## “For Physics at Cambridge, A Level Maths or equivalent was required, and Further Maths was heavily encouraged. ”

Are you interested in a science degree, but not sure whether to take A Level Maths? We’ve got some advice from Richard and Rachel – they both studied Physics at the University of Cambridge, and took A Level or Higher Level IB Maths.

Click here to read Part 1 of our interview.

Now, here’s what they had to say about studying Maths…

## Tell us about your degree – how much maths was involved?

**Richard**: Natural Sciences is a very broad subject, and what you study will be completely different depending on the options that you choose. I chose to study Physics, Earth Sciences and Materials Science. Over time, you specialise more until you are studying one subject in your final year: for me, this was Materials Science.

However, all candidates had to study maths in their first year. Pretty much all options had a heavy focus on maths and were much easier if you had a strong foundation in maths. I had to use knowledge of calculus, geometry, statistics, vectors and more during every year of my degree. For Physics at Cambridge, A Level Maths or equivalent was required, and Further Maths was heavily encouraged.

**Rachel**: Maths, along with Physics, was an important part of our degree, which is why applicants must have studied them for IB (or at an equivalent level). For example, you need a good understanding of matrices and transformations for Materials Science (but not necessarily for other Natural Sciences), and I think differential equations (and everything in that area) are applied frequently in Physics.

## What were the main differences between school maths and the maths you used at university? How do you think A Level and IB compare in terms of preparing you for your degrees?

**Richard**: I felt that a lot of the mathematical concepts covered in my undergraduate degree were the same as those I studied at A Level; however, the exam questions were much more “involved” – they required a deeper understanding and were less formulaic.

Those who studied IB tended to have studied less maths than A Level students – this was considered by the university which repeated a lot of A Level content. However, this content was covered very rapidly and some IB students that I know really struggled in comparison to those who had studied A Level Further Maths.

**Rachel: **Having studied IB, I did notice a difference with my peers who had studied A Levels. Since A Level students study a smaller range of subjects, most of my peers had studied Maths and Physics in more depth than me, when we first entered university.

When I began my course, we covered basic concepts to ensure that we began with the same knowledge, but the module that I chose was very fast-paced. There were some parts of the course which assumed a degree of universal knowledge – for example, whilst I had no background in geometry from studying the IB, my peers were familiar with it from their A Level knowledge.

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