What Is The Oxford MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test)

What is the Oxford MAT? The Oxford Mathematics Admissions Test can seem daunting, not only because it is a difficult test of your mathematical abilities, but because it can be difficult to understand the test's place in the overall application process.

Author: Adi Sen

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What is the Oxford MAT?

It can be difficult to fully understand the process of applying to study Maths at Oxford University, not least because of the admissions test.

The Mathematics Admissions Test at Oxford can seem intimidating, not just because it’s a difficult test of your mathematical abilities, but because it can be hard to understand the place of the test in the overall application process.

What is the Mathematics Admissions Test?

The MAT lasts two and a half hours, and consists of 7 questions, of which you should answer 5 depending on the subject you’re applying for.

The test is required for any application to study Mathematics, Computer Science, or any joint honours courses, such as Mathematics and Philosophy or Mathematics and Computer Science at undergraduate level.

You’ll need to sit it regardless of which college you’re applying to at Oxford.

The MAT is also used to test applicants to all Mathematics courses at Imperial, so everything here applies equally if you’re not applying to Oxford, or if you’re applying to both.

If you’re applying for Physics, you’ll need to sit a different test, the Physics Admissions Test (PAT), which you can read more about here.

The specification of the test changed in 2018, so past papers before then contain areas that won’t be tested in upcoming year admissions tests.

These papers can still be useful if you ignore these questions, but be careful to make sure that you’re targeting your preparation to the new specification, which you can find on the Oxford site.

How is the MAT marked?

The MAT is marked out of 100 marks, and partial marks are given for working out on questions 2 – 7. Question 1 is usually a short multiple choice question, so there are no partial marks when you’ve already been given the answers.

Scores in the MAT range from 5% to 99%, so you can be confident that you’ll get full credit for whatever work you do put into your answer, as the marker will give you points for every correct element of your working, not just the final answer.

oxford-mathematics-department

Is the MAT harder than STEP?

Because its based on the AS syllabus, the MAT is considered to be easier than STEP, in that it doesn’t require as advanced mathematical knowledge.

However, the MAT is designed to stretch you by applying the concepts you’re familiar with in unusual ways, so if you’re a less creatively inclined mathematician, you may find the MAT harder.

Oxford is vague about the importance of admissions tests, saying that they’re more important than GCSEs and your personal statement, but choosing not to give a set weight to them. As a result, it can be hard to know how much time to spend studying for them, and difficult to know what kind of score you should be aiming for.

Luckily, at UniAdmissions we’ve become experts in the Oxford admissions process through continuous research, including into how admissions tests factor into interview invitations and eventual offers.

So, to understand the MAT, we obtained complete data on applicant performance for the past three application cycles, which allows us to statistically analyse this data to find patterns and trends to help our students plan their applications.

We obtain this data through Freedom of Information requests, which means that the privacy of all the applicants is maintained, as the data is completely anonymised at source before we see it.

Our internal privacy policy is also to keep student information anonymous, so the only time you’ll read about specific student through us will be part of a case study where they’ve chosen to share their experiences.

One aspect of this is calculating how important an admissions test is for a particular course, helping our students to know which courses put more or less weight on the test score, and plan their applications accordingly.

We can determine their importance by looking at the correlations between;

  1. MAT score
  2. MAT score for interview invitations
  3. MAT score for eventual offers

A low correlation would show that the test is less important for the PAT than it might be, whereas a high correlation the reverse.

Matching this information alongside the overall interview and offer rates, we can see in more detail how important the admissions test is, and how large an impact it has on your chances of getting in.

What is a good MAT score for Oxford?

In 2017, the average score among all applicants sitting the test was 48.86%, with the test being marked out of 100. This rose slightly to 49.85% in 2018, reflecting a paper that was marginally easier than the 2017 one, and fell to 44.9% in 2019 when the paper was harder.

2017 Average MAT Score2018 Average MAT Score2019 Average MAT Score
48.86%49.85%44.9%

Average MAT scores from 2017 – 2019.

If you’re using these past papers for your revision, it’s a good idea to save these until you’ve completed most of your preparation, and then sit the past papers in exam conditions.

By comparing with the performance data from actual applicants in this article, you’ll be able to much more accurately measure your own progress as well as your chances of getting an interview and eventually an offer.

If, for example, you try a past paper at the end of July and score 50%, you’ll know that you’ve a good chance of reaching the standard you need to.

However, if you’re only scoring 30%, you’ll know that you really need to up your game if you’re going to be invited for interview.

The average score for applicants invited to interview was 65.6% in 2017, rising slightly to 68.48% in 2018, and dropping to 63.6% in 2019.

2017 Average MAT Score Of Interviewed Candidate2018 Average MAT Score Of Interviewed Candidate2019 Average MAT Score Of Interviewed Candidate
65.6%68.48%63.6%

Average MAT scores for candidates who were invited to interview from 2017 – 2019.

Meanwhile offers holders scored an average of 72.35% in 2017, rising to 73.35% in 2018, and falling to 69.3% in 2019 with the harder paper.

2017 Average MAT Score Of Offer Holder2018 Average MAT Score Of Offer Holder2019 Average MAT Score Of Offer Holder
72.35%73.35%69.3%

Average MAT scores for candidates who were offered a place from 2017 – 2019.

However, these averages hide a fair bit of variation.

In 2017, twenty two applicants who scored 40% or lower were invited for interview, including two students who scored below 35%.

Of the twenty two, two also received offers, so even at the very bottom end of the performance scale in the admissions test students were able to impress enough at interview to receive offers.

Although there is no formal cutoff score for the MAT, only fourteen applicants who scored in the bottom third in the MAT were invited for interview in 2017, and none who scored below 25%.

By contrast, applicants who scored 95% or over on the admissions test received offers 77% of the time in that year.

Oxford share a high level summary of this data on the Mathematical Institute website each year, alongside a video working through the solutions to each year’s past papers.

Ultimately, the data we have shared here signifies the importance of doing well in your MAT Admissions Test.

If you score 95% or above, you have a 77% chance of success. With UniAdmissions’ Premium Programme you’ll get access to expert MAT tutors who can boost your score rapidly, along with improving all other areas of your application.

For the best possible chance of success when applying to Oxford, discover our Oxford Maths Programme here.

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