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I am currently a final-year student on a BSc Mathematics programme in the UK. For the first two years of my degree I've mostly adopted a '2:1 will do' approach and didn't focus on my studies all too much, sometimes even cramming in an entire course the night before the exam. As a result, my grade distribution is extremely uneven: for example, last semester, my lowest grade was 40% and the highest was 89%. I'm not sure about other degrees, but from my experience people tend to score fairly consistently in maths. Overall, I currently have a 60% average.

Last semester, however, I took an introductory logic class and was really intrigued by the subject. The 89% referred to earlier was for that logic course, which was otherwise considered fairly demanding. It may sound somewhat cliche, but I believe I've found my academic 'passion', however niche it may be. Over the summer I've worked my way through a couple of mathematical logic books, and am currently in the process of writing my bachelors thesis which is on a fairly advanced topic in model theory. With that my attendance has improved and I've found other maths classes more enjoyable, too. I'm rambling here, but the point is that my interest in this particular area is pretty serious.

Now, to my question: with this in mind, I've started thinking of possibly going on to do a PhD in the future. Problem is, I'm afraid the first two years of my Bachelors will drag me down to the point of not being able to gain acceptance into a decent programme. I will most likely end up getting a First Class degree in the end, and the university I go to is in the Top-100 across all major rankings, but then again I know people who have close to a 95% average. Would you say it's still worth trying, or should I just take the safe route and re-orientate my studies towards something more practical?

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  • Just apply and see what works out.
    – user115896
    Nov 11 '19 at 19:38
  • Why not apply to PhDs and Master's? Then, if you are unsuccessful with PhD applications this time around, you will be able to strengthen a future application with the Master's. A Master's would also give you more time to develop your research interests.
    – astronat
    Nov 13 '19 at 15:20
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Ask your university, though undergraduate grades probably won’t matter because you’ll probably need to complete a Master’s Degree first.

Generally, there are two different methods for PhDs to be structured- ones that take 5-6 years to complete and include a coursework component and can be entered directly after finishing a Bachelor Degree, and ones that don’t include a coursework component, take 3-4 years to complete, and require you to have completed a Master’s Degree first.

The latter structure is more common in Europe, though I admit I’m not completely familiar with the system used in the UK; I do know that it is used in some Commonwealth countries like Australia, though. As a result, when applying for this sort of PhD, it’s likely that the admissions office will put a lot more weight on the results you got from your Master’ Degree than the ones from your Bachelor’s.

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  • I know a couple of people who went straight into a UK PhD (ie a pure research PhD) after their BSc, so anecdotally speaking a Master's is not strictly necessary.
    – astronat
    Nov 13 '19 at 15:17
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In your final semester, it may be exceedingly difficult to show a solid change in your habits and work ethic that I would say would be good for convincing others if you turned it around in the last 2 or 3 semesters.

However, you say possibly doing a PHD in the future. If that doesnt mean immediately applying, then gaining relevant experience at work and continuing your studies after receiving your degree could help you if you choose to apply a few years down the road.

Good scores on the GRE (or the UK equivalent, whatever that may be) could also help a candidate seeking to have low grades overlooked.

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  • There is no UK equivalent to the GRE.
    – astronat
    Nov 13 '19 at 15:18

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