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Oxford is surrounded by mystique, with its old buildings, ancient heritage and unusual teaching style. Maths and Philosophy at Oxford, two of the most abstract disciplines, might therefore seem equally mysterious. However, Maths and Philosophy is, of course, just a degree! It’s no more mysterious than any other.

So, what’s it really like to study Maths and Philosophy at Oxford?

How many contact hours will you have for Maths and Philosophy?


You’ll tend to have between 8 and 12 lectures per week, with two or three of them philosophy lectures, and the rest maths. You also get a lot of contact hours in terms of tutorials and classes. At the moment I have a class, two tutorials, and 9 lectures a week. So the weeks are full-on, and you get a lot of timetabled contact hours

You’ll tend to have between 8 and 12 lectures per week, with two or three of them philosophy lectures, and the rest maths. You also get a lot of contact hours in terms of tutorials and classes. At the moment I have a class, two tutorials, and 9 lectures a week. So the weeks are full-on, and you get a lot of timetabled contact hours

What work will I have for Maths?

On the maths side, you do about 60-70% of the maths the pure mathematicians do in first year. You do a problem sheet a week for each subject, and then have a tutorial going through it the subsequent week. Problem sheets have between 7-10 questions, and they get increasingly difficult. It is unlikely that you will be able to answer all of the questions on them – don’t worry, that’s normal! 

A problem sheet generally takes between 6 and 8 hours, presuming you have good notes from the lectures before and have read around the concepts you did not understand. 

What work will I have for Philosophy?

In terms of philosophy, you will do a logic problem sheet every week. You will also be expected to write essays. Before each essay, you are expected to generally read about 5 or 6 texts from the assigned reading list. This will probably take about 10-12 hours in first year, depending on how quickly you read and the length of the list, and then another 4 hours or so to write the essay. 

Something I wish I’d known before I started studying Maths and Philosophy: Maths at university is very different to maths at school. The structure and pace are so different, and you spend most of your time proving theorems and propositions, as opposed to applying them to situations. If you are more interested in applying theorems you have learnt to a situation, it might be better to apply to engineering or physics. 

Can you do anything outside of work?

Although it is an intense degree, you do still have time to do other things. For example, I have had a position on my JCR (Junior Common Room- you are part of this body during your undergraduate years at a college) Committee all year. I also play in a uni-wide orchestra, which rehearses for three hours every week, and I play in the college netball team. The workload is heavy, but it doesn’t have to dominate your life!

Conclusion: Is it worth it?

I highly recommend the course! It’s an intense degree, like all Oxford degrees, but although the workload is tough, it’s definitely manageable. If you’d like to think about it more, I’ve written at more length about whether I think a Maths and Philosophy degree, and joint honours Maths degrees in general, are worth it.

 

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