Studying A level Further Mathematics is excellent preparation for a degree in Mathematics. Many university mathematics departments encourage students to take Further Mathematics at A level as it introduces a wider range of pure and applied content, such as matrices and complex numbers. Students who have studied Further Mathematics often find the transition to university far more straightforward. Some leading universities now specify Further Mathematics as an entry requirement for their mathematics degrees.
33% of Mathematics BSc degree courses mention Further Mathematics in their entry requirements, including it in their A level offers or encouraging students to take it if possible. For those universities in the Russell Group, this proportion rises to approximately 60% (August 2016).
STEP, AEA, TMUA, MAT
In addition to A level grades some universities also require students to pass Sixth Term Examination Papers (STEP) , an Advanced Extension Award (AEA) in Mathematics which are taken in June. Others ask for the Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA) or the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) which are taken in November. Some other universities encourage students to take these papers and may include STEP, AEA, TMUA or MAT in their offers.
Entry Requirements for Mathematics Degrees
Some universities explicitly encourage students to take A or AS Further Mathematics by:
- making it a requirement for entry
- differentiating the grades in their offer for students with Further Mathematics qualifications
- offering financial support to students with Further Mathematics qualifications
- including encouraging statements about the benefits of studying A or AS level Further Mathematics
In order to be clear about the entry requirements for mathematics degrees, we strongly recommend visiting the university’s own website for the most recent information.
Applying for a Mathematics Degree
Mathematics can be studied as a single honours degree or as a combined/joint honours degree in conjunction with another subject. Most single honours degree courses have codes starting G1, followed by two others numbers or letters, often G100.
Before applying for a Mathematics degree course, look at the features of the course, for example:
- How many modules are optional? The number of optional modules often increases in the second the third years of the course – sometimes all first year modules are compulsory.
- Does the course include several areas of applied mathematics, for example, Statistics, Mechanics and Decision Mathematics (Operational Research) or does it specialise in one of these?
- Are any of the modules assessed via coursework?
- Do you know what each of the modules listed will involve? The FMSPW have produced a brief overview of a typical first year undergraduate mathematics course, which provides exemplar resources that illustrate the different aspects of mathematics you are likely to study. You will find these further down this page.
- Is the course delivered entirely by lectures? Most universities also provide support via seminars, tutorials and additional examples classes which expand on the material covered in the lectures.
There are a wide range of degrees which involve mathematics and these often vary, even when they have the same title e.g. ‘G100 Mathematics’. In addition, mathematics can be combined with many other subjects, such as:
- Mathematics and Computer Science
- Mathematics and Spanish/German/French
- Mathematics and Economics
- Mathematics and Physics
- Mathematics and Education
- Financial Mathematics
- Mathematics and Music
- Mathematical Biology
It is also possible to study for a Mathematics degree that involves studying abroad for one year.
Therefore, researching the content and structure of the degree course you plan to apply for is very important.
Application and Interview
All applications for degree courses are made via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website. The deadline for most courses is mid-January each year but the deadline for courses at Oxford or Cambridge is in mid-October (see UCAS website for exact dates). Most offers for degree courses in Mathematics are made without an interview. Of the 24 Russell Group universities, five interview applicants, with some of these interviews being informal. We strongly recommend that you check these details for any universities that you are considering.
The following general links provide useful information when preparing for a Mathematics degree course interview:
- General guidance on the application process for The University of Cambridge
- An overview of mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
- A tutor’s eye view of the Admissions Process at Oxford University.
- An overview of mathematics at Oxford University.
- Preparing for interviews from NRICH.
- The AMSP website – scroll down to the Interviews section.
Showing a general enjoyment of, and interest in, your chosen subject via wider reading would also be helpful in preparing for your interview.
Preparation for University Mathematics
The AMSP website has some useful preparatory information on maths degrees and university entrance including suggested wider reading and information about the areas of mathematics which are likely to be included in the first year of an undergraduate degree course. Scroll down to the Preparing for a mathematically-rich university course or apprenticeship section.
Studying A level or AS level Further Mathematics is excellent preparation for many engineering degrees as it introduces a wider range of pure and applied content, such as matrices and complex numbers. The content in the mechanics units is particularly useful preparation for some engineering courses.
Only a small number of engineering degree courses specifically mention Further Mathematics in their entry requirements, but many course leaders encourage students to take Further Mathematics if possible as it is a valuable introduction to the mathematical requirements of engineering degrees. In consequence, at some of the leading universities a significant proportion of engineering undergraduates have studied Further Mathematics A level.
A level Mathematics (or an equivalent qualification) is required by nearly all engineering degree courses in the UK. However, not all universities explicitly refer to the need for a mathematics qualification at level 3 in their requirements. Students are advised to be well-prepared mathematically when starting an engineering degree.
Some examples of references to Further Mathematics
Civil Engineering and Civil and Architectural Engineering
Desirable: We accept a range of subjects for the second and third A level provided that they include a good balance of subjects. Physics and/or Further Mathematics are recommended but not mandatory. (Bath University)
Our courses require students to have a good ability in complex numbers and for students who have not studied Further Maths at A Level this can sometimes lead to problems. (Imperial College, London)
Civil and Environmental Engineering
In addition to pure mathematics, some knowledge of applied mathematics, particularly mechanics, is required. Although Further Mathematics is not a course requirement, it is an advantage and is encouraged. (Oxford University)
The competition for places at medical schools is extremely high and as a result medical schools employ additional selection criteria. Here is a list of UK medical schools and their entry requirements, highlighting references to post-16 Mathematics qualifications. Always check directly with the medical admission tutor of the university you are interested in applying to.
There are two issues that Further Mathematics students should consider when applying to medical schools.
Recognising Further Mathematics
Until recently many medical schools would not include both Mathematics and Further Mathematics qualifications in their offers. Fortunately this is now changing. In many cases medical schools will include one grade from either A level Mathematics or Further Mathematics in their offer. Some will also accept Further Mathematics as an additional fourth subject at A or AS level.
However there are still some medical schools which do not count Further Mathematics and Mathematics as two separate qualifications. In a check, carried out in August 2016, of admissions information for entry 2017 to UK medical schools, about half placed restrictions on the applications involving Further Mathematics alongside A level Mathematics.
Completing A level Mathematics in Year 12
If students have completed A level Mathematics in Year 12 some medical schools will not count this in their offer. They insist that all A levels in the 3 subjects making up their offer are sat at the end of Year 13. Students completing A level Mathematics at the end of Year 12 would be made an offer based on their grade in Further Mathematics (taken at the end of Year 13), and two other subjects. Schools and colleges that arrange their Mathematics and Further Mathematics programme in this way should consider contacting medical admissions tutors at the universities to which their students have applied to explain the situation.
Reasons for Studying Further Mathematics
There are good reasons why prospective medical students should continue to study Mathematics and Further Mathematics.
- Medical schools recognise that mathematically strong and well prepared candidates perform well on medical degrees.
- AS or A level Further Mathematics is often a fourth subject option, and many medical schools will include AS Further Mathematics as the AS grade where this is needed.
- Studying AS or A level Further Mathematics has been shown to improve students A level Mathematics grades.
- Students starting in Year 12 may have ambitions to study medicine but this may change during the course for many reasons. If they then decide to aim for another STEM degree, studying Further Mathematics will better prepare them mathematically.
The importance of studying mathematics in preparation for a career in medicine was outlined in an October 2016 BBC News article Maths become biology’s magic number in which Sir Rory Collins is quoted as saying “If you want a career in medicine these days you’re better off studying mathematics or computing than biology.”
Pure Science Degrees
All Physics degree courses require A level Mathematics (or an equivalent qualification) for entry. Studying A level or AS level Further Mathematics is excellent preparation for a Physics degree as it not only provides more opportunity to study mechanics but also introduces new topics that you will find useful if you intend to study Physics, such as complex numbers, matrices, differential equations and vectors. Some Physics degree courses specifically mention Further Mathematics in their entry requirements, encouraging students to take Further Mathematics if possible. Increasing numbers of students starting physics degrees have studied either AS or A level Further Mathematics in addition to A level Mathematics.
All Chemistry degree courses require students to have good mathematical skills. For most courses you are not required to have studied AS and A level Mathematics content prior to starting your degree as you will be taught these topics during your first year. However studying some topics post-GCSE will provide useful preparation for your Chemistry degree. The mathematical techniques required for Chemistry ranges from basic manipulation of fractions through to calculus, including vectors and differential equations.
All biology degree courses require good quantitative skills. It is not just statistics but a range of mathematical techniques that is required from basic ratio to modelling with differential equations. On most courses you will be taught the mathematics required during your first year, although some mathematical knowledge may be assumed. The topics you will cover in the first year will be mostly content from GCSE and AS level Mathematics. There will also be some, particularly the probability and statistics and higher-level calculus which is from A level Mathematics.
Studying an A level Mathematics is excellent preparation for a degree in Computer Science as it introduces a range of mathematics skills and concepts that you are very likely to need during your study. Many Computer Science degrees require, or express a preference for, applicants studying for an A-level in Mathematics. This is because in A-level Mathematics you will, amongst other things, be introduced to the mathematics which is needed to describe 2D and 3D space which is essential for computer graphics, you will improve your existing mathematical skills which will help you greatly if you choose to study topics such as cryptography and internet security.
Some universities also require, or prefer, A level Further Mathematics. Taking Further Mathematics means you will study, for example, matrices which are used for computer graphics.
Studying A level Mathematics is something that should be considered by anyone thinking about applying for a degree in Economics as the nature of the subject means that you are likely to encounter mathematical ideas and concepts throughout your studies. Quite a few Economics degrees require an A-level in Mathematics and a number express a preference for students who have studied A-level Mathematics. This is because during your studies for a degree in Economics you will most likely meet concepts such as calculus, geometric progressions, logarithms and exponentials, all of which you will learn about in A-level Mathematics.
If additionally you have studied some Further Mathematics you will have met sigma notation and matrices which may also prove useful in your studies.
Studying Mathematics to at least AS Level, including some Statistics, is recommended in preparation for a Geography degree as it is a subject in which quantitative methods are an essential tool. A number of Geography BSc degree courses specifically mention Mathematics in their entry requirements. The majority of programmes include descriptive and inferential statistics, computer modelling and the use of statistical software. As well as being essential tools in the degree course these quantitative methods provide transferable skills that can be important in the workplace.
Studying A level or AS level Mathematics, ideally including some statistics, is excellent preparation for a Psychology degree as it introduces a range of mathematics skills and statistical concepts that you are likely to need during your study. A number of Psychology BSc degree courses specifically mention Mathematics in their entry requirements, some of which actively encourage students to take Mathematics. However, any degree accredited by the British Psychological Society requires training in the analysis of data and are likely to include concepts such as descriptive statistics (summarising your findings), inferential statistics (drawing conclusions from data), ability to generate research questions, explore patterns of data and analyse research findings.
Teaching offers a wide range of opportunities to inspire and guide young people to enjoy and succeed in mathematics and other related subjects. Good mathematics teachers are in high demand, with more teacher training places allocated to secondary mathematics in 2015/16 than for any other subject. There is also a high level of demand for teachers of biology, chemistry and physics and these four subjects, along with others including computing, are priority subjects for trainee teacher recruitment.
There are advantages to have a Mathematics degree but subject knowledge enhancement courses are available for students who want to teach secondary mathematics and who have an A level in Mathematics but a degree in a different subject. In addition to training as a specialist secondary mathematics teacher, for students with an aptitude for mathematics there are also opportunities to qualify as a mathematics specialist in primary education.
There are a wide variety of sports related degree courses available and many of them feature quantitative studies, analysis of athletic performance and research methods. Taking Mathematics to at least AS Level, including Statistics, will support study in these areas. Typical modules in Sports courses include Biomechanics, which looks at Kinetics (the analysis of the forces acting on the body) and Kinematics (the analysis of the movements of the body). Research and analysis modules require students to select and utilise appropriate data analysis techniques for specific topics in sport, health science and coaching. Statistical inference techniques such as paired data tests (t-tests) and correlation analysis often feature. Computer-based packages such as SPSS are frequently used and students are required to interpret the results. Students will undertake research projects such as testing the effectiveness of a particular treatment (in Sports Rehabilitation) and set up hypotheses to test their ideas formally.
Business and Management
Studying Mathematics to at least AS level would be beneficial preparation for a degree in business studies or a related subject, as the nature of the subject means that you are likely to encounter mathematical and statistical ideas throughout the course. Many aspects of business decision making are underpinned by detailed data analysis. A good understanding of the quantitative techniques for collection, analysis and interpretation of data are necessary in order to ensure that the best decisions are made. One key aspect of this data analysis is the use of statistics to summarise data and make predictions, and spreadsheets are often used to make this process easier.
The skills gained from studying a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) subject at A level or degree level are in demand by employers. Research shows that employees with an A level in Mathematics earn on average 7% to 11% higher salaries than similar employees who did not take mathematics beyond age 16. A wide range of subjects in both STEM and non-STEM fields are underpinned by mathematics. Having a broad mathematical knowledge and secure technical ability will help the transition from sixth-form to higher education. Together with good mathematical skills, employers are looking for the ability to work in a team, communicate effectively and show initiative.
A good place to start researching careers utilising mathematics is here: Mathscareers