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    Hello, this is something that my maths teacher told me but I am finding it hard to believe. He says that maths at uni is very different from A-Level and STEP which have a "here's a problem, solve it!" approach whereas uni maths is a lot more about proving stuff and deriving results. So different is uni maths to A-level and is it really true that maths graduates can't do STEP?
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    It's the same as in any subject, if you don't do anything for a while you might find it hard to recall the method or technique or trick required to solve a problem and then you feel silly when you finally work it out! Remember a friend and I getting stumped by a first year 2nd order ODE problem for like an afternoon that we were supposed to be tutoring LOLA Cambridge grad and a guy who came top of the year in Oxford Maths LOL but neither of us had looked at an ODE of that type since we were first years and solving similar types of problems so we just couldn't recall this bit of insight needed to solve the damn thing.
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    STEP is hard, aimed at the top x% where x is small.

    Degree level maths isn't. You don't need to be particularly bright to study it. It stands to reason that not all maths grads will be able to do STEP. (Even if they practised for it)
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    Ah, ok. It makes sense now thanks guys.
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      (Original post by SimonM)
      STEP is hard, aimed at the top x% where x is small.

      Degree level maths isn't. You don't need to be particularly bright to study it. It stands to reason that not all maths grads will be able to do STEP. (Even if they practised for it)
      Therefore implying that some maths graduates so inadequate, they can't even attempt a paper which is aimed for applicants who wish to study the Cambridge Mathematics tripos, let alone actual Cambridge papers?

      That pretty much says the quality of certain mathematics degrees if they can't even complete a paper which certain bright A-level candidates can do.

      Which begs the question, what skills have they actually learnt during their "maths degree"?
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      I must agree.....I am attempting this STEP question and finding it very hard......
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      (Original post by im so academic)
      Therefore implying that some maths graduates so inadequate, they can't even attempt a paper which is aimed for applicants who wish to study the Cambridge Mathematics tripos, let alone actual Cambridge papers?
      Actual Cambridge papers are different from STEP, although arguably the same difficulty.

      Which begs the question, what skills have they actually learnt during their "maths degree"?
      Completely different ones. Bright A-level students can do well at the IMO. When I come out of my degree I will be no better at solving Olympiad type problems than I was when I went in. Doesn't mean I haven't learnt anything.

      Besides, I regularly outperform IMO medalists at university, at a different sort of maths. A maths graduate from another university, whilst perhaps not capable of doing STEP, will certainly have a better grasp of what proofs are, or understand more abstract topics like algebra and analysis, or have a much great understanding of applied topics.
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      (Original post by SimonM)
      STEP is hard, aimed at the top x% where x is small. Degree level maths isn't. You don't need to be particularly bright to study it.
      It stands to reason that not all maths grads will be able to do STEP. (Even if they practised for it)
      It's very worrying that I've not yet done a single paper then, given that if I get an offer from Cambridge it will for sure be based on it.
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      (Original post by Piecewise)
      It's very worrying that I've not yet done a single paper then, given that if I get an offer from Cambridge it will for sure be based on it.
      Most people start after receiving their offer and do fine IMHO
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      (Original post by SimonM)
      Most people start after receiving their offer and do fine IMHO
      That's relieving, thanks.
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      (Original post by ElMoro)
      Hello, this is something that my maths teacher told me but I am finding it hard to believe. He says that maths at uni is very different from A-Level and STEP which have a "here's a problem, solve it!" approach whereas uni maths is a lot more about proving stuff and deriving results. So different is uni maths to A-level and is it really true that maths graduates can't do STEP?
      Altho, maybe cambrige (and possibly wawrick) graduates might be able to do step.

      Also, the only way to be good at STEP is to work hard digging in to past papers for long periods of time. This, being the only way to success imo, requires lots of dedication and success in this shows a candidate's dedication to Cambridge/wherever, this is what's being tested.

      If you take a maths graduate from, lets say, Chester University, where you need C's/B's to get in, the caliber of graduates will certainly not be able to do STEP.
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      (Original post by Physics Enemy)
      So is it fair to say you're outperforming them because you're more dedicated/into uni Maths, rather than 'brainier'?
      In that case, wouldn't it be fair to say too that IMO medalists would out-perform him in Olympiad maths simply because they are more dedicated/into that sort of Maths?
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      (Original post by Piecewise)
      In that case, wouldn't it be fair to say too that IMO medalists would out-perform him in Olympiad maths simply because they are more dedicated/into that sort of Maths?
      Not really, they are not comparable as such. Uni maths success requires advanced maths knowledge, at least I would assume so. This means to succeed you need to know advanced techniques etc. The IMO and olympiad maths is based on simple number theory, algebra and geometry. You don't actually need a lot of maths knowledge. Instead you need to be able to apply the basics in very intuitive and original ways, thus showing fundamental understanding and natural talent rather than learned ability and methods.
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      (Original post by Physics Enemy)
      Why is it that when you bluntly state the truth, nobody bats an eyelid, but when I state it, I get slated to death? What's with the hypocrisy in the Maths forum?
      Because no-one disputes that maths degrees are not designed for the top xx% of the country. What you were 'slated' for (if I'm thinking of what you're referring to correctly) is your weird obssession with 'natural talent'.

      (Original post by Physics Enemy)
      Is there much difference between a Mathematician and a snooker player, for instance? The skills/talent required for both aren't all that different.
      eh?
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      (Original post by Physics Enemy)
      Simon said exactly what I've been saying all along; that degrees are easier, requires less talent/brains, and most maths grads can't do STEP.

      When I said it, people jumped on the bandwagon and disputed it for the sake of argument. So I had to re-iterate my points to make them crystal clear, and then I was branded 'obsessed'. Go figure.


      Well; it requires a lot of natural talent, great focus, dedication and precision. It requires a mind that carefully weighs things up and thinks outside the box. It also requires nerve and staying calm under pressure. Why is Maths much different to many sports out there? To me it's a sport, when you're competing of course.
      STEP is designed for a small amount of people to take. Also, being harder isn't necessary better.

      You are obsessed. How you think changing the system that works okay to I don't know what is strange. So what do you suggest?, everyone that passes STEP gets classed as a top Mathematician and get a first automatically?

      It's extremely ignorant to suggest that sports isn't hard work. The fact is top snooker players would have put in the hours. Most top sports people train long hours and are taking drugs. On why is Maths different to sports? It really isn't. For example, Gymnasts train 5 hours a day from a young age. But, lets ignore that and think sports is just genetics and that they don't work hard. To be fair, a lot of IMO are trained from a young age to do it, you get a child to practice Maths everyday and they can become good at it.

      You work sort of hard and have some ability you can get a first. You are so called STEP god it would be easier for you, so you work a little less hard and get a first. Don't see the problem with it.
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      (Original post by Simplicity)
      STEP is designed for a small amount of people to take. Also, being harder isn't necessary better.

      You are obsessed. How you think changing the system that works okay to I don't know what is strange. So what do you suggest?, everyone that passes STEP gets classed as a top Mathematician and get a first automatically?

      It's extremely ignorant to suggest that sports isn't hard work. The fact is top snooker players would have put in the hours. Most top sports people train long hours and are taking drugs. On why is Maths different to sports? It really isn't. For example, Gymnasts train 5 hours a day from a young age. But, lets ignore that and think sports is just genetics and that they don't work hard. To be fair, a lot of IMO are trained from a young age to do it, you get a child to practice Maths everyday and they can become good at it.

      You work sort of hard and have some ability you can get a first. You are so called STEP god it would be easier for you, so you work a little less hard and get a first. Don't see the problem with it.
      I actually agree entirely.
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      (Original post by Physics Enemy)
      Why is it that when you bluntly state the truth, nobody bats an eyelid, but when I state it, I get slated to death? What's with the hypocrisy in the Maths forum?
      Simply put:

      (a) I've been busy with other things.
      (b) Your position is a lot more extreme than Simon's. (Simon doesn't put STEP on a pedestal in the way you do).

      Nevertheless, I still disagree with Simon as well. I've experience of maths at two universities (so not just Cambridge), did a computing MSc at a 3rd where I did quite a lot of maths, and work in a maths-related field.

      In light of that:

      I'd be pretty shocked at someone with a degree at a decent university saying they couldn't do well on modern STEP I and STEP II papers (possibly with a bit of practice). There are so many university questions that basically require you to do the same things as in a STEP exam (as well as the extra content of the university material).

      STEP III is more of a speed test, and I could see university people not being able to get 1/S grades. But still, I'd expect them to be saying "I can't do 6 STEP III questions in 3 hours", not "I can't do STEP III".

      I wouldn't say you needed STEP level maths for my Computing MSc, but certainly the people with just A-level maths struggled with some of the material. The two people with high distinctions would have had little difficulty with STEP (to be fair, one of them was me).

      Certainly in my work, I've frequently had to deal with problems at STEP-type level. If a maths grad said to me "I can't do STEP", I'd be wary of employing him.

      Now of course, it's always possible for people to choose particular study paths that get them through university without doing that much of the A-level type stuff in STEP. But as a general rule, I'd say that if you've done a university maths degree and can't do STEP at the end of it, you've not made good use of your 3 years.
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      (Original post by DFranklin)
      I'd be pretty shocked at someone with a degree at a decent university saying they couldn't do well on modern STEP I and STEP II papers (possibly with a bit of practice). There are so many university questions that basically require you to do the same things as in a STEP exam (as well as the extra content of the university material).
      Much as I basically agree with what you've said, I think I'd do worse(or not much better) if I sat STEP now to when I did it. I didn't do all that much preparation, I just think there are bits of A level that I'd have been much quicker at back then because of all the practice(admittedly, I'm sure if some questions came up, they'd seem trivial by comparison, and I haven't looked at a STEP paper in half a year or so).
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      (Original post by Physics Enemy)
      Would you never accept the opinion that intelligence/talent/whatever will just stop a lot of people from being capable to do STEP/BMO/IMO/whatever? You seem to have a lot of faith in the education system; they'll turn mediocre Mathmos into good ones by the end, who can think cleverly and do STEP and whatnot. Simon has a 1st in Maths at Cam and isn't any better at Olympiad problems. Why can't people who are far worse than him at Maths, graduating from mediocre unis, not be able to do STEP?
      As I have said before, several times, there is enough content in a degree that is similar to STEP that if you can't do STEP, you won't be able to do those parts of a degree either.

      In contrast, there's very little you cover at university that is like the IMO/BMO problems.

      Even so, I was definitely better at BMO type problems after my degree than before it.

      I think if you were an employer, you should be prepared to be shocked. They have all sorts of literacy/numeracy tests going around these days because the standard can be so dodgy. Maybe mine and Simon's opinion of STEP vs Uni tells you something about the modern day.
      I've interviewed people, I've seen the literacy/numeracy tests. They have very little to do with what we're talking about.

      I think part of your reluctance to accept our views seems tied up with your sentiment in not wanting the standard to be sub-par, rather than a blunt observation.
      Most everything I've posted is from blunt observation. I'll admit a fair amount of it is from 20 years ago, and it may be that standards have fallen so far that a 2:1 graduate from Kings College London back then is better able to do STEP than someone with a first from Warwick.

      If so, I'm not going to pretend I think that first from Warwick is worth very much (*).

      From what I gather, you're of the opinion if one slaves away at something for long enough, they'll get the top grade. How can that be true?
      I've said many times that this is not the case.

      (*) To elaborate: it's probably possible to concentrate on a very narrow section of courses so that although your degree was a decent standard, you still aren't happy with STEP. I wouldn't say that's a worthless degree, but I do think it's misguided - it's one thing to specialise, but you should still have a reasonable general standard. If you read Littlewood's Miscellany, he talks a fair bit about applied maths, despite the fact that he was a number theory specialist.
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      (Original post by Slumpy)
      Much as I basically agree with what you've said, I think I'd do worse(or not much better) if I sat STEP now to when I did it. I didn't do all that much preparation, I just think there are bits of A level that I'd have been much quicker at back then because of all the practice(admittedly, I'm sure if some questions came up, they'd seem trivial by comparison, and I haven't looked at a STEP paper in half a year or so).
      For sure, I was far quicker at A-level material back when I sat A-levels than when I took them 20 years ago. I don't remember how to do integration by substitution without doing a test case now!

      But back then, my best guess is that I'd have got a low-S in STEP II and a 1 in STEP III.

      I think I'd be looking at 118+ in STEP II and >110 in STEP III now.
     
     
     
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