How to get into the University of Cambridge for Maths

Maths is a particularly competitive course at Cambridge University with a 16.6% success rate. So, ensuring that your application stands out to Cambridge’s admissions officers is super important.

If you’re thinking of applying for Maths or just curious about what it takes to get into one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge, this guide contains everything you need to know. We cover entry requirements as well as tips on how to prepare from our specialist admissions tutors.

The Profs’ Maths tutors have first-hand experience of the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are over 3x more likely to receive an offer from Cambridge University. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.

Don’t forget to check out our other articles on how to get into Cambridge and what to do if you don’t meet Cambridge’s entry requirements!

What is Maths at Cambridge like?

Cambridge is ranked as the no.1 university in the UK for Maths according to the Complete University Guide, 2024. 

The Cambridge Mathematics syllabus offers flexibility and allows you to explore different subjects. After the foundation courses in the first year, you have more autonomy in choosing your subject in subsequent years. You can determine your academic path by choosing to specialise or maintain a broad focus by delving into different subjects.

Cambridge provides two Maths course durations: a three-year option culminating in a BA Honours degree, and a four-year pathway that integrates a Master’s program, resulting in a BA alongside a Master of Mathematics (MMath) degree.

What are the entry requirements for Maths?

Maths, like all courses at Cambridge, is very competitive. The course requires applicants to achieve excellent grades and show a strong aptitude for Mathematics and other quantitative subjects. The table below shows the entry requirements for Maths:

QualificationGrades
A levelsA*A*A
Scottish/Advanced HighersA1, A1, A2
International Baccalaureate (IB)40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level.

Note that 85% of entrants from an A Level background achieved grades A*A*A* (from 2017-2019). All these students studied Maths and Further Maths; the majority took Physics and over half took Chemistry. For the same period, the majority of IB entrants achieved at least 44 points overall.

Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study Maths at Cambridge? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve the entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.

Which subjects are recommended?

The most important qualification Cambridge requires is Mathematics A level (or equivalent). Any university degree in Maths will require a robust mathematical foundation, especially one at Cambridge. If you’re studying IB, you should take Maths at higher level and select Analysis and Approaches.

Cambridge also requires Further Maths. As a top university, the Maths course at Cambridge is extra challenging, and with how competitive the course is, Cambridge can afford to stipulate an extra A level like Further Maths. If Further Maths is not offered by your school or you cannot take it for some reason, ensure that your referee mentions this for you in your application. If not, mention this yourself.

Most colleges request an A* in Maths and Further Maths.

It’s ideal if your remaining 2 A levels are in Science subjects. Chemistry and Physics are especially preferred. 

Please note that some colleges have their own entry requirements, so always check directly with your chosen college/s. For example, A level applicants to Downing College are required to have studied a third Science or Maths subject and IB applicants will need Higher Levels in Physics and another Science subject.

Which admissions test do you need to take for Maths?

If you’re applying for Maths at Cambridge, you’ll need to take the STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper). STEP is a notoriously challenging Mathematics admissions test used by a handful of top universities. It is loosely based on the content covered in AS and A level Maths and Further Maths, however, the style of the questions is more similar to undergraduate-level Mathematics.

Please note: If you’re shortlisted for an interview, you might be asked to take a written assessment and/or complete some reading before your interview. Please check directly with your chosen college/s to verify whether this is the case. Keep an eye on your email and don’t worry about registering for anything beyond the STEP as colleges will provide details directly to you. 

What STEP score do I need for Maths at Cambridge?

All colleges stipulate a minimum attainment of grade 1 in one STEP paper (STEP 2 or 3). While the baseline offer requirement is grade 1 in both STEP 2 and 3, certain colleges may extend alternate offers to select candidates on an individual basis. 

Depending on unique circumstances, some Colleges may present A level applicants with an offer contingent upon achieving either AAA with a minimum grade of 1 in both STEP papers 2 and 3, OR AAA* with a minimum grade of 1 in either STEP paper 2 or 3 (with both papers required). 

The following Colleges are participating in the flexible offer scheme for entry in 2025.

  • Downing 
  • Emmanuel 
  • Girton
  • Jesus 
  • Lucy Cavendish
  • Newnham 
  • Robinson
  • Sidney Sussex
  • Trinity Hall  

You should speak to your school about registering for STEP and note that the test is usually taken in June, towards the end of your A level exams.

Nervous? Ask our amazing STEP tutors to help you smash the test.

What does the STEP involve?

The STEP exam is divided into two papers: STEP 2 and STEP 3. There used to be a STEP 1 paper however, as of 2021, this has been discontinued. STEP 2 is based on A Level Maths and AS Level Further Maths, while STEP 3 is based on A Level Maths and A Level Further Maths, so the content is slightly more challenging in STEP 3.

Both papers contain 12 questions spread across three sections: the first section contains 8 Pure Maths questions, the second contains 2 Mechanics questions, and the third contains 2 Probability/Statistics questions.

To find out more about the STEP, including how much it costs to take and how to prepare for the test, read our helpful guide. Our expert STEP tutors are on hand to help you secure top scores.

How hard is it to get into Maths at Cambridge?

Applying for Maths at Cambridge is no easy feat. 

If you’re thinking about applying to Cambridge, take a look at the table below to get an idea of the competitiveness surrounding this undergraduate degree: 

ApplicationsOffersAcceptances
1,515537252

The table is based on the 2022 cycle.

The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors can help you triple your chances of getting into Cambridge to study Maths. Thanks to our network of experienced tutors, many of whom are Oxbridge graduates and ex-admissions officers themselves, we have the very latest and best knowledge on what Cambridge is looking for in their Maths applications. Get in touch with us today to chat with a member of our team about how we can help with your application to Cambridge.

What are the fees for Maths at Cambridge?

The table below shows the fees for Cambridge’s Maths course for both home (UK) and overseas students:

Student statusCourse fees (per year)
Home£9,250
Overseas£35,517

You can find out more information about what fees you will pay on Cambridge’s fee status page. You can also use Cambridge’s fees, funding and financial assistance page to see the funding options available to you.

4 tips on how to get into Maths at Cambridge

1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process

When applying to study Maths at Cambridge, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.

  • Your grades – preparation for your Maths application starts from the moment you begin your GCSEs and A levels (or equivalent). An excellent academic track record is essential in order to be considered for a place at Cambridge. Your GCSEs should be as high as possible, especially for your quantitative subjects, and you should be aiming for A*A*A in your A levels (or equivalent) as a minimum and A*A*A* for the best chance of an offer.
  • Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your Maths application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for Maths and prove to Cambridge that you are interested and committed to the subject area. Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd and be as specific as possible to Maths and Cambridge. Why are you the perfect fit for this course at Oxford? Check out our previous article on how to write a winning personal statement.
  • The admissions test – the STEP is a challenging admissions test designed to identify the very top applicants to Cambridge’s Maths course. It’s important that you prepare for this test just as you would for any other exam. Read our guide on how to prepare for the STEP for more information on the test and expert tips, or get in touch with our experienced STEP tutors for one-to-one support.
  • The interview – if your UCAS application is impressive enough, you may be invited for an interview at Cambridge. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for the course. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and there’s often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively. We have a guide on completing Oxbridge interviews here.

Need some help with any of the steps above? We have experts for each niche: GCSE tutors, A level tutors, personal statement tutors, STEP tutors, and interview tutors. We can help you smash each and every step.

2. Do wider reading and learning

You might assume that, because Maths is a quantitative subject, wider reading does not need to be a priority. However, building up a broad background understanding of issues in Maths is very important and is seen as excellent preparation by Cambridge as they are looking for independent learners who are curious and enthusiastic, and will stay dedicated to Maths throughout their undergraduate degree. 

There are a variety of useful books that you can use to grow your knowledge and deepen your interest in Maths, which you can then reference in your personal statement. Some of Cambridge’s recommended readings include:

  • To Infinity and Beyond by Eli Maor, 1991
  • A Mathematical Mosaic by Ravi Vakil, Brendan Kelly, 2008
  • Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Science by E.T. Bell, 1996
  • How to Think like a Mathematician by Kevin Houston, 2009
  • Black Hole Blues by Janna Levin, 2016
  • The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data by David Spiegelhalter, 2019

You can find more recommended Maths readings by Cambridge here.

You can appear like a keen and dedicated student by referencing a couple of these books to show that you’ve read Cambridge’s suggested reading list. It’s best if you can go beyond their reading list and demonstrate independent thought by linking one or two of these texts to more niche texts that you found yourself.

You can also immerse yourself in these subjects through podcasts, open lectures, online courses, documentaries, and reading. Mention your independent study in your personal statement.

3. Demonstrate your mathematical ability and passion for Maths

The Maths course at Cambridge requires students to have a strong mathematical foundation. The university will therefore be looking for applicants who can demonstrate a strong aptitude for Maths and other quantitative subjects and who go beyond their existing curriculum in the pursuit of further knowledge. 

You can demonstrate your mathematical aptitude by taking the MAT, TMUA, UK Maths Challenge and/or Maths Olympiad. Alternatively, you could study a MOOC in Maths, Physics or Chemistry independently or with a teacher and then mention this in your personal statement. Reach out to our expert team for further guidance. 

One good place to look for what knowledge Cambridge is particularly looking for is in its Mathematics for the Natural Sciences Workbook, which is produced by its Faculty of Mathematics. All offer holders are strongly encouraged to attempt all of the exercises in this workbook, so looking at it before you apply can give you an advantage earlier in the admissions process. You can also use the university’s CamGuides resources to practise problems that will help you improve your applied mathematics skills.

Aside from developing your quantitative skills, it’s also important to show Cambridge that you have a passion for Maths. If you have attended any extracurricular clubs or challenges (such as the UK Maths Challenge), make this clear in your personal statement. 

4. Seek help from a Maths expert

Maths is one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge, an already competitive university. It requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer. 

Unfortunately, schools and colleges are often not equipped to provide specialist Maths or Cambridge admissions preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional Maths or Cambridge admissions tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ Maths tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, prepare for the STEP, and excel in the admissions interview. Many of our Cambridge admissions tutors have studied at Cambridge University or worked in Cambridge admissions. If you work with one of The Profs’ tutors, you are over 3x more likely to get into Cambridge. 

Gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of a range of Maths fundamentals and more specialised areas. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.