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Schools To math university students / experienced mathematicians

  1. Apr 3, 2007 #1
    Sorry if this has been posted...

    I really want to do a Maths + CS joint degree for 4 years at university. I'm currently in Year 13 doing Maths + Mechanics (and Physics, Chem).

    How hard will I find it? Just to give you a clue, I got marks in the high 90 %s in my modules in Maths, so I am good at whatever exams test you for, but lots of people say you have to naturally good at maths to do well at university, and I'm not sure if I'm really that naturally good...

    I can pick up concepts somewhat easily, and have a good memory, but I do find the STEP test (here are some samples: http://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergrad/admissions/step/advpcm.pdf [Broken]) slightly difficult. Some parts of it are easy, and most parts I understand by reading through the answers and few parts I don't understand. I'm not doing Further Mathematics so maybe that has something to do with it, as that link does have questions for STEP 2 and 3. But at university level I guess you can do those with your eyes closed??

    So am I good enough for Maths? Sorry if this seems muddled but it's hard to write it down properly.

    What I mean is, if you're doing uni level Maths and you're doing well, did you find that you were really really really clever at college/school (who didn't need to do a lot of practise for anything)?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2007 #2

    matt grime

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    STEP is not designed to test what you can memorize. It tries to test how good you are with the maths you do know. It is very unlikely that most people at university doing maths will ever get good marks in STEP 3.

    If you're only doing Single A-level, then doing well in STEP 1 is a good, and means you'll have a reasonable chance of getting in to Imperial/Warwick/Oxford/Cambridge. Since you want to do a joint maths and CS thing I can be no more informative than that.

    What university do you wish to go to? If you want to go to Cambridge then you should be, essentially, top of your class. If you want to go to (picked at random and signifies nothing) A.N.Other Ex-polytechnic, isn't really well known for maths, then you'll find a C at A-level more than OK.
  4. Apr 3, 2007 #3
    I dont want to go to Cambridge or Oxford. I know they interview everyone but I don't think I'll handle the pressure (esp. since they prefer further mathematicians).

    To be honest, I am at the top of my class, I'm the best at Maths in all the non further mathematics group (there are 3) and I'm better than a lot of people in further maths according to my teacher. I don't want to go to a polytechnic or whatever, I'd like to make the top 10 at least, something like Imperial, Warwick, Bristol or York. Ideally Imperial.

    What I really want, obviously, is to go to Imperial and graduate being the best in year. (That probably won'/t happen statistically, but I want to try regardless of however daunting it is).

    PS: I dont need to do STEP, I'm only working through it cause it's fun and apparently it's an indicator of the type of stuff you will do university. And obviously there are people my age who can do well on the STEP and I want to be like that.
  5. Apr 3, 2007 #4


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    If you're saying you'll have an easier time at Imperial than at Cambridge I think you're mistaken. Sure Cambridge is quite tough but you get supervisions which are invaluable and lots of support, whereas from what I've heard in Imperial you're shoved into a comparable deepend but without the tons of support. Plus with the tons of international students whose background is far more rigorous than the A level (a completely pisstake I'm sure you'll agree =)), it is quite tough to do well. The whole top of the class thing goes out of the window at university I feel. Plus from what I gather getting a first in maths is not an impossible achievement with the way the exam is structured (similar to STEP, ie. long questions and short ones).

    PS: I'm an engineer not a mathematician but thought I'd share on the whole experience - one not to be missed out if you're up for it! Hope that helps.
  6. Apr 3, 2007 #5
    No I just think it'd be easier to get into Imperial than Cambridge. I'd love to go to Cambridge but I don't think I'm good enough :(

    Are you really sure it's tough to do well at Imperial??

    PS: what engineering are you doing and does it involve a lot of maths?
  7. Apr 3, 2007 #6


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    Sure it's much easier to get into - you're almost pretty much guaranteed an offer with As at AS whilst even straight 100% at AS won't guarantee you Cam. I never dreamt I'd get in - with a 25% odd acceptance rate given all the high quality applicants no one takes getting in as a given - but since it's just 1 of the 6 places on your UCAS and you get a day off college for the interview and you get to visit the place, it's quite an experience. Mind you I'm personally against this whole blanket "if you did well at AS go for it" mindset, but seeing you've already started looking at STEP and stuff I reckon if you really want to, it's worth giving it a shot. May I ask how many GCSEs/AS you have? I take it you're planning to apply after you finish A2?

    Not sure, but Imperial ranks in the top 15 world rankings and so is bound to be reasonably tough.

    Just in my first year and for the first two you have to do everything, so at the moment it's mechanics and thermofluids, structures and materials, electrical and information processing and maths. Yes, applied maths underlies pretty much everything. Lots of integration, differential equations, complex numbers, matrices... all the works. Then there's also the actual maths course which involves new stuff like linear systems, convolution, fourier series etc.
  8. Apr 4, 2007 #7
    Well no, I'm in my A2 year. Here's the history: last year I did Chem, Phys, Econ and Maths. I did well in all of them and this year I dropped Econ and did Biology instead because I wanted to do Medicine (for some stupid reason). Thankfully I got rejected at all four of my choices because I started hating medicine after taking Biology (which is some sort of indicator of what medicine would be like) and I wanted to do Maths instead.

    My GCSES are not great. I only have 1 A*, 5As and 3 or 4 Bs. So that's another problem. I've heard people say it will be very hard for me to get into Imperial due to this, but I feel I've really improved and I can do well in the interview. But anyway I'm put off from applying to Cambridge because of my 4 rejections... I don't want that to happen again even though I get 6 choices.

    I'm going through UCAS extra now. There are some good universities there -- Imperial, Bristol, York, Nottingham, but I will have a hard time because I chose Medicine originally. But hopefully my new PS will convince them!! Otherwise I will have to apply next year.

    By the way that engineering stuff sounds really really cool. Can I ask if you have to do any designing? Because I suck at art and DT and I hate to draw or design things.
  9. Apr 4, 2007 #8


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    Yes you might get in through Extra, or you could take a gap year off and reapply. I've PMed you on other stuff.

    Well we do alot of practical stuff - lots of drawing and projection theory (hate it with a passion) and then move on to CAD. We have lectures on product design/engineering applications etc and get a design project over the holidays based on a theme.
  10. Apr 4, 2007 #9
    Cambridge won't care about your GCSEs, I got in and mine are only slightly better than yours. Just do it, you'll be upset for a week if they reject you but you'll regret it for a lot longer if you don't take the chance.
  11. Apr 5, 2007 #10
    I don't know though. Obviously this is assuming I won't get in this year, but I'd have to do really well in the interview. Not really sure if I'm on par with the average Cambridge applicant. Anyway I hope I get in this year.
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