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Part III (MMath/MASt)


The timeline below provides a rough guide to what happens during the Part III year. By clicking on given links, you will find explanations about that particular event; or click on Explanation of timeline to review all the explanations together.

Please note that for the upcoming academic year 2020-21, the activities described on this page may need to be modified in line with University and government guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further information will be made available in due course.


Before you arrive in Cambridge (July-August-September)

Michaelmas Term (October - December)

Week 0 Tuesday Full Term begins
MASt Welcome to CMS and Part III

Preparatory workshops begin (afternoons)



Introductory Meeting (MASt & MMath)
Part III photo and welcome event

Week 1




Michaelmas Term lectures begin

Meet-and-Greet by subject area Times to be announced

Week 2 Wednesday Applying for PhDs (general and Cambridge specific advice)
Week 3 Wednesday

Introduction to the Careers Service (including applying to PhDs in the USA).

Careers for Mathematicians

Week 4



List of examination courses to be announced in the Reporter

Research in the UK

Week 5



Deadline for Faculty to request additional examination papers

Planning your essay: reading, understanding, structuring

Week 6





Michaelmas Term Progress Interviews take place this week

Essay deadline and descriptions are expected to be released.

Introducing Cambridge Mathematics Placements

Deadline for return of completed Michaelmas term Progress interview forms

Week 7


How to give a good talk

Week 8 Wednesday Michaelmas term lectures end
  Thursday to Friday Part III Seminar Series

Christmas holidays

  • Get started on your essay.
  • Review and revise Michaelmas term courses.

Lent Term (January-March)

Throughout Lent: Cambridge Summer Research in Mathematics Programme lunch-time project presentations

Week 0


Full Lent Term begins

Week 1


Lent Term Lectures begin

Week 2 Wednesday

Writing your essay: from outline to final product 

Week 3 Saturday

Deadline for candidates to request additional essay titles
Deadline for candidates to raise concerns about the exam timetable

Week 4 Wednesday

All about exams

Week 5 Wednesday

List of additional essay titles published in the Reporter by this date

Week 6



Lent Term Progress Interviews take place this week.

Deadline for return of completed Lent term Progress Interview forms

Week 7


Revision Strategies

Week 8 Wednesday Lent Term lectures end.
  Thursday to Friday Part III Seminar Series

Easter Term (May-June)

Week 0 Tuesday Full Lent term begins
Week 1



Easter Term lectures begin

Essays due (at noon)
Deadline (at noon) for choosing examination papers and essay

Week 4 Wednesday Easter Term lectures end
Week 5 Thursday Exams start
Week 7 Tuesday Exams end
Week +1 Friday Full Term ends
  Wednesday Exam results should be available to you (and nobody else) on CamSIS
  Thursday Results released to be discussed with Faculty Members

End-of-year party for Part III students

Explanation of timeline

MASt Welcome to CMS and Part III

Part III students who were not Cambridge undergraduates are strongly encouraged to attend the “Welcome meeting” to CMS and Part III on the Tuesday before the Introduction to Part III. In this meeting, some of the aspects of Part III which might be seem surprising (or indeed downright strange) to such students will be explained by present PhD students and Faculty who came in from outside to study Part III. There will also be tours of the Centre for Mathematical Sciences (CMS) showing where the Part III room and the various lecture theatres are.

Part III Introductory Meeting

This is the official start of the Part III year for all students. It will be very crowded, filling two adjoining lecture rooms, with speakers giving essentially the same introductory presentations once in each room. You will be given a lot of information, which is often hard to take in at this point. A large part of this is general administrative information, much of which can be found in the Part III Handbook and also in Prof. Korner's Unofficial Guide to Part III. Perhaps the most important part of this is to learn what sources of help are available to you - what the roles of Director of Studies, Tutors, Subject advisers are, and who else might be useful for advice and explanation of how the Cambridge system works.

The Subject Advisers will also introduce themselves and the courses that are being offered this year. Some of these are courses which are given every year, and it is well worth reading both this year's and last year's Guide to Courses to get an idea of what is covered in the more basic courses before this meeting.

Lectures begin

The usual practice is to sample six or seven courses intending to drop one or two within the first week. This means that lectures are extremely crowded in the first week. Be prepared to stand or sit on the floor in some cases. Some of the more popular courses may be rescheduled to make better use of the bigger rooms. The class sizes generally shrink dramatically after the first week. There will be a general re-allocation of rooms according to need after the first week.

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Preparatory Workshops

Many Part III students come to Cambridge from other universities, so their mathematical background is as varied as the places they come from. The catch-up workshops at the beginning of Michaelmas term intend to deliver some background material in subjects including (in 2020-21) General Relativity, Foundations, Quantum Mechanics, Fluids, Statistics, Measure Theory, Rings and Modules, Foundations, Number Theory, Algebraic Geometry, Differential Geometry, and Algebraic Topology. They usually run in the first week of lectures, and are given by PhD students who try to base the classes around examples. Some of these catch-up workshops may be followed up by support meetings through the term. You will manage the process of catching up much better if you have already looked at the Part III Preparation Resources over the summer before you come.

Part III Seminar Series

There are two Part III Seminar Series, one at the end of the Michaelmas term, and one at the end of the Lent term. These are your chances to give talks to your colleagues. Take advantage of this opportunity to give a talk.  It will serve to consolidate the material you have been learning during the term.

The Seminar Series are a major social event in the Part III calendar. Even if for some reason you are unable to give a talk, keep this time available to listen to others.  Even listening to others giving talks is an excellent way to use and thus revise the concepts you have met this year.  It is a good way to meet your colleagues in a more active role.  You will also meet many of the research students, who have figured out that these talks provide excellent introductions to subjects outside their area of expertise. Both series end with a well-supplied party in the part III room.

For the Michaelmas Term series, you are encouraged to present material arising from examples sheets, or to develop themes introduced by lecturers but then abandoned. You will be organised into groups talking on similar subjects (even better if you organise your own seminar group). You will give your own talk, you will listen to other peoples talks, and you will participate in discussion following each talk. In order to help you prepare your talk, there will be a Wednesday afternoon session on 'How to give a good talk'. 

You may wish to invite potential supervisors/writers of supporting letters to come and listen to the Michaelmas talks. It is one opportunity (out of very few) for students to display their mathematical abilities to staff before the exams in June.

The Lent Term Series offers the perfect opportunity to begin to gather your ideas on your Part III essay together prior to setting metaphorical pen to paper, although you are welcome to give a talk even if you have no intention of offering an essay, and giving a talk is in no way a requirement for writing an essay.

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Wednesday afternoons

The Faculty hosts several talks and panel discussions throughout the year, usually on Wednesday afternoons. These are designed to support students in their transition from undergraduate student to independent researcher and include an opportunity to socialise at the Part III Café afterwards. Topics covered include PhD applications, research opportunities, advice on how to prepare a talk and how to write an essay etc.

Attendance at these talks is not compulsory, but strongly recommended for those students pursuing particular aims (such as applying for PhD places, writing an essay, giving a talk in the Part III Seminar Series). The events anticipated for 2019-2020 are outlined below.

Applying for PhDs: The majority of current graduate students in the Faculty will have completed Part III. The process of applying for PhD places and then deciding which offers to accept or not has some inherent problems (as many other job application processes do). It is often the case that students may need to accept or reject some offers before they know whether they will fulfil the conditions of other offers conditional on Part III results. Many Cambridge PhD offers are still conditional on Part III results, but not all: you need to come to this talk to find out what the procedure is in your area, and to know how best to navigate through this complex process. To help decide which group you might like to work with, individual research groups organise separate presentations.

Introduction to the Careers Service: In this talk you will be introduced to the support available from the the University Careers Service. Due to strong demand, there will be a focus on US PhD applications, which often have quite early deadlines.

Research in the UK: We invite students from other universities to come and talk about their research, and we ensure there is a generous tea opportunity, with cakes, to enable you to ask them the questions you need to know answers to (which supervisors in their department are nice, friendly, accessible and have time to spare for their PhD students, for example).

Planning your essay: reading, understanding, structuring: This talk will describe what is involved in the essay option, how to choose an essay topic, how to request an essay topic if there is some theme you would like to write on which has not been offered as an essay title, what sort of support you can expect in preparing the essay. It will also explain the series of events geared towards guiding you step-by-step through the process of reading mathematical papers, getting to grips with the ideas therein, and perhaps even preparing a talk on the topic for the Part III Seminar Series.

How to give a good talk: The purpose of the Part III year is to transform undergraduates into working mathematicians, capable of reading papers, doing research, writing papers, giving talks and generally being part of a mathematical community.  In the course of the Part III year, you will have two chances to give a talk, and be part of a seminar group, a chance to read papers, and a chance to write what may be your first mathematical paper. The Michaelmas Term Part III Seminar Series offers all Part III students the chance to talk for about half an hour on a subject of their choice.  How to give a good talk goes through the stages of planning and rehearsing a talk. This can also be an important part of the essay writing process, as it helps you prepare a good outline for your essay. The Lent Term Seminar Series is timed in such a way that if you give a talk on your essay in that series, you will be on track in terms of finishing your essay by the deadline.

Writing your essay: from outline to final product: This is the second talk aimed at guiding you through the preparation of your essay.  It takes the process from outline through finished product.

All about exams: At this talk, the course directors will review some of the more important technical administrative matters concerning the Exams. This is the correct time to come to ask questions about how much credit is given for which exams, when decisions have to be made on what courses you will offer for exams, and similar matters.

Revision Strategies: This talk is directed at those who are not familiar with the Cambridge tripos exams. For those meeting tripos exams for the first time, a little Cambridge-specific exam and revision strategy can be helpful, but all are welcome whether or not they are new to Cambridge.

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Requesting additional examination papers

It is possible for students to request additional examination papers in addition to those courses already offered. Usually this will take the form of a reading course, which a member of the department has to supervise and then set an exam on. If you are considering requesting an additional paper, note that the deadline for the members of the department to request such extra courses is 8th November, so make sure you talk to them before this date so they have time to request it.

Essay titles

The lists of essay descriptions will have been published online.  You will now begin the process of choosing an essay topic, and reading the papers that are referred to in the essay descriptions.  Reading mathematics is not easy, but there are tricks of the trade which make it easier. There is a talk which should help you get started.

Even before you attempt to read more than the description of the essay online, we strongly suggest you ask our friendly research students about the topics.  This will save you a lot of time.  You should also contact the essay setter.  Essay setters have different ways of handling initial discussions with students who may wish to write on the topics they have set.  Some will encourage individuals to come and talk with them directly, others will arrange a time when they will present the topic more formally in a short talk, before meeting with students individually.  Expressing an interest in writing an essay does not commit you to writing or submitting that particular essay, or any essay at all.  You will not have to make that choice officially until late April/early May. Of course, if you do want to write an essay, you have to choose and start far earlier than that to have time to complete it, but should it go horribly wrong you have the option of abandoning it and not submitting, until the time that you have officially declared which examination papers you will be taking.

Requesting additional essay titles

Candidates may request additional essay titles. There is a procedure for this, and it begins with you talking to a member of staff who might be willing to set an essay on the topic you would like to study.  Like most deadlines associated with the Part III year, there is no flexibility.  It is wise, if you want an additional title listed, to discuss this matter well in advance of this date.

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With luck, given that you have enjoyed and taken an active part in your education during the year, the exams should not hold any nasty surprises.  You will have studied past exam papers, and come up with and followed your own revision strategy, whether your ambition is a pass or a distinction.  You will be tired, but hopefully not too tired to think.

The exams are hard.  Various people will have been telling you that at regular intervals from the first day onwards.  One positive consequence of the level of difficulty is that a pass on these exams is regarded as an achievement!  It can be an uncomfortable experience for those who are accustomed to walking away from an exam feeling that they have turned in a near perfect paper, to come away from exam knowing that at best your mark is likely to be near 70%. Despair is not appropriate: 75%, for example, is still a solid α-.  Acknowledge this truth before the exams; it will spare you considerable distress.

The timetable will probably include at least one day with two exams, morning and afternoon.  This reflects the complexities of trying to draw up a viable timetable given the wide range of courses available and the freedom students have in chosing amongst them.

Part III Results

You will receive your results on CamSIS on the Wednesday afternoon during this week.

Unless your plans for the next year are in no way dependent on your results, it is a very good idea to keep the Thursday (and perhaps even the following week) free to be able to negotiate with potential supervisors and arrange funding for future studies. If you have taken advice to heart and kept at least one attractive fallback option open, disappointments will not be catastrophic for your career.  Plans can and do change, and not always for the worse.  Be prepared to be flexible, and use the time available to revise plans appropriately in the light of your results.

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End-of-Year Party

The end of the year hits many students rather suddenly.  One week everyone is studying madly, the next week there is scant time to pack and say good-byes.  On the Friday following the release of results, both departments provide a liberal supply of strawberries, wine, cheese and bread, giving you the chance to sit about the core one final time talking with friends and colleagues you are unlikely to forget.

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Part III Calendar

The Faculty provides a Google Calendar of Part III events to which you may subscribe. This lists the actual dates etc. for the current academic year.

There is a description of how to subscribe to this and other Faculty calendars on the Faculty Calendars page.