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How to Prepare for the MAT Exam

How to Prepare for the MAT Exam

4 min Read|September 26 2023
|Written by:

Thomas Babb


Mathematics is one of the hardest subjects to get into at Oxford, simply due to the fact that there are so many applicants every single year. During the 2019-2021 period, there was an average of 9.7 applicants per place, which is the sixth-highest applicants per place statistics for this period.

While many courses offer AAA, 68.1% of all students admitted to Oxford during the 2021 period had at least three A* grades. Due to this, an additional element to distinguish between top-grade students is the MAT Exam. The Maths Admission Test (MAT) is based on the first year of A-level Maths, additionally pulling on some of the topics that come up later in the Maths syllabus.

Oxford has published the full MAT syllabus online, meaning that students can revise directly from the online syllabus.

What Universities Require the MAT Exam?

The MAT is designed by and for Oxford applicants; however they are not the only university that can take this exam into account. For students applying to the University of Warwick and Imperial College London, the MAT is also a required paper.

Other UK universities, like Durham and Bath, also take the MAT into account when applying for certain courses. Be sure to check if the university you’re applying to requires the MAT exam, so you have enough time to sign up in advance.

How is the MAT structured?

The MAT is a subject-specific test, meaning everything you come across will be directly related to Mathematics. The test takes place over a period of two and a half hours, and aims to test the student’s depth of mathematical understanding.

There are a variety of question structures within the MAT, those which you attempt depending on which course you’re applying for:

  • Question 1 - A multiple-choice question with ten different parts, each part being worth a total of four marks.
  • Questions 2-7 - Each of these is a longer question, worth a total of 15 marks each. There are working out marks within this section, so you must show your full working for any of the questions that you attempt.

This is a non-calculator exam, without any additional formula sheets. While there are a total of 7 questions on the paper, you shouldn’t attempt all of them. On the contrary, you may only have to write up to five questions in total.

Everyone should complete question 1, but then which questions you select from 2-7 will vary.

  • If you’re applying for Maths, Maths and Statistics, or Maths and Philosophy at Oxford, then you should attempt questions 1-5.
  • If you’re applying for Maths and Computer Science, then you should complete questions 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. Be careful to complete question 6 while skipping question 4.
  • If you’re applying to Computer Science or Computer Science and Philosophy, then complete questions 1, 2, 5, 6, 7.

The above questions reflect the certain course that you’re applying for at Oxford. If you’re aiming to apply to a different university that requires the MAT, then you should consult their applications page to see which questions you should complete.

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How is the MAT Scored by Oxford?

Each year, Oxford publishes complete reviews of their applications process, a part of which is a detailed summary of the MAT results for that year. Based on MAT scores, as well as final grades, they then give out offers to students.

The total score possible within the MAT exam is 100, with one mark in the exam equalling one point on the paper. Therefore, every correct answer someone gives will award however many points that question is worth, making this an easy paper to know your results in.

In the 2020/21 cohort, Oxford published the following results:

Outcome by MAT score


With these results, they also publish the average scores of the exam, as well as for all the shortlisted applicants, as well as the applicants that were offered a place.

Just below 60% is the average score for the paper, with specific averages depending on which questions were attempted. When looking towards applicants that were offered a place, those that completed questions 1-5 had an average of 81.7%, while those completing 1-3, 5, 6 came out with a total of 87.5%.

Due to this, you need to shoot for top grades in the Oxford MAT if you’re looking to secure a position at this university.

How do I prepare for the MAT Exam?

If you’re looking to secure a spot at Oxford, then doing well in the MAT is vital. While this is a difficult paper, it’s not impossible, with diligent revision processes and strategies helping you to shoot for a top score.

There are three core elements of revision that you should turn to when preparing for the MAT:

  • Know Your Maths - This one may seem obvious, but you need a phenomenal understanding of A-Level Maths and Further Maths A-Level if you’re in with a chance of succeeding. Be sure to comb through the MAT syllabus and be sure you’re confident with everything on the document.
  • Past Papers - You’re able to access past papers for the MAT since 2009. Don’t waste these papers; go through them one by one, making sure you understand anything you get wrong.
  • Exam Technique - Don’t leave any of the questions blank if they are multiple-choice, there is no penalty for a wrong answer.
  • Write Down Everything - Write down your thinking as examiners will look through your paper.

By working through these tips, especially when helped by an online MAT tutor, you’ll be able to prepare as much as possible and smash Oxford’s MAT.

Final Thoughts

TutorChase has a whole host of exceptionally gifted MAT tutors. All of our online MAT Tutors have taken the MAT and gone on to study Mathematics at Oxford. With their experience and expertise in the paper, they’ll be able to guide you towards a top-performing score.

By combining past paper practice with your tutoring, you’ll be well on your way to achieving as high a score as possible on Oxford’s MAT paper. Best of luck!

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Thomas Babb

Written by: Thomas Babb

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Thomas is a PhD candidate at Oxford University. He served as an interviewer and the lead admissions test marker at Oxford, and teaches undergraduate students at Mansfield College and St Hilda’s College. He has ten years’ experience tutoring A-Level and GCSE students across a range of subjects.

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