If you are thinking of applying to university to study maths you need to find out whether this specific test is relevant; it’s not strictly an admissions requirement but you may have to take it once you have been made a conditional offer.
Unlike many admissions tests and aptitude tests, the sixth term examination paper is usually used as part of a university offer, rather than as part of the selection procedure for interview or as part of the interview itself.
Conditional offers are made based on A-level results and a set minimum score on one or two of the three STEP papers.
The STEP papers are primarily used by the University of Cambridge as part of their offers for mathematics based courses. They are also used by the University of Warwick as part of their conditional offers.
Several other universities encourage candidates to sit the papers as preparation for the kind of work that they will face as a mathematics undergraduate. These include the Universities of Bristol, Bath and Oxford as well as Imperial College London. While taking the STEP for these universities is not compulsory, you are strongly advised to take it if it is suggested.
The STEP comprises three examination papers of three hours each, with a total of 13 questions on each paper. Candidates are required to answer any six questions of their choice on each paper.
The 13 questions on each paper consist of:
Papers one and two are based on the A-Level maths syllabus, while paper three is based on the further maths A-Level syllabus.
The STEP examination is graded from outstanding (S), through very good (1), good (2), satisfactory (3) to unclassified (U). If you take more than one paper, your grade is based on your best six answers.
Most candidates will take the STEP exam at their school or college in the summer, alongside their other examinations. For 2013, the examination dates were June 19th, June 25th and June 26th.
Applications for 2013 entry have already closed on May 24th. To apply for STEP entry in 2014, you need to ask your school or college examinations officer to complete your entry. If you do not attend school or college, you will need to find an ‘open centre’ at which to take the test.
The STEP costs £44.25 per paper taken. However, there is also a punitive late entry fee of £58.85 per paper if you miss the normal entry deadline, so it is well worth getting your entry in on time.
One of the main reasons that universities use the STEP is that success on the paper requires the same level of work and dedication that is needed on a university mathematics course, so expect to have to work hard to do well.