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.


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.

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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.