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Maths at Oxford
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Neolara · 17/02/2021 23:29

I'm wondering how good you have to be at maths to study maths at Oxford. Very good at maths (A in further maths relatively easily)? Or complete and total genius (A in further maths aged 10)?

Dd is in year 12 and just beginning to think about university. She really enjoys maths and seems to be good at it. Her maths teacher seemed to think it was worth a shot, but he may just be being supportive . If it was another subject, I'd think she'd have as good a chance as anyone of getting into Oxford. But maths seems different somehow. But is it?

Incidentally, Dd is by no means set on Oxford or any other university. I just wanted to get a sense of what is realistic.

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Bunnylove83 · 17/02/2021 23:47

I’m a Head of Sixth. In my experience something in between ten and 18 is about right. She could look at the step papers as they would give an insight to the pre-interview process. Also, has she done the uk maths challenge this year? Our potential oxbridge (not maths specifically but physics and engineering this year) would typically have at least a silver award and probably gold.
More importantly, to study in the condensed terms and rather intensive nature of studying at Oxford, she really genuinely needs to have a love of maths. Something in her that is really going to enjoy the high level challenge of the next three years, and the increasingly theoretical problems she will be studying.
That’s not a criticism of all who are very happy at Oxford, but compared to studying maths at a top ten or top 20 university then there is definitely a difference.
On a personal note from feedback of a student who studied there so I’m certainly not representing all views, the culture of studying maths is competitive and sadly still boy-heavy, so maybe she needs to think about whether she is someone who would thrive in that environment or who may find it a struggle.

Good luck to her regardless - you must be very proud of your super bright daughter.

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Pallando · 18/02/2021 09:00

@Neolara I work in outreach for Cambridge Maths Smile

I would say Very Good rather than total genius!

A couple of things she could do to help her decide:

Explore the Oxford Online Maths Club. James is great, and the live sessions are interactive via slido.

Start working through the foundation modules from the STEP support programme. The foundation assignments are designed for use in year 12 and the first few technically only need GCSE maths (they are still quite hard though). I think it's too early to look at STEP papers as even STEP 1 uses all of A level single maths and she probably hasn't covered the material yet.

She might be interested in the Maths makes a difference webinar materials - this was a collaboration between the outreach teams at Oxford and Cambridge (we can get along when we try!).

Other things to consider are the various admissions tests. Quite a few universities will accept a good result in TMUA for a slightly less good A level result in one of your A levels. They will also accept a good MAT or STEP score as well.

Oxford and Imperial require students to sit the MAT.

Cambridge, and Imperial if you missed the MAT deadline, require you to sit STEP

MAT and TMUA are sat in October/November and the deadline is quite early in year 13, so if she wants to sit one of these you need to watch the dates! These both basically rely on AS level single maths (with perhaps a couple of small additions and TMUA has some stuff on proof and logic).

STEP is sat in June of year 13. STEP 2 involves A level maths and AS FM, STEP 3 the whole of A level Maths and FM (STEP 1 is no more Sad).

If there is anything I can help with, please do @ me or DM me! (I don't check this forum that often...)

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scentedgeranium · 18/02/2021 09:06

DD walked her GCSE and A level maths and further maths. Full UMS and everything. Applied to Oxford and came unstuck with the MAT. School gave no support and I confess we didn't either because she found school
Maths so easy but also because we've never had our two tutored in anything. In the end she went to Durham, having leapt the already high offer there.
So my advice is get some support in place!

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scentedgeranium · 18/02/2021 09:11

I should add it seemed to come as a relief that she didn't get an interview. I rather think sh was funnelled down the Oxbridge route somewhat unfairly by school and us who had no realistic idea of what it entailed!

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hellsbells99 · 18/02/2021 13:31

I hate to say this but a 2.1 or above in maths from a reasonably good university is better than a 2.2 or below from Oxbridge - purely because most graduate schemes will require a 2.1. And some graduate schemes are now ‘blind’ to what university you studied at. So your DD should make sure she chooses universities that she thinks will suit her way of working. As pointed out above, Oxford has shorter terms and is more intense. But if she is very good at maths and fancies Oxford, then give it a try. Good luck and enjoy looking at all the different options.

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Neolara · 18/02/2021 13:52

Thank you everyone for your input. Really helpful. I'll get her to take a look at the websites recommended.

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PresentingPercy · 18/02/2021 13:59

Warwick is also an excellent back up to Oxbridge. Or indeed first choice of many.

I totally agree about a 2:2. A friend’s DS got a 2:2 in maths from Cambridge and it took him a year to get a sniff of a job. Just excluded from most grad schemes. Perfectly happy now and doing a maths related job and was eventually given a chance by a national company.

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Decorhate · 18/02/2021 17:08

It is very hard to predict re Oxbridge IMO. I know two students who did their GCSE maths in Y9 & got A* and then continued to ace their subsequent exams early too. So the type of kids who are naturally gifted mathematicians.

This was at a school that was performing very poorly at the time. One got a Cambridge offer, the other didn’t. The one who had the offer came a cropper with his STEP results so missed his place. I assume the situation with the school & the fact that there was no history of pupils doing g STEP etc did not make a difference. It can be quite brutal.

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Neolara · 18/02/2021 19:22

I can totally imagine that it's hard to predict who will get in. I know someone who is a Cambridge admissions tutor (not maths) who said that all the applicants have stellar exam results and all the references say that this kid is the best they've ever taught and as a result it's incredibly difficult to decide between them.

Dd is at a huge 6th Form college and they have experience of preparing kids for STEP papers and the MAT exams, so she is very lucky.

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PresentingPercy · 18/02/2021 19:36

Prep makes a big difference. Oxbridge should make allowances for pupils from schools with no Oxbridge record. However I do feel schools should wise up and not let students down. The playing field will never be level at this rate!

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