The access to expertise provided by small tutorials is unparalleled by other universities’ undergraduate programmes.
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
I enjoy the variety. Studying mathematics and philosophy gives me the opportunity to spread my time between two practically different disciplines. This means from week to week I am reading papers, going through textbooks, writing essays, completing problem sheets and sometimes writing code. This keeps things fresh, and I rarely find my work tedious.
I also like the way the two subjects interact. Despite their ostensible differences, there is a large overlap between mathematics and philosophy in terms of their methodology and content. Learning maths has helped me to think about philosophy in a more rigorous and clearly defined way, and learning philosophy has helped me to think more deeply about the concepts I’ve learnt in mathematics and their broader significance.
How is your subject taught?
“The tutorials are incredibly valuable because you get access to an expert in the subject you’re studying with only a handful of other students present.”
For each course within both mathematics and philosophy, there will usually be 1-2 lectures each week and a tutorial every 1-2 weeks. For maths tutorials, you complete a problem sheet ahead of time, then go through the problems and solutions with the tutor in the tutorial. For philosophy, you usually write an essay ahead of each tutorial, then the tutor will give you written feedback and you’ll discuss this feedback in the tutorial. The tutorials are incredibly valuable because you get access to an expert in the subject you’re studying with only a handful of other students present, so it’s important to make the most of these by preparing well and asking lots of questions!
What made you decide to apply for Oxford and do you have any top tips on the application process?
I applied for Oxford because I was particularly interested in the mathematics and philosophy course, and because the access to expertise provided by the small tutorials is unparalleled by other universities’ undergraduate programmes. I didn’t have the chance to visit Oxford before applying, so I was lucky to be assigned to a college which I really like. If you can, I’d recommend coming to an open day to look around the colleges and choose one for your application.
“They want you to think deeply about simple concepts. Get into the habit of thinking about the why as well as the how of mathematics.”
In terms of tips, make sure to complete the MAT past papers. Acing the multiple-choice section goes a long way to getting a good mark. You’ll notice that the content they test is not particularly high-level, but the questions are nonetheless quite challenging. This means they want you to think deeply about simple concepts. Get into the habit of thinking about the why as well as the how of mathematics.
How did you prepare for your interview?
The interviews are deliberately difficult to prepare for. I made sure I could explain what was written on my personal statement. I also looked online to research the nature of the interviews and what the interviewers would be looking for. Past that, I planned to ask questions and be comfortable making mistakes. The purpose of the interviews is to test your teachability just as much as your ability.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
Mathematics is quite different at undergraduate level from how it is at school. I’d recommend talking to people who have studied it and/or looking into some undergraduate content online (there are plenty of introductory videos) to get a sense for whether you’d like it or not. For philosophy, you don’t need to have explicitly studied it or read philosophy books to know that you’re interested in it. This university is incredibly challenging but immensely rewarding. If you are diligent in finding a course you are passionate about, you’ll have a much better time here than if you don’t.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
The people. There is such an eclectic bunch of students and academics who are passionate about their respective subjects.