Oxbridge to do Maths

(25 Posts)
Roisin Wed 12-Feb-14 20:31:35

Has your dc gone to Oxford or Cambridge to study maths from a non-selective state school?

ds2 has always been super-maths-oriented; but in his non-selective state he would get little/no support for preparation for STEP etc. And his maths experience would be way behind, say, students from the Far East, or Magdalen College School, or similar.

So, has anyone actually done this successfully? And if so, did you end up paying a lot for private tutoring?

OP’s posts: |
rightsaidfrederick Wed 12-Feb-14 22:37:17

Entirely possible!

I'd suggest that you look at widening participation schemes to see if he might be eligible. UNIQ is run by Oxford, and the Sutton Trust does things with several universities including Cambridge. Realising Opportunities may also be of interest.

Which town / county do you live in? Very often there's some sort of widening participation scheme run by universities for students from local schools that's aimed at getting them into uni. Some also run some subject specific things, e.g. KCL does maths outreach www.kcl.ac.uk/mathsschool/About/Outreach.aspx

FWIW your DS wouldn't be competing directly with students from the Far East as there are separate quotas for home / EU and international students. Oxbridge also admit students from state and private schools in proportions that reflect how many students from each sector apply - and each takes >50% of their students from the state sector.

rightsaidfrederick Wed 12-Feb-14 22:43:04

Sorry, wrong link - this is the one about maths outreach at KCL www.kcl.ac.uk/nms/depts/mathematics/about/wp/index.aspx

However, the previous link may also be of interest - it's KCL's new maths focused sixth form.

webwiz Wed 12-Feb-14 22:43:15

My DCs school have sent a few pupils to study maths at Cambridge over the last few years. DD2 took STEP as part of her Bath offer (just STEP I so the easiest one) and her further maths teacher went through the papers with her but didn't do any specific teaching. There are masses of past papers on the STEP website with answers and examiners reports

Warwick university also has a lot of information about how to prepare with links to videos. DD2 found the advanced problems in core mathematics.pdf useful as well

hench Wed 12-Feb-14 23:12:30

I know dc who have (to both Ox and Camb and without extra tutoring). The student room usually has a great STEP thread where lots of people ask questions and offer support and mutual motivation and there are (I think) STEP preparation days offered to students without support from their school which are provided either free or at minimal cost. It's definitely quite possible to do. STEP needs a lot more work - need to do lots and lots of past papers and it all gradually becomes easier (I'm told). The Oxford exam needs much less breadth of knowledge (based mostly on just C1 and C2), partly because it is sat much earlier in the academic year (before they can assume more knowledge), but it is said to be more difficult to prepare for as there are many fewer past papers and it is more difficult to improve on your performance at it. Some dc find it quite straightforward though, so if your ds tried a paper or two, marked it (the answers are provided) and compared his results with those of people who had taken that paper and subsequently received interviews and offers, he might get a view as to whether it would be a good route for him to take.

I have a hunch that STEP is easier to prepare for if you are at a school that sits maths A level in year 12 and then further maths A level in year 13, rather than AS maths and AS f. maths in year 12 followed by A2 maths and A2 f. maths in year 13, whereas the Oxford paper is accessible to students following either route.

SophieGermain Wed 12-Feb-14 23:34:17

Not my DC, but I did. My school had only got a sixth form a few years before and while a few people had gone on to Oxford, I believe no-one had even applied to Cambridge before. Having been through it, I have a lot of respect for the selection process. Directors of studies really are just trying to find those with the potential to do the course not just those who have been prepped for interview the best. I had not expected to get any support with STEP from my school - they had not even heard of it before I got my offer. In fact one of my teachers did help me go through past paper questions. I was good enough to go to Cambridge, but was by no means the best there, and this was sufficient preparation for me to get a good grade in STEP.

Clobbered Wed 12-Feb-14 23:40:09

DS doing Cambridge Maths. He had a bit of help with STEP from school, but most of it he did independently by hammering through loads of past papers. He also read every maths book he could get his hands on and had a few very specific areas that he was interested in and could talk about extensively e.g. maths of different electoral systems and topology - stuff that wasn't on the exam syllabus. I think both Oxford and Cambridge do maths-specific open days that are worth going to.


Roisin Wed 12-Feb-14 23:41:43

Thanks all.

OP’s posts: |
whereswaldo Wed 12-Feb-14 23:53:24

I used to work in Oxford recruitment. Two things: students are all in competition with each other regardless of nationality at Oxford - there are no quotas, they just take the best wherever they might be from.

At Cambridge, the STEP paper is a big differentiator which is why they make 4:1 offers to places with STEP as a condition. A number of students fail STEP (and therefore cant take up their place) so worth doing lots of work on it as well as the A2 work

Oxford doesn't ask for STEP but has the Maths Aptitude Test at application instead, there are sample papers online to play with.

senua Thu 13-Feb-14 08:37:02

Sorry waldo, can you repeat. Did you say that they make four times more offers than there are places; that they expect 75% to fail the STEP requirement?

Helspopje Thu 13-Feb-14 09:02:40

Cambridge colleges all have link areas.
We're linked with Tower Hamlets so do taster days and challenge days with them.
Might be worth working out which one your local area is linked with as there is the option for summer school in many which definitely does boost likelihood of admission by getting into the right way of thinking for the interview www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/access/arealinks/

Helspopje Thu 13-Feb-14 09:08:36

looks like oxford does similarly

whereswaldo Fri 14-Feb-14 09:03:47

I don't think they 'expect' 75% to fail but quite a few do. The cover rate for offers to places for most subjects at Oxford & Cambridge is 1.1:1 but it is significantly higher for Maths at Cambridge.

The cover rate is usually lower for other subjects as most students make the A level/IB grade/Pre U and choose Cambridge as their first choice. The higher offer rate allows for STEP failure which is a condition of acceptance at Cam.

gerrit Fri 14-Feb-14 09:12:24

Cambridge Maths also attracts a signature number of overseas applicants who may turn down Cambridge offers for Princeton, MIT etc. In Cambridge colleges such as Trinity this (at least partially) accounts for the higher cover rate.

OhYouBadBadKitten Fri 14-Feb-14 09:13:07

I'm lurking with interest on this as in another year dd will be having to look at 6th forms.

yourlittlesecret Fri 14-Feb-14 14:26:51

I have a DS who has an offer to do Maths at Cambridge. Whether he will end up there I don't know. He goes to a state sixth form that can offer him no help whatsoever with STEP and he went to a very average secondary.

What got him this far?
First and foremost a natural talent for maths, then a lot of very hard work, getting an average of 95% or more UMS in every AS paper, and finally knowing a lot about maths that isn't on the curriculum.

He is well aware of the weeding out role that STEP plays and this means the pressure on him is enormous. Not only does he need A*s in his A levels he must get grade 1 in STEP 2 and 3. These are 3 hour maths papers that seemingly none of his A level teachers can help with
He has done his A level maths in Y12 and FM in Y13 and I suspect you are right hench that this is helpful.

HMF1 Sat 15-Feb-14 12:16:14

Hi my oldest DS is hoping to apply to Cambridge for entry in 2015, from a Scottish state school. Have you spoken to the school about this & any extension or enrichment work he could do. The maths Olympiad& other maths challenges, the ones he did were Scottish but there are bound to be others. Also Nuffield Research placements might be worth looking into.

Shrinkgrowskids Sat 15-Feb-14 12:27:27

Oxbridge maths is not the be all, end all. My sister had an offer from Cambridge to do maths, but she needed to get a grade 1 for the Step, which our state school did not help with preparation for. She managed a grade 2, and ended up going to imperial college to do maths. She graduated top of the class and was offered a phd place at Cambridge, which she had great pleasure in turning down, and went on scholarship to the higher ranked department at UC Berkeley in the states. She now earns six figures, so, as I say, talent will prevail, Oxbridge or no Oxbridge!

SockQueen Sat 15-Feb-14 17:14:10

My DBIL got into Cambridge Maths from a comprehensive, has stayed for a PhD and is now a Fellow there and interviews applicants each year! I don't think his school provided much STEP provision, though his Dad (FiL) may have helped out as he was a physicist all his life.

STEP is HARD, though I think the offers:places ratio is more like 2:1 than 4:1, they still expect a lot of people not to make the offer. I second the suggestion of The Student Room for general advice and STEP preparation.

Helspopje we went to the same college!

grayling57 Wed 19-Feb-14 01:53:56

I knew lots of people who did. It's quite possible. smile Try to go to a sixth form that offers further maths, if you can.

For extension stuff trysome of the resources listed here:

Also I'd recommend trying to get involved in the maths challenge/maths olympiad pathway if you can. It's great extension work and you can get a lot of info and support online.

Educatingme Mon 03-Mar-14 16:56:39

Maths is one of the most succesful subjects for getting bright kids from non-selective schools to Oxbridge, because the natural gift shines through.

He should go on the UNIQ summer school, this is exactly what it is for. This year has just closed but you should take a look anyway. This is the Oxford one.


Dalliance Tue 04-Mar-14 09:51:20


your DBIL having a dad who is a physicist all his life is a huge advantage that an applicant can have....whether from comp or private...what people forget is having such a parent is an unseen advantage of having private unlimited 1:1 expert tuition in reality...

dottygamekeeper Sat 08-Mar-14 23:37:32

Marking place as DD currently Yr 11 is going on to non selective state 6th form to do Maths, FM, Physics and Economics and hoping to try for Cambridge. Is already investigating STEP. Some very useful info here, thank you all.

amandahuddlestone Tue 03-Jun-14 12:00:45

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