Course background

I am planning on studying MSc Mathematics through the UK's Open University (distance learning). The course comprises of pure mathematics (number theory, complex analysis, coding theory etc.)

I am planning on taking the course over 3 years. The academic year is October to July.

My background

I graduated 8 years ago with a BSc Mathematics and Statistics (equal credit weighting in pure, applied and stats) with a 2:1. Since then I have worked in market research (so reasonably quantitative). I am a bit nervous about going back to studying and especially taking exams again.

My questions are:

  1. What tips are there for a person returning to study?
  2. What study tips are there for someone someone studying an online MSc?
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure whether this belongs on this site; I think probably it would go better on a mathematics site. Questions asked here are intended to be about mathematics education itself, not really about how to learn it yourself. But we'll see what others think. Welcome to the site either way! $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2017 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisCunningham: Thanks for the welcome. I was a little unsure as to which site to post to. I'll leave the post open a few days and see. $\endgroup$
    – user8481
    Jul 14, 2017 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ The book "Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers" by Jan Gullberg might be a nice 1-volume review (and then some) of much of what you learned 8+ years ago. $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2017 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


The only advice I can give is from my own experience: I've studied 3 of their MSc modules, at a rate of one per year whilst working full time. It's a shame their undergraduate courses are now so expensive as some would be ideal (re)preparation for the MSc. It's useful/important to know that the "routes" they describe are just suggestions: you can study any combination of the modules, as long as the dissertation is included. I've taken variational principles, coding theory and fractal geometry and really enjoyed them all. Will probably move to number theory next. The student reviews are interesting to read: I think I'll avoid the numerical course that uses Maple.

Most courses have a set text which you could buy in advance and try and make some progress through, for example during the summer months. The OU provide very helpful online tutorials and feedback on assignments is also generally very useful. There are also online forums for discussion/clarification of anything and everything in the course. Specimen and past papers help to prepare for the exams. Moreover each course comes with a kind of glossary which you can annotate and take into exams: develop the skill of condensed writing and then these can be a very reassuring resource in the exams.

In terms of more general study skills, you just need to plan how to fit the studying into your life: for me as a teacher, I would do big chunks at half term and in holidays etc. Others prefer to set aside a couple of hours every week. Particularly when you study two modules at the same time, there can be stressful points in the year if they each have an assignment due around the same time. The exams typically take place early June.

  • $\begingroup$ Very useful. Regarding your point about the set textbooks, I've noticed some of these are available for free from the author's websites. Good to know about being able to take the glossary into the exam. I had assumed that I would have to memorise definitions, which is why I also asked this: matheducators.stackexchange.com/q/12600/8481 $\endgroup$
    – user8481
    Jul 17, 2017 at 8:14

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