Oxford MAT - can it outweigh less than perfect A levels?

(43 Posts)
WobblyPenumbra Wed 24-Jun-20 16:58:40

DS (year 13) was always going to take a gap year this year. He has had a difficult couple of years due to diagnosed SEN and MH issues (long story), but is fundamentally very able. He’d been planning to put his head down and cram in the run up to A levels and get straight A*s, in Maths, Economics and History, which was optimistic but not out of the question, and aim to take Further Maths during gap year.

What with one thing and another his allocated grades will now probably be AAB - possibly better, but we need to be realistic.

He’s now aspiring to Maths and Philosophy at Oxford, which would be over-ambitious with those grades (School is private so no contextual offers). However he is really good at puzzles and more challenging tests eg the Maths Challenges. The question is, if he manages to excel at the Oxford Maths Admission Test in October, might that be enough to get him an interview despite iffy A levels?

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My0My Wed 24-Jun-20 18:43:25

That’s quite a way below the standard offer. I’m not sure what they would do but if you read the attached, you would see they say many candidates do have the required grades. So one would assume they have enough to interview (3 for 1 Place and only around 20 places I think) without going a grade below on every subject.

The Mat results add to what they already know about the student. There might be an additional issue that he’s not taking all his A levels at the same time. I would check what they think about that. I think he would be lucky to get an interview but others might know a lot more than me.

Hoghgyni Wed 24-Jun-20 19:12:38

Oxford doesn't give any contextualised offers. Have you looked at the admission's requirements?

A*A*Awith the A*s in Mathematics and Further Mathematics (if taken). For those whom Further Mathematics is not available: either A*AAa with A* in Mathematics and a in AS-level Further Mathematics or A*AA with A* in Mathematics.

Decorhate Wed 24-Jun-20 19:22:26

What are his GCSE results like? If they include a good number of A* - to the extent that he would have had a good chance of getting an interview if he had applied this year - then another option would be to see if he can withdraw from this year’s A Levels (I think unlikely at this stage tbh) and apply as a 6th former with predicted grades in October and do his A Levels next year. Or if that’s not possible, would they accept an application from someone resitting next year with better predictions?

Hoghgyni Wed 24-Jun-20 19:26:39

Wouldn't it be impossible for his school to give higher predicted grades for 2021 though (unless he is at Sevenoaks!) After all, this year the schools have had to give their best estimate of the grades he should have got if he had taken the exams. I don't see how they could do anything except predict the same results again.

nicenames Wed 24-Jun-20 19:38:54

Can I ask really nicely why he wants to go to Oxford? It is quite a tough environment if you have MH issues? Speaking as one who went, I suspect there might be better universities from a pastoral perspective and where the workload may not be immediately quite so intense (short terms, so less time to hit your stride).

SomeoneElseEntirelyNow Wed 24-Jun-20 19:42:07

@WobblyPenumbra i agree with @nicenames, if he has MH issues, Oxford is a really bad idea. The pressure is astronomical and the support nonexistent. It absolutely broke all 6 girls from my school who got places.


whereorwhere Wed 24-Jun-20 19:50:50

I was going to say the same as above. Oxford is not the place for someone with MH issues

HuaShan Wed 24-Jun-20 20:08:10

DS is an Oxford Maths offer holders. There is a lot of information about the profile of what scores in the MAT reach interview stage on the Oxford website. Essentially there are 2 cuts off,everyone above a cut off threadhold is interviewed, everyone below a lower threshold is rejected. In the middle they would look at other stats before deciding to interview.
The MAT is hard! Average score last year was around 46%. 2000 people took the test. DS worked consistently for a year before the test and thankfully it paid off and he scored 81%.

As a pp said the application to interview ratio is 3:1. Very interestingly some very high scorers who were interviewed were not offered places, so I assume they failed at interview stage. DS said the interview was pretty brutal too, problem solving under pressure in front of professors while they ask you to explain your reasoning. He was there for 3 days and some candidates had 5 separate interviews.

So irs quite pressured and honesty I think you would have to absolutely ace the test to get an interview. After that it's all about the interview.

WobblyPenumbra Wed 24-Jun-20 20:14:44

I know it’s a huge drop (although it’s just a guess about what he’ll actually get - AAB would be the minimum). I was just curious to get a feeling for how much difference a stellar performance in the MAT could make with extenuating circumstances. He might be doing retakes in the autumn of course, which makes it even more difficult.

He aspires to Oxford because he’s got his heart set on that particular course, and Oxford is arguably the best place to do it, but there are other good options of course.

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My0My Wed 24-Jun-20 20:34:40

The successful MAT score for that course is around 67. There is a FOI request published that gives you the average score as quoted above and the average score for successful candidates on this course . It has a very small number of places though.

Decorhate Wed 24-Jun-20 20:52:39

@Hoghgyni I meant that he could sit his A Levels next year or resit them (ie forego the gap year).

OP I think if your Ds had planned to apply with predicted grades this year, then yes a stellar MAT could compensate for less stellar GCSEs (though probably not if his predicted grades were less than their standard offer.) But a very good MAT won’t compensate for
lower achieved grades.

I would echo what others have said about the Oxford system being quite brutal.

TheoneandObi Wed 24-Jun-20 20:59:50

Oxford doesn't give any contextualised offers. I'm sick of hearing this myth trotted out by parents at private schools. Your child with potentially less than perfect grades at a private school
Will be up against kids from much less perfect schools with much better grades. You need to get your head around that reality I'm afraid.

hopsalong Wed 24-Jun-20 21:05:36

I teach at Oxford in a different subject. In theory we aren't allow to interview people who have grades below the standard offer level. In practice we do, and will be especially likely to do that this year, I imagine. But we still expect the standard offer to be met, so if he gets AAB this year he would need to do a new A-level or retake one (in my humanities subject I've more often seen people do French, say, instead of the Art they got a C in). It wouldn't be fair to admit people post A-level with grades definitely worse than those we're asking other people to get.

In practice, people following this strategy are usually rejected (often they've held an offer the previous year and lost in on not getting their grades). But there's no reason why they should be, especially in the current climate.

WobblyPenumbra Wed 24-Jun-20 21:11:57

I absolutely do accept that a given set of grades from someone with educational and social advantages may say less about their underlying ability than the same grades from someone who’s had to achieve them with less of a following wind.

I’m not aware of the detail which universities allow for that and in what way because it’s not relevant to DS - I just added it for background data in case it was a factor, because rule 67 of MN says that the one piece of information you leave out of your OP because it didn't strike you as relevant will be the one thing that everyone asks you.

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Hoghgyni Wed 24-Jun-20 22:28:05

@Decorhate that's exactly how I interpreted what you said. However, the PG going on his UCAS form this October could not be better than the results he received in August, as his August results should reflect what the school thinks he is capable of and can't be inflated a couple of months later. In which case he would need to apply with grades in hand for 2022 entry.

Hoghgyni Wed 24-Jun-20 22:38:04

OP how good is he at articulating his thought process if given a flight of fancy in a philosophy interview? They minimise the risk of private school pupils being coached to within an inch of their life for success having an unfair advantage over state school students who don't have similar support by giving completely random scenarios.

WobblyPenumbra Wed 24-Jun-20 22:40:23

Yes that’s all we want, the ability to get through to interview and show real flair in a spontaneous test of potential.

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Hoghgyni Wed 24-Jun-20 22:59:00

Well they interview more for M&P than they do for Maths alone, but I imagine that an A* for maths is pretty much a given. How good were his GCSEs?

Hoghgyni Wed 24-Jun-20 23:02:02

...in % terms that is, as there are only around 16 places.

WobblyPenumbra Wed 24-Jun-20 23:36:33

GCSEs were good but not spectacular, 7s 8s and 9s - he struggled with English Literature at the bottom end but got a solid 9 for Maths obviously - I’m not completely deluded.

He’s got a genuine love for the subject and flair (not genius), so I’d hope that the MAT might be a way to demonstrate that in these strange circumstances - but I don’t know how it’s viewed for people taking it in year 14.

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Tootletum Wed 24-Jun-20 23:41:37

Must agree with PP re MH at Oxford. I was there a long time ago, so I'm sure they do more now, but at the time I was the welfare officer at college and many people who seemed absolutely fine really struggled. They didn't want to involve the college because it might mean being asked to take time out, and everyone was terrified of anything that might stain the upward trajectory of their CVs. I've never struggled with my own MH, and yet I found the academic pressure very hard at times, and the whole atmosphere bis absolutely febrile.

My0My Thu 25-Jun-20 00:56:44

I just don’t think he’s nailed the academic side to be honest. The attached are data from Oxford showing the grades of successful candidates. The “other” qualification category shrinks a lot from application to acceptance. Less than AAA doesn’t make it into the stats!

cinammonbuns Thu 25-Jun-20 06:48:43

I’m going to be relaistic with you, if his achieves grades are AAB he is not getting in for Maths. Without an extremely strong academic record he will struggle with the course anyway. You need to tell him to be relaistic and aspire for a course that suits his abilities better.

AAB is still an excellent result but it is not enough for Maths at Oxford.

And as previous posters have pointed out, Oxford does not do contextual grades even for state school applicants. And even a state school applicant that does really well on the MAT won’t get in with AAB.

If he so set on it he would need to retake.

sendsummer Thu 25-Jun-20 07:33:03

Maths and philosophy like physics and philosophy at Oxford are particularly challenging for work load and even a very able student would be left with very little free time. Even if he had the required GCSE and A level grades and did very well at MAT, he has to do better in his interview than most of the other interviewees at both subjects. How much philosophy has he read?
He has two options, get on with applying for more realistic courses this year or completely retake this year, add in FM and apply the year after with grades and MAT score in hand. I would advise the former. Look for a course which offers opportunities that Oxford does n’t. If he wants to be an academic his ability will come through during his undergraduate course.

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