If you’re thinking of applying for Maths and Computer Science at Oxford, you may be wondering how the admissions process works, and how it differs from pure Maths. Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a handy breakdown that should answer all your Maths and CompSci questions!
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 Scala.”
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.
Case Study: Maths and Computer Science Interviews
“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
Getting an Offer
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 whom 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.