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If you’re applying to Oxford for Computer Science, you’ll have to sit the MAT, the Oxford Mathematics Admissions Test. This might strike you as a little odd: surely it should be a Computer Science test for a Computer Science degree? However, the course at Oxford is so deeply rooted in mathematics that it’s crucial they assess your mathematical ability.

What is the MAT for Computer Science?


The MAT is used by the University of Oxford to assess Computer Science applicants. It is the same mathematics test sat by Maths applicants; the Computer Science course is mathematically rigorous and Oxford needs to know students can thrive with complex maths.

If you are applying to study Computer Science, you will answer slightly different questions than if you were applying to study Maths. These will focus more on the skills valuable to the Computer Science course.

  • If you are applying to read Computer Science you must answer Questions 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7 of the MAT paper. The MAT is marked out of 100 and is a two and a half hour paper. 
  • Question 1, the multiple-choice question, is answered by both Maths and Computer Science applicants. 
    • This tests a wide variety of skills, and also your pace and attention to detail, as this is a time pressured section. For advice on preparing for the multiple choice section of the MAT see Chapter 1 Section 10 and 11. Also, at stepmaths.co.uk/MAT you can find tailor-made resources for this question. 
  • Questions 2 and 5 are long-style questions (explored in greater depth in Chapter 1 Section 10 and 11), answered by both Maths and Computer Science applicants. 
    • These long style questions are generally harder than the first question, as they are more complex, and require you to apply your mathematical knowledge in a range of new and unpredictable situations. 
  • Questions 6 and 7 are specifically designed only for Computer Science applicants. 
    • These questions focus more on the skills required for Computer Science:
      • You may get a question focusing on number theory: manipulating a sequence of numbers or finding relations between different numbers.
      • You are quite likely to get a question with a diagram, such as a grid with a person moving through it, the design of a basic computer game, or a question that requires you to visualise more: all key skills for a Computer Science degree. 
      • The questions will probably be more wordy – situational questions which require you to dissect and extract key information. 
      • You may get a question about a very abstract computer. (The image at the top of the page is an example.) You will be told some operations it can perform and you will have to use and construct different operations from there. 

Conclusion

For Computer Science, you’ll need to sit the MAT, but you’ll sit slightly different questions to the single-honours Maths applicants. We’ve got plenty of info on getting ready for the MAT: see our guide to preparing for the MAT, and our top tips for sitting the test itself.

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