How to Prepare for the MAT

MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test) is a common Mathematics admissions test used by universities including Oxford, Imperial, and Warwick. The aim of the MAT exam is to help universities assess your ability to understand AS and A-level Maths and your suitability for a degree in Mathematics.

Preparing for the MAT exam can be a challenging and demanding undertaking. The test is required or recommended by just a handful of top universities and it can be hard to access useful information about the exam online.

That’s where The Profs’ experienced MAT tutors can help. With first-hand experience of the exam content, in-depth knowledge of the mark scheme, and an understanding of how it fits into the wider admissions process for top universities, our tutors are able to help you get the best possible MAT grade and secure a place on your first choice Mathematics course.

What is the MAT?

The Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) is an admissions test used by a handful of top universities to assess your mathematical ability. While it is based on AS level and a small section of A level Mathematics, it is designed to separate out the most competent applicants to the top universities in the UK, including Oxford, so it is challenging and requires plenty of preparation.

Which universities require MAT?

The MAT is an entry requirement for multiple Oxford courses, including Computer Science, Mathematics, Computer Science and Philosophy, and Mathematics and Statistics. It is also required by Imperial for Mathematics courses.

Some universities also recommend that you take the MAT (or the TMUA or STEP) to help your Mathematics application stand out, including Warwick, Bath and Southampton. If you perform well in the MAT, they may also give you a reduced grade offer (for example, AAA at A-level instead of A*A*A).

What is included in the MAT exam?

The MAT is designed to test candidates’ depth of mathematical understanding in the fourth term of their A levels (or equivalent) rather than their breadth of knowledge. It is designed to be accessible by all applicants to the UK’s top universities, including those without Further Maths A-level and students from other educational systems such as the International Baccalaureate (IB). However, the average grade for courses requiring the MAT is A*A*A, so although it is based on AS-level content, it is still designed to challenge the very top students.

The MAT is based on the first year of A level Maths and a few topics from the fourth term of A level Maths which Oxford thinks students will have covered by the time of the test. The exam lasts 2½ hours and during this time, candidates should attempt five of the seven questions in the paper. Question 1 is multiple-choice and contains 10 parts, while questions 2-7 are longer questions that require candidates to show their working out.

Which MAT questions should you answer?

The questions you should answer depend on which degree you are applying for – see the table below for details.

University Degree you’re applying for Questions you should answer
Oxford Mathematics 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Oxford Mathematics and Statistics 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Oxford Mathematics and Philosophy 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Oxford Mathematics and Computer Science 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6
Oxford Computer Science 1, 2, 3, 6, and 6
Oxford Computer Science and Philosophy 1, 2, 3, 6, and 6
Imperial College London* Mathematics courses 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

*Note that if you are applying to Oxford and another university such as Imperial or Warwick, then you should take the questions specified by Oxford. If you are not sure which questions to answer for the university or course you’re applying to, get in touch with them directly to check.

How is the MAT exam marked?

Question 1 is multiple-choice and contains 10 parts, each worth 4 marks. In this question, marks are given for the correct answers only (i.e. working out is not required or marked), though applicants are encouraged to show any working in the space provided. Questions 2-7, on the other hand, are longer questions that are each worth 15 marks. In these questions, candidates will need to show their working in order to gain full marks. Markers will give part marks for the longer questions but not for question 1.

The MAT is marked by University of Oxford graduate students according to a set mark scheme. In questions 2-7, any working out you have done is considered by the marker and, as long as you have followed the instructions in the question, done correct mathematics, and made your method clear, you should get marks for any method you use.

What is a good MAT score?

There is no grading system for the MAT and the average mark fluctuates from year to year. As a result, there is no ‘cut-off’ or pass mark for the MAT for any university. Instead, universities take into consideration the information from the test, together with all the details of your UCAS form, to make decisions about your application.

However, for Oxford University, the mean score of successful applicants is significantly higher than the mean score amongst all applicants. See the table below for the mean scores of applicants to some of Oxford’s courses requiring the MAT in 2022:

CourseAll applicantsShortlisted applicantsOffer holders
Computer Science37.860.367.2
Computer Science and Philosophy36.649.958.9
Mathematics and Computer Science47.369.175.8

As you can see, the mean score of all applicants ranged from 38 to 47 in 2022, but the mean score of successful applicants ranged from 50-76, so you should be aiming for the very best score possible in order to stand out to Oxford. The Profs’ MAT tutors can triple your chances of getting into Oxford and other top universities – reach out to our team today to start your MAT tuition.

Joe’s tip: If you are worried about not knowing what score you will achieve and prefer having a set grade to work towards, consider taking the TMUA if it is an option for you (i.e. if you’re applying to Warwick, Bath or Southampton). However, we would advise taking either the MAT or the TMUA rather than waiting to just take the STEP in the summer, as the STEP is significantly harder and it’s best to aim for a high score in one of the former while the option is there.

When is the MAT exam?

The MAT exam usually takes place on a set date in November. This is after the October Oxbridge application deadline, so you will need to perform well in order to progress in the Oxford admissions process and receive an interview offer.

How do you register for the MAT?

To register for the MAT, you’ll need to ask the exams officer at your school or college, or your local test centre, to register you as a candidate. Your exams officer will then register you for the exam on your behalf.

Many schools are already authorised test centres for Cambridge admissions tests, however if your school or college is not, they can apply to become a test centre. If you’re unsure whether your school/college is authorised, speak to your exams officer. To find out where your local test centre is, you can use Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing’s Find a Test Centre tool.

When should you register for the MAT?

The deadline for registering for the MAT is the same date as the Oxbridge application deadline in October. However, you must inform your exams officer or local test centre that you need to register for the MAT as soon as possible to ensure they have time to process your application and that you are eligible to sit the test.

How much does the MAT cost?

Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing does not charge candidates to take the MAT. However, some (but not all) test centres may charge an administration fee to cover the cost of invigilation, despatch costs and room hire which are essential for running the test. Make sure you check with your exams officer or local test centre for details on charges.

When can you find out your MAT results?

Candidates’ MAT scores for Oxford applicants sent out automatically in early January. Candidates applying to other universities may also request their test results as part of the usual feedback processes for the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, or the University of Warwick.

5 tips on how to prepare for MAT

1. Join the MAT livestreams

From early August, the University of Oxford delivers a free weekly MAT livestream to help prospective Mathematics applicants get a taste of what the MAT entails and begin preparing. The sessions are available to everyone and talk through a range of Maths problems and problem-solving strategies that you can apply to the MAT.

Each week is themed around a set of topics and questions which you can access in advance. Each of these accessible sheets includes revision material, warm-up problems, and past MAT questions taken from the 2013-2017 papers to work through. This means you can save the 2019, 2020, and 2021 papers to use as timed practice papers later in your preparation (see tip 2). These papers will also be covered in three livestreams by Oxford at the end of their programme, just before MAT 2022.

2. Get to know the syllabus

Oxford University publishes the full MAT syllabus on its website for all applicants to access – so make the most of it! Work your way through the content on the syllabus and identify which topics you have covered at school. If there are some topics you haven’t studied yet (for example, sequences and series), you can set about studying those topics in greater depth as part of your preparation.

Completing questions on each of these topics will also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you have every base covered ahead of the exam. You can use the MAT past papers and specimen papers provided by Oxford as a bank of questions to work through, then use the solutions provided to mark and improve your answers.

Joe’s tip: Unlike STEP, which is based on A Level Maths and Further Maths which you may not have studied, the MAT is designed to be accessible to all students who have taken AS level Maths as well as other qualifications like the International Baccalaureate. Therefore, most, if not all of the content included in the MAT should have been covered in your first year of sixth form or college. If there’s any content you haven’t covered, or you require some weaknesses in the syllabus that you’d like to revise, speak to your teacher or school and see if they are able to help. They are far more likely to be able to provide support for the MAT than for the STEP.

3. Practise past papers under timed conditions

Once you’re familiar with the style of MAT questions and know how to go about answering them, start attempting past papers under timed conditions. This will help you to gauge what sort of pace you work at and how long you should be spending on each question in order to complete the paper in the 2½ hours provided. Once you’ve finished a past paper, it’s also a good idea to mark your answers against the mark scheme provided. For any questions you get wrong, use the worked solutions provided to see where you went wrong and make sure you understand how to get the correct answer.

Keep a track of what scores you get in each past paper you complete. You should notice that the more tests you do, the more your scores improve. Keep in mind the average score of successful applicants and use that as a benchmark to aim for. However, note that this score will change year to year and you’ll want to ensure you stand out in any way you can, so even if you’re already hitting that benchmark, always continue practising and aiming for the best score you can possibly get.

4. Try some STEP and other admission test questions

If you’re running out of MAT questions, or you’re just looking to expand on your mathematical knowledge before the MAT exam, try answering some questions from other Maths admissions tests like the STEP and TMUA. The STEP, an admissions test used by Cambridge University, is notoriously difficult and may give you an additional challenge as part of your preparation.

5. Seek help from a MAT expert

How you perform in the MAT will impact how likely you are to be offered a place by top universities, so it’s really important that you are prepared to do as well as possible in the exam. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist MAT preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional MAT tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ MAT tutors have many years of experience preparing students for the MAT exam, with many having actual experience as exam and admissions officers as well. Over these years, they have built a bank of previous questions and developed in-depth knowledge of the mark scheme, so they know exactly what examiners will be looking for.

If you work with one of The Profs’ tutors, you are more than three times more likely to get into Oxford, which is ranked the sixth best university in the world to study Mathematics and offers the highest quality educational experience. You’ll also gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for higher education, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of a range of mathematical concepts.

Plus, you can trust us to guide you through every stage of the admissions process to ensure that you don’t just succeed in the MAT, but also achieve top A level or IB grades and perform well in your interview. Reach out to our friendly team today to get started.