You often hear the mantra that “Maths at Oxbridge is nothing like maths at school.” To a certain extent, this is true. The style and pace of teaching are very different. Furthermore, you focus on proving and understanding the foundations that make maths work, as opposed to just applying maths to different areas. Having said that, there is still a large set of transferable skills that are important to retain from your A-Level Maths course.
Attention to detail
Solving a maths problem is intricate, and requires precision and clarity in your workings. This is important both at A-Level standard and throughout your degree. It’s essential to pay attention to detail at university-level maths, especially when it comes to formulating proofs.
The entire content of A-Level will be assumed throughout your Oxbridge maths degree. Lots of the university content is new, and doesn’t exactly build and expand upon your A-Level knowledge, but the latter will be needed. Often you’ll be applying A-level skills to new areas, which means that these skills need to be as strong as possible. To get an idea of what university maths will cover, take a look at our breakdown of the Oxford and Cambridge courses.
It’s important to be able to roughly sketch functions and curves; using a diagram to form a question will help you understand it and get a better grasp of the concepts you are dealing with.
At university, your papers will not allow calculators, so it’s important that you mental arithmetic skills, although rarely used, are up to scratch.
Equations from the formula sheet
All the equations on your A-Level formula sheets are useful at university, and they won’t be written out for you. It is definitely worth taking some time memorising the key formulas on these sheets.
Structuring a mathematical answer
At A-Level you are often nagged to show all of your workings, and this is of the utmost importance at university! At university, most of the marks are for the method anyway, because lots of it involves proving theorems and formulae. Therefore, you must be able to clearly present and structure your maths, like you are asked and pushed to do at A-Level.
It should be clear that you can’t turn up to Oxbridge unprepared. If you follow our tips and arrive in the right frame of mind, you’ll be ready to tackle the first term of your maths degree and beyond. Why not also take a look at our tips for making the most of the summer before you arrive? STEPMaths wishes you luck for the next step!