1. Why should I do a timed mock?
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.
2. Am I ready?
- 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.
3. Which paper should I do?
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.
4. What conditions should I use?
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.
5. What should I do if I have already done one or more of the questions?
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.
6. How should I mark it?
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.
7. Have I done well enough?
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.
8. What should I do next?
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.
9. How many more papers should I do?
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.