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Department of Mathematical Sciences

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the information available about the Admissions test?

A: In order to streamline our admissions procedure, to promote fairness, to enhance the possibility for alternative offers, and to prepare for upcoming changes in the A-level system, the Department has developed an Admissions Test (TMUA) for use in our selection procedure which will take place nationally in November. The Test is being administered by the CAAT who are currently responsible for STEP and the Oxford MAT. All schools currently registered for the MAT and STEP will be automatically registered for TMUA and information will be available either through your school or the CAAT website. After you have received your results for TMUA, CAAT will ask for your permission to send the results on to us on a voluntary basis.

(Note that we are happy for the MAT to be substituted for the TMUA if you are taking MAT for entrance to other universities and do not wish to double up on the tests. We will ask you at the end of November if you have taken MAT and automatically obtain your marks. TMUA and MAT will be considered equally in our selection procedure).

Q: What is regarded as a suitable mark for the TMUA test?

The pass mark for getting a reduced offer (A*AA) is 6.5. However we will treat marks below this down to a certain threshold as positive evidence in favour of you receiving a standard (A*A*A) offer. We will let you know this threshold around the time you receive your mark.

Q: I am not taking Further Maths. Can I still apply ?

A: We do prefer the full A-level in Further Maths, however we understand that sometimes the decision to focus on Maths is taken too late for this to be possible. We do however therefore insist that you take the AS-level FM and that you take the TMUA test if you are not taking the full A-level FM. We would then be able to consider you for an alternative offer of A*AA (with the A* in Maths) + A in AS level Further Maths if this is the case. However we do still need to see significant evidence of achievement and ability in mathematics.

Further Mathematics can be studied via the Further Maths Support Programme, which is designed for students in schools which dont do Further Maths. Further information can be found here

Q: I have plenty of evidence of A* performance in Maths but have underperformed (e.g. have a B at AS level) in my other subject(s). Will my application still be considered favourably ?

A: Our policy is only that we require a grade A for a third A-level. (Obviously excellence is other areas can differentiate between otherwise equal candidates when it comes to making offers though). Even if your grades in these other subjects are currently a bit lower, as long as you are clearly predicted to meet our offer and are averaging A* performance in Maths, it is certainly worth applying. The relevant thing regarding your other subjects is your school prediction, supported by the reference (not your own personal expectations).

If you have lower marks in these other subjects, it is particulary important that the reference supports a higher prediction for A-level.

Q: I am a Northern Irish student and I have noticed on your website that the University will take into consideration scores obtained from the new Admissions Test piloting this year, due to the A-Level changes taking place. My A-Levels are under the CCEA board, and although these are changes being made to the A-Level system, the A-Levels I am taking will still be modules as apposed to linear. Is it still necessary for me to take the Admissions Test? Will not taking it disadvantage me in any way?

A: We wish to encourage as many students as possible to take the test, and a good mark in the test will allow you to obtain a reduced offer. However, our admissions procedure will be that we will treat no-test people and test people seperately and give offers roughly in the same proportion, so in that sense you should not be unfairly disadvantaged in not taking it.

Q: I am a UK or EU student and have already taken the A-levels and/or other qualifications equivalent to your normal offer. Will I get an offer ?

A: As you already have the required grades you are *eligible* for an unconditional offer. However, you would still have to be selected for the offer from the same pool of applicants. For other qualifications, please provide as much detailed information as possible about your mathematics performance. We are aware than detailed marks are not available for all qualifications.

Q: I am predicted your A-level offer (including the third A-level), but am worried that I am only predicted a D in [some other A-level - for example Physics or Chemistry] that is probably important to you. Will that disadvantage my application ?
A: We do not have specific requirements for any additional subjects beyond Mathematics, and indeed the interests of our intake are very broad. We consider the whole application in the round, so a poor mark in a particular other subject would not in itself be detrimental to your application.
Q: How do you decide whom to make an offer to ?

A: In order to select whom to make offers to, the applications are ranked by a large team. This ranking is based on evidence of merit and potential. Our main criterion is real ability and experience in Mathematics beyond GCSE level. Almost all applicants will be on course to meet or exceed our standard offer, but in a typical year we will be able to make offers to a certain proportion. Therefore our reply to the vast majority of requests for feedback for unsuccessful applications is simply that the application was ranked below the others: these candidates are still eligible, accomplished and in the top few percent nationally but regrettably we cannot make an offer to them. Please bear this in mind before making a specific request for feedback.

Q: What is the timetable for considering me ? Why has it taken so long to get back to ? Why was my offer/rejection made so late ?

A: Although the UCAS closing date is January 15th, we are treating applications continually from October to Mid-March. Early offers are made to the very best applicants and the remaining applications stay in the pool. Therefore even if you apply in October you may not have a decision made on your application until March. If you have not heard from us by February or March, we have not forgotten you: your application is close to the borderline of where we are able to make offers but it is still in the running.

Q: I am coming down to Durham on Friday - can I talk to a member of staff at the maths department?

A: As fully paid up members of academic staff we do have many other research and teaching duties. (As we have roughly a thousand applicants, this would among other things take valuable resources away from our current students). If you are unable to make the official Open Days we can try to arrange a visit in conjunction with at least four other prospective applicants. Hopefully you will understand that at certain times of the year, especially at exam time and in the Summer which is when many staff are at conferences and on research visits, it may be simply impossible to accommodate a visit. If this is the case you are welcome to come and browse around the University and Department anyway: course overviews are included Current Undergraduate Course Info and there are many III and IV year project posters in the Department for you to see.

All relevant information for planning your visit to Durham including travel information, maps, location of colleges and departments is contained in the University Open Day brochure which can be found here.

Q: I am thinking of dropping A-level Chemistry (say) so I can do more Maths modules, and also I would like to do some Accounting and Geography and perhaps a bit of Music, although I failed some modules in that so that would be in my spare time, and I wouldnt take the exams. But then I am worried I will be taking on too much. Do you have any advice? Which modules should I choose?

A: Unfortunately we cannot get into the specific make up of your A-levels which is a personal choice. As far as your Maths A-levels go we are really concerned to see evidence of how well you can do rather than how many you can take. On the other hand feel free to take more if it is for your own interest.

Q: I will be taking my Maths in the 1st year of my sixth form, and Further Maths in the 2nd year. Will I be disadvantaged when it comes to getting an offer?

A: No, this is not an issue for us at all. We are aware that students take their A-levels in different orders and we are able to compensate.

Q: I am thinking of taking either Maths or Physics, but can't decide which is the best option for my planned career as a Patent Officer. Can you give me some advice?
A: Unfortunately we cannot give explicit careers advice regarding your degree choice, and would recommend you consult with your teachers and/or parents. The reason why, apart from the fact that we do not have the resources, is that we do not know your personal circumstances. Giving advice on your choices would be something of a minefield because it would be based on incomplete knowledge. We cannot advise on for example what is the best route to enter a particular field (e.g. Maths or Physics if one is interested in a career involving both) because there is usually no clear answer and we do not know if you wish to keep other options open. Moreover there are inevitably some careers with which we are unfamiliar so our advice would be doubly incomplete, and probably partisan. To a large extent your choice depends on how you learn and what you enjoy.

Therefore the best piece of advice we can give is to consult our degree courses online and decide with your teachers which modules you think you would enjoy. If you have a definite preference for one or the other degree then the likelihood is that this would be the best choice for you. If you still cannot decide then you might consider Natural Sciences as this allows you to keep more options open and specialize at a later point.

Q: I just missed out on your offer. I will be taking a gap year to reatake and get the grades. What are the chances of getting an offer if I apply next year?

Although we understand that you would like to be sure in advance of getting an offer, we are unfortunately not able to advise you on your chances. The reason why is that we do not have access to all your information (including references and statements) so our advice would be speculative - for example we might advise that you would not receive an offer when there is some other factor that we are unaware of that makes your case much stronger. In addition we cannot guess how your application would compare to the other applications we will receive. Generally we would say that if taking everything into account it looks unlikely that you will meet our offer then it is also unlikely that we would make you the offer. You should bear in mind however that factors such as very positive references can off-set exam results so you have to consider all the information that would be available to us.

Q: What are your requirements for GCSE?

We do not have any GCSE requirements, but we do look at those as supporting evidence when making decisions.

Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general guide to the Mathematics Department’s courses and facilities and forms no part of any contract between you and the University except as provided below. The pages are prepared in advance of the academic year to which they relate. The University makes every effort to ensure that the information contained here is accurate. Although reasonable steps are taken by the University to provide the courses and services described, the University cannot guarantee the provision of any course or facility. Any course may be altered or withdrawn owing to circumstances beyond the University of Durham's reasonable control. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in Government policy, withdrawal or reduction of funding, change of Law. The University will take such steps as are available to it to minimise the effect of any alteration or withdrawal of a course. Such steps may include the offer of a place on an alternative course.