A step by step guide to preparing for success in the MAT

3 min read

A Step-By-Step Guide To Preparing for the MAT 2024

If you’re applying to Mathematics course, Computer Science course – and other related courses – at the University of Oxford, University of Warwick or Imperial College London in 2024-2025, you will be sitting the MAT exam held every November as part of the admission process for these universities. This exam tests your aptitude for mathematics against a syllabus based on the A-levels Maths curriculum. 

Below is a compilation of insider tricks from our trusted MAT experts to help you succeed in this challenging exam.

Preparing for the MAT

Preparing for the Journey:

The first thing you need to do to start preparing for the MAT 2024 is to make sure you know all the topics on the MAT syllabus. Ensure you can comfortably answer all the questions on the official ‘MAT Syllabus Practice’ document. If you are unclear about any of the topics, revise them from textbooks and practice related problems such as MAT past papers. It’s not a good idea to leave out any of the topics, hoping they might not appear on the test; because the MAT assesses adequate holistic mathematical competency, they will make sure to include at least one question on each topic. So get your pen and paper ready and start ticking topics off the list as you get them done! 

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Getting a taste of the MAT:

Now that you’re confident that you know the syllabus by heart, it’s time to try out some actual exam-style questions through MAT past papers. Open up a MAT past paper from before 2009 (you don’t want to use up all the recent Oxford MAT past papers just yet!) and try out a few questions just to get a feel for the test. It’s better not to time these MAT past paper attempts, as at first you want to make sure you can solve the problems without any pressure. In our opinion, the MCQ questions are the easiest to make mistakes in, and are more varied in topics, so you should attempt all of the MCQs from these MAT past papers.

Analysing the solutions:

As you practice the Oxford MAT past papers, go over the official MAT solutions. Oftentimes, the official situations offer a more efficient methodology so regardless of whether or not you got it right, there will be something new to pick up from the rationales. If you find new techniques in the solutions that you didn’t know before, you should spend time trying to include it in your arsenal! This is also important in ensuring you’re able to complete the MAT exam under timed conditions as exam shortcuts can come in handy!

Concise solution writing:

Since MAT 2024 is a written exam, where you must justify all your answers, you need to learn to write clear and concise solutions. This doesn’t come naturally to most of us, and it takes practice. When you write proofs, focus on making your arguments legible. Make use of negative space between your arguments, so they don’t become a huge jumble of words. It goes without saying that if your examiner doesn’t understand your solution, you will not get the marks for it. Again, reviewing official MAT solutions will be useful here. You should try to mimic the structure of the answers on the official solutions. Our MAT textbook can help!

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    Taking timed mock exams:

    After you’ve gained a fair amount of confidence with MAT style questions, you should see how you perform under exam conditions. You should take at least a couple timed mock MAT exams, attempting them within the allotted time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. This will give you a better sense of how to utilise your time during MAT. After taking the first mock MAT exam, you should reflect on what went wrong and what could be done better, and plan accordingly for the following MAT exams. This is why taking a few mock MAT exams using MAT past papers is helpful, as it will give you chances to test out different strategies.

    Grading and setting expectations:

    After each mock MAT exam, you must check the solutions, grade yourself and compare your score to the score distributions published by the universities. You might find your score to be inadequate in the first few mock exams. But that’s okay. Firstly, you will improve over time. And secondly, you should keep in mind that the scores published are averages among the successful candidates. Which means, half of the successful candidates got below the average successful mark! This is quite easy to overlook when you compare yourself to those mean scores. But bear in mind that the MAT is only one element of the overall admission process. So, if you scored lower than expected, don’t be disheartened, just keep practising, and try to improve upon any areas of weakness, and your scores will reflect this in time!

    Preparing for the MAT: Time management 

    By this point in your preparation, you should have a solid understanding of your weaknesses and strengths. You probably know which questions are more time consuming, and which you can get correct fairly quickly. Now it’s time for you to start strategizing your time utilisation in the actual MAT exam. Whilst it’s best to come up with your own strategy for the exam, here’s a sample from one of our very own top MAT scorers.

    So that was the topper’s MAT strategy: try the hard ones first -> if you get stuck, move on -> come back to them later. If you want to learn more from our MAT top performers, check out our MAT online course.

    Preparing for the MAT 2024

    Before you start working

    Before you start thinking about the MAT questions, glance over them and have a quick look to see if there’s something interesting – like that one automaton problem you did previously – or if there’s something really nasty, like a complicated integration problem. Then list the questions in the order in which you will attempt them. Knowing what lies ahead will give you a sense of confidence that helps a lot during exams like this!

    What to do if you get stuck

    Should you get stuck – and this happens to nearly everyone during the MAT – move on swiftly to the next question. In our experience, when you get stuck on a question, it’s because you’re unable to conceptualise new ideas. So not only do you save time by moving on to a new question, you may also find new ways to solve the problem!

    Check your paper before the time runs out.

    So 2 hours and 20 minutes have passed! Now it’s time to take a little break and go back to see what you’ve written so far and if you have missed any questions. Redoing a whole question at this point is impractical, but if you notice any easily rectifiable errors in your solutions, this is the time to fix them. If you find that you haven’t answered some of the MCQs, give them a quick go as there’s no negative marking and there’s still a chance you might get lucky and clinch a few marks.  

    And that’s all from our experts on how to ace MAT 2024. Doing well on the MAT depends on your affinity with the MAT syllabus, and your confidence in solving problems in exam conditions. It’s our hope to make MAT revision tips and advice more accessible to the global applicant cohort and so, if you would like to chat to our MAT experts who have had first-hand experience with the exam, feel free to reach out. Good luck!

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