When should I start preparing for the MAT?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions by students who are sitting the MAT paper, and rightly so. Starting your MAT preparation at the right time can give you some significant advantages and hopefully this article can shed some light as to why.
From my experience tutoring students preparing for the MAT and from my own personal experience, the beginning of summer after year 12 is the ideal time to start. Now I appreciate that many of you are keen to get ahead and may consider starting earlier, and this enthusiasm is a fantastic attribute which will serve many of you well in your academic studies, but I would like to outline why I believe summer should be when you begin and why not any earlier.
Firstly, MAT questions are challenging purely because they take the concepts of Year 1 A Level Maths (and Computer Science) and some Year 2 A Level Maths (such as Sequences and Series), but apply them in more complex and unusual ways. As a result, having exceptional understanding of the AS syllabus will serve you very well. This is most likely to be achieved through consolidating your AS maths by doing lots of practise questions and exam questions from many different exam boards (so that you are exposed to a variety of question styles). A Level Maths Revision has a fantastic questions by category resource which would be ideal for this. Additionally, if you consolidate at the pace at which you learn the AS content in lessons and wait until summer for MAT preparation, then you will allow yourself to develop your mathematical maturity and problem solving skills a little further before having to tackle the more involved MAT questions.
Secondly, once you have started your MAT preparation and have done a few MAT papers, you will begin to notice patterns and how often there can be repetition in the style of question. Thus, starting your MAT prep at the right time and with the right pace will mean that these patterns and tricks of answering questions will be fresh in your mind, ready for when you take the exam. Otherwise, there is the potential risk of peaking too early and then having to repeat papers you have already attempted, many times, so that you don’t forget the key ideas and tricks.
Thirdly, often the students who will have to sit MAT are those applying to top universities such as Oxford. And so, focusing on your AS-levels first and then starting MAT prep in summer will mean you are more likely to achieve good end of year grades which will contribute to a strong UCAS application.