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]]>Details of each module can be found in our post covering maths at Oxbridge.

**Introduction to university mathematics**(learning about methods of proofs, terminology, and using sets and correct mathematical notation.)**Introduction to complex numbers**(a short course exploring complex numbers and ensuring everyone has the same level of basic skills.)**Linear Algebra****Analysis**(this covers sequences and series, continuity and differentiation and integration.)**Probability****Groups**and**group actions**

Details of each module can be found in our post covering Computer Science at Oxbridge.

**Functional programming****Imperative programming****Design**and**analysis**of**algorithms**

At the end of your first year, you have five written examinations covering this content. You also have about five projects over the year that you have to pass these. Projects take one day a week for two hours, and are three weeks long in duration (so six hours per project.) Although you get the option to do these in computer labs, you can do them independently if you would rather, and spend time on them outside of the labs, and then just get them signed off.

The labs diversify the degree, giving you a wide range of learning and assessment opportunities. Although the first year focuses heavily on maths, as the degree progresses you can introduce a greater weight towards computer science modules, and you also get a wide option of maths modules, including some applied options.

Maths and Computer science is an exciting and rewarding degree that you should consider if you love both maths and programming. As mentioned earlier, you can find more information about Maths and Computer Science on our blog posts dedicated to each subject. Good luck for your application!

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]]>The post How do I Apply for Maths and Computer Science? appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2019.

]]>As with all joint honours, your application has to show an interest in both disciplines. It is easy to connect maths and computer science in your personal statement due to the vast intersection between the two disciplines. I would recommend having a separate paragraph for each discipline, and then an adjoining paragraph that shows your awareness of the interplay between maths and computer science.

Some examples of connective sentences or topics to include in your Maths and Computer Science personal statement are:

- “As my mathematical horizons widened, I began to wonder how the maths I had been studying could be applied to relevant and contemporary research and work. I found mathematics to be the cogs running computer science, and I became intrigued to explore computer science further…”
- From here, introduce different ways you have explored computer science, whether that be through reading books, completing online courses, attending lectures, or solving problems. See Project Euler for some really good problems that explore the interface between maths and computer science.

- Alternatively, instead of beginning with mathematics, you could play maths and computer science against each other throughout your personal statement. For example, you could introduce an area of mathematics you are interested in, and then apply it to computer science.
- If you do Computer Science A-Level, or have been on a computing course, you might want to begin with this.
- “Whilst studying computer science, I began to realise the huge overlap the subject had with mathematics. I started further investigating how mathematics is used to design different programmes and algorithms, by reading “Concrete Mathematics,” and experimenting with different programming languages, such as Haskell and Scarla.”

At Oxford, the admissions test for pure Maths is the MAT. The MAT is also used for Maths and Computer Science, although you have to answer slightly different questions:

- Question 1 (the short-answer multiple choice question)
- Questions 2,3,5 (three of the long-answer maths questions)
- Question 6 (one computer science style question).

For details and tips for preparing and sitting Questions 1,2,3 and 5, see our ultimate MAT preparation guide; for details and tips for preparing and sitting Question 6, see our Computer Science MAT preparation guide.

There doesn’t tend to be an admission tests at other universities, although some universities might lower their required grades if you have a good MAT score. Universities that consider the TMUA for Maths will likewise do so for Maths and Computer Science.

You will likely have at least one maths interview (usually two or three), and at least one computer science interview. However, the skills you show in your maths interviews may be assessed by a computer science tutor as well, given that the skills are applicable to both disciplines.

Generally, there is very little difference between the maths and computer science interviews, as the computer science you will be focusing upon is the reasoning behind constructing programmes and systems, not the systems and programmes themselves.

I had six interviews, three for Maths and three for Computer Science. I was told in advance which were which interviews, although there wasn’t much distinction between them. In general, the computer science interviews were more about grids and games, like the MAT questions in real life. Usually in computer science interviews they give you diagrams and a written question, and then they start asking you questions about it.

I completely floundered on a question about a four by four grid. I recommend just trying to say something, even if you’re not sure what you’re doing – this is better than staying silent! At least that way you’re giving your interviewer something to work with!

“I had another Computer Science interview question about sorting coloured balls; it was an abstract problem related to different sorting methods. I liked this one more as I knew a bit about the bubble sort algorithm.”

Adam, 2nd year Maths and Computer Science, Oxford

At Oxford, the Maths and Computer Science offer is usually A*AA with A*A in Maths and Further Maths respectively. Generally, they interview 37% of candidates, of which 12% are successful, so just over 1 in 9 candidates are successful, making the degree as competitive as Maths and a little less so than Computer Science. Read our next post to find how you can write the perfect Maths and Computer personal statement.

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]]>It has always been a dream of mine to discover or prove something in the field of mathematics that no-one has ever done before me. [**Top tip**: A striking first sentence will grab the admissions tutor’s attention.] The vast number of subjects under the umbrella term ‘Maths’ are linked by their methods of taking axioms and using logical deductions to come to conclusions which are undeniably true, and will always be so: this is what I find awe-inspiring about it. Some pure mathematics has no real world application in the present day, but many pieces of information which were previously considered abstract or purely theoretical are being put into practice today as science and technology catches up to maths; thus, I believe the study of it is of inherent importance to mankind.

Computing is an area where maths is crucial. [**Top tip**: Good to link the two disciplines of your Joint Honours together, even if by one sentence.] The field of Boolean algebra was created in the mid-1800s, and it was not until a century later that this became the foundation of digital electronics. I attended a Mathematics and Computer Science open day at Oxford University and heard several fascinating lectures about both subjects: for instance, on the ‘k-armed bandit’, a problem about what the optimal action to take is in a situation where risk and reward are unknown. [**Top tip**: Direct references to things you learnt or remember from courses is good; making your personal statement less general and more specific is effective.] This typifies the conjunction of maths and computing: the problem is stated in terms of probability theory, but has wide-ranging applications in computer science (e.g. machine learning).

Since primary school, I have seized every opportunity available to me to learn more about mathematics. Most recently, I have taken part in UKMT’s Senior Maths Challenge 2015 where I achieved a silver certificate, and the Senior Team Challenge. In 2013, I took part in the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition, where our team finished [xth] out of 250. More informally, through reading articles on the internet, I have learned about many esoteric areas of pure or recreational mathematics, two of which are: hyperoperations up to and beyond tetration (e.g. what is Graham’s number?) and arithmetic in different base systems (e.g. using a radix point, how are various unit fractions expressed in base 24?).

In year 12, I was given a KS5 Computer Science award by my school. In my spare time, I like to code programs in Python and C# to solve ‘Euler Project’ problems: a series of questions based in mathematics but designed to be solved through programming. Problems I have solved range massively in their topic areas, from ‘Repunit divisibility’ (a problem involving divisibility of numbers with over a million digits) to ‘Monopoly odds’ (using 4-sided dice, what are the 3 most commonly landed on squares on a Monopoly board?). Over the past year, I have solved over 75 of these problems, as well as creating programs on other topics that spark my interest, from a program that does basic calculus to one that finds Pythagorean quadruples.

In 2014, I spent a week working at [a local library]; in 2016, I spent a week helping secondary school children in maths and science lessons. I believe that my learning outside of school shows that I have the skill to research new ideas independently, convey a strong ability in maths and computing, and most importantly attest an unquenchable enthusiasm for numbers and everything associated with them.

Another significant hobby of mine is music. Music may seem dissimilar to mathematics, but I think of the two as quite similar – both involve creating complex structures from very basic ideas. I have achieved a Distinction at grade 7 in both the flute and the electronic keyboard. I play the flute in three different orchestras, including [a youth orchestra], and have performed solos in school concerts. This shows that I have a lot of dedication, and can learn effectively without much contact time with a teacher, two skills I believe are essential at university. I also spent a year and a half teaching my 12 year old sister music theory, culminating in her achievement of a Merit at grade 5 in 2016. My experience teaching her has helped me refine the ability to convey complicated ideas in simple terms, and creating lesson plans for her required good organisation skills.

I go swimming twice a week as a member of [swimming club], where I was vice captain from 2014-2015. I also volunteer semi-regularly at Parkrun, a weekly running race. Additionally, I enjoy playing chess, a game I have used to hone my attention to detail, where a move can take half an hour to make and leaving yourself in a situation where your opponent can gain one pawn can be catastrophic.

I look forward to the challenges of studying mathematics and computer science at university, along with contributing to music societies and making new friends.

Hopefully you’ve gained some insight into the sort of structure and content that the Oxbridge tutors will be looking for. Above all else, remember to write about your main areas of interest in maths and computer science. That way, your enthusiasm will shine through and you’ll rise to the top of the pile!

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]]>Although there will be a lot of interplay between the maths and computer science you study, this degree will give you the opportunity to explore other parts of maths, such as some applied modules and analysis, that you may not get the opportunity to study if you choose pure Computer Science. Our first blog post provides more details about studying maths at university, and the different modules this course encompasses.

Maths and Computer Science is offered at Oxford but not Cambridge, and it is an established joint honours offered at a wide variety of universities including:

- Birmingham
- Bristol
- Bath
- Durham
- Edinburgh
- Imperial
- King’s
- St Andrew’s
- Exeter

The skills crucial to success in both maths and computer Science overlap, so the success you experience in one area of this degree will likely be echoed across all of it. This series of blog posts explores Maths and Computer science a little more, although details of the two courses as single honours can be found in our Oxbridge maths post and Oxbridge Computer Science post. Our next post compares Computer Science at Oxford and Cambridge.

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]]>The post What to do in the Summer before Your Natural Sciences Degree appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2019.

]]>As **Physics**, **Chemistry** and **Maths **all follow build upon the A-Level syllabus, it is worth revisiting your A-Level notes over the summer. The content of your A-Levels will be presupposed from the onset of the course, and although you may have secured great grades, you may have forgotten some important things over the long break.

It may be worth making crib sheets of all the main points from your A-Level courses, such as equations and key laws; if you’re struggling with the content at university in the first few weeks, these can act as a safety net. This will save you poring over your old textbooks to find the correct information, and should alleviate some stress.

For example, the **SUVAT equations** are important at the beginning of university physics, but will not be handed to you on a formula sheet. Therefore, if you have a crib sheet where they’re all written out and derived, you’ll find the content built from them a lot easier to grasp.

It’s also definitely worth revising all the mathematical techniques covered in A-Level Maths. Whether you are going to study maths as one of your options at university or not, the skills will be used across all the physical natural sciences.

Furthermore, if you did not study Further Maths, it is worth looking over some of the **Further Pure** **content**. Although any content from Further Maths required will be taught, it will be at breakneck speed, and it is notoriously difficult to keep up! Just looking over some of the key concepts and familiarising yourself with the overall gist of the content will serve you very well in your first few weeks.

You may also have some preliminary work to do for your college tutors. Make sure you complete this, as it is designed to ensure that all students are at the same level when beginning their studies. You will be at a disadvantage if you don’t.

It’s also worth reading a bit around your subjects. Your college may send you reading lists; it isn’t worth buying all the textbooks on them, as you won’t use them and libraries will also be well stocked, but purchasing a couple and looking over the first few chapters will be useful.

There are also some useful bridging books that may help you transition smoothly from A-Level study to university. For maths, there is a useful workbook by Hurst and Gould, * Bridging the Gap to University Mathematics, *which will build upon your A-Level knowledge and begin to apply this to university-style problems. And for Physics,

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]]>Furthermore, all the Physical Natural Sciences depend upon on a firm understanding of maths. The skills you learnt in** A-Level Maths**, as well as **Further Maths** if applicable, are important skills that will be of huge use throughout a Natural Sciences degree – not just from a theoretical angle, but also for **practical analysis**. After your labs you will be expected to write detailed lab reports, where you will use lots of statistical techniques to analyse the data. Although you will have lectures going through all these techniques, a firm foundation of mathematical skills will be presupposed.

Many other skills that you have learnt whilst studying for science A-Levels will be applicable to a Natural Sciences degree. Even the subjects that do not directly follow on from an A-Level, such as **Earth Sciences** and **Material Sciences**, will have roots in skills you learnt at school. Some useful transferable skills that will serve you well at university include:

**Clear methods.**As the problems you are solving become more involved, it is important to lay out your workings clearly. Often at university, most of the interesting science is done in the working out phase, and therefore it is important to be able to present your methodology as clearly as possible.**Precision and Accuracy.**Whether measuring results or applying formulae, precision is an important part of Science A-Levels and also a Science degree. Making sure your workings are correct, neat and precise will ensure you reach the correct answers.**General Scientific Understanding.**One of the aims of Science A-Level subjects is to provide you with a general understanding of science. For example, how to prepare and conduct an experiment, write a risk assessment and write an analysis. Also, how to present your findings, and how to use hypotheses and theories about the results. These skills form an important foundation for your university studies.**Self-Study.**Although you are mostly guided through the content at school, there is an element of self-study in solidifying concepts for yourself and also in preparation for the next lessons. All these skills will come in great use in your degree, as most of the learning will be done through self-study. As the contact hours are high in a Natural Sciences degree, you will learn to prepare well and make the most of them, and then fill in the blanks independently. Self-study in a Natural Sciences degree will include things like:**Reading**around the subject in textbooks,**Revisiting**lecture notes and rewatching them online (if possible),**Watching**videos on YouTube explaining key concepts,**Working through**problems on your set problem sheet and also any extra problems in textbooks.

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]]>You will also have **one supervision a week** for each subject. Supervisions are held with one supervisor (a subject expert) and usually in small groups of two or three. The supervisor is there to support you, and also to stretch you and prepare you as much as possible for your exams.

The joy of Natural Sciences is its **breadth** and** variety**. In fact, if you never want to specialise, the Cambridge degree allows you to continue broad study throughout your degree.

To give you an idea of what it’s like to be a Natural Sciences student in your first year at Cambridge, here is what a typical day might look like:

**8am**: Wake up, eat breakfast, cycle to lectures

**9am-10am**: Lecture

**10am-11am**: Lecture

**11am-12pm**: Independent study

**12pm**: Lunch

**1pm-3pm**: Labs

**3pm-4pm**: Supervision

**4pm-6pm**: Independent study

**6pm**: Dinner

**7pm**: Study or sports or a society

If that looks a little daunting, you’ll be relieved to hear that some days are a lot easier. Labs only happen two days a week, so you’ll generally have more free time for independent study and extracurricular activities. And although the contact hours are intense in the first year, they drop from 30 to **10-15 hours per week **as the course progresses, allowing more time for private study.

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]]>The post How to Prepare for a Physics Interview appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2019.

]]>The whole point of the interviews is to put you on your toes and ask you questions you haven’t prepared for. To an extent, then, you can’t prepare for the unexpected. They want to see how you cope with new and developed material, but there’s still a lot that you can do to put yourself in the best position possible.

The interviewers will want to know your thought process and see your physics reasoning skills. A good way to practice this is to explain physics concepts to your friends and families, and discuss questions with your friends that also interested in physics. Alternatively, talk through concepts by yourself, instead of just writing down the solution.

Also, try and get somebody to ask you questions about topics that interest you, so that you have to go into more depth, and really examine and analyse your own reasoning. The more comfortable you are discussing the subject content, the more prepared you will feel for your interviews.

Lots of questions you get asked in your interviews will require you to estimate. For example, you may need to estimate the volume of the room, or the height of an average man, to use in your calculations. The interviewers are not expecting a perfect estimate, but make sure you are familiar with rough estimations, so that you don’t say something stupid, like a man is 6 inches not 6 foot .

It is also a good idea to practice units. Make sure you know which units correspond to different quantities. Units are a good way of keep tracking of your equations, and making sure that they are all correct. The units should match on both sides of the equation. This is a good way of testing whether you’ve got the right calculation.

“I feel as though anything from year 12 physics and maths was fair game in the interviews, so you should have all the formulas memorised.”

Jack, Physics, Oxford

Although the interviews are not memory tests, you want to show familiarisation with all the required content. And whilst the interviewers are likely to correct you or provide you with an equation, it is good to have a firm grasp of them all; if you aren’t aware of an equation, you won’t be able to see the required relationship.

The standard and style of PAT questions will be replicated in your interviews. Therefore, these questions are a good place to start in terms of interview practice. I would recommend practicing working through the questions out loud, so that you are able to express your ideas.

In your interviews, you may also be expected to work through questions on a whiteboard at the front of the room. It is worth practicing on a whiteboard, as you may feel more exposed. So if your teacher can let you practice on their whiteboard, that would be really useful.

It is really important to draw diagrams in your interviews, as not only will they help you, but they will help the interviewers see what you are thinking. If you draw a big, clear diagram, you will find it easier to visualise the situation, and the interviewer will be able to successfully gauge and guide your thought process.

Definitely practice drawing some diagrams from worked problems or exercises in your A-Level textbooks, and try and draw some large, detailed diagrams focusing on content you have studied. For example, you could practice drawing a diagram of how waves travel, or Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation.

In some interviews, you may get an exclusively maths question, although many interviewers avoid this because maths is tested as a stand-alone subject in the PAT. You may get a complex differentiation question. For example, differentiate xx. You are also very likely to get a graph drawing question, where the interviewer will present with a complicated version of a function, the basics of which you are familiar with.

Some examples of the graphs that you may be asked to sketch are:

- sin(ex)
- cos(1x)
- e1x

When you’re sketching, you should consider:

- The behaviour of this graph close to the y axis
- Consider where this graph crosses the x axis
- Differentiate the function and consider the behaviour of its derivative, especially where it is 0 (these will be turning points), and where the derivative gets arbitrarily large (this will be where the graph is steeply increasing or decreasing)
- Consider any asymptotes of the graph
- Consider what happens as the graph takes arbitrarily large values – so, as the x axis tends towards infinity

Although physics should be your focus when you are preparing for interviews, it is definitely worth practicing your mathematical techniques. As maths forms an integral part of the physics course, interviews will naturally want to gauge your ability.

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]]>The PAT is the Physics Aptitude Test set by Oxford. It is a mixture of physics questions, based upon the Physics A-Level syllabus, and maths questions. It must be sat by all Oxford physics applicants as a pre-interview assessment. It is designed to determine your academic potential, and it assesses your ability to use scientific and mathematical knowledge in unfamiliar contexts.

The PAT is made up of multiple choice questions and longer questions. There are 12 multiple choice questions, and they are a mixture of maths and physics questions, as are the longer ones. There are 100 marks available across the test paper, and you get two hours for the paper (you are expected to answer every question.)

Unlike the MAT, which lots of universities now use, the PAT is entirely designed for candidates applying to Oxford University to study physics.

The maths tested will not go beyond the scope of the A-Level Maths you have already covered, and although further maths is not a prerequisite, it will inevitably help. The maths topics covered include:

- Elementary maths: arithmetic, geometry, coordinate geometry, probability
- Algebra: polynomials, graph sketching, differentiation, transformations, inequalities, trigonometry
- Logs and exponentials
- Arithmetic/geometric series
- Binomial expansion
- Calculus: differentiation and integration

Similarly, the physics covered is based upon the A-Level syllabus. As the A-Level syllabus differs between exam boards, you can find a comprehensive view of the syllabus for PAT on the Oxford Physics website. Note that you will not have extra compensation when your paper is being marked if you have not studied the topic the question is on. The onus is on you to study the extra material. This is a great example of the independent study required at university.

Broadly, the physics topics covered are:

- Mechanics: distance, Velocity, Speed, and Acceleration Equations, Graph analysis, Response of a System to Multiple Forces, Circular Motion, Calculating Forces, Levers/Pulleys, Springs, Kinetic Energy, Conservation of Energy, and Energy Transfer
- Waves and Optics: Longitudinal and Transverse Waves, Amplitude, Frequency, Period, Wavelength and Speed of a Wave, Wave Speed Formula, Electromagnetic Spectrum, Reflection at Plane Mirrors, Refraction, Interference/Diffraction and Standing Waves
- Electricity and Magnetism: Current, Voltage, Resistance, Transformers, Circuit Diagrams, Force, and Photoelectric Effect
- Natural World: Atomic Structure, Solar System, Moon, Circular Orbits, Centripetal Force, and Satellites

You may also be faced with problem solving questions; these require no prior knowledge on any specific topic, but rather your ability to solve complex problems. The skills these questions require are taken from those developed over both Maths and Physics A-Level.

To get a taste of the PAT-style questions, we offer all of the past papers with worked solutions and video tutorials on the STEPMaths website, and also new PAT-style questions to practice, that you cannot access anywhere else.

Generally, you want to score above 60% in the PAT, as it is a good quantitative example of your physics ability. Although your PAT score is not the only indicator the university take into account, 60% is generally seen as a respectable score that will secure you an interview (if the rest of your application is also strong.)

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]]>It is possible that you will get questions about your personal statement. If there is something that particularly interests the interviewers, or that they want clarifying, then they may ask you questions about your personal statement. So make sure everything on your personal statement is true, and that you could answer a question on any sentence in it. It is definitely worth reading through your personal statement beforehand, and asking yourself questions on every section, or, alternatively, getting someone else to.

It is unlikely that you will be asked personal questions that do not relate to physics. At Cambridge you may have a separate interview about your other interests and subjects, but this does not happen at Oxford. They may ask you questions such as “What physics have you been researching recently?” or “What are you particularly enjoying about physics at the moment?”, but it is highly unlikely you will get anything that hugely diverges from physics.

Most, if not all, of the questions you get will be physics problems. However, as discussed in the previous section, you may get some maths questions too, although it is likely these will lead back into a physics problem.

The interviewers are not testing how quickly you can do subtraction or long division, and although these skills are important, do not worry about them too much. Even if your mental maths slips up, they are far more interested in seeing your thought process and physics reasoning. Do not spend lots of time in the interview double checking or even triple checking your calculations – this isn’t what the interviewer is interested in!

Definitely not. Just take yourself – the interviewers will provide any resources you need, although it is unlikely you will require a calculator.

Remember: the most important thing is to stay calm. You might even end up enjoying the experience.

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