they would only expect a higher MAT score + a reason why I reapply.

Do you have any advice? Thank you.


I'm not sure if Cambridge needs a reference from your current uni for non-UK applicants; I understand in general unlike UK applicants they will consider international applicants currently at another uni.

MAT is generally considered easier than STEP so if you think you can get S, S in STEP easily I'm not sure how MAT would be an issue?

In any event generally Cambridge make a fair number of offers and the main determining factor in acceptances is STEP performance - about 50% of offer holders miss their offer conditions, normally due to the STEP condition. If you are confident you can do very well in STEP Cambridge is a good option. Although equally if you can do very well in STEP it's equally likely you would be a very strong applicant for Oxford as well.

Worth considering the courses are somewhat different in structure - Cambridge maths has their "compendium examination" format which is quite different from most other unis and courses!
Original post by artful_lounger
I'm not sure if Cambridge needs a reference from your current uni for non-UK applicants; I understand in general unlike UK applicants they will consider international applicants currently at another uni.

MAT is generally considered easier than STEP so if you think you can get S, S in STEP easily I'm not sure how MAT would be an issue?

In any event generally Cambridge make a fair number of offers and the main determining factor in acceptances is STEP performance - about 50% of offer holders miss their offer conditions, normally due to the STEP condition. If you are confident you can do very well in STEP Cambridge is a good option. Although equally if you can do very well in STEP it's equally likely you would be a very strong applicant for Oxford as well.

Worth considering the courses are somewhat different in structure - Cambridge maths has their "compendium examination" format which is quite different from most other unis and courses!

I must agree that MAT is something much easier compared to STEP. But this means that it is also easier to make mistakes, and any small mistake can cause huge problems. This is why my score on past papers sometimes went down to as low as 60. For STEP, however, I feel like the question style is much more proof-based and therefore makes it harder for me to make any such mistake.

I am leaning more toward Oxford because people said they are stronger in areas like quantitative finance and statistics, while Cambridge has a huge emphasis on Mathematical Physics. Gaining an offer from either institution is, of course, something extremely difficult for me. However, because of the MAT, I feel like applying to Oxford feels a bit riskier. Do you have any further advice? Thank you.
Reply 9
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I must agree that MAT is something much easier compared to STEP. But this means that it is also easier to make mistakes, and any small mistake can cause huge problems. This is why my score on past papers sometimes went down to as low as 60. For STEP, however, I feel like the question style is much more proof-based and therefore makes it harder for me to make any such mistake.

I am leaning more toward Oxford because people said they are stronger in areas like quantitative finance and statistics, while Cambridge has a huge emphasis on Mathematical Physics. Gaining an offer from either institution is, of course, something extremely difficult for me. However, because of the MAT, I feel like applying to Oxford feels a bit riskier. Do you have any further advice? Thank you.

I'm the Maths teacher on this thread :smile:

I do think it's risky as you are competiting against people not at uni. MAT gives you more certainty once you've got an offer.

I must say the Maths Institute at Oxford is stunning but look at the course contents.
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I must agree that MAT is something much easier compared to STEP. But this means that it is also easier to make mistakes, and any small mistake can cause huge problems. This is why my score on past papers sometimes went down to as low as 60. For STEP, however, I feel like the question style is much more proof-based and therefore makes it harder for me to make any such mistake.

I am leaning more toward Oxford because people said they are stronger in areas like quantitative finance and statistics, while Cambridge has a huge emphasis on Mathematical Physics. Gaining an offer from either institution is, of course, something extremely difficult for me. However, because of the MAT, I feel like applying to Oxford feels a bit riskier. Do you have any further advice? Thank you.

Cambridge has quite a few options in those areas as well - it's not that it has fewer options in all the usual areas of pure and applicable maths, it just happens to have more options in applied maths and theoretical physics than many other unis. I'd note actually Oxford only has slightly fewer such options.
Reply 11
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I am leaning more toward Oxford because people said they are stronger in areas like quantitative finance and statistics, while Cambridge has a huge emphasis on Mathematical Physics. Gaining an offer from either institution is, of course, something extremely difficult for me. However, because of the MAT, I feel like applying to Oxford feels a bit riskier. Do you have any further advice? Thank you.


As artful_lounger stated, there are a good number of statistics options at the Part II and Part III levels, though in this area Oxford does have the better reputation and Statistics is a separate department. There is also the option to do the Mathematics & Statistics degree. I think you would be well served by either university and there are going to be risks and uncertainties whichever you apply to. There are, after all, around 10 applicants per place at Oxford. What other universities are you interested in?
(edited 5 months ago)
Reply 12
Original post by Muttley79
They may have said that but I think you'll be at a disadvantage compared to those not at uni. I think Oxbridge is risky - high MAT is not easy and half of Cambridge offers fail the STEP requirement.


Well he did say that he finds it easy to get double S in STEP which makes me think that he can quite easily get a high MAT score and wouldn't fail at the step requirement.
Original post by BigJ123
Well he did say that he finds it easy to get double S in STEP which makes me think that he can quite easily get a high MAT score and wouldn't fail at the step requirement.


He hasn't sat under exam conditions or passed an interview though.
Original post by Muttley79
He hasn't sat under exam conditions or passed an interview though.

Exactly, what I wanted to say was that if I ever pass the interview, securing a 1,1 in STEP under exam condition should not be a problem, while achieving “a little bit higher” in MAT I feel like would be one.

And I am not certain about the interviews, at both uni’s, especially when I am a university student. The process might just be slightly different?
Original post by RichE
As artful_lounger stated, there are a good number of statistics options at the Part II and Part III levels, though in this area Oxford does have the better reputation and Statistics is a separate department. There is also the option to do the Mathematics & Statistics degree. I think you would be well served by either university and there are going to be risks and uncertainties whichever you apply to. There are, after all, around 10 applicants per place at Oxford. What other universities are you interested in?


I will also apply for Maths at Imperial and Warwick.
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I will also apply for Maths at Imperial and Warwick.


Avoid Imperial - it's toxic and very few students at my school apply there now.

Look at Bath or Leeds, ... but do look at course content.
Original post by tungxuanle2005
I will also apply for Maths at Imperial and Warwick.


They're both very good maths courses. You may also want consider Bristol :smile:
Thank you for your suggestions. I still have 2 available slots out of 5, I will definitely consider those uni’s as well, and of course will look at course content.

I have heard from one of my friend that I should also consider UCL. What do you guys think?
Reply 19
Original post by tungxuanle2005
Thank you for your suggestions. I still have 2 available slots out of 5, I will definitely consider those uni’s as well, and of course will look at course content.

I have heard from one of my friend that I should also consider UCL. What do you guys think?

It doesn't have a particularly strong reputation as a mathematics department. The list of fourth year options at

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/undergraduate/degrees/mathematics-msci#tab4-year4

can barely be described as sparse.

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