What next after AS/A level Mathematics
If you’ve taken AS or A level Mathematics, you’ll have a wide range of options for further study and employment. Here’s some information to help you consider them.
Careers with maths
You probably already know what direction you want to go in but, if not, the websites below might give you some ideas:
- Mathscareers provides information about careers that studying maths can lead to.
- Plus Magazine includes interviews with people who took maths-related degrees, explaining their career pathway and what they now do.
- Futuremorph explains what's in a maths degree and who employs mathematicians.
- Prospects details potential careers following a maths degree, and other careers that require A level Mathematics.
- StatsLife offers guidance on careers using statistics
- Learn About OR gives an overview of the range of careers available in operational research.
Several Higher and Degree apprenticeships offer routes into careers that are rich in maths, including accountancy, actuarial science, architecture, engineering and data science.
Choosing a maths degree
If you enjoy maths you might like to consider taking a degree in it.
Maths can be studied as a single subject BSc honours degree or as a combined/joint honours degree with another subject. Some courses include an optional work placement year to gain experience in industry, and some include the option to study abroad. Maths can also be studied as an MMath degree - a four-year degree in which the final year is at masters level.
Before applying, look at the features of the course:
- How many modules are optional?
- How much of the course is pure maths and how much is applied?
- What maths will the various modules involve? The legacy Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP) produced a brief overview of a typical first year undergraduate mathematics course. Along with other information on maths degrees, can be found in the FMSP Legacy Resources Archive.
- Are any of the modules assessed via coursework?
- How will the course be delivered? How much is by lectures, and how much by seminars, tutorials and additional classes?
- What extra support will be available?
There’s lot of information on the universities’ websites, but try to also go along to university open days. These provide the opportunity to find out more by talking to the staff, as well as getting a feel for the university itself. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has lots information on open days, virtual tours and exhibitions.
Maths in other degrees
Degrees other than Mathematics can also involve studying maths at a high level. The legacy FMSP produced some guidance on this within Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science and Geography degrees. This can be found within the FMSP Legacy Resources Archive.
Applying to university
All applications for degree courses are made through UCAS. The process for applying to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge is more a bit more involved - these videos provide helpful overviews:
The deadline for most courses is mid-January, but for courses at Oxford or Cambridge, or in Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science, the deadline is around mid-October.
If you are thinking of applying for a medical degree, and you completed A level Mathematics in Year 12, here is a list of UK medical schools and their entry requirements, highlighting references to post-16 Mathematics qualifications.
As part of the application process you’ll need to prepare a personal statement. If you are applying for a maths degree, it’s important to convey your enjoyment and interest in the subject. A good way to do this is to focus on some of the topics that you particularly enjoyed learning.
Most offers for maths degree courses are made without an interview, but some Russell Group universities interview applicants. For example:
- University of Cambridge
Each college has its own particular approach which can be found in the Cambridge University Guide to Admissions in Mathematics. There’s normally at least one mathematical interview (often two or three) of around 20-30 minutes. Sometimes the interview is based on previously prepared material or on work done under examination conditions just before the interview. Some additional general guidance can be found on the Interviews page. A video of a typical interview is also available.
- University of Manchester
After considering applications, many applicants are invited to a Visit Day, which includes a tour and an interview with an academic member of staff which helps determine the conditional offer made.
- The University of Oxford
Interviews occur over a three day period in December. They are mainly of a mathematical nature and last around 25 minutes. The aim is for tutors to see how you think when you do maths, and you may be asked to work at the board and talk through your thought processes. You can find a detailed overview of the maths interview process here, together with advice on how to prepare. There's also lots of general interview advice, videos of tutors, including extracts of interviews of potential students, and an Interviews Guide for Students. This video provides some general tips from admissions tutors.
- The University of York
All students who are made an offer are invited to attend a Visit Day between November and April, which includes a one-to-one chat with a member of academic staff. The interview may lead to an offer reduced by one A level grade or equivalent.
If you are invited to an interview, you may it useful to read the general advice on Preparing for interviews from NRICH. The legacy FMSP produced some examples of typical mathematical and general interview questions, and suggestions for wider reading that will help you demonstrate your interest in maths. This advice can be found within the FMSP Legacy Resources Archive.
Preparing for a mathematically-rich university course or apprenticeship
Whether you intend to go straight to university after Year 13, or take a gap year, preparing will help you to feel more confident and get you off to a good start. Here are some suggestions:
- Explore the topics likely to be covered in the first year. The legacy FMSP produced an example of a typical first year undergraduate module outline, with accompanying resources. These can be found in the FMSP Legacy Resources Archive.
- Explore the maths in AS Further Mathematics, especially matrices and complex numbers.
- If you are taking a gap year with the Year in Industry programme you can take an online course.
- Try the questions in the University of Cambridge's pre-course workbook.
- How to Study for a Mathematics Degree by Lara Alcock (ISBN 978-0-19-966132-9) explains what to expect at university and offers useful study advice.
- Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction by Timothy Gowers (ISBN 978-0192853615) explains the differences between university level maths and the maths learned at school.
- Number: A Very Short Introduction by Peter M. Higgins (ISBN 978-0199584055) provides a comprehensive view of the idea of number
- Popular mathematics books by authors such as Simon Singh and Ian Stewart.
- The University of Cambridge's recommended reading list.
- Titles suggested by NRICH
- Articles in Plus Magazine.
The legacy FMSP produced other materials to help prepare for maths and engineering degree courses. These can be found in FMSP Legacy Resources Archive.
This preparation will also be useful if you intend to take a Higher or Degree apprenticeship with a high level of mathematical content.