Clare College Cambridge


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The Cambridge Mathematics course has always enjoyed a very high reputation, and a Cambridge Mathematics degree is highly regarded world-wide. It provides a good qualification for entry into a very wide range of careers, and also for post-graduate academic work in a variety of technical subjects.

All undergraduates, regardless of college, receive the same lectures and sit the same exams, which are given by the University's Faculty of Mathematics. The best way to find out detailed and up-to-date information about the course is to look at the Faculty's undergraduate page .

Studying Mathematics at Clare

Mathematics lectures are given by the University in the mornings (six days per week), at lecture rooms in the centre of town. Students are given question sheets by the lecturer, and spend much of their remaining study time working on these questions. At least twice a week, students discuss their work with a supervisor. Supervisions take place in the College; they last one hour and involve two students. Naturally, the discussion is tailored to the individual student - here the able can find extra stimulation and the less confident can find encouragement. In the first year the supervisor will usually be a Fellow. Later on, as students find their feet, they will be supervised also by research students and others outside the College. This is especially important in the final year, where students have a very wide choice of options, so that Clare students can take advantage of all the specialist expertise available throughout the University.

Students are expected to work hard - though it is also expected that they will find pleasure in the doing of Mathematics! Nevertheless it is necessary to give a weary brain a rest from time to time. So it is important for students to choose a college where they will feel at home. Each year, around 10-12 students enter Clare to read Mathematics. We find this number works well - it is large enough for the Mathematicians to be able to support each other effectively, but small enough for students to make friends easily outside Mathematics. Our students have often testified to the congenial and stimulating atmosphere in Clare. Whether you wish to talk or to sing, to play the flute or to play the fool, to try rowing or to try praying, you will find kindred spirits.


The Cambridge course is a challenging one, mainly because of the standard set by the high level of ability of our students. To do well requires Mathematical flair, of course, but also enthusiasm and commitment. Most students come to Cambridge having always found school Mathematics easy, and for the first time they find themselves surrounded by others whose Mathematical ability is comparable or greater.

At Clare our sole aim, in selecting students from among those who apply to us, is to pick those most likely to benefit from the Cambridge course. Every effort is made to take account of differences in background. We would expect a successful applicant to have taken advantage of whatever opportunities have come their way to broaden their experience of Mathematics. For candidates taking A-levels, students must be studying both Mathematics and Further Mathematics. In addition, if it is possible, we prefer candidates to take another A2-level with some theoretical content (such as Physics). The advantage in having taken two Maths A2-levels is not in the extra factual knowledge acquired, but rather in the experience and maturity gained. The Cambridge course takes into account that, for those students following other examination systems, the study of a Further Mathematics course is not always possible.  An equivalent choice of options would be expected from those taking final school examinations other than A-levels; the university web pages give guidance for applicants following other examination systems

We also look for candidates who have taken some interest in Mathematics beyond the confines of their school course. Reading around the subject at a technical or recreational level, doing Mathematical or Logic puzzles, showing proficiency in computing with a Mathematical flavour - any of these activities would be positive indications to us.


Most of our applicants are interviewed, and no-one is admitted without interview. The interviews take place in early December, and offers made thereafter. Candidates are given two mathematics interviews. The interviews are not designed to intimidate, but are intended to uncover instinct and enthusiasm for Mathematics. Currently, there is no pre-interview assessment for mathematics applicants.

Candidates for Mathematics with Physics or Mathematics with Computer Science with Mathematics will usually have an extra subject interview, and may also need to take written assessment.

Admissions Requirements

It is our experience that the fairest way to assess a candidate's ability is by an exam, but every year, many thousands of students attain grade A* in A Level Mathematics. Therefore we require all applicants to take STEP. The STEP exam is designed to offer a fair chance to all, regardless of background, and we have found it to be a good predictor of how well a student will perform in the undergraduate course.  Information about STEP, including a sample paper, can be found on the Mathematics Faculty's STEP page.

Our usual offer is a 1 and a 1 in STEP II and III, and A*A*A in Mathematics and Further Mathematics and a third A Level.

Change of subject

In general, students are advised not to apply for Mathematics if they already harbour an intention to change subject. The one exception to this are those wishing to study Mathematics with Physics, who must necessarily choose, after one year, whether to continue with Mathematics or with their other subject. However, once admitted to the College, students do have the opportunity at various stages to change subjects. The formal requirement is that the change is within the University rules and that the student is acceptable to Clare's Director of Studies in the new subject, but each case is treated individually.

Deferred entry

The College is neutral on the subject of deferred entry. Often, one or two Mathematicians take advantage of this opportunity. Students who take a year out gain maturity. They also forget how to do sums, so have to work a bit harder when they return. It occasionally happens that they find their love for Mathematics no longer burning as strongly as it did. That need not be a bad thing; some students have gone on to pursue other disciplines with great success.

Fellows in Mathematics at Clare

Maciej Dunajski Gordon Ogilvie Nigel Weiss
Julia Wolf Andrew Thomason  


Reading Lists

Click here for a list of recommended books.

See Student Profiles: Weronika Wrzos-Kaminska Keji Neri