Mathematical Biology

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The lecture notes are very descriptive and understandable although a lot of people still like to take their own notes in the lectures. It is worth not missing lectures though as there will be lots of examples in the lectures that aren’t in the notes. These examples are often more useful than the notes to work out how to answer supervision questions- you can refer back to them and apply the same or at the very least a modified approach. Mainly matrices, statistics and integration will be covered throughout the course, along with various applications of these techniques for biological models.


There is a booklet of example sheets given at the beginning of each term with several questions which go along with the lectures. Your supervisor will tell you which sheets to complete each week and then go through corrections in the supervision. An example sheet can take up to 2 hours, but are usually shorter than that. Your supervisor will also answer any queries you might have or even give critical thinking questions for you to ponder on.


Once every week there is a computing lab, which lasts 1hr 15min. Here you will learn how to code R, a language that’s extremely useful and widely applied in academia for statistical analysis. The main reason to attend the lab sessions is to get help from demonstrators. Sometimes R won’t run as you’d like, and so it is useful to get an extra pair of eyes reading your code. That being said, most practical leaders (who are usually the lecturers of that block), especially during Lent and Easter, upload yellow answer sheets to the practicals on Moodle the day afterwards so you can check your own answers later. You have 3 assessed practicals altogether. One is done at the end of Michaelmas, another at the end of Lent and a third at the start of Easter term. The first two are both worth 8% and the final one is worth 4%. The second practical is notably more advanced than the first. Overall, the labs in Michaelmas are fairly straightforward and grow progressively more complex during Lent and Easter.


It can be worth going back over supervision material and checking understanding that way. The best way to revise for Mathematical Biology is to do past papers. Unlike A-levels, answers are unlikely to be made available so you will have to either ask your supervisor to mark extra papers or meet with other students who take Mathematical Biology and compare answers. Note that since the course was only recently introduced (2017/18 was the first year group to do it), past papers from before then will have some questions that aren’t applicable to you, and also not include all content (especially the topics from Easter weren’t on the old course). There’s a useful table towards the end of the course handbook that indicates exactly which questions in each past paper are applicable to which lecture block, and which aren’t relevant at all. For new course material, you can do the sample past exam, the 2018 and the 2019 exam.

This module differs from Maths A/B mostly in the amount of applied maths that is used. The maths itself on the whole isn’t as hard, however, due to the application, it can be difficult to know what they want you to use to answer a question as one question may contain elements from multiple lecture series. The most important thing to learn during the academic year is to figure out what exactly questions are asking for.


The exam is 3 hours long and there are 10 questions, with equal weighting, of which you must answer 8. There are 5 sections in total- one for each half term- with 2 questions per section. You must answer one question from each section and then choose which sections to answer 2 from. Keep this in mind when reviewing content — focus most on the half-terms that you feel most confident in (as these will be the sections you answer 2 questions in), but try not to neglect or completely ignore any half-term.

Also, familiarise yourself with the formula booklet, as many useful formulae aren’t actually in it – it’s available on Moodle.

Useful resources:

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