A lot more goes into doing a STEP exam than just answering STEP questions. You have to consider question choice, timing, endurance, and presentation. All of these skills need to be practised just as much as actually answering STEP questions. After all, in June you will be sitting exams not individual questions.

Doing a timed mock helps with all these factors; not only do you practise answering questions, but you also improve all the exam techniques which go with it.

Also, answering questions in exam conditions helps you continue on when you are stuck and not find the answer on the internet or simply give up.

Timed papers also give a quantitative way to track your progress, and you should note down marks that you achieve.

- If you have covered Core 1-4 you know all the content that is required for the pure section of STEP 1 and 2.
- The applied section requires Statistics or Mechanics 1 and 2, so if you want to attempt applied questions, check you’ve covered these.
- If you have also done FP1 and FP2, you have the knowledge for STEP 3.
- You should also know how to use Proof by Induction for all three papers.

To find out exactly what you need to know, download the STEP Specification here. http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/images/47831-step-specification-rebranded-.pdf

You should consider doing a timed mock if you:

- Know what your offer is – this way you know what grades you are aiming for
- Know the required content
- Understand the structure of the papers – so you know what to do
- Have answered multiple questions (or even papers) in the past
- Have three hours free that you would otherwise waste

I did my first mock near the end of January, which I felt was around the right stage for me. I knew what my target grades were, I had done enough questions to be comfortable with the style, and it gave me the foundations to plan the rest of my preparation early on.

If this is your first mock, try a STEP 1 paper. These are the easiest of the papers and will give the most gentle introduction.

At this stage, I would suggest trying one of the earlier papers as they are easier and allow you to try the more recent papers nearer the exams.

Use full exam conditions. Print off the exam paper beforehand without looking at any of the questions and find or print out a formula booklet to use (the STEP formula booklet is pretty much the same as the one for A Levels).

Having everything offline will help eliminate distractions and be more similar to the real exams.

Try to do all three hours in one go if possible. One of the things I found hardest at first was keeping a constant pace throughout the time. I would often find that nearer the end I was getting tired and not working as effectively. It was only through practising working for the whole three hours that I improved.

Write out your answers as if they will be marked by someone else, don’t leave out stuff just because you know how to do it.

I would suggest keeping track of how you are using the time but noting how much time has elapsed when starting a new question. This can help you see how you can improve your time management later on.

Ignore them and do different questions. It might well be very helpful to try different topics of questions, since you don’t know what you’re going to come across in the real exam.

Leave the paper for a few days, then read through your answers seeing if you can follow them. If you find it hard to understand your own answers that is a strong sign you need to improve your presentation.

I would mark my answers in ranges, as it is often very difficult to decide on an exact mark with any degree of certainty. This can be done with the help of unofficial solutions online or the official hints and solutions pages, both of which can be found in the STEP Maths Past Paper Portal.

It is important that you only mark what is on the paper, not what you thought or what you think you could have done. The examiner will not know that you meant 5y when you wrote 10y etc. Be harsh with yourself.

If possible, finding someone else to mark them can be very helpful. If you’re looking for someone to mark questions for you, all STEP Maths Online Courses include questions that you can submit for marking. We also offer a Mock Day, where you can sit papers in true exam conditions and receive detailed feedback.

You will find that you improve increasingly rapidly, as everything you learn builds on what you knew before. There is no need to worry about the exact scores or grade you are getting (the marking is pretty subjective) but you do want to be showing improvement. It can give a guide as to how much time you should spend on STEP rather than your other subjects.

It can help to go through some of the questions you didn’t finish or attempt because of time and try to do them. Correcting any questions you made mistakes is probably one of the most helpful things you can do.

Make a note of the key ideas or techniques within the question, that you could apply to other questions that you try.

As I write this there are 18 weeks util STEP 1. There are also 18 years of papers in the STEP Past Paper Portal. If you do one per week per paper you will be sitting, that will cover all the papers by the time of the exams.

However, how many you should do depends primarily on how much time you have and how high a grade you need to achieve.

Good luck!

The post 9 questions to ask if you’re trying a STEP Mock appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>With less than 16 weeks until the STEP exams, how should you plan your preparation? This post will explore how and why you should create a STEP Preparation Timetable.

So far, you’ve probably been looking at the Siklos Booklets, or the STEP Correspondence Assignments. You may even have attended or booked yourself onto a STEP Preparation Course. But none of the above can replace past paper practice. All other factors aside, the effectiveness of your independent study close to the exams will be one of the biggest factors determining your success in the summer.

Hopefully, by February Half Term of Year 13, you will know what your offers are, and therefore what grades you should be aiming for each of the STEP Papers you’ll be taking. This is vital for knowing how much time you will need to spend preparing for STEP, as opposed your A-level subjects.

Make sure you know which STEP papers you’re sitting and what dates they are on.

In 2017, the dates are the 8th, 12th and 22nd of June – slap bang in the middle of your A-levels, no doubt.

If you haven’t already, the first thing you should do is a full timed mock. Grade it using the official solutions and grade boundaries. From this you should be able to establish roughly how much you need to improve before the real exams. [Read more about doing a timed mock here]

Use your mock to figure out what is holding you back. Common areas for improvement are:

a) Not being able to answer enough questions within the 3-hour period

If you ran out of time but felt confident that you had the ability to answer more questions if you’d had more time, you might benefit from doing more timed mocks.

b) Struggling to get through whole questions

If, however, you found you had little you could do towards the end, it would be better to spend more time going over the content and practising individual questions, and spending as much time as needed to really get to the heart of the question and understand what the examiner is looking for.

Also, if you do look at solutions, it’s a good idea to not just to work through line by line but also understand what the key ideas in the questions were. You can then add these to your toolkit of knowledge to apply to future questions.

It is also important to know when you will be learning A Level content in class, especially for STEP 3. For me, our class was studying FP2 last, so I learnt a lot of it ahead of time meaning I could practise STEP 3 questions which required FP2 knowledge. You might also want to look at some FP3 topics such as hyperbolic functions (or differential equations, depending on which exam board you study) as they could come in quite handy.

Calculate roughly how much time per week you can afford to spend on STEP versus your A-level subjects. Also find out the time until the STEP papers you will be sitting. For 2017, STEP 1 will be on June 8th, STEP 2 on June 12th, and STEP 3 on June 22nd.

Around February Half Term of the year I was sitting STEP, I made a Google Sheet mapping out the time until the exams. This was great to visualise the remaining time. You can then this fill in with what you intend to do when and what times you won’t be available.

Everybody learns best in different ways. For me, timed mock papers were most helpful. I would suggest trying a variety of different methods as early on as possible and seeing what works best for you, focusing on whatever you need to improve on most.

It is important to make sure what you are doing is actually helping you improve. Don’t stick to questions to you know you can already do. Practising topics and questions you find hardest is probably the most helpful, even though it might feels as though you are achieving less.

By spending time thinking about these problems, your understanding and intuition with these topics will increase. This will serve you well for the real STEP exams, where you don’t know which topics could be asked!

There are a lot of past papers available for STEP, but still only a finite number. On the official website they have papers going back to 1998. Although older papers can be found elsewhere, there are plenty of papers to keep you busy without having to go further back.

I would suggest it is best to leave the most recent papers, at least the last two years, for closer to the exams as they will be closest to what you will be sitting. At STEP Maths, we offer Mock Days

for the last couple of years’ papers, where you can sit exam papers in timed conditions and get detailed feedback and grading on your work.

So for your independent study, focus on the older papers from around 2004 to 2012. At STEP Maths courses we have consciously avoided using questions from after 2011 so that you see the questions for the first time when trying timed papers on your own.

Keeping a log of which past papers you completed as mocks (along with your marks) and which you just did as individual questions is very important. Doing this ensures that you cover all the papers you aim to, and that you don’t attempt papers as mocks which you have already done questions from too often. It also gives an opportunity to track your progress throughout your preparation.

You can access STEP past paper banks here which include a tracking facility, to mark which questions you have left to do. Your progress will get saved no matter which device you’re using to access the papers, which can be really handy if you don’t have your laptop with you at all times! Moreover, the question, examiner’s report, official solution and worked solution are all organised in one handy document.

STEP Maths Past Paper Portal – Track your progress

When creating your long term timetable, build it some slack, as you don’t know what could crop up in the future. If you don’t allow enough flexibility you can easily fall behind your schedule and might not be able to catch up again. But having added in the slack, you should also be firm with yourself to complete papers by the dates you have decided. It is very easy to give up halfway through a paper, or not to start at all – don’t fall into this trap.

I started my main preparation around February of year 13, doing one STEP 1 paper a week, in addition to a few STEP 2 or 3 questions. As I got closer the the actual exams this grew until I was doing three papers a week (usually one for each exam) around late May. Doing them on a regular schedule gave me the opportunity to see my progress and keep to a rough timetable without losing flexibility.

If I came across questions which I could not do I would revise that topic and practise other similar questions. Other than that, I pretty much solely did past papers, trying to complete six questions in timed conditions and finishing other questions afterwards.

Creating a STEP Preparation timetable will allow you to pinpoint your areas of weakness and allow you to work on them, be they with timing or content. By creating some structure around your revision, you’ll be able to ensure you do as many papers as possible. Moreover, aiming to finish 6 questions in a 3-hour period as you come closer to the exams will ensure that the time pressure won’t get the better of you on the day. So, yes, creating a STEP Prep timetable will be well worth the effort!

The post Do I need a STEP Preparation Timetable? appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>Maths at Warwick and how preparing for STEP has helped!!

If you are considering Maths at university then you probably already know this, but I’m going to say it anyway: Maths is not an easy degree. It is a lot of work, you might spend some of time feeling like you aren’t clever enough – but if you love Maths then it will be completely worth it.

Maths at university is both exactly like and nothing like I expected it to be. I anticipated the workload (which, I won’t sugarcoat, can sometimes be overwhelming), and the difficulty of some of the modules. If you knew me then you would know that I am generally pessimistic, and I tend to look for the worst in everything, BUT *I am happy at Warwick*.

It is a comfortable and inclusive environment, the work is rewarding, and above all else, the Maths is difficult – and that is the best part. You are not picking an easy degree, but you are also not picking a boring one, and I think that that is more important than anything else – what is the point in killing yourself working at something you don’t absolutely love? I spent my last year of A-levels worrying whether I had made the right choice of degree, and I can tell you now that I did. I was scared that I would get sick of the difficulty of the material, that I would be too demoralised by having to struggle with the work, or that I might end up getting sick of Maths altogether. If you have the same concerns, then I would advise you to consider what it is that you love about Maths, because just enjoying getting questions right isn’t quite enough.

The hard fact of university, and in particular Maths at university, is that you will probably no longer be the best. You will likely be coming from an environment where you were always one of the top mathematicians in the class, being asked to help other students with problems and getting high 90s in most of your exams, but it is inevitable that once you get into a Maths lecture theatre, you will be surrounded by people that have had the exact same experience. There will be people that are better at Maths than you, but there will also be people that are worse. Maths is a naturally competitive subject, and it attracts competitive people – [think: people that flip over the Monopoly board when they’re no longer winning] – but the trick to coping with it is to concentrate on yourself, and on the work that you are doing. Essentially, you are working at your degree for yourself, and whether other people are averaging slightly higher or lower marks shouldn’t matter to you as much as the Maths that you’re doing.

For me, before starting studying Maths at Warwick, I was scared that everyone would be way cleverer than me. I was certain that I would feel like I was the only one that didn’t understand a single thing that was being said, or that Warwick had made a mistake in accepting me, or that I should give up early and apply for a job as a professional napper. And I was right, I did think all those things during the first couple of weeks.

But then I talked to some other people, and I realised that almost everyone else was thinking something similar. That realisation has made all the difference to my first term. The lecturers are trying their best to challenge you, but it is not their aim to weed out the people that don’t deserve to be there – if you got an offer from Warwick (Warwick makes standard offers often involving STEP Maths or AEA – see the bottom of the article for full details) and made the grades, you deserve to be there and you have the potential to do well at the degree without question.

The aim of the lecturers is to guide you into thinking like a real mathematician. The feeling of hopelessness you get from seeing but not understanding a problem, and then the satisfaction you get after the struggle of trying to work it out and realising you’ve got there, is the reason most people love Maths. If it weren’t challenging, it would be boring as hell – and I can promise you I have never been bored (although I will admit to falling asleep in the odd 9am lecture). If it were all easy then there would be no point in spending £9,000 a year to learn about it, and Warwick definitely gives you your money’s worth of information and assignments. If you are going to learn how to approach new things, you are going to have to struggle a little at some point, and if you aren’t prepared to do that then you might need to reconsider applying for a Maths degree at all.

I don’t mean to put you off in the slightest, or to imply that Maths is a thankless degree. If anything, I would say that it is the most rewarding environment I’ve ever been in. The fact that it can be challenging is what makes it worth it.

The things I have been taught so far, and I have been taught a lot in quite a short space of time, haven’t added any concepts on top of Further Maths yet; rather, they have stripped Maths back to its most insubstantial underwear and redressed it layer by layer so that we can see how everything fits together and builds back up to all the Maths we have been taught without proof since we were 4. School Maths teaches you how, and real Maths teaches you why. It does come with a few quite unbelievable revelations, along with some seemingly obvious ones, which I won’t spoil for you. You may find out, for example, what a degenerate triangle is (hint: it’s a straight line).

To go into the logistics of the actual course at Warwick: from the beginning of the first term, you are given a choice of the Maths you want to study. Within the Maths department, there are ‘List A’ options that are recommended as ‘purer’ modules, but there are also options from the Physics department, Statistics, Economics, Computer Science, Philosophy, and Languages. Each term, you can tailor your timetable a little bit more to what you want to study, or just keep it broad if you’re undecided.

Along with the lectures, there are twice-weekly supervisions in groups of 5 led by enthusiastic and overachieving fourth years, who mark and give feedback on your assignments, as well as explaining topics covered in lectures. There are also weekly or fortnightly tutorials with your personal tutor in groups of 5 (which are basically conversations about Maths with people that actually know what they’re talking about), and two 2-hour classes for analysis, taught by postgraduates and assisted by undergraduates in higher years. Maths Café is put on weekly by students to help students with problems (and provide them with food and caffeine). In all, the Warwick Maths department has thought through every way to get information across to its students, on top of relying on their own interest and independent study, so that we feel able to ask questions about things we don’t understand, and to discuss and enjoy the Maths we do.

The non-optional modules are as follows:

- Foundations, which is essentially sets and numbers, and talks through the different types of numbers and extends on subjects like complex numbers and functions.
- Analysis, which acts as both an introduction to writing Maths properly (one of the most difficult adjustments to make), and as a basis to pure Maths. It is full of proofs, theorems, and having to show things using only what has been defined within the module and nothing more.
- Differential Equations, which is…erm… differential equations.
- Abstract Algebra, which starts in week 5 out of 10 and introduces basic group theory (by far my favourite module, if just for the wonderful lecturer).

The first couple of weeks lasted longer than the entire rest of term. Part of the problem was that Warwick combines Freshers Fortnight with the beginning of lectures, something that the student body is campaigning actively against. I found that it hit the mathematicians harder than the other freshers, simply because we were thrown into our work within the first couple of days, whereas other subjects allow for some more time to settle in.

The transitional period between school and university Maths seemed brief relative to the discrepancy in material and approach. The almost immediate workload can best be described as a baptism of fire, and acted as a warning of what we had signed ourselves up for. Along with the general homesickness, sleep deprivation, and terrifying new level of independence, the first couple of weeks were emotional to say the least. However, although it seems that my true calling in life is to complain about everything I do, I thoroughly enjoyed those first few weeks, despite the stress. I made close friends in that time – some of whom I will be living with next year – and it showed me how to balance my work and social lives in a way that allowed me to enjoy both working and partying.

I love listing all of the difficult parts of my first term to anyone I come across, but I have also loved almost every second of my university experience so far. I have felt well prepared for the work, and that has made all the difference – and I can put that down almost entirely to preparing for the STEP Maths exams, which influenced me and my approach to problems far more than Further Maths A-level did.

Not only does working through STEP questions teach you how to communicate your mathematical ideas properly, but it shows you how creative Maths can be, and introduces you to thinking laterally rather than just using the methods that your exam board want you to.

One of the most useful factors in my STEP preparation was the STEP Maths Preparation Courses (I attended all 4). This allowed me to discuss ideas with the STEP Maths tutors, who are old enough to know exactly what they’re doing, but also young enough to not be at all patronising or condescending – this has been critical to making the jump between school and university; I would recommend it to anyone in the position that I was last year.

– STEP and AEA provide the best preparation to study Mathematics at university

– Questions on the STEP papers are closer in style of mathematical thinking met at university

– Even if you don’t go to Warwick, doing STEP Maths Exams or the AEA Maths exam will prepare you for wherever you go – the independent thinking required will help your A-level grades too.

All that’s left for me to say is good luck! Reply in the comments section below letting me know what else you would like to know about university or student life at Warwick!

- A* (Maths A-level), A*(Further Maths A-level), A (in a third A-level), and grade 2 in any STEP Maths Paper (STEP I, STEP II or STEP III), or distinction in Maths AEA
- A*(Maths A-level), A*(Further Maths A-level), A* (in a third A-level)
- A*(Maths A-level), A*(Further Maths A-level), A (in a third A-level), A (in a fourth A-level)

- 39 points overall, with 6,6,6 in HL subjects, including HL Maths, plus grade 2 in any STEP Paper (STEP I, STEP II or STEP III), or
- 39 points overall, with 7,6,6 in HL subjects, including HL Maths..

**Standard Scottish Highers offer:**

- A1 (Advanced Higher Maths), A (other Advanced Higher), A (Higher Maths), AAA (three Higher subjects), plus grade 2 in any STEP Paper (STEP I, II or III) or Distinction in AEA Maths
- A1 (Advanced Higher Maths), A1 (other Advanced Higher), A1 (Higher Maths), AAA (three Higher subjects).

The post My First Term…and why Warwick asks for STEP Maths! appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>We first met Manjari at a Cambridge open day! (Let us know if you’re coming to one by emailing us at: info@stepmaths.co.uk) After receiving her Cambridge offer, Manjari joined us all the way from Leeds. Braving a journey starting at 5am Manjari attended both the February and Easter STEP III Courses. She was a quiet and unassuming student working through all the questions with rigour and focus. On results day she sent us the following email:

“Hi

I got 4 A*s and a 1 in STEP 3 and a 2 in STEP 2, but still got my Cambridge place because I was only a few marks off a 1. The courses really really helped me and I definitely wouldn’t have done as well without them – I’ve been recommending the courses to people I know doing STEP exams

Thanks

Manjari”

**My best nuggets of advice to students preparing for STEP exams:**

Practise!! The best way I found to familiarise yourself with the style and content of STEP questions is to do lots of them regularly. I’d also try to do questions on a variety of topics because there’s no guarantee that a topic that you’re good at will come up in your paper (my best topics didn’t). The more recent papers also have mark schemes and examiners’ reports which are available to student and these are really useful to look through to find out what the examiners are looking for in a proof. This also helps to familiarise yourself with little details-1 or 2 marks- which make a proof complete. In the exam, don’t panic if you get stuck on a question-keep at it and try different methods to solve it.

**How the STEP Maths Courses I attended helped me to reach my full potential:**

The absolute best part of this course was that it gave me confidence in my own ability, which doing questions alone at home never did. The teachers were friendly and supportive and hinted at how to approach a problem, allowing us to figure it out for ourselves rather than simply giving us answers. The course also helped me to understand the best ways to approach STEP questions, breaking down each question into smaller, more manageable problems. Another major benefit was being in an environment which allowed us to discuss problems with other STEP students and learn from each other’s ideas-something that wasn’t available to me at home.

Oscar joined us for the Easter STEP III Course. We really enjoyed his enthusiasm and spirit and knew he was destined for great things: “The course is well-structured and helpful. I will certainly go on feeling much more confident about step III than before. Moreover, the environment is perfect for learning – excellent teaching and effective methodology. Some new things I learned are: probability generating functions, strings & springs step III techniques, the definition of the word ‘oblique’ with regards to asymptotes, and Leibniz’ differentiation rule”. He also attended our STEP Maths Mock day, where he achieved an S in his STEP III Paper. Needless to say, he matched this performance in the real exams and is currently reading Mathematics at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

He sent us the following email on results day:

“Hello!

After attending the Easter STEP III course and the ‘Mock day’ I felt much more confident for my exams. I achieved SSS in the three STEP exams and I am going to read the Mathematics Tripos in Cambridge in October! Thank you STEP Maths for the excellent support.

Kind regards, Oscar”

Josh made the long and arduous journey from the Lake district to London to attend our STEP III Course. His enthusiasm and intuition for Mathematics were evident from the outset, and nevertheless he left the course feeling even more confident in tackling STEP questions!

On results day, Josh sent us the following email:

“Hi there,

I attended the Easter STEP course and it was really helpful, got my STEP scores today and received:

Was absolutely thrilled and wanted to say thanks so much for your help over the course! It landed me a place at Cambridge which I’m very happy with

Kind Regards,

Josh S”

**My best nuggets of advice to students preparing for STEP Maths exams**

The difference between STEP and A-Level is initially very hard to adapt to, but learning to work hard at a problem for a long time is the most important STEP. Even if a question takes you hours to solve, you will have improved your problem solving skills by trying. Try really hard at a problem, taking a break if you need to, before looking at the solution. Also, learn when you are just having a bad day. If you aren’t getting anywhere on questions, do something else and come back tomorrow with a fresh perspective.

**How the STEP Maths Courses you attended helped you to reach your potential**

I was really struggling with STEP III topics before I went on the Easter course as I hadn’t learned them properly in class. Before I came on the course it wasn’t likely I was going to meet my offer for mathematics, but the course helped strengthened my knowledge and allowed me to access a far wider range of topics in the exam. Thanks to this I managed to get a grade 1 and get my place at Cambridge.

“It was great to be able to work with so many skilled mathematicians who were also struggling with STEP and to solve the questions together. The tutors were friendly, taught all the material ensuring that our a level knowledge were and offered excellent help. It was great to work through the solutions as a class after attempting them individually.”

She displayed a meticulous attention to detail, which clearly held her in very good stead for the STEP Maths exams. She also attended the Mock day which enabled her to solidify her exam technique. A wonderful student who deserved to achieve her place at Cambridge.

On results day she sent us the following email:

“Hello,

I hope you are well.

I received my results today and I got a grade 1 in STEP 2 and a grade 2 in STEP 3 (one mark of a 1) and 4 A*s at A Level. I got a place at University of Cambridge to study mathematics and for the moment my only future plans are to study maths.

I just wanted to say thank you to all the teachers at STEP Maths. Every single one of the courses and the mock were very helpful and are the reason why I was able to attempt the STEP examinations. Thank you for teaching us all the different techniques, methods and tricks. The feedback for the mock was also very useful and really helped with the June exams.

Thank you for all your help again.

Kind Regards,

Bijal”

**My best nuggets of advice to students preparing for STEP exams**

Keep persevering. Initially STEP seems unapproachable and scary but start working on the problems as early as you can and gradually they become easier. The more papers and questions you do the better and there is no such thing as having finished preparing for the exam. That being said make sure before your actual exams you take a break so that your brain is at its prime when you do it.

For the exam, do not panic and try to enjoy it! Read the paper before fully before you start and choose which questions you want to do. Good Luck!

**How the STEP Maths Courses I attended helped me reach my potential **

The STEP courses taught me all the techniques, tricks and terminology necessary to be able to analyse and answer the problems set. The teachers went round and helped us on individual areas that we were stuck in and any extra questions we had done which was very useful. Additionally, the courses were a great way to meet and talk to other mathematicians in the same situation and to work with them and bounce ideas off one another. I found the STEP Mock especially useful because it gave us an indication of how we were doing and also individual feedback on to improve our answers. Whilst simply going to a STEP course can’t guarantee success without lots of independent work, it definitely gave me the tools and confidence to be able to work my way to it so I would definitely recommend it to all!

When Eddie attended his first STEP Course, little did he know that he would become the ‘face’ of STEP Maths, appearing in the famous testimonial video! Alas, after attending the Easter Taster Day, STEP Maths Summer School, October STEP Course and STEP Mock Day, Eddie’s enduring willingness to participate in class and in our online facebook forum was an indicator of his future success. Congratulations to Eddie who sent us the following email on results day:

“Hey guys,

Very happy with my results today; four A*s and SS1 in STEP 1, 2 & 3!

Thank you very much for running the courses, they helped me in my preparation and approach to challenging STEP questions.

Best regards,

Eddie :)”

**Best advice for sitting STEP exams:** STEP can seem overwhelmingly difficult at first, but remember to stay calm – it may be challenging but you have three hours to do each paper. The best advice I can give is to read all the questions before you start, and plan which questions you will do and in which order, remember to your strengths by choosing problems in areas that you are confident at. Don’t be thrown off if you get stuck at any point, stay focused and know when to move on, it can be hard to admit defeat but it’s not worth losing time (and your confidence) over.

**How the STEP Maths Courses I attended helped me reach my potential:** The STEP maths courses were of much use to me as they went above and beyond the A level maths and further maths syllabuses, talking more about solving problems and finding your own approach rather than following the ‘scaffolding’ in any normal maths exam paper. For instance, learning about the true nature of points of inflection and what the phrase ‘if and only if’ really means. Furthermore, the advice I got on presenting solutions and explaining things clearly and concisely was invaluable. Not only did the course help me prepare for the STEP exams, but as I start life at Cambridge it is becoming increasingly self-evident that the skills I was taught will be very helpful as an undergraduate as well.

From a teacher, describing Keith H.’s success with his Cambridge Application:

“Dear STEP Maths,

Thank you for your support this year, we would be very pleased to hear about opportunities like this for next year.

We had 2 students take STEP II and III, achieving 1,1 and 1,2 respectively. First person accepted to Cambridge, second one we are waiting to hear about (pooled) which is a shame, easily good enough to go.

Thanks

Dr Kirby”

Robbie, like Josh, joined us from Cumbria and he too took a long train ride to reach us! Robbie was determined to make it down to London for the course and decided that if that meant staying in a youth hostel, then so be it! A very polite and talented student, who was teaching himself Further Maths (due to his school not offering it) the Easter STEP III Course helped Robbie to fill some gaps in his knowledge. Robbie talks about his experiences at the Easter STEP III Course here.

“Hello,

I’d like to thank you very much for the help and support you offered me. Although I did just miss the STEP grades I needed for my Cambridge offer, I still passed both of STEP II and STEP III (which I am happy to consider an achievement in itself!) and got A*A*AB in my A Levels, enough to study maths for four years at Durham University.

Although I did miss my Cambridge offer, I certainly learnt a lot along the way and I am still very happy with my results. This was, in no small part, due to the course you helped me attend, and I am certainly very grateful for your help!

Thank you for all the support you gave me.

Best wishes,

Robbie”

**Best nuggets of advice to students preparing for STEP Papers / applying for Maths:**

If you’re applying for maths, you’ll need to demonstrate your enthusiasm for mathematics by reading books, attending courses and lectures, going out of your way to prove to the admissions tutor that you’d be a great maths student. This has the added bonus of helping you meet new peers, as well as boosting your mathematical awareness and ability.

For STEP, the best advice is to *start early*. Make sure you’ve learnt all of the core modules from A Level well before your exams, as this will give you more time to practise STEP questions. I would look at the STEP specification, too – different schools teach different modules, and you might find that the topics you’ve studied don’t necessarily match up with those for STEP III.

**How the STEP Maths courses I attended helped me to reach my potential**

STEP questions are similar in style to those you might find on undergraduate maths degree paper. Unlike A Level questions, which guide you through each stage, STEP requires you to make those leaps and deductions yourself.

The STEP III course I attended showed me how to approach a STEP question and encouraged me to have the confidence to tackle such difficult questions. This style of question is something you can expect to come across at university, and as such, I feel more prepared to approach undergraduate mathematics and make the leap from sixth form to university

Charlotte – she attended our STEP Taster Day, Summer Course, Easter STEP III Day and STEP Mock Day. Known for her concise solutions, Charlotte sent us a short but sweet email on results day – congratulations!

“Dear STEP team,

I got into Cambridge (Murray Edwards) to study Maths. Thank you for all your help and encouragement, the tricks I learnt at your courses really helped me get in!

Best wishes,

Charlotte”

James came to us for the Summer and October STEP courses, and impressed all the tutors with his speed and intuition. One of the biggest things he took away was how to lay out a solution to gain the maximum number of marks and this set his up for some fantastic results in the summer STEP exams. A fantastic effort, James!

On results day, James sent us the following email:

“Hello

I attended two of your courses; one in August and one in October. I thought I’d let you know how STEP went.

I got 1SS, specifically: 100 in STEP 1, 98 in STEP 2 and 91 in STEP 3. I will be studying maths at Clare College Cambridge next year.

Thank you for running these courses and I hope they continue to be successful in the future!

Best regards,

James W”

**My best nuggets of advice to students sitting STEP Test for Maths:**

One of the most important places to start is making sure you have a very solid understanding of all the A level topics. I would say a good point to be at is at least getting near enough full marks in all your core papers in about half the time available. This will save so much time and allow for more focus on the more challenging aspects of STEP during the actual exam. Also, look over mark schemes to get a gauge of how long to spend on a question; many resources say full solutions are vital, but you can still gain 18/20 for an incomplete solution so understanding that balance is important before the exam.

**How the STEP Maths Courses I attended helped me to reach my potential**: When I attended my first STEP Maths course, I had begun tackling STEP questions but I had had no guidance beyond the somewhat limited online resources. The course taught me how to formally lay out my argument as well as teaching me various tricks to arrive at an answer quicker. So the course, for me at least, turned my ability to solve a problem and understand the principles into being able to produce a well written answer which will gain significantly more marks in a STEP exam. The courses I attended also focused on specific areas such as trig and working with graphs, which gave me more confidence on these specific types of questions.

Will showed us his ability to think outside the box. Joining us for our Easter STEP III Day and again at our STEP Mock day, we were impressed with Will’s persistence and determination when working through a problem. His mock result was excellent and he reproduced this in the real thing!

Here’s an email that Will sent us on results day!

Hello, thank you for the help with STEP. I got S,1,1 in STEP and so am now going to Cambridge (Pembroke College).

Thank you, William B

Syrie joined us for all 4 STEP Courses, plus the STEP Mock Day. Her enthusiasm for Maths was infectious and palpable but she was prone to showing a bit of rebellion from time to time ;). With an offer from Warwick, one could argue that she didn’t need to attend the STEP III Course. Yet Syrie speaks highly of how preparing for the most challenging STEP questions has positively impacted her experience at university, here.

Syrie wrote to us to say:

“Thanks again for the compliment, and for all of the STEP help, **it really was invaluable**.”

The post Advice for Preparing for STEP from Current Cambridge Mathmos! appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>STEP is undoubtedly one of the hardest maths exams sat by 17- and 18-year-olds. To even consider sitting STEP, you need to be both motivated and committed. There is quite a jump from A Level to STEP that can be a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting it – in 2015, the A*-E pass rate at A Level was 98.1% (source: The Guardian) and the equivalent S-3 pass rate for STEP I was 73.1% (source: Admissions Testing Service), for which it’s important to bear in mind that STEP is aimed at the top 5% of A-level Mathematicians.

That being said, STEP is not impossible. The mere fact that you’re reading this blog post means you’re likely at an ability to tackle STEP, and you certainly have the drive to do very well. Thousands of students sit STEP every year, and many of them do very well at it, going on to study at top universities like Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Warwick, among others.

There is a myriad of support out there for students sitting STEP, including past papers and solutions, the Stephen Siklos Booklets and of course STEP Maths’ very own courses.

**Start** **Early**

The best advice I can give is to *start* *early*. When I started preparing for STEP, I wished I’d given myself more time to practise. I’d spent a while putting off starting to prepare, particularly while I was still learning the core A Level Maths content at school. A much better way to prepare, I feel, would have been to have got through all the essential content (see the STEP specification, linked below) sooner, leaving plenty of time to work on STEP questions. Some schools teach all of A Level Maths in Year Twelve, and then all of A Level Further Maths in Year Thirteen – if you’re lucky enough to attend one of these schools, you’ll have a natural head start with STEP I and II, but you might find it tricky to start on STEP III!

**Use the Siklos Booklet**

Stephen Siklos (mentioned earlier) has written an excellent booklet to help you get started with STEP. It starts by explaining the differences between A Level and STEP, gives you advice on how to mentally prepare yourself for the change in level of mathematics required and has numerous questions and solutions for you to work through. It’s definitely worth a read.

**Seek out Additional Help and Support**

There’s no shame in asking for help. When I was in sixth form, I found that my maths teachers lacked the time and experience to offer any STEP help – I’d get stuck on a question, go and ask them about it, and I often got the impression that they’d be the ones walking away having learnt something! (Side note: my maths teachers were very supportive and encouraging, and did all they could to help me with STEP, seeking out advice and additional sources of support for me, for which I am forever grateful.)

It became apparent that I would need to find another source of support, and I came across STEP Maths and their Easter STEP III course. Although I only attended one specific course, had I started preparing for STEP earlier, I would’ve realised that STEP Maths had a February STEP course, October Half Term Course and even a Summer School for Year Twelve students. These all develop your confidence and ability to tackle STEP questions, and have the added benefit of surrounding you with like-minded peers. This is important, particularly if you come from a small school or somewhere that isn’t able to offer many resources to its mathematics department. Learning to do maths with other people is a vital skill for university, too, and going on courses and masterclasses will help to give you a different view on mathematics.

Remember, you can be the best mathematician your school/college has ever seen, but you can always learn more from other mathematicians!

**Don’t be intimidated by STEP Questions**

At first glance, STEP questions are somewhat daunting to look at – especially if you’re used to A Level Maths questions, which may be broken down into three or four parts and may only take ten minutes to complete a full question. It’d be reasonable to expect a normal STEP question to take 45 minutes to complete, and the question may be written as just a sentence or two. This shift can be difficult to get to grips with at first, especially if you’ve never seen anything like it before.

However, in time, and with practice, you’ll find your ability to take on STEP questions gets better. It can be difficult to psych yourself up for entering a three-hour exam that you *will* get stuck in, make no mistake, but as well as developing your mathematical ability, STEP preparation should you the confidence and the persistence to work through difficult maths, and will be excellent preparation for university.

The post Top Tips for revising for the STEP Papers appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>STEP III is undoubtedly the most daunting of all the Sixth Form exams – particularly so when it seems like you’ve been thrown into the deep end with no idea what you need to do or how to start preparing for it. I myself come from a small, rural school from the North of England where I am the only Further Maths student, and my school lacks the resources to prepare me for the STEP Maths Exams. This is when I started reaching out for support, only to come across the ‘Easter STEP III Course’ hosted by STEP Maths.

So Easter came around, and I took the train to London. I checked in at a youth hostel, slightly in awe at the big city and exhausted, having just managed to negotiate the tube and handle the busy streets of London.

But the real purpose of my trip was to really boost my awareness and knowledge of STEP, and to experience expert tuition to help prepare me for the exam. I arrived at the course building, slightly apprehensive, but soon got talking to other students who were in the same position as me. The tutors who greeted us were friendly and approachable, and were clearly keen to ensure that we felt comfortable.

Once we properly started the course, we spent the majority of our time being guided through STEP questions and given a chance to attempt them ourselves in a classroom-style scenario. This is exactly what I’d been hoping for – we’d be given a chance to do a STEP question, given some pointers if we needed it, and then we’d go through a worked solution on the whiteboard at the front of the room.

Not only is it beneficial to have great teachers explaining things at a suitable pace and in a way accessible for everyone, but it’s also hugely helpful to be able to work through questions with your peers, bouncing ideas off each other and learning, crucially, not only from the tutors, but from other students as well.

We spent time going through a variety of different STEP III questions and topics – complex numbers and coordinate geometry, mechanics of stretched bodies, differential equations, polar coordinates, hyperbolic functions, and others. I confess that it was rather disconcerting to find that there were topics in STEP III that I wouldn’t be covering as part of my A Level (second order differential equations, for example) but the tutors were quick to introduce me to these topics and gave me just enough direction so that I could work through the questions.

A system of red, yellow and green cards provides a subtle way of indicating to tutors that you’re struggling with something, and there are enough tutors in the room so that you never find yourself waiting long for assistance.

All too soon, the course came to an end. We kept the booklets full of STEP questions that we’d been given, not only as a record of the questions and solutions we’d worked through, but as a constant reminder that preparing for STEP will require a lot of work. However, after attending the STEP III course, I know what I need to do, and my confidence for STEP has been given the boost it needed.

The post Robbie Talks about the Easter STEP III Preparation Course he attended… appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>Well pitched STEP Maths Tuition by incredible tutors – a great combination.

I attended the STEP Maths Course this summer after finishing my Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and History AS levels. I was amazed at the broad array of topics we managed to get through in the short space of time of three days. For example, we worked on integer problems where we learnt cool tricks and patterns that occur in numbers that helped us tackle problems really quickly that ordinarily would have taken me hours to solve. From simplification and symmetry-spotting problems, to tackling longer problems where you had to solve the questions case-by-case, we seemed to cover everything, including mechanics and statistics questions that appear at the end of the papers. In particular, the part I found the most interesting was learning about how to use contradictions in proofs, or when to use a counterexample to disprove something. What was also particularly useful was the structural break down of how best to answer each question and how to present our answers to ascertain maximum marks, including specifically what we have to write in words, as I’ve always found the written justifications part of higher level Maths questions somewhat frustrating.

The overall structure of the course was very well organised. Before we started, one of the tutors explained the basics; such as, how long each paper is, how many questions you have to answer, how many marks you need to achieve which grade and which universities want you to achieve what level. The tutors were also very receptive to feedback, asking us for feedback at regular intervals as we went along, which they always took action on straight away.

The STEP Maths Tutors always eased us into the question with a few warm up questions, which I really appreciated, as these preparatory questions definitely made the experience less daunting and made you feel like you could actually do it. We worked on problems as a group initially to get us started, but then would have a go individually and I found I surprised myself by how much I could actually do by myself. We also had a traffic light card system where every so often we held up one of our three red, orange or green cards, to let the tutors know how we were coping. These were great as it meant there was no man left behind, plus you could always put your hand up at any point for individual tuition if you were struggling, as there were three STEP tutors for a small group of us which meant there were plenty of helping hands to go around. On the other hand, if you wanted to move at a faster pace, you could go on ahead, as we were all given these fantastic chronological booklets with lots of questions at the start of the course for us to work through.

All of the STEP Maths tutors were very friendly, patient and approachable and clearly very, very clever! This created a really pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, where you didn’t have to worry about asking as many questions as you wanted to, whenever you needed. At the start of the course we also did some starter ice-breaker activities and had to sit next to someone new every day. This meant that by the end of the course, a lot of us had become really quite good friends, including a few people I have even stayed in touch with, as it was really stimulating to meet so many like-minded people who have similar aspirations.

This three day STEP Maths Crash Course had so much packed into it; it was amazing, I couldn’t believe it. Even though the material was intellectually rather intense at times, it was definitely worthwhile as the knowledge I have gained from the course is certainly rewarding. I am sure that when it comes to university interview questions and problem solving in the future, the skills and techniques I have learnt will definitely be beneficial, way beyond just the STEP exams. Therefore, I am incredibly glad that I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take part in one of these courses, as I think this level of expertise and tuition is truly rare and hard to find.

The post STEP Maths Tuition by excellent tutors – Nicole’s experience of a STEP Maths Summer School appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>__Why are there three STEP Papers I hear you ask? __

The STEP Papers (Sixth Term Examination Papers) had the original purpose of being entrance tests for Cambridge University Maths Courses. A-levels just weren’t hard enough to give a good enough indication of whether a student would survive the notorious Cambridge Maths Degree.

As all students didn’t have access to Further Maths A-level, Cambridge asked students to do:

- STEP I and STEP II if they only did Maths A-level
- STEP II and STEP III if they did Further Maths too.

STEP I and STEP II contain material from the Maths Syllabus, with the addition of a couple of extra topics such as proof by induction and the need to understand “necessary and sufficient conditions”. In addition, the applied sections of the paper will contain topics found in the Statistics 1 & 2 (S1/S2) and Mechanics 1 & 2 (M1/M2) modules.

STEP III contains material from the Further Maths Syllabus: Further Pure 1, 2, and 3 (FP1/FP2/FP3). Some of the applied questions may require knowledge of concepts found in the more advanced applied modules such as M3/M4/M5 or S3/S4. A couple of topics not found in these applied modules such as moment generating functions in probability, could also make an appearance in STEP III. As most students don’t cover these more tricky applied modules, we at STEP Maths recommend that students devote a higher proportion of their preparation time to the Pure Maths questions.

__Difficulty__

STEP I is meant to be the easier of the three Cambridge STEP papers.

STEP II and III are meant to be equivalent in difficulty, mainly differing in the topics they tests. However, as STEP III contains more challenging topics anyway, it would be considered by most as the hardest paper by far. Not only is it the hardest of the STEP papers, but probably the most difficult entrance exam of any university course, ever.

__Do other universities ask for STEP II and III?__

Naturally, ever offer will be different. But, as a general rule, most other universities who give STEP offers (Warwick, Bath, UCL, Bristol) ask for a particular grade (often 1 or 2) in ANY STEP paper. Naturally, you’d probably go for the easier one, ie STEP I. But if you happened to have a bad day on the day of the exam, you might appreciate the chance to take the STEP II exam too, in case you fared better! Also, practising questions from both STEP I and II would undoubtedly give you better grounding and preparation for STEP style questions overall.

STEP III is brilliant preparation for the style of questions you will encounter at university. Even if you don’t need it, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favour in the long term, if you seriously study some STEP III questions.

We at STEP Maths will be running STEP I, II and III courses over the next few months. To be the first to hear about our course launches, please sign up to the right.

The post What are the differences between STEP I, STEP II and STEP III? appeared first on STEPMaths | Oxbridge Preparation Courses 2018.

]]>How did you find the Oxford MAT paper 2015?

Attempting it ourselves, we felt that the 2015 Oxford MAT exam was significantly more difficult than past papers, indicating that Oxford wants to see how students think on their feet. The types of questions seemed different to those in past papers.

The popular belief until this year’s MAT test, was that if you practised all the past papers, you’d be fine. Yet, it seems that as GCSEs and A-levels are introducing problems requiring more lateral thinking and a deep understanding of the relationships between concepts, so too are universities in their entrance exams. These tough exams just got tougher.

For example, this year, number theory, geometric series and the difference of two cubes appeared on question 2, a spot historically reserved for a polynomials or geometry question. The British Mathematical Olympiad and UKMT Maths Challenges contain excellent questions to get students to think about Diophantine Equations (equations where the solutions can only be integers or whole numbers) but confining their preparation to past MAT papers, students may have lost out on valuable opportunities to improve their skills in this area.

Overlapping geometrical shapes is a favourite of the Oxford MAT examiners (see question 4) and indicate that strong geometry and trigonometry skills will be an asset for any student taking the paper. So too are the dreaded question 5’s which often require you to spot patterns in iterations or nested functions and demonstrate fluency with combinatorics.

Ideas resembling first year undergraduate mathematics, for example, those in Analysis seem to be creeping into the papers too, question 3 being this year’s example. STEP paper questions are frequently based on concepts encountered at university and could provide useful yet accessible exposure.

Overall, it would appear that a holistic (rather than narrowly focused) approach to Oxford MAT preparation will hold hopeful students in good stead. A general enthusiasm to improve one’s higher order thinking skills by approaching very different types of Maths problems will undoubtedly help students to achieve a place at their dream university!

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