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How to prepare for Oxford MAT

Table of Contents
How to prepare for Oxford MAT
Table of Contents

After deciding to apply for mathematics or computer science related courses at the University of Oxford or Imperial College, you may be preparing for Oxford MAT to find out how to plan your preparation time and what way to prepare more effectively. If you have similar questions, this blog will help you.

I. Before preparing for Oxford MAT

First of all, you need to know the basic information for Oxford MAT test, for instance:

  • Test date
  • Which courses for apply are required to take the test
  • Test format
  • Scoring method
  • Scope of the test

Second of all, visit the Oxford MAT website to download the latest official materials, including:

  • The latest syllabus
  • Past papers and solutions
  • Sample materials, such as sample questions, sample answer sheets, etc

What’s more — you need to know the MAT test changes every few years, such as revising the syllabus and changing the number of questions. Therefore, it is necessary for you to know the latest exam policies to avoid misunderstanding of the test form, scoring method and the test scope, so as to improve the efficiency when you prepare for Oxford MAT test.

UE Oxbridge Prep – Oxford MAT Past Papers (2001-2023)

You may download our collections of past papers via the test prep page as follows.

If you are not aware of the above key points, please refer to my blog, “Oxford MAT Test: A Comprehensive Guide”.

II. What kind of knowledge base is required for preparing for Oxford MAT?

From the perspective of knowledge scope, MAT syllabus has a high degree of coincidence with A-level mathematics knowledge, and basically does not exceed the scope of AP calculus and IB HL mathematics. Nevertheless, this does not mean that achieving an A*, AP 5 or IB 7 level will lead to a high MAT score. You should know that the scope of the test (breadth) and the difficulty (depth) of the test are totally two different things.

1. Do I need to study A Level Further Maths in advance?

No need. However, if you take preparing for the interview into consideration, I highly recommend that you study Further Maths in advance if time permits.

2. Will students applying for computer science courses be tested for knowledge of algorithms?

No. Students applying for computer-related courses at Oxford are asked to answer MAT Question 6 (Question 7 has been cancelled since 2023), which mainly tests algorithmic thinking. It can be answered if they have regular high school mathematics knowledge and algorithms are not required. However, students who have studied algorithms may have a mental advantage when solving problems.

3. Can the STEP math exam cover the knowledge required by MAT?

The knowledge point is completely covered, but the question type is different. The knowledge and test points involved in STEP pure numbers can cover all the contents of MAT’s syllabus, but the content and focus of some MAT’s questions are different. Simultaneously, the answering skills of MAT’s multiple choice questions are not involved in STEP. In general, students who have had STEP preparation experience have basically reached the level of knowledge to cope with the MAT test.

4. Does Oxford MAT test require a maths competition knowledge base?

Yes. In recent years, the trend of MAT test proposition has been developing in the direction of competition. Not only the questions are more and more like maths competition questions, but also the knowledge and algorithms such as number theory, combinatorial theory and recursion will be examined. Hence, students with training experience in maths competitions will have a certain advantage when taking MAT. For students who have not learned the knowledge and methods of maths competition, it is recommended to supplement the study of relevant content in the preparation stage.

If you want to know more about the trend of MAT test propositions, please refer to my blog “Oxford MAT Secrets: An In-depth Research”.

III. How to score high on Oxford MAT test?

MAT comprehensively examines students’ mathematical discipline literacy. Students with high MAT scores usually have strong mathematical operation ability, a high level of mathematical reasoning thinking, flexible ability, capacity to transfer knowledge in new situations and a good habit of writing mathematical proofs.

1. Excellent mathematical operation ability

MAT test does not allow the use of calculators, the requirements for mathematical operation ability are very high, can basically standard the domestic college entrance examination for mathematical operation ability requirements. Generally, students from the domestic curriculum system can basically meet the requirements of the MAT test in terms of mathematical operation ability. However, a considerable part of students studying international courses such as A Level, AP and IB cannot meet the requirements of MAT, which affects their problem-solving speed. So, such students often need to learn special calculation skills and speed training.

2. Excellent mathematical reasoning ability

Most students have not been trained in systematic logical reasoning thinking, and are not familiar with common mathematical proof methods, so they basically rely on intuition when solving MAT problems. As a result, it is easy to get stuck when dealing with MAT problems with slightly complicated conditions and logic. If you want to easily cope with MAT, you need to improve your own level of mathematical reasoning thinking, which usually includes but is not limited to:

  • Proficient in common proof methods in high school mathematics.
  • Familiar with basic mathematical logic reasoning methods.
  • Have a strong sense of classification and discussion.
  • Rigorous logical inference to classification problems.

3. The ability to adapt flexibly

When answering MAT multiple choice questions, you need to quickly select the correct answer, and it is not necessary to complete a question at all times. Flexible use of multiple-choice question answering skills can often get twice the result with half the effort; meanwhile, it can save a lot of time. Similarly, breakthroughs can often be made when responding to MAT questions by sensitively finding key hints or using conclusions for backinference. We can’t expect the test to be full of familiar questions. The ability to be flexible when confronted with questions you have never seen before can help you effectively improve your MAT test score.

4. The ability to transfer knowledge in new situations

In order to get a high MAT score, a complete solution to the last small question of the MAT question is the key of the key. So some students have a more utilitarian training method: focus on practicing the last question, learn more about its solution, and practice enough to get high marks. If you try a little, you will find that this method does not work, and I do not need to make any refutation here.

In fact, the last question of a considerable number of MAT questions tests whether students can understand the mathematical proof methods involved in the previous questions and their internal proof logic, and the ability to transfer the core method to a new situation to solve the problem. This is also the main line running through the Oxford MAT preparation process.
Basically, when entering the late stage of the MAT preparation, the MAT students with high scores I bring out will have a feeling of flowing water when they do the questions, and the answer to the last small question will come naturally.

5. Good writing habits for mathematical proof

Chinese students are generally weak in writing mathematical proofs and reasoning processes. In particular, many of the students I have taught with high IQ and extremely quick but informal mathematical thinking, their writing is extremely irregular and their reasoning process is not rigorous. It is normal for such students to do MAT questions without high scores or full marks. Therefore, for students who are not good at writing mathematical proofs, I ofetn give special guidance to their writing in the early stage of preparing for the exam to ensure that you don’t lose points you shouldn’t lose.

IV. 5 steps to set reasonable performance goals

The first step towards success is to set the goal of MAT test score reasonably. It is recommended to follow these steps to set achievement goals that are right for you.

1. Understand the MAT score requirements of target colleges and courses

There is no score line for MAT test, and the admission requirements for MAT scores mainly depend on the degree of fierce competition of applicants. Generally speaking, the requirements of MAT scores for relevant courses in universities are as follows: Oxford Computer Science courses > Oxford Mathematics courses > Imperial College Mathematics courses > Warwick Mathematics courses.

2. Arrange an assessment test

For most students, they have already mastered the basic mathematics knowledge required before preparing for Oxford MAT test. Through the test, they can diagnose the problems in the current mathematics learning process and make a preliminary assessment of their mathematics level. Commonly recommended:

  • Select past questions three years ago to find out. Avoid using the questions from the last three years, as these questions will be used in mock exams and are very valuable.
  • Print out the test paper in advance and have a pen and paper ready. For areas where the computer-based test is available, the online computer-based test is available via the diagnostic test link below.
  • Simulate the actual test scene and complete it within 2 and a half hours.
  • Score according to the answers and scoring standards. If there is no scoring standard or you feel unsure about the scoring basis, you may ask a professional teacher to make an assessment.
  • Keep the answer sheet of the test to facilitate the teacher to make a diagnosis later.

3. Evaluate assessment test scores

You can check the MAT scores over the years to understand the corresponding level of the assessment test score. It should be reminded that the test score does not represent the score you can achieve when you finally take the MAT test. You have to believe that through the next period of hard work to prepare for Oxford MAT, you will achieve better results than the assessment test.

4. Understand the difficulty of the test and its changing trend

After experiencing the assessment test, you should have a certain understanding of the difficulty of MAT questions and roughly know your current level of mathematics. I believe that at this time, you have already had a preliminary judgment of what kind of achievements you will achieve in the future.

However, I still recommend that you take a closer look at the actual difficulty of the MAT test and how it has changed in recent years before setting your score goals. Please take a few more minutes to read our blog “Oxford MAT Difficulty Analysis”.

5. Improve your mindset and set a reasonable goal

What is the score of MAT test to meet the admission requirement? There is no right answer to this question. You may wish to take a little time, click on the link below, look at the MAT parity data and admission statistics over the years, you will know why there is no standard answer to this question.

But every year, many students and parents ask me to estimate the admission score. Here, I can only combine the admission cases of previous years, the analysis of MAT scores and admission rates over the years to give a set of MAT scores applicable to Chinese students:

Colleges and courses
MAT minimum score (for reference)
Around 89
Around 86
Around 70
Around 55

(The above scores are unofficial data and only represent Xie Tao’s personal views.)
As a teacher, I certainly hope that every student can get a score of 85 or even above 90 in the test, and then get the offer of Oxford University successfully. But obviously this is not realistic. So I hope you can understand the difficulty of the MAT test and the acceptance rate, combined with your actual situation, math level, and can be used to prepare for the test time and energy, and other factors, reasonably set your score goals.

Because, when you encounter setbacks in MAT preparation, high performance goals will increase your frustration, and when the situation is severe you may have self-doubt, which has a negative impact on test preparation status. Reasonable achievement goals can increase your fighting spirit, so that you can continuously improve yourself in the “war” of preparing for Oxford MAT until you finally achieve your goal.

V. What are the methods for preparing for Oxford MAT?

From the perspective of training methods, there are no other than three ways to prepare for Oxford MAT test: systematic training, question practice and mock exams. The following analyzes the usage scenarios and expected effects of these three methods.

1. Systematic training

Systematic training method usually according to the requirements of the examination syllabus, in accordance with the reasonable order of each knowledge plate is systematically sorted out. This method takes the longest time, but it is also the most basic and effective way to prepare for the exam. This method should be adopted if the preparation time is reasonably planned.

2. Question practicing

Question practicing, as the name suggests, is to prepare for the test by practicing the past questions over the years. This method has obvious advantages – quickly familiarize yourself with the test and save time in preparing for it. But the effectiveness of this test preparation varies from person to person.
The scenarios and expected effects of this method are as follows:

  • Near the exam, do not have much time to prepare for Oxford MAT test and do practice, forced to use this way. In this case, it can only achieve the purpose of being familiar with the test form and the difficulty of the question, and do not expect to improve the score.
  • Some students have experienced a variety of international examinations, and have a lot of experience in the application of question practice methods, and feel that practice some past questions can master core skills. Students with this kind of mentality, if they have a very rich experience in maths competitions and achieve excellent results, this method is more suitable, and the training effect is often immediate. Otherwise, it is not recommended to use this method to prepare for Oxford MAT test.
  • According to the scientific preparation for Oxford MAT time plan, the system training of the first stage has been completed, and the second stage of test preparation has been entered, and the question practice method should be adopted. In this case, this method can achieve the best test preparation effect.

3. Taking mock exams

There is no doubt that the mock exams is usually most appropriate 3-4 weeks before the MAT test. It is generally recommended to schedule 1 mock exam every 1-2 weeks, and arrange 3 exams in total. The mock exams must strictly simulate the actual exam scene, not to pursue the goal of high grades, but to find knowledge loopholes and adjust the mentality before the test.

4. Which preparation strategy is better for you?

In general, when preparing for Oxford MAT test, I will flexibly adopt the combination of the above methods according to the students’ preparation time:

  • Students who have plenty of time to prepare for the test have the best effect of using systematic training + question practising + mock exams for three rounds of preparation.
  • However, most students have limited time, and they can also achieve good test preparation results by adopting the method of systematic training + mock exams, that is, skipping the training link of questions practice.
  • For students with very limited time or very high math level, question practice training + mock exams is adopted.
  • There are a few last-minute students, can only take the mock exams, brush a few sets of real questions. As for the results of test preparation, that is left to chance.

5. Why not recommend using practice question training instead of systematic training directly?

Here, there may still be many students feel very confused – why can’t they prepare for the test by practicing MAT questions directly? For students who do not know the MAT test, it is normal to have such thoughts. Here I will tell you why practicing MAT questions is not as effective as you think through a comparative analysis of multiple dimensions.

International high school mathematics
MAT test

Comprehensive degree

Test knowledge points are relatively single, and fixed, as long as you can do a few types of fixed questions can ensure that you get high scores.
Knowledge points, problem-solving methods, skills are very comprehensive. Without a long time of training is difficult to achieve a higher proficiency, it is difficult to get a high score.

Scope of examination

The syllabus changes little, and the test points correspond to the questions one by one, so the effect of practicing the real questions in recent years is very obvious.
The outline description is too concise, each set of papers only has 14-16 questions. And there are many questions of the test points beyond the syllabus, in fact, the coverage of the syllabus is less than 50%. And the outline is revised every few years, and the test point has increased or decreased. Practicing knowledge points that are not tested will waste time, and new knowledge points may not be practiced.

Analytic process

The process is detailed, the scoring criteria are clear, and it is very helpful for the feedback.
In recent years, the analysis of real questions is very detailed, and the scoring standard is clear. Yet, the analysis of the earlier real questions is not detailed, no images are provided, and the scoring criteria are unknown or even missing.

Knowledge system

In the case of systematic learning of high school mathematics knowledge, practice questions, the effect is obvious.
In addition to the knowledge of high school mathematics, we also need to master the knowledge of number theory, mathematical proof methods and some basic mathematical ideas.

VI. How to plan the time when you prepare for Oxford MAT test?

The longer the preparation time of general planning and the more fully prepared, the greater the improvement of MAT scores. The specific preparation time varies from person to person, and is related to whether students have STEP preparation, maths competition experience and the curriculum system they have learned.

1. Have experience in STEP preparation

If the STEP exam can reach level 2 or above, it is generally recommended to start practicing MAT real questions or sets of questions by classification around August.

2. No STEP preparation experience, but have competition foundation

If AMC can be promoted to AIME, or SMC to BMO 1, it is generally recommended to start preparing for the MAT test around July.

3. There is no competition basis, the study is A Level curriculum system

It is generally recommended to start preparing for the test no later than June, and to practice a lot in a targeted way.

4. There is no competitive basis, and you take AP or IB courses

The AP and IB mathematics syllabus differs from the MAT syllabus, but the difference is not significant. A small amount of unlearned knowledge can be made up in a relatively short time. However, AP and IB mathematics focus on the students’ understanding and application of mathematical knowledge, while MAT focuses on the ability of mathematical logical reasoning and knowledge transfer. In addition, there are obvious differences between AP Calculus and IB mathematics courses in the use of calculators. For example, AP calculus must be proficient in computer drawing, while MAT requires freehand drawing and can not use calculators.

It is generally advice to start preparing for Oxford MAT immediately after the AP, IB or final exams, that is, at the end of May or early June.

VII. Last but not least

As a senior Oxbridge written test preparation teacher, I would like to emphasize that there is no shortcut to prepare for Oxford MAT test. In addition to long-term planning, the use of scientific and efficient test preparation methods to achieve high scores, but also need long-term persistence and unremitting efforts.

If you also want to ask me what are some good MAT preparation resources I can recommend? In addition to the “Oxford MAT Standard Course” and “Oxford MAT Question Practice” written and developed by myself, I have a detailed introduction in the article “Oxford MAT Test Preparation resources Recommendation and use Suggestions” (soon to be released, please pay attention to my public account, you can read this post at the first time).

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