All you ever hear about Oxbridge Maths is how impossible it is. Whilst it’s true that the Oxford and Cambridge Maths degrees shouldn’t be embarked upon lightly, they can also be extremely rewarding and beneficial.
How do you know if Oxbridge Maths is for you?
- You like problem solving. Do you enjoy solving difficult mathematical problems? Do you get excited by the questions on UKMT papers (if you’ve never seen these before, have a look at the standard of the Senior Kangaroo rounds on their website)? Chances are, you’d love maths at Oxford or Cambridge.
- You are interested in the theory behind maths. Oxbridge maths explores questions such as: Why do differentiation work by decreasing or increasing the power respectively? What makes a function behave nicely, and which functions can we draw graphs of and which can we not? Why do all polynomials have solutions in the complex numbers? Having a real aptitude for maths isn’t enough; you need to be interested in how it works.
- You are good at the skills required for A-Level Maths. The Oxbridge maths tutors will presume an understanding of all the core skills developed at A-Level. The most important are:
- Polynomials: factorising, dividing, roots, graphing them
- Complex numbers: the basic theory of their manipulation
- Matrices: again, simply how to manipulate them
- You are committed and hard-working. It goes without saying that any degree, and particularly one at Oxford or Cambridge, is a lot of work. However, you have to be especially committed to succeed in studying maths. In your first term, a lot will not come immediately to you. The style is very different to maths at school, and the concepts will take some time to get your head around. But with perseverance you will get there, and it’s just about sticking it out and being prepared to dedicate the time.
- You have a knack for precision. One of the main elements of studying maths at Oxbridge is proving propositions and theorems. This requires an eye for precision and detail, and you have to leave no stone unturned.
- You are creative, and prepared to think about maths in a new way. Although the maths you do at school is fairly clinical, solving problems by going through the motions you have learnt and revised, Oxbridge maths is much more creative. Proving theorems is all about experimenting with ideas, looking at multiple methods, and seeing what takes you in the right direction. You have to be prepared to approach maths in a different way. You’ll meet more dead ends, but it is a lot more rewarding when you get there!
- You love maths! It is so so important that you are passionate about the subject you apply for. A degree is a big undertaking, and you won’t be able to find the motivation to study unless you really love the subject.
If you fit most of the categories above, maths at university could be the perfect course for you! For more details of what is actually covered in the Oxbridge courses, read our comparison of the Oxford and Cambridge degrees.
The Inside Scoop
We asked some current Oxford and Cambridge Maths students why they applied for their degree. Here’s what they said:
“Maths has always intrigued me. I wanted to find out how everything we’d been taught in school actually worked, and it really has allowed me to do that!”Sam L, Maths, Cambridge
“For A-levels I took Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry. I knew from a very young age I wanted to do something science-related, and I’ve always loved the neat nature of maths, with its logic and problem solving. I thought I’d enjoy that about studying maths at uni.”Nick T, Maths, Cambridge
“I was unsure what career I wanted to pursue after university, and so Maths was perfect as it left my options open. I chose to apply to Oxford the night before I sent my application off, and I don’t regret it. I have always loved a challenge and Maths at Oxford is certainly that.”Anya S, Maths, Oxford
“I was already sitting the MAT for Imperial, so I thought: why not try it?”Peter B, Maths, Oxford
“I was thinking of applying to study physics. But then, when I did more research, I found the idea of proving and exploring the concepts I would be using in physics more exciting than the idea of actually using them. So I thought Maths was for me, and I was right.”Katie J, Maths, Oxford
If you’ve loved Maths at school and you’re committed to discovering more about mathematical theory, then Maths at Oxford or Cambridge is the degree for you.
For more information about the Oxbridge Maths application process, download our free STEP/MAT/AEA guidebook.