We first met Manjari at a Cambridge open day! (Let us know if you’re coming to one by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org) 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:
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 🙂
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:
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:
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 🙂
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:
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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 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!
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:
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!
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.”