1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

AS's at a grammar school in maths

  1. Apr 24, 2009 #1
    Hey there, just wanted to ask a couple of questions;

    I'm currently taking AS's at a grammar school in maths, further maths, physics, chemistry & french, but my true ambition is to study Physics at Oxford.

    I'm in the revising period now, and I really hope to nail these AS's as well as I can as A*'s will be available next year which Oxford & Cambridge will be expecting I understand (1 A* 2 A's )

    Aside from academic studies, i'm at a loss of what to do to help my prospects? :confused: I've been reading Relativity by Einstein for the past month even before I decided to go to oxford, but it's not exactly something you can put on your CV... =/

    I'm going to visit CERN this summer which hopefully will be great, very much looking forward to it, but I don't really see how this will help me either.

    I guess i'm just quite confused, perhaps the confusion lies with the process, which my school hasn't outlined too clearly yet....

    Any guidance at all would be great, such as does it almost all come down to the PAT test & interview?

    Ps, on a side note, would it matter if I didn't do great in say, one of my non-3 subjects? At AS, for example, would getting a B in Chemistry or French affect my chances considering that I would be using Maths, F.Maths & Physics as my 3 subjects of application?

    Thanks in advance for any help, I realise that it's alot to ask
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 24, 2009 #2

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Guidance

    What sort of extracurricular activities do you take part in?
     
  4. Apr 24, 2009 #3
    Re: Guidance

    Well I take part in the astronomy club, juggling, drama, although I don't see how they're relevant :confused:, maybe astronomy, but I read somewhere that they don't care about your extra-curricular activities, solely on your academic ones
     
  5. Apr 24, 2009 #4

    thrill3rnit3

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Guidance

    I wish MIT would be like that :bugeye:
     
  6. Apr 24, 2009 #5
    Re: Guidance


    Does grammar school have a different meaning in the UK? In the US a grammar school is where you go when you're <13 years old.
     
  7. Apr 25, 2009 #6

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Guidance

    Well you read wrong! Grades are, of course, the most important thing, but universities will also look beyond that and at you as a person. The astronomy club is a great activity to have on your application, so when the time comes you should make a big deal of that, since it shows that you're interested in physics outside of the classroom; as will the CERN trip (so make sure you mention that as well). The others, whilst not relevant to physics, should also be included in your application.

    Sounds like you're in a strong position. Are you taking all 5 subjects to A-level? I'm not sure what effect a B grade will have on your application. Perhaps you could cut down to 4 A levels to lessen the load?

    Yes. A Grammar School is a selective high school (and most of the time a fee-paying school!)
     
  8. Apr 25, 2009 #7
    Re: Guidance

    I thought Grammar schools were selective but not fee-paying, as opposed to Independent schools which are selective and fee-paying.

    Anyway, I applied for Phys at Oxf. this year from a state comp. with 5As and got rejected on the basis of the admissions test, so yeah study like hell for that test, it's hard. Also, even though I got rejected from Oxford I got a really good scholarship at Exeter and got offers from Durham and Warwick etc. as well so if you don't get into Oxford it's not the end of the world.

    From what I can gather graduate school matters a lot more than undergraduate anyway.

    On topic, I'd recommend taking the British Physics Olympiad, just for practice for the Oxford test if nothing else, ask your head of Science/Physics about it.

    Also, read Quantum Physics: A Beginner's Guide by Alaistair I.M Rae, because I love that book, Feynman isn't bad either.

    P.S Nice A level choices :) I took the same but with Biology instead of French, I liked French at GCSE though. I took all 5 through to A2 as well and it gets pretty damn hard but I am still on 5As so it's not impossible, you seem smart so you should at least consider it. Anyway good luck, I hope you are successful! :D
     
  9. Apr 25, 2009 #8

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Guidance

    Back in the olden-days this was true, but nowadays there are only a handful of true grammar schools out there (state but selective), as most either started charging fees or were abolished.
     
  10. Apr 25, 2009 #9
    Re: Guidance

    Ah, that's a shame, I mean the eleven-plus system has its faults but surely it is better to select based on merit rather than wealth if selection is going to take place which it inevitably does. Anyway, this isn't a politics thread so I'll try not to hijack it (sorry Chewy) :P
     
  11. Apr 25, 2009 #10
    Re: Guidance

    Wow thanks alot for the help, i'm in a non-fee paying Grammar school; (too poor for fee paying :D)

    I really don't think I could handle 5 a-levels at A2 so like you mentioned i'll probably drop French/Chemistry, leaning towards French at the moment.

    Another problem will of course be the A*, which as far as I understand Oxford & Cambridge will be asking for 1 A* =S, so hopefully I can get that in maths.

    Out of interest what university did you choose alex as your number 1 choice from the ones you got offers from? I've saw on some list that Warwick is also excellent for physics.

    Also, is there anything else you think I could do? I guess I could just continue reading books, which i'm doing anyway, but like I said, that's not really something you could put on your personal statement to improve your chances, or is it all down to that entrance exam? I have tried googling it but there's practically no information on the PAT test or how they use it (other than to choose people to interview) or how much the personal statement matters when applying for physics at oxford.
     
  12. Apr 25, 2009 #11

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Guidance

    From my experience of A levels (about 6 years ago, now) an A* in maths should be well within reach of an oxbridge candidate in physics. In my class, most people who were going to university to study maths/physics (and got A grades) scored around 90% on maths A level. I can't imagine the grade boundary being higher than that, so you shouldn't have much of a problem.

    Also, note that since this is the first year of A* grades (I think), universities will not base their judgement solely on this.
     
  13. Apr 25, 2009 #12
    Re: Guidance

    Hmmm yeah, I suppose.

    I don't think i'll have too much problem getting 90% overall, but I think you need over 90% on every single A2 module as well, so, for C3, C4 & (S1/M1) i'll have to get over 90%, which is ok for C3 & C4 as I enjoy pure maths, but I dispise statistics and fail at it :P, so I guess I just have to revise hard for mechanics aswell (which I should really be excelling in, with physics)
     
  14. Apr 25, 2009 #13
    Re: Guidance

    A Gonville and Caius admissions tutor told my Physics teacher they care nought about extra-curricular activities, they just want the best minds.

    I was also told this by a Chemistry professor and Natural Sciences admissions tutor for Girton that this was the case as well. It may be the case at other universities but, Cambridge especially, don't care about them, they just want at least 90+% on AS grades.
     
  15. Apr 25, 2009 #14

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Guidance

    Perhaps it was just this one admissions tutor that personally doesn't care about extra-curricular activities, but I would say for the most part they are important. Of course, bad grades cannot be pulled up by extra-curricular activities (perhaps this was the sense in which the tutor was answering the question), but they can help differentiate between students. For example, membership of an Astronomy club shows interest in the subject in a student's spare time, as opposed to studying under orders in a classroom. It's also far more impressive for someone to have 90+% grades and hold down a part-time job, play on sports teams, attend extra-curric clubs etc..

    After all, there are thousands of students who obtain grades >90%, so judging only on these grounds would not work.
     
  16. Apr 25, 2009 #15
    Re: Guidance

    Well it was at a conference for students wishing to study at Oxbridge, and one student asked whether extra-curriculars had any sway in deciding whether somebody got an offer, and he explicitly stated that they played no part whatsoever.

    He also said that any part of a personal statement that talked about things unrelated to academics or a particular subject would be ignored.

    Also, I don't see how one person having a part-time job shows that he can excel at university, that wouldn't differentiate in my mind, they'd use interviews for that.
     
  17. Apr 25, 2009 #16

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Guidance

    I didn't say it shows he can excel an university; I said it was more impressive. My point is not only is it easier for someone to excel at A levels if they have nothing else to do, but also if studying is the only thing a student does then it leaves no wiggle room when getting to university and having to cope with work a lot harder. Taking on things outside the classroom show that the student can balance study with other things, and so is less likely to flunk when sent out to the independent world of university.

    Anyway, you're right that interviews are where these things would be judged (I presumed this was the stage being discussed).
     
  18. Apr 25, 2009 #17
    Re: Guidance

    Hmm, having looked into it a bit this afternoon I think you were right at first cristo, in saying that I should put down extra-curricular activities however mainly in relation to the course, like CERN & the astronomy club.

    Does anyone know if there's anything else I can do? / What looks very impressive? :F
     
  19. Apr 25, 2009 #18
    Re: Guidance

    I chose Exeter as my main choice as I got offered 3k a year if I get 3As and can achieve a 2:1 which is awesome as it means I won't have to worry about part time work while I'm there, I also loved Exeter when I visited it, they run a physics summer school each year which you should definitely attend, there are lots of Oxbridge applicants there so it is nice to make smart friends :P

    Warwick was my 2nd choice as their course looked pretty awesome, but you have to travel in in the later years at Warwick as most private accommodation is in Leamington Spa which is 7 miles away. So I also preferred Exeter for that, as the campus is pretty much in the city, like a 10 min. walk and it's all green and pretty :)

    Hmm.. Further Maths is hard at A2, especially FP2. But FMaths is helpful for physics at uni so obv. carry on studying it, if I were to make my choices again I would drop Chemistry as I really really hate it now (memorising Transition Metal complex colours isn't fun) but obviously I didn't take French so I don't know how hard that is. Also Chemistry seems to differ between exam boards and has changed A LOT for your year so don't base your decisions on my experiences.

    I assume you are planning on doing a 4-year MPhys right, so you should consider where you would like to live for four years as well as the reputation of the uni which will mean little if you drop out. For example, I didn't apply to Imperial as I knew I would hate living in London.

    As for the PAT test, there is very little help unfortunately, there are a FEW example papers on the Oxford Physics site but there seriously isn't much at all. Try to get staff at school to help you if you can, I had a spot of bad luck as my Physics teacher had left a few months before I had the test so I didn't have a lot of support. I don't know how much the Personal Statement matters as I got rejected before interview stage due to the PAT.

    I would suggest looking at the PAT a lot, start looking now, and all through the summer, I left it mostly until the half term before I had to take the test to do serious studying for it which was too late really. I would recommend you start ASAP, I found that a lot of stuff came up that was studied at the A2 level in my maths board but at the AS level for some others so keep in mind that all exam boards take the same PAT so you will have some extra studying to do.

    It is hard, and very stressful and nerve-wracking on the day but you seem smart and enthusiastic so you should do well :)

    And if you don't then you are lucky that you live in the UK where there are dozens of good unis you can go to. On that note, you seem to be placing a LOT of importance on the reputation of the Uni which is important (I.E don't go to a post-1992 'uni') but isn't massively important, once you get in the top 20 or so they are all pretty similar as due to the small numbers of physics applicants most bad physics departments have been culled and the IoP accredits the courses and makes sure they are all at the same standard.

    So don't go somewhere that might make you miserable for four years just because some vague notion of its prestige allows for bragging rights.

    But anyway, good luck, I hope you do well :) If you have any more questions just ask!
     
  20. Apr 25, 2009 #19
    Re: Guidance

    Thanks so much, that post was really good and informative :D, maybe I should be looking at other universities more, and perhaps there is an element of blindness in that i've always wanted to go to Oxford to study Physics without really considering the place etc, however the course covers practically every single topic possible at undergraduate level which is what makes it so appealing.

    Perhaps i will reconsider a bit :P, thanks again & as far as the extra-curricular activities go I suppose that i'll just carry on as I am now.
     
  21. Apr 25, 2009 #20
    Re: Guidance

    I really wouldn't worry too much about the extra-curricular stuff, just write a reasonably good personal statement and make sure you get As in the Summer and a decent PAT score and you should do fine.

    Btw, my twin brother got offered a place on Nat Sci at Camb. but turned it down to go to Exeter because he decided he preferred the course there and the tangible advantage of the scholarship. Also Cambridges offer was 4As at A2 in FMaths, Maths, Phys, and Chem and if he failed that then he would have given up the scholarship for nothing which would have been pretty lame.

    I didn't apply to Cambridge because Nat Sci involves Chemistry and I just want to finish A2 so I never have to do it ever again :)
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: AS's at a grammar school in maths
Loading...