Staying competitive in international admissions: Upgrading math proficiency evaluation with student-centered technology

Higher education institutions are navigating an increasingly competitive global landscape. For instance, UK universities are seeing a decline in enrollment from key markets like India and Nigeria (Enroly, 2024).

This trend is particularly impactful for business schools, with nearly three-quarters reporting reduced international student numbers (CABS, 2024). Given the significant financial reliance on international students (PwC, 2024), institutions must innovate to remain attractive and competitive.

The growth of English-taught programs worldwide presents both challenges and opportunities for traditional education hubs like the UK. Studyportals (2021) reports nearly 28,000 full-degree programs now offered outside the ‘big four’ destinations (Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US), increasing competition for student enrollments. In Europe, admissions offices expect this growth to continue as students face wider choices.

International students in the UK predominantly enroll in STEM fields like engineering, computer science, social sciences, and medicine (HESA, 2021). However, these programs demand strong mathematical proficiency. For admissions, it’s challenging to assess this, given the diverse qualifications of international students.

Photograph of a student in a math classroom

We conducted a survey last year with Ecctis and found that most admission offices (60%) evaluate students’ mathematical capability. However, 84.5% of these offices stated they lacked the tools to make admissions decisions based on mathematics for some of their programs.  

In this blog post, you can learn how your institution can remain competitive in international admissions by upgrading math proficiency evaluation with student-centered technology.

This blog post is based on a talk Adam Smallwood (Head of Partnerships at OMPT) gave during the ENIC North 2024 conference hosted by Ecctis at the Technology and Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde.

This blog post is based on a talk Adam Smallwood (Head of Partnerships at OMPT) gave during the ENIC North 2024 conference hosted by Ecctis at the Technology and Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde

Understanding the limitations of equivalency: A real-life example from Amsterdam University College

To help frame the challenges admission offices face, we want to use a real-life example from Amsterdam University College, where OMPT is now used to test mathematical skills required for an interdisciplinary Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Sciences.

One of the most significant determinants of successfully completing students’ first year is possessing the right math skills. We know first-year completion is a strong predictor of overall graduation. If students drop out because of a math deficiency, they tend to do so early.

The AUC admissions team wanted to treat applicants fairly despite differences in backgrounds, but limitations in equivalency made that problematic. Like many UK universities, international students provide a helpful financial boost, so ideally, they would accept all capable candidates, not just those with equivalent certificates. In the words of Kasia Malarek, admissions officer and lecturer at AUC:

“We tried to understand the educational system we were working with. This takes a lot of work and changes on a yearly basis. So, it was tough to compare the math programs. We looked at the curricula, the grade distribution, and the available information. But we have learned over the years that that is not enough because these differences not only consist of differences in material or assessment methods but also in how students use these skills.”

Kasia Malarek

Admissions Officer and Lecturer at Amsterdam University College 

Read the full AUC use case here.

These graphs are taken from a webinar we hosted with our friends at Ecctis last year. Below, we see the difference not just in content but also in how skills are assessed. For example, Bangladesh does not spend time on statistics, which is problematic for some study programs. Similarly, Finnish students are likely to have better-developed skills in finance than UK students, but gaps in mechanics may have implications for some engineering programs.

Graphs showing variability in ways of assessing mathematics proficiency in upper secondary mathematics internationally

Assessing students can vary significantly depending on how and when it’s done. This means that the assessment results may not be very helpful apart from established qualifications such as A-levels or International Baccalaureate. It’s worth noting that these results are not fixed and change every year, as seen in the AUC case.

What about the student perspective?

Now, we want to focus on the other side: the student viewpoint. We will illustrate it with Aliya’s case. This applicant comes from Kazakhstan, and she wanted to study a science major in a liberal arts program at Amsterdam University College (AUC).

She encountered obstacles in achieving her goal because she needed to demonstrate her math proficiency but lacked a recognized math certificate. Like many others, she had struggled with math in the past and wanted to improve her skills. This was even more challenging as there were differences in how math was taught and assessed in her home country compared to the Netherlands. Additionally, studying math in English for the first time created language barriers.

She felt discouraged from pursuing her dream program due to these obstacles. Luckily, she found a way to overcome them. Keep reading to learn how.

Photograph of a student with a backpack

How are universities currently dealing with the diversity of mathematics qualifications?

Based on our survey with Ecctis, institutions use several methods to evaluate international math qualifications:

Previous Qualifications

Custom assessments of grades and diplomas, though time-consuming and inconsistent.

Mathematics Tests 

Traditional exams like GCSEs and A-Levels may not be accessible to all students or may be difficult to prepare for.

Equivalency Mapping 

Not exhaustive and risks excluding capable students.

What can technological student-centered solutions offer?

These are some technologies that can benefit both students and institutions while keeping a human touch.

Personalized learning

There is a hugely widening availability of interactive and personalized learning resources, providing students with more flexible and accessible solutions.

Online tutoring

Students can also have access to the right tools or even tutors online to help them reach their goals.

Digital testing

Unlike traditional tests that are limited to a few instances a year, online testing offers students the convenience and comfort of studying and testing at their own pace, reducing stress and enhancing their chances of success.

Online proctoring

High-quality proctoring protects the integrity of tests while giving the student the comfort of taking the test at home. Since the test is digital, insights are quickly available for the students and admission offices.

By adopting this approach, universities can enhance their offerings to applicants while significantly streamlining the admissions process, providing administrators with a sense of relief and increased efficiency.

OMPT: Online math admission tests

At OMPT, we’ve embraced technology to address math-related challenges in admissions, and we put the student at the center of our service with our math admission tests. Below, we will discuss how we use digital tools to support applicants and admission offices.

Practice materials

We help students master their math skills before taking the exam with the opportunity to make the most of endless practice. Our math questions are all randomized and provide personalized automated feedback. This allows students to gradually try out multiple versions of the same exercise and train their mathematical reasoning. More than 75% of OMPT test-takers recommend our practice materials.

interactive theory page in OMPT

Our theory pages have visually engaging theory pages with concrete explanations and illustrative examples. Our materials are used at universities like Exeter University, Penn State University, and Erasmus School of Economics. Students love features like our visualizations. They help those struggling with abstract concepts like differentiation and integration, which might be crucial to their chosen study program. 

Now, we are back to Aliya’s story, the student who wanted to apply to Amsterdam University College. Finally, she used OMPT to prove her math proficiency and strengthen her mathematical skills. As she said:

We work differently. So I thought it would be better for me if I learned [math] from the beginning in the way Europe thinks about math. So, I started with the numbers, understanding the terminology, and everything I needed. That was helpful because I could see my deficiencies, and the testing or preparation system covered all. I needed to learn math in English specifically to avoid doubts during the test.”

Student at Amsterdam University College

Flexible options 

Students get 24/7 access to the practice materials. Additionally, they can take these tests from anywhere, at any time. They can also take a mock exam beforehand to get familiar with the exam scenario and have a realistic view of their skills.


OMPT helps reduce the opportunity gap since students do not need to choose expensive options like flying overseas to take a traditional admission test. Likewise, our practice materials mimic a private tutor, and we offer special accommodations for students. In this blog post, you can explore how we make accessible admission tests.

Lower dropout rate 

Identify which students have the required mathematical level to stay the course. Various institutions report a lower dropout rate since they started using OMPT. You can learn more about this in this research analysis one of our partners conducted.

Secure and privacy-driven 

OMPT exams are safely proctored and privacy-compliant. Here, you can find out how we protect institutions and applicants.

Detailed Test Analytics

We provide in-depth progress reports on your admission process and applicants. Test takers can track their progress. Admission offices get their own dashboard in the portal with the insights they need to stay in control of the whole process and optimize their work.

Save time 

Every step is automated, so you can focus on the most impactful areas of your job. As this image shows, We take care of the whole process, reducing the workload of admission offices:

Graph showing the steps for universities and students

Our tests are co-designed with institutions like the University of Amsterdam and Maastricht University. Throughout this test creation process, our team of in-house mathematicians, educators, and education scientists work closely with admission officers and teachers. Together, we deliver the best tests to help institutions target students who will be a good fit for their programs. Here, you can learn more about how we create our tests.

Importantly, institutions also have complete freedom to set their own passing grade, the number of attempts permitted, and the admission deadline. We can also offer advice based on the experiences of our community of universities. This is helpful as, of course, approaches vary depending on the particular demands of the study program and the institution in general. 

We offer diverse tests developed to evaluate the required mathematics skills required to thrive in different study fields. Below, you can see all the OMPT exams that have been developed until now.

OMPT: Supporting admissions and students

We are happy to help both institutions and students reach their goals, as you can see in the testimonials below:

“Now we can compare students from different educational systems that we don’t know much about. We can predict how well they will do in the program because, together with the results of the OMPT, you get more detailed information, showing how the candidate did in more particular aspects of the exam. So we have a great indication of the general and specific skills required to complete each major successfully”.

Kasia Malarek
Admissions Officer and Lecturer at Amsterdam University College

“Honestly, it was the best. OMPT has perfect explanations because I had no questions and could see different examples. Everything was explained. I even told my friends: if you need to improve at math, you can take this prep material because it’s awesome.
The mock exam was really, really convenient.”

Student at Amsterdam University College


  1. (UK) Institutions face growing global competition and need the right tools for the job. Reliance on international students amidst increasing competition pressures institutions to make the right admissions decisions.
  2. Numeracy is an increasingly important skill to assess, but the diversity of qualifications and dynamic curricula make it hard to determine math skills and establish equivalency.
  3. Technology can help students bridge gaps and demonstrate proficiency while increasing flexibility for students and admissions offices.
  4. Admission offices can benefit from tools like OMPT that help widen student acceptance and save valuable time.

While no single solution can fully address the complex challenges faced by admission offices, it’s becoming increasingly crucial to equip your toolkit with the right technologies. OMPT, for instance, is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance student acceptance rates and optimize admissions processes, thereby saving valuable time and effort. 

If you have any doubts about OMPT, please contact us or book a short demo with one of our mathematics admission specialists.


CABS (2024, February 28). “Three quarters of UK business schools report falling enrolments from international students”. Chartered Association of Business Schools.

Enroly (2024, January 11). CAS and deposits rally but remain significantly down year-on-year as Pakistan leapfrogs Nigeria. Enroly.

HESA. (2021, October 8). Student record 2020/21. HESA.

PwC (2024, January). UK Higher Education Financial Sustainability Report. PwC.

Studyportals (2021). The changing landscape of English-taught programmes. Studyportals.

Recommended readings

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