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Oxbridge mathematics supercurriculars, 2025 entry

Hi all, it's a new year and I've come to the realisation that in order to bulk my future personal statement up with things that would show my interest to the admissions tutors I'm going to have to start about now if I have any chance. I'm not from a selective school so I haven't been told word one about the kind of things that would make me stand out a little, so to those who could give me some pointers on where to start (especially those who were in my position and got an interview / got in), I would be very appreciative, thanks!

Erring on the side of Cambridge if it helps at all
Reply 1
Original post by wiggop
Hi all, it's a new year and I've come to the realisation that in order to bulk my future personal statement up with things that would show my interest to the admissions tutors I'm going to have to start about now if I have any chance. I'm not from a selective school so I haven't been told word one about the kind of things that would make me stand out a little, so to those who could give me some pointers on where to start (especially those who were in my position and got an interview / got in), I would be very appreciative, thanks!

Erring on the side of Cambridge if it helps at all

It's much more important to be doing maths that stretches you rather than reading about maths or mathematicians. For Cambridge, STEP is the big deal - at least after interview - but I guess you're Year 12 at the moment so it's a bit early to be worrying about that. If you have the capacity finding questions and material that stretches you are helpful, but not if that disrupted your A-level learning.

Depending on your tastes:

Allenby, Reg. Numbers and Proofs (1997)

Earl, Richard. Towards Higher Mathematics: A Companion (2017) [Chapters 1 and 2 say now]

Houston, Kevin. How to Think Like a Mathematician (2009)


are the sort of texts that get recommended.
Reply 2
Original post by RichE
It's much more important to be doing maths that stretches you rather than reading about maths or mathematicians. For Cambridge, STEP is the big deal - at least after interview - but I guess you're Year 12 at the moment so it's a bit early to be worrying about that. If you have the capacity finding questions and material that stretches you are helpful, but not if that disrupted your A-level learning.

Depending on your tastes:

Allenby, Reg. Numbers and Proofs (1997)

Earl, Richard. Towards Higher Mathematics: A Companion (2017) [Chapters 1 and 2 say now]

Houston, Kevin. How to Think Like a Mathematician (2009)


are the sort of texts that get recommended.

Thanks for your response and your reccomendations. When it comes to material stretching above the A Level curriculum and towards university level, how would I go about doing so in a way that I can refer back to later in any application I make?

My main concern over the next few months is to get to the interview stage - I feel like the interview is something I'd perform strong in. STEP is a bridge I'll cross when I come to it
Reply 3
Original post by wiggop
Thanks for your response and your reccomendations. When it comes to material stretching above the A Level curriculum and towards university level, how would I go about doing so in a way that I can refer back to later in any application I make?

My main concern over the next few months is to get to the interview stage - I feel like the interview is something I'd perform strong in. STEP is a bridge I'll cross when I come to it

I think you're putting undue priority on the personal statement. In your PS you can talk about the questions and topics you've been investigating, but the merit is in your mathematical growth which will be of a benefit both at interview and in any demanding exams.
Reply 4
Original post by RichE
I think you're putting undue priority on the personal statement. In your PS you can talk about the questions and topics you've been investigating, but the merit is in your mathematical growth which will be of a benefit both at interview and in any demanding exams.

Thank you for your advice. Just trying to avoid an identikit personal statement if at all possible, given the competition
Reply 5
hi, I'm in y12 too but have spoken to a Cambridge maths student and these were some of the recommendations:

take part in maths related competitions like the national cipher challenge, UKMT challenges, Ritangle (I know the deadline may have passed but these are just examples of competitions) - competitive maths skills being demonstrated are useful

tutoring other students in maths

maths mentoring programmes like STEM smart or similar, also maths online classes like AMSP problem-solving. other online programmes would be good as well, eg. women in maths (obviously ones that apply to you, but you get the idea)

attend lectures for maths whether that's online or in-person

listen to podcasts that are maths-related

Reply 6
Original post by wiggop
Thank you for your advice. Just trying to avoid an identikit personal statement if at all possible, given the competition

As above, the interview and entrance exam are much more selective than the ps. I know a few kids who did them this year and they were asked little/nothing about their ps (cambridge), rather it was how they went about solving maths problems and its easy to underestimate how much work this takes for a range of different problems. Pretty much everyone who applied got an interview with very different ps, however ~1/3 will get through the interview and similarly with the exam.

Some supercurriculum suggestions are at
https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/files/publications/super-curricular_suggestions.pdf
But, again as above, getting stuck into some harder problems is the main thing to do.
Reply 7
Original post by oceanb1ue
hi, I'm in y12 too but have spoken to a Cambridge maths student and these were some of the recommendations:

take part in maths related competitions like the national cipher challenge, UKMT challenges, Ritangle (I know the deadline may have passed but these are just examples of competitions) - competitive maths skills being demonstrated are useful

tutoring other students in maths

maths mentoring programmes like STEM smart or similar, also maths online classes like AMSP problem-solving. other online programmes would be good as well, eg. women in maths (obviously ones that apply to you, but you get the idea)

attend lectures for maths whether that's online or in-person

listen to podcasts that are maths-related


annoyingly I actually qualify for STEM Smart, but the deadline was months ago. Thanks for the search terms, I'll jot these down somewhere. Gl!
Reply 8
Original post by mqb2766
As above, the interview and entrance exam are much more selective than the ps. I know a few kids who did them this year and they were asked little/nothing about their ps (cambridge), rather it was how they went about solving maths problems and its easy to underestimate how much work this takes for a range of different problems. Pretty much everyone who applied got an interview with very different ps, however ~1/3 will get through the interview and similarly with the exam.

Some supercurriculum suggestions are at
https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/files/publications/super-curricular_suggestions.pdf
But, again as above, getting stuck into some harder problems is the main thing to do.

Thanks for the advice, it's been useful. I'll get cracking on some harder stuff now
Reply 9
anyone here planning on taking MAT?
Reply 10
Original post by 123xyz123
anyone here planning on taking MAT?


Yes but im terrified.
do you guys have any podcast recommendations? or anything to help problem solving? idek where to start
A few fairly random/podcast-type things
https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/secrets-mathematics?items_per_page=100
https://plus.maths.org/content/
https://www.youtube.com/tomrocksmaths
https://www.youtube.com/@3blue1brown
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkahZjV5wKe-Z1RP3ZiYwe8JSAolmqF9M
https://www.quantamagazine.org/

For problem sovling there is the amsp course
https://amsp.org.uk/events/year-12-regular-problem-solving-classes/
The livestream covers it a bit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHZAPFm6F1k&ab_channel=OxfordMathematicsPlus
I like as a read
https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9478#t=aboutBook
and you can download the intro/chapter 1 as a sample to see what you think. The ukmt questions generally have problem solving slant so its worth seeing if you can apply the stuff (simplify the problem, extreme cases, stick numbers in, work backwards, sketch stuff ...) to them. There are plenty of others.

For mat, there is generally an element of problem solving as well as some basic number theory, geometry, trig, ... and its generally reading a bit beyond the a level syllabus, so look a bit more about the history, common proofs, ...
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by shaw867
do you guys have any podcast recommendations? or anything to help problem solving? idek where to start
Great suggestions from mqb, but to be honest: "the only way to do it is to do it".

STEP is typically a bit harder than the MAT, but the guide by a Cambridge lecturer: https://www.openbookpublishers.com/books/10.11647/obp.0181 is very good.

If you look at STEP / MAT and find everything looks very difficult, when I applied (to Cambridge), I found drilling the problems in Bostock + Chandler helpful - the books have a huge amount of problems of varying difficulty. [At the same time, I was "weak" at things like integration, vectors and complex numbers - I don't really recall how the books are for the material in the MAT syllabus].

Other than that, do as many past papers as possible - the MAT format is quite unusual (40% of the marks on a multiple choice than people typically find difficult) and most people struggle with both that and time management. Don't leave it too late to start - my impression from TSR is that many people don't start preparation until September and suffer as a consequence.
Echo Dfranklin's remarks. For mat, any background reading should enable practice otherwise you dont know it well enough to use in the exam. Similarly, you might want to leave most of the mat papers to focus on in June onwards say, but before then hit the tmua, step foundation/1, ukmt challenge/early bmo1 (as well as a few earlier mat papers) for instance to both get the fundamentals in place and practice doing harder questions. You could easily spend 3 months doing those type of questions/learning.

For problem solving for instance, you could try do ukmt challenge (or tmua papers or mat multiple choice questions which you may have solved "properly") questions in a/several problem solving ways. In the previous linked livestream at ~1 hr 6 min (question E), there is a fairly straightforward geometry question which is based on the sin rule to do properly, though its worth noting you could have "problem solved it" by considering gamma = 90 (pick an extreme value which simplies the problem), so you have the usual Tangents to a Circle theorem and you must have alpha=beta. Its easy to argue that the only answer which gives this is B. Its probalby no quicker than doing the question properly, but its (solve questions using problem solving) a useful thing to practice when inspiration fails you / simple validation.

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