Clare College Cambridge

Applying for Mathematics at Clare

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.

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.


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.

The course

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.