STEP Mathematics is a series of examination papers used to assess aptitude for university study in Mathematics and mathematical subjects.
STEP is based on material that's common to the core syllabus of A Level Mathematics (or equivalent) and so requires no further knowledge. The questions are designed to test qualities like insight, originality, and the ability to use standard techniques in unusual ways and situations. Colleges can also read applicants' examination scripts and so assess particular strengths or weaknesses which may not be conveyed in the overall mark.
STEP is used as part of almost all conditional offers in Mathematics (including Mathematics with Physics) and Computer Science with Mathematics. Some Colleges may use STEP for other courses:
- Christ's College ask for STEP as part of conditional offers for Chemical Engineering via Engineering and Engineering
- Hughes Hall may ask for STEP as part of conditional offers for Chemical Engineering via Engineering, Economics and Engineering
- Peterhouse may occasionally ask for STEP as part of conditional offers in Engineering
- St Edmund's may ask for STEP as part of conditional offers in Economics
- St John’s may ask for STEP as part of conditional offers in Engineering
- Trinity Hall may, in exceptional circumstances, ask for STEP as part of conditional offers in Economics
STEP is graded S (Outstanding), 1 (very good), 2 (good) and 3 (Satisfactory) and U (unclassified). The grades required as part of an offer vary by College – see individual College websites for typical STEP requirements.
There are three STEP papers (I, II and III) but candidates only take two – either papers I and II, or papers II and III. Applicants taking Mathematics A Level are normally asked to take papers I and II, while those taking Mathematics and Further Mathematics A Levels normally take papers II and III.
STEP is administered by the Admissions Testing Service and papers are sat immediately after the A Level examination period (in June). You need to speak to your school or college about registering for the examinations, which is done through the Admissions Testing Service's secure online entry system.
Past papers are available on the STEP website and from the STEP Support Team at the Admissions Testing Service. We encourage you to look at these to familiarise yourself with the style, format and time constraints of the exams.
The University has launched a free online STEP Support Programme (www.maths.org/STEP) designed to help potential university applicants develop their advanced problem-solving skills and prepare for the STEP exams. The Programme is a series of modules, with a new module released weekly from September 2016. Each module consists of warm-up exercises and preparatory work that leads to a STEP question, as well as follow-up self-evaluation and development material to help you assess your progress. There’s also an online discussion forum where you can ask for help and hints from Cambridge students and staff.