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Maths interview prep help

How do i actually prepare for a maths interview? There seems like theres so much that I could do but theres a short amount of time. I've done quite a few questions in the TBO problem solving booklet but I cant lie a lot of it is very challenging and I'm not sure how useful it is. I've also done a lot of STEP questions in the past and am not sure if they're better practice than the TBO booklet? Theres so many "interview" style questions out there, but what ones are actually useful? If anyone can tell me how they prepared and what resources they used then I'd be quite thankful.
Reply 1
Original post by BigJ123
How do i actually prepare for a maths interview? There seems like theres so much that I could do but theres a short amount of time. I've done quite a few questions in the TBO problem solving booklet but I cant lie a lot of it is very challenging and I'm not sure how useful it is. I've also done a lot of STEP questions in the past and am not sure if they're better practice than the TBO booklet? Theres so many "interview" style questions out there, but what ones are actually useful? If anyone can tell me how they prepared and what resources they used then I'd be quite thankful.

it depends on the uni ur appling for, if its cambridge id advise you to become very familiar with graph sketching questions as they are common in the interview. which unis are you applying for?
Reply 2
Original post by libgensym
it depends on the uni ur appling for, if its cambridge id advise you to become very familiar with graph sketching questions as they are common in the interview. which unis are you applying for?


Graph sketching questions are pretty easy (not to be arrogant) but i'll definitely practice a lot if i get an interview, i find any algebra questions like number theory etc are usually pretty easy. While im pretty bad at combinatorics, probability and just really outside the box type questions (which u find a lot in that TBO booklet). Im applying for cambridge, warwick, bath bristol and uni of manchester.
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 3
Original post by BigJ123
Graph sketching questions are pretty easy (not to be arrogant) but i'll definitely practice a lot if i get an interview, i find any algebra questions like number theory etc are usually pretty easy. While im pretty bad at combinatorics, probability and just really outside the box type questions (which u find a lot in that TBO booklet). Im applying for cambridge, warwick, bath bristol and uni of manchester.

yes im similar myself i struggle with probability and combinatorics and am applying to all the same unis other than manchester, is there a way to the TBO booklet for free as ive never heard of it
Reply 4
Original post by libgensym
yes im similar myself i struggle with probability and combinatorics and am applying to all the same unis other than manchester, is there a way to the TBO booklet for free as ive never heard of it


https://www.drfrostmaths.com/resource.php?rid=261 Here you go, its just a booklet made for interviews lol. Its really hard sometimes, some of the questions are a bit meh (as in i dont think they would be asked) and some are really good. I've read that the difficulty of the booklet is higher than that of an interview but who knows. I do think its quite useful though. Probability and combinatorics sucks.
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 5
Original post by BigJ123
https://www.drfrostmaths.com/resource.php?rid=261 Here you go, its just a booklet made for interviews lol. Its really hard sometimes, some of the questions are a bit meh (as in i dont think they would be asked) and some are really good. I've read that the difficulty of the booklet is higher than that of an interview but who knows. I do think its quite useful though. Probability and combinatorics sucks.


Thanks and good luck on the interviews.
Reply 6
Original post by libgensym
Thanks and good luck on the interviews.


Hopefully i get one. Hope you do well too, maybe as a bit of advice since i think it'll be a good plan for me. I'm going to do all of the number theory/combinatorics step questions (which can be found on the step database website, there isnt that many). Then i'll just do a bunch of step questions on all the other big topics. Alongside any the interview style questions.
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 7
Original post by BigJ123
Hopefully i get one. Hope you do well too, maybe as a bit of advice since i think it'll be a good plan for me. I'm going to do all of the number theory/combinatorics step questions (which can be found on the step database website, there isnt that many). Then i'll just do a bunch of step questions on all the other big topics. Alongside any the interview style questions.

yh im considering wether i should practice step questions or wait until BMO round 1 is over and practice BMO problems until then
Reply 8
Original post by BigJ123
Hopefully i get one. Hope you do well too, maybe as a bit of advice since i think it'll be a good plan for me. I'm going to do all of the number theory/combinatorics step questions (which can be found on the step database website, there isnt that many). Then i'll just do a bunch of step questions on all the other big topics. Alongside any the interview style questions.

Where I teach we swap Oxbridge candidates with another local school and do practice interviews. This is better than your own teachers as you won't know the interviewer.
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 9
Original post by Muttley79
Where I teach we swap Oxbride candidates with another local school and do practice interviews. This is better than your own teachers as you won't know the interviewer.


Hm if i get an interview I'll ask my teacher what he can do for me.
Reply 10
Original post by libgensym
yh im considering wether i should practice step questions or wait until BMO round 1 is over and practice BMO problems until then


I think step questions is probably a good idea, they're quite hard (a lot of them). BMO is so different from STEP and I feel like the interview would be a mix of BMO and STEP style. Probably more STEP style if its more algebra based.
Original post by BigJ123
Hm if i get an interview I'll ask my teacher what he can do for me.


Practice interviews now - you may have them for other unis. Interviews are far more like what will happen as they ask deeper and deeper questions to probe your understanding and ability to think on your feet and also how you use a hint.
Reply 12
Original post by BigJ123
I think step questions is probably a good idea, they're quite hard (a lot of them). BMO is so different from STEP and I feel like the interview would be a mix of BMO and STEP style. Probably more STEP style if its more algebra based.


Thanks I’ll put for focus on STEP after the 15th of November as I want to prepare for BMO
Original post by BigJ123
I've done quite a few questions in the TBO problem solving booklet but I cant lie a lot of it is very challenging and I'm not sure how useful it is.

Honestly, the TBO problem solving booklet was by far the most helpful and accurate of the interview prep resources I encountered. Saying that, don't worry if you need some help to solve them, that is why they have an interview: to see how you respond to feedback. If they only cared about you getting the answers immediately with no further assistance, they would put it on an entrance exam and save themselves a lot of effort.

In fact, in one of my interviews (2020 for 2021 entry), one of the questions began as almost exactly the same as a TBO question. It did diverge but that familiarity did help. Obviously, I couldn't tell you what your interview questions would be like but, for me, TBO was really beneficial.
Reply 14
Original post by melancollege
Honestly, the TBO problem solving booklet was by far the most helpful and accurate of the interview prep resources I encountered. Saying that, don't worry if you need some help to solve them, that is why they have an interview: to see how you respond to feedback. If they only cared about you getting the answers immediately with no further assistance, they would put it on an entrance exam and save themselves a lot of effort.

In fact, in one of my interviews (2020 for 2021 entry), one of the questions began as almost exactly the same as a TBO question. It did diverge but that familiarity did help. Obviously, I couldn't tell you what your interview questions would be like but, for me, TBO was really beneficial.


Yeah for a lot of the tbo questions if I was given a hint I think I could get most of them quite quickly. Can I ask what type of tbo questions were the most useful? Was it the algebraish questions towards q40-end or was it those really weird and unusual questions at the start?
(edited 3 months ago)
Original post by BigJ123
Yeah for a lot of the tbo questions if I was given a hint I think I could get most of them quite quickly. Can I ask what type of tbo questions were the most useful? Was it the algebraish questions towards q40-end or was it those really weird and unusual questions at the start?

I'll be honest, I can't remember particularly well. I think there was a graph-sketching question and a follow-up but I can't remember exactly which one it was
Reply 16
Original post by melancollege
I'll be honest, I can't remember particularly well. I think there was a graph-sketching question and a follow-up but I can't remember exactly which one it was


I see, were you successful? Any other tips?
(edited 3 months ago)
Original post by BigJ123
I see, were you successful? Any other tips?

Yeah I was, currently in my third year aha. The only other advice I can give is to keep talking during your interviews. Saying nothing is generally worse so when you're practicing, act like you are being interviewed, explain your thoughts and understand that it's okay to ask questions and be a bit nervous. Also, your interview may consist of multiple long questions but a later, seemingly unrelated question may actually use things that were in previous questions. To give an example of this, a question on exponents actually used a graph that I had sketched earlier on during the interview, with a completely different question in between.
Reply 18
Original post by melancollege
Yeah I was, currently in my third year aha. The only other advice I can give is to keep talking during your interviews. Saying nothing is generally worse so when you're practicing, act like you are being interviewed, explain your thoughts and understand that it's okay to ask questions and be a bit nervous. Also, your interview may consist of multiple long questions but a later, seemingly unrelated question may actually use things that were in previous questions. To give an example of this, a question on exponents actually used a graph that I had sketched earlier on during the interview, with a completely different question in between.


Yeah, my worry would be if im given a question and my mind genuinely has no idea. I dont really think that I would have no idea as I would always try something relatively smart I think but yeah lol.
Original post by BigJ123
Yeah, my worry would be if im given a question and my mind genuinely has no idea. I dont really think that I would have no idea as I would always try something relatively smart I think but yeah lol.

If you have no idea, just explore a little. Just say like I'm not quite sure how to approach this so I'm going to try... (etc)

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