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Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) Guide

Everything you should know before taking the MAT test and how to be successful!

WHAT IS THE MAT?

The Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) is a 2-hour 30 minute examination designed to rank applicants to certain UK universities, as part of the admissions process.

WHO NEEDS TO SIT THE MAT EXAM?

Oxford for the following subjects:

  • Mathematics
  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Mathematics and Philosophy
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Science and Philosophy

WHICH UNIVERSITIES REQUIRE THE MAT?

The MAT is required by some of the UK’s top universities including Oxford University, Imperial College London and Warwick University.

Taking the MAT test at Oxford University

Students applying for the courses listed are required to sit the MAT in the year that they apply to Oxford.

Taking the MAT test at Imperial College London

Students that apply to Imperial before the 15 October UCAS deadline are also required to sit the MAT test. If applicants are unable to take the MAT then Imperial typically includes a Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP) requirement in any conditional offer.

Taking the MAT test at Warwick, Durham or Bath University

Warwick, Durham and Bath University also encourage Maths applicants to take the MAT or an alternative maths test such as the STEP or Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA). Students who perform well in the MAT test may benefit from a reduced conditional offer from these universities.

HOW IS THE MAT STRUCTURED?

The MAT is structured as follows; it begins with 10 multiple-choice questions worth four marks each. Test-takers then answer 4 longer questions (depending on which course they are applying for), consisting of roughly 3-5 related sub-questions and worth 15 marks each. These longer questions require free-form answers and marks are included for workings and clear mathematical argument. The test is out of a total of 100.e.

CAN I CHOOSE WHICH QUESTIONS I ANSWER IN THE MAT?

No, all test-takers answer section 1 which is made up of 10 multiple-choice questions. They then answer 4 longer questions, stipulated at the start of the paper and based on which course they are applying for.

HOW IS MY SCORE IN THE MAT TEST USED?

Oxford University uses the MAT as a standardised format for assessing and benchmarking their applicants. The exam rewards problem solving over mathematical knowledge, so that students taking different qualifications at school can access the syllabus.

Oxford University uses students’ marks in the MAT to make decisions about which applicants they should invite to interview. Oxford shortlists between a quarter and a third of their applicants for subjects such as Mathematics and Computer Science, and an applicant’s MAT test score heavily influences this decision.

Other universities use the MAT score as additional context in their decision-making process for admissions to maths-based courses.

WHAT IS A GOOD MAT SCORE?

Scores in the MAT vary year to year but students should aim to score a mark of 65 or above in order to feel confident about being invited to interview. The average score for the MAT is usually around 50, but those that are invited to interview typically score 60 or above.

Since the MAT test is used as an assessment tool among a wider context of factors, such as your academic grades and teacher reference, there is no fixed pass mark or automatic threshold. However, ranking highly correlates heavily with being awarded an offer.

Overall, the MAT is marked out of 100. The longer questions are worth 15 marks each whilst each of the ten multiple-choice questions is worth 4 marks. Our tried-and-tested strategy for success in the MAT is to prioritise marks in the multiple-choice section (without compromising the rest of the paper, of course!) since each question counts for a high number of marks relative to knowledge and effort level. Since candidates don’t receive marks for their workings in this section, it’s vital to check for errors. It’s also worth noting that there is no negative marking in the MAT, so if in doubt – guess!

DO I NEED TO KNOW A-LEVEL MATHEMATICS?

The MAT syllabus is designed so that students taking a wide variety of qualifications or have a background in international education systems can access the mathematical content. However, the MAT is undoubtedly written from the A Level and IB perspective and there are certain mathematical concepts which will be less familiar to students taking different qualifications. We recommend that students cross-reference their syllabus with the official MAT syllabus. We also have specialist tutors who have experience of advising students taking other qualifications and help them fill in knowledge gaps.

DO I NEED TO KNOW A-LEVEL FURTHER MATHEMATICS TO DO WELL IN THE MAT?

Since the MAT serves as an objective test of mathematical skill, regardless of a student’s qualifications, knowledge of Further Mathematics A Level is not required. However, we notice that students taking Further Mathematics typically study the relevant MAT content earlier and at an accelerated rate. This can be an advantage as there is more time before the MAT to consolidate and revise the material.

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How to register for the MAT Test

WHEN IS THE MAT TEST IN 2023?

The test date for the MAT in 2023 is the 19th of October, meaning that all applicants will have to sit the test on this exact day. This may be during half term, but with plenty of advanced notice this hopefully shouldn’t prevent your school or college from holding the test. Be aware that if you miss this date for whatever reason you will not be able to take the test on another day and your application will not be considered.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION?

The MAT, like many Oxford Admissions Tests, requires applicants to register in advance of sitting the test. 2023 applicants will have to register between the 1st and 29th of September to be able to sit the test.

An applicant cannot register themselves for the test, but must be registered through an official test centre. For most candidates this will be their school or college, but if not it can be done through an open test centre. We recommend reading the Oxford University MAT page for more details on how to register. However you register, make sure that you have submitted all your details to the test centre and have received your candidate entry number as proof of entry by midnight on the 29th of September. If you have extenuating circumstances (i.e. a situation beyond your control) that prevented you from registering on time, get in touch with the Oxford college you applied to immediately and alert them of your situation.

If you’re struggling to keep on top of dates and deadlines, head to our website to download our complimentary University Application Calendar, which features registration deadlines and test dates for all major UK admissions tests, as well as other key dates such as UCAS deadlines, interview dates, open days, and more. 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TAKE THE MAT EXAM?

There is no official fee for students to take the MAT but some test centres may charge candidates for costs such as invigilation and room hire.

Tips from a successful Oxford Maths applicant

HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR THE MAT?

To tackle the MAT exam with confidence, you should first consolidate your learning from the first year of sixth study, whether that be in Maths A Level or another equivalent qualification. MAT test questions tend to focus on familiar mathematical concepts but apply them in unfamiliar, challenging contexts. The MAT is set up this way in order to test a candidate’s understanding of the mathematics, rather than simply their ability to reproduce a memorised method. Students should build their repertoire of tackling such mathematical problems using past MAT papers, materials such as our specially-written MAT papers, and additional problems such as UKMT Maths Challenge and Maths Olympiad.

A SAMPLE MAT QUESTION 

To illustrate what we mean, an example from the multiple-choice section of the MAT test might be


“Which of the following graphs represents cos(x)=cos(y)?”


This question relies on an understanding of trigonometric concepts but will probably be a graph that most students haven’t come across before. Students may choose to sketch the graph directly, plug in values or use other deductive multiple-choice tactics to select the right answer.

MAT PREPARATION MATERIALS

In addition to the past MAT papers, we have written a series of additional mock papers. Our students have 33% more questions to practise with. Our mock MAT papers can be found here and are included with our admissions test tuition. All of our MAT tutors are highly-trained Oxbridge graduates who can share their personally insights of having sat the test. You can contact our Oxbridge-graduate Consultants on +44 (0) 20 7499 2394 or email [email protected] to discuss which of our test training would suit you best. We also have an online testing portal for students who want to sit the exam in timed, test conditions.

WHAT IS THE BEST STUDY GUIDE FOR THE MAT?

At Oxbridge Applications, we pride ourselves in providing up-to-date advice and unrivalled expertise. As well as collating information from publicly available sources, we also conduct our own research into the application process; for example, by surveying the thousands of students we support each year. Speak to an Oxbridge Applications expert.

How to pass the MAT test

The best advice we can offer to pass the MAT exam is to begin exam preparation early and practise often.

Most students who don’t get through the MAT to be invited to interview tell us that they didn’t spend enough time familiarising themselves with the type of questions that can arise. They typically say that they were caught off guard by a particular question and it put their timings off for the rest of the test.

START EARLY

Although you will require content from the first year of Maths A level, challenge yourself to get ahead of the syllabus so you can begin practising MAT questions. Some students also find it necessary to build up their mental arithmetic and speed doing calculations, since calculators are not allowed in the MAT and time is in short supply.

REFLECTION

Reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses. No two students should have the same revision strategy for the MAT, since you all have varying abilities. Try to identify which part of the syllabus you find easiest or whether you often lose marks on either the multiple-choice section or the longer questions. Then tailor your strategy accordingly!

DON'T RESTRICT YOUR PRACTICE MATERIALS

Don’t restrict your practice materials: Once you have tried all of the real past papers, and have moved on to additional materials like our MAT papers, you should then look wider at similar materials. For example, review Maths Olympiad problems, which are of a slightly different format but still develop your problem solving skills.

COLLABORATION

Work with a friend or teacher to discuss questions and identify your own personal revision goals. Working with others can be a huge motivation and keep you on track in the weeks and months leading up to the test. We have specialist MAT tutors who can work with you one-to-one to refine your test technique.

MAT FAQs

ARE CALCULATORS ALLOWED IN THE MAT EXAM?

No, students cannot use calculators, formula sheets or dictionaries during the exam. This Is a good reminder for students to work on their mental arithmetic and the speed of their calculations. This can sometimes hold back otherwise strong mathematicians, who have been relying on a calculator.

HOW DIFFICULT IS THE MAT EXAM?

The MAT is a challenging maths test, used by some of the most competitive universities in the UK to rank their applicants. Although the test is based on mathematical theory learnt at school, these concepts are presented in unfamiliar ways. Although the questions are difficult, students that prepare universally improve their score. We recommend that students revise the MAT syllabus to ensure their knowledge is secure but - more importantly - that they develop their problem-solving skills, through experience.

HOW MANY QUESTIONS ARE IN THE MAT?

There are ten multiple choice questions and six longer questions, of which candidates take four. These longer questions are made up of related sub-questions. Students cannot select which longer questions they would like to answer, rather they answer those questions in accordance with which university course they are applying for.

HOW LONG IS THE MAT?

The MAT exam is two and a half hours long. We recommend that students spend a maximum of one hour on the ten multiple choice questions, and the remaining time on the longer questions and checking work.

CAN YOU TAKE THE MAT TEST ONLINE?

The MAT test is a paper-based test. If you have a disability or specific requirement you should inform your test centre.

WHAT IS THE MAT TEST USED FOR?

The MAT is used to inform decisions to top universities in the UK, for maths-based courses, e.g. Mathematics or Computer Science. Oxford University uses the MAT to shortlist candidates for interview, the final stage of their admissions process. Imperial, Warwick, Durham and Bath universities use the MAT as additional information in their admissions process, and may choose to make lower offers to their applicants based on test performance.

DO UNIVERSITIES AUTOMATICALLY FIND OUT YOUR MAT SCORE?

If students have applied to Oxford, Imperial or Warwick University their MAT score will automatically be shared. Students can choose to share their MAT results with Durham and Bath University, depending on whether they would like the admissions office to take their score into consideration.

 

Strategic Guidance

Unsure about your Oxbridge application? In our one-hour consultation, our experts strategise your application, assess your potential, and resolve queries to maximise your success. Contact us at [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7499 2394.

MAT Admission Private Tuition x4

Available all year-round and includes 4 private admissions test tuition sessions and four test papers, which are marked by expert Oxbridge-graduate tutors.

MAT Admission Private Tuition x6

Available: Year-Round and includes 6 private admissions test tuition sessions and six test papers which are marked by expert Oxbridge-graduate tutors.

Past MAT test papers

Prepare for your admissions test with our mock papers.

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