skip to content

Undergraduate Mathematics


Statement on pause of in-person teaching @ CMS

Issued 20.10.2020

Statement on Teaching in Parts IA, IB and II for 2020/21

Issued 27.07.2020

The Faculty has considered the likely impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and government guidance, and can confirm that there will be no significant changes to the academic content of Parts IA, IB and II of the Mathematical Tripos for 2020/21.

There will, however, be changes to the way the content is delivered through lectures, in order to mitigate against risks to health and to give students the best possible academic experience in the circumstances. The changes are:

  • All lectures will be recorded and made available online.
  • For Part IA, it is possible that students might also be able to attend a number of lectures in person but this cannot be guaranteed; a firm decision will be announced as soon as possible.
  • For Parts IB and II, it is expected that students will not be able to attend lectures in person in Michaelmas Term; any possibility of easing restrictions in Lent Term will be kept under review.

These arrangements for lectures are based on current guidance and expectations; the Faculty will continue to monitor the changing public health situation throughout the academic year.

Arrangements for supervisions are made by Colleges and Directors of Studies. The Faculty expects that each College will contact its own students directly to provide further details.


Modified Assessment 2019/20: Part II Conventional (in-person) Exams

Part II exams - coversheets and rubric  email sent 04.09.2020

Information Sheet for Candidates issued by the University  e-mail sent 03.09.2020

Part II exams - updates and checks  e-mail sent 02.09.2020

Part II exam arrangements - update  e-mail sent 17.08.2020

The conventional, in-person, Part II exams have now been scheduled for the period 8th to 11th September, 2020.

The exams will be held in Cambridge and students should make arrangements with their colleges in order to return:

Dates for Part II Conventional Exams  e-mail sent 27.07.2020

Part II Conventional Exam Registration  e-mail sent 07.07.2020


Modified Assessment 2019/20: Announcements and Online Exams

Links to Part II Online Assessments - August 2020

Guidance Notes for Part II Online Exams - August 2020

Guidance Notes for Part IA Online Exams - June 2020

Guidance Notes for Part IB Online Exams - June 2020

Guidance Notes for Part II Online Exams - June 2020

Code of Conduct Part IA/IB Examinations Easter term 2020

Code of Conduct Part II Examinations Easter term 2020

Exam timetables for Parts IA, IB and II: email from the Director of Undergraduate Education 06.05.2020

Structure of online exams: Parts IA, IB and II 27.04.2020

IA and IB email from the Director of Undergraduate Education 14.04.2020

Part II email from the Director of Undergraduate Education 14.04.2020


Modified Assessment 2019/20: Frequently Asked Questions

Answers below were last updated on 30.05.2020, prior to the June online exams.

Up to date information regarding the Part II conventional (in-person) exams can be found in the section above.


General Arrangements for Parts IA, IB and II

Q: When will the online exams take place?

A: The University has released timetables for the online exams for Parts IA, IB and II:       

You should also be able to view your exam timetable via your CamSIS self-service at:

All exam papers for Parts IA, IB and II are scheduled for the week 8-12 June.

Q: What is and isn’t allowed in these online exams?

A: An outline description has already been given in the Structure of online exams document. More detailed descriptions will shortly be released in Codes of Conduct for Part II and for Parts IA/IB.

Q: Will each exam start at a specified time?

A:  Yes (as announced in the e-mail of 06/05/2020). Both Codes of Conduct require all candidates in the UK, as well as all those in time zones UTC-3 to UTC+8, to start each exam at, or shortly after, noon BST (UTC+1); all candidates in other time zones are required to start each exam at, or shortly after, midnight BST. This ensures that the earliest local start time will be 8am and the latest local start time will be 7pm.

Q: Why does the University timetable show a 24-hour window for each paper?

A: This is simply for administrative convenience across different subjects. You are required to conform to the start times specified by the Faculty of Mathematics.

Q: What does “at, or shortly after” mean in the start time

A: You are expected to try to start the exam at either noon or midnight. The “or shortly after” recognises that it may take a short period to accomplish the download. This will not be counted as part of the time for completing the exam.

Q: What is the duration of the exam?

A: You have 3 hours to complete the examination paper, as usual. This is the time allowed between downloading the exam paper and when you must stop writing your answers.

Q: Will exam adjustments, e.g. extra time, apply for candidates with special circumstances?

A: Yes. Any student with special circumstances will be entitled to make appropriate exam adjustments and access arrangements, e.g. by taking a specified amount of extra time. Such adjustments and arrangements must be approved by the University in advance, as usual. 

Q: Will additional time be allowed for scanning and uploading answers?

A: Yes, an additional period of 45 minutes will be allowed to scan answers and upload them to moodle. If you exceed this, it is not in itself a breach of the Code of Conduct, but you should email your Tutor to explain what happened.

Q: Will the time taken for each exam be monitored?

A: Yes. The University will monitor the times at which each candidate downloads their question paper and uploads their answers.

Q: How will candidates access the exam paper and submit their answers?

A: The exam paper will be released on moodle and candidates will be required to download it and start the exam as soon as possible after the specified time (noon or midnight BST, depending on their time zone - see above). At the end of the allotted time, candidates must scan their answers to produce pdf files and then submit them by uploading to moodle.  

Q: Will guidance be available on how to use the moodle site and how to scan answers?

A: Yes, guidance is available from the University

and the Faculty will provide additional guidance specifically for Maths.

Q: Can answers be written electronically, on a tablet or iPad, for example?

A: No. Answers should be handwritten on paper of standard size (A4 or US Letter), preferably using black or blue ink to ensure legibility (this should be tested in advance). Answers cannot be written directly on electronic devices unless this has previously been approved as an examination adjustment due to special circumstances.

Q: What if there are technical difficulties in downloading the question paper or uploading the answers?

A: There will be an emergency e-mail address that a candidate can use to inform the University that they are experiencing problems, so that this can be taken into account.

Q: Will formal guidance be issued concerning the conduct of candidates during the exams?

A: Yes, the Faculty has issued a concise Code of Conduct for exams for each Tripos Part. The Code of Conduct specifies what is permissible during the period the exam is online, to supplement standard University policy prohibiting the use of unfair means.

Q: Will candidates be required to make a formal declaration that they have complied with the Code of Conduct?

A: Yes, they will be required to sign a copy of the Code of Conduct and upload this along with their answers. This will certify, in particular, that they started and finished the exam at the specified times (including any additional time appropriate to approved special circumstances).


Part II

Q: What will be the format and structure of the online pass/fail exam for Part II?

A: The online pass/fail exam for Part II is described in detail in the Structure of online exams document. There will be two three-hour, open-book papers. Each paper will consist of one short (Section I) question on each Part II course (C or D) and candidates can answer up to ten questions on each paper. Any credit that you obtain from CATAM projects submitted by the April deadline will also contribute to the result.

Q: What if I haven’t done CATAM?

A: You are in the same position as you would have been had conventional exams gone ahead as usual. CATAM is not a requirement of the course.  It will contribute to your final mark with roughly the same weight relative to exam marks as usual.

Q: What are short questions like on D courses?

A: Each short question is intended to be a straightforward test of knowledge and understanding, and is intended to be of a similar style to the short questions on C courses. To prepare for the online exam, you should therefore concentrate on improving your knowledge and understanding by revising the course material thoroughly and working through past paper questions (both short and long for C courses; long for D courses), as usual.

Q: Will sample short questions be available for D courses?

A: Unfortunately, production of sample questions was not possible due to the unavoidably short time scale for constructing the new online exams.

Q: How will the standard for passing the online exam compare to the standard for passing a conventional Part II exam?

A: The Faculty Board has instructed the Part II examiners to ensure that the standard required to pass the online exam will be no greater than that required to pass a conventional Part II exam.

Q: What is the threshold for passing?

A: This is a new exam and we do not know the numerical threshold in advance.  The passing criteria are described in the Structure of online exams document.  As stated in the last answer, the Faculty has strongly endorsed the principle that it should be no more difficult to pass the online exam than it is to pass a conventional Part II exam.

Q: What is meant by the online pass/fail exam being “open book”?

A: In summary: you will be allowed to consult your own lecture notes, your own supervision work, and any revision notes you have written yourself, together with any lecture notes and handouts that were provided by the lecturer as part of the course. Other than consulting these materials, you must use only the items that would normally be allowed in the examination hall: in particular, you must not use the internet during the examination for any purpose other than downloading the examination paper and uploading your answers from/to moodle.

Q: What should I do if I think I will not be able to take the online exam in June?

A: Contact your College Tutor as soon as possible. The University will allow students to self-certify that they are unable to take the exam due to illness, caring commitments or similar serious disruptions, but this needs to be done through the proper University channels.

Q: What is the second assessment period, and when will it happen?

A: if you are unable to take the online pass/fail exam in June for reasons such as ill health, significant caring commitments, technical difficulties or similar disruption, then you have the opportunity to take an online exam of identical form at a later date, during a second assessment period. The precise dates are unknown at this time, but the second assessment period is likely to be held when the University is back in full operation.

Q: If I fail the online exam in June, can I sit it again in the second assessment period?

A: No. The second assessment period cannot be used for a resit: it is only for candidates who are unable to take the online exam in June. If there are extenuating circumstances, however, then you should discuss these with your College Tutor as soon as possible.

Q: What is the conventional Part II exam and when is it expected to take place?

A: The conventional Part II exam is optional. It will consist of four three-hour written papers taken in Cambridge under standard examination conditions. (If we can offer it at some international venues also, we will). The University will need to be fully operational again (possibly for some time) before such an examination can take place, and in the current circumstances it is quite impossible to predict when this might be.

Q: What action is required in order to take the conventional exam; is there a deadline for opting to do this; and is there any restriction on who can take it?

A: You will be asked to tell the Faculty by a certain date whether you wish to take the conventional exam. This date is yet to be fixed, but no action will be required until after the June online exams have been completed; indeed, the deadline will be no earlier than the release of the pass/fail exam results. Clear instructions will be sent explaining what to do and by when. Provided you have told the Faculty by the deadline and you pass the online Part II exam in either the first or second assessment period, you can take the conventional exam.

Q: Is it possible to opt not to take the online exam and to take just the conventional exam instead?

A: No, you must pass the online exam (in either the first or second assessment period) in order to take the conventional exam.

Q: Will the conventional exam be classed, and how will the class boundaries be determined?

A: The conventional exam will be classed in the standard way (1, 2i, 2ii, 3, or fail). This will be done by comparing individual performances to the standard qualitative attainment criteria in the Schedules. There will be no restriction on the proportion of candidates who can be awarded any given class.

Q: Would any credit I obtained from the CATAM projects submitted in April contribute to the result of the conventional exam?

A: Yes, any credit from CATAM will contribute to the conventional exam in the usual way.

Q: How will the class I get in Part II be determined by the results of the online and conventional exams?

A: If you pass the online exam in either the first or second assessment period then you will be entitled to carry over the class you obtained in Part IB as your class in Part II. If you opt to take the conventional exam and you do better than your IB result then your class in Part II will be upgraded, but if you do worse in the conventional exam you will still retain your IB result.

Q: When will the result of the June online exams be announced and when will I be able to graduate?

A: The date for the announcement of results has not yet been fixed. Once the announcement is made and it is confirmed that you have passed the online exam, you will be eligible to graduate with a BA, but the exact dates on which degrees can be awarded are decided by the University.

Q: Do I need to delay graduation if I want to upgrade my Part II result by taking the conventional exam?

A: No, your Part II result can still be upgraded after you graduate if you do well enough in the conventional exam.


Parts IA and IB

Q: What will be the format and structure of the online exams for IA and IB?

A: The online exams for IA and IB are described in detail in the Structure of online exams document. There will be two three-hour, closed-book papers. Each paper will consist of a mixture of short (Section I) and long (Section II) questions, which will be marked in the usual way, with detailed mark schemes and alpha and beta quality grades. The questions are a subset of the ones that would have been in this year’s examinations in Cambridge if there had been no pandemic.

Q: What is meant by the online exams being “closed book”?

A: In summary: you must use only the items that would normally be allowed in the examination hall – e.g. writing implements, a water-bottle etc. You must not consult your notes or any other written material, or access any electronic devices (including calculators), or receive help from any other person, or do anything else that would not be permitted in a normal invigilated exam.

Q: What is the purpose of the online IA/IB exams?

A: The exams play an important role in helping you to consolidate your progress this year and to prepare as well as possible for next year. They will provide a test of your knowledge and understanding in an environment that is as realistic an approximation as possible to our usual exams, with detailed feedback on how you have done. They give you a valuable chance to practice taking Cambridge-style Tripos exams, with nothing at stake, before you have to take classed exams next year.

Q: What feedback will I receive after the exams?

A: You will receive a list of marks and quality grades on each question, together with marks for any CATAM projects (Part IB) that you submitted by the deadline. This information will also be sent to your Director of Studies.

Q: Will my performance in the IA/IB exams be part of my official University record; will I be classed or ranked; do I need to pass in order to progress to Part IB/II?

A: No. Your performance will not be part of your official University record and will not appear on CamSIS. There will be no classing or ranking of candidates, or publication of results. There will be no pass or fail, and you will be able to progress to Part IB or II irrespective of your performance.

Q: Am I required to sit the online Part IA/IB exams?

A: Yes, unless serious extenuating circumstances prevent you from doing so.  Sitting the exams is an important part of the educational process, as explained above. 

Q: What should I do if I think I will not be able to take the online exams?

A: Contact your College Tutor as soon as you can. If there are serious extenuating circumstances that prevent you from taking the exams then you will still progress to Part IB or II, as explained above.

Q: Will there be a second assessment period for IA/IB exams?

A: No. When the general framework for modified assessment was first announced by the University (at the end of March) it was expected that there would be a second assessment period for all students who were unable to take exams in June for reasons such as ill health, significant caring commitments or technical difficulties. This no longer applies to Parts IA and IB (the University has revised its policy), though it does still apply to Part II (see section above).

Q: Will there be conventional exams for IA/IB held at a later date, as for Part II?

A: No.