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.