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Studying Maths at Cardiff

Hi everyone,

Long time no post – and so much has happened since the last one! A Level and GCSE results days have now passed and I’ve heard Maths clearing spaces at Cardiff have been filled so… Welcome to the 2014/15 cohort joining us in September!!  Very excited to have a brand new bunch of freshers to join the department 🙂

So, what do you need to know about coming to study Maths at Cardiff? Let me give you some tips and explain the process a bit!

What do I need to bring?

–       Scientific calculator (programmable calculators are optional and kinda cool but definitely not necessary for the course – I still use my A-Level standard Casio one)

–       Pens, paper and a way to organise your notes.

–       Diary – this can help if you rely strongly on school planners, having a diary (physical or digital) to help you keep on top of hand in dates is useful.

–       The other bits – memory stick, stationery and the like.

And that’s about it! Make sure you come prepared to write down notes and that’s pretty much all you can do

How can I get ready?

–       Do the online recap exercises you have been given! Especially if you (like me) did not take Further Maths then familiarise yourself with the basics of complex numbers to make your life easier.

–       Do not under any circumstances forget how to integrate or differentiate! As a Mathematician integration and differentiation are your bread and butter but unfortunately this nice long summer you’ve had probably hasn’t been focused on retaining the skills you built up for C3 and C4. Try and get yourself back up to standard before you start term (maybe do some past C4 papers) and you will be so so glad you did.

–       Recap the basic techniques you will be expected to know: product rule, quotient rule, chain rule, substitution etc

Essentially make sure you don’t forget the basics. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been as good at differentiating as I was when I did my A2 – in September of first year it was like relearning it all over again but starting with more complex problems, do yourself a favour and don’t forget!

What should I expect when I arrive?

When you arrive at uni you will first have a briefing by the head of year giving you some important information during Fresher’s Week and might also get your timetables (remember to go to this!) and then you will also have some recap tutorial sessions. Then your term starts and you will officially have started your Maths degree!

How does the whole thing work?

At university things are split into ‘credits’. Each year you complete 120 credits and each module is worth a certain number of credits; for first year you’ll do 60 credits in each semester, typically Maths modules are 10 credits but some are 20. This means that from October to December you will be studying 6 different topics as modules, which will then be examined in the January exam period. Each module has its own exam and it’s a 2 hour exam for a 10 credit module. Then you start again late January/early February on new modules for your other 60 credits. You may have a ‘long-thin’ 20 credit module where you do 10 credits worth of work in each semester but are not examined until the Summer exam period.

This follows for the next three years with your first year not counting towards your final degree mark, second year counting 30% and final year counting 70% (or second year 20%, placement year 10% if you chose to do a placement).

Each module has an assigned lecturer and you will have scheduled lectures (and sometimes computer sessions – ‘labs’) each week. You will also then have tutorials. This is where the year group is split into small groups (around 20 ish people to a group) and you work on a table with others, supervised by a lecturer or post-graduate student, to complete a set of problems that relate to what you are currently learning. These are designed to reinforce what you are learning and make sure you’re keeping up with the course content.

Psst – make sure you actually go to the tutorials 😉 They save a heck of a lot of work at exam time…

Your lecturers will also give you problem sheets to work on every couple weeks which you may or may not be expected to hand in for marking.


My advice for surviving first year…

–       Do the problem sheets you are given! They point out gaps in your own knowledge and drastically reduce how much work you have to do over the Christmas holidays for your January exams.

–       Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a lot of services available to help you out, firstly tutorials, then you can also speak to your lecturer if you have a specific question, then there is the fantastic Maths Support service which everyone should go to! It’s every week day in the Maths dept over ??-?? and you can get help with specific problems.

–       Don’t freak out if you are struggling. Trust me, it’s normal. Those problem sheets you get are designed to be difficult – it isn’t like A Level questions where you automatically know how to approach a question, you really will have to think and often ask for help to complete these and that is intentional! Never fear though, you get used to it and your mind will get used to working slightly differently 🙂

–       Talk to your personal tutor if you are struggling. Your personal tutor is a member of staff assigned to you to help out if you’re having problems – not mathematical problems but more other stuff. Don’t be afraid to go see them outside of the compulsory meetings you will have.

–       Join the Maths Society! Course based societies are an important part of uni life and Mathsoc is getting bigger and better this year. We’re sponsored by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and Ernst&Young as well as others. You’ll get to come on some great socials and meet your course mates as well as benefit from professional stuff like careers talks.

–       TOP TIP. Make friends with people from other years (Mathsoc is a great place to do this). They will be able to guide you through and explain things that you might not understand, and if they’re really nice they might help you a little if you’re struggling with some concepts from lectures.

So guys, that’s it for now on coming to Cardiff to study Maths – I hope it’s been useful.

The comments section is here for a reason and I know coming to uni can be full of questions so please ask me things –I’ll reply as usefully as I can ! 🙂

I’ll be back soon with another post about living as a student in Cardiff and your non-academic life when you join uni. 🙂



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