STEP Prep Thread 2019 Watch

Drogo Baggins
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(Original post by _gcx)
Nice! Do you know when abouts the specification for 2019 will be out?
Fairly soon I think (sorry, not very helpful!)
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Drogo Baggins
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Hi everyone - I believe the new 2019 STEP specs are now available on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions testing website!
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_gcx
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(Original post by Drogo Baggins)
Hi everyone - I believe the new 2019 STEP specs are now available on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions testing website!
It is, thanks!
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TheTroll73
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no more formula booklets O_O

pls tell me I won't need to memorize formulae...

if I do I might as well not bother applying to Cambridge
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TheTroll73
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(Original post by TheTroll73)
no more formula booklets O_O

pls tell me I won't need to memorize formulae...

if I do I might as well not bother applying to Cambridge
okay looked at the required formulae (to remember) from the spec. There is way too many (do people really memorize all of these). I am able to derive most, if not all these formulae with relative ease but this will cost me time in the exam...

I'll check this for the MAT now...
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nyxnko_
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Thank you so much for setting up this thread!
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_gcx
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(Original post by TheTroll73)
no more formula booklets O_O

pls tell me I won't need to memorize formulae...

if I do I might as well not bother applying to Cambridge
Siklos said that any identities you can't reasonably be expected to recall/derive.

Identities like \sin(A \pm B) and \cos(A \pm B) you should be relatively familiar with anyway through practice. They're not testing your memory here.
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RuneFreeze
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Hey, thanks very much for the thread!

I have a question about timing, cause it says in the post that starting to prepare at the beginning of january but the foundation modules say that you should do them in year 12 or in the summer, so I now I feel a bit behind already haha. I I haven't done any of the foundation modules (will start tomorrow) or done much really at all of year 13 maths or fm, my question is is that okay? Or should I be a be trying to get ahead on year 13 stuff and doing STEP 2 and 3? Just a bit stressed as to what I should focus on tbh lol, I assume that just doing the step foundation questions and maybe step 2/3 should be good enough practice for interview?

One more slightly off topic question that I don't know you'll be able to answer; does it make a difference to applications if I have a fourth A level in chemistry? I'm thinking of dropping it to give me more time to focus on everything else. Also I'm right in assuming that I'll most probably get an interview if I have an A in a level further maths as right? My GCSE's are pretty dodgy but my school is also really dodgy so that should help I guess.

Sorry for the slightly rambly post I just have a lot to think about, would be really grateful if anyone could clear any of that up for me ty
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TheTroll73
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(Original post by Zacken)
Welcome to the 2019 STEP prep thread. This is the place to discuss, post problems, or ask any questions you may have regarding the exam!

Note about timings: based on previous threads, there are always some who will make a start in the 2018 summer holidays. Don't worry if you're not one of them! Most people will start seriously in January 2019, because that's when Cambridge will make their STEP offers. Please do not be put off if you read the thread and can't follow the thread. This thread is open to all, no matter what your level of preparedness - please ask your questions and hopefully someone will be able to help you. The only thing I ask is to read this first post in case it already answers your question.

If you are reading this ahead of Cambridge interviews, AEA, MAT and STEP I can be great practice for problem-solving, which is basically what the interview is about.

Acknowledgements: most of this information has been collected by people taking STEP in the past so hopefully you'll find the resources here useful. Particular thanks to Lord of the Flies for making the original version of this and shamika for heavily updating it.

0. General information

What is STEP?

STEP is a series of three exams taken late June each year, usually in Year 13, almost always because it forms part of a university offer. Which papers are sat depends on the university.

STEP I is the easiest, and STEP II and III are meant to be of similar difficulty.

Until recently, STEP was a Cambridge entrance exam in everything but name. These days, the majority of STEP candidates are not Cambridge offer holders.

2019 exam dates

STEP I: Monday 10 June (Morning)
STEP II: Monday 17 June (Morning)
STEP III: Friday 21 June (Morning)

STEP grading and typical offers

STEP is graded as follows

S - Outstanding
1 - Very good
2 - Good
3 - Satisfactory
U - Ungraded

Remember that STEP is aimed at the top 2% of all maths A-level students, so it is meant to be hard. Typical offers are:

- Cambridge: 1, 1 in STEP II and III

- Warwick: A*A*A* without STEP, A*A*A with grade 1 in any STEP paper

- Imperial: require STEP if you missed the MAT deadline, or if you had a borderline MAT result

- King's College London: require STEP or AEA if you are doing AS Further Maths - rather than the full A-level

- UCL: A*A*A without STEP, A*AA with STEP grade 1 or distinction in AEA

- Bath: recommend, and will give alternate offers if STEP is offered

- Lancaster: AAA without Further Maths or STEP, drops to ABB if a grade 3 in STEP and Further Maths

- Bristol: reduced offer with STEP

What is the point of STEP?

I'll defer to Dr. Siklos:



From my perspective, these are all excellent reasons for aspiring mathematicians to give STEP a go. Note that there is something very important that STEP does not do. It is not meant as a bridging course between A-Levels (or equivalent) and university. In particular, STEP requires very little additional maths beyond what you are taught at A-Level. What is different is the style and ingenuity required to answer a STEP question compared to an A-Level question.

Note: You may have heard that Cambridge is introducing entrance exams at the interview stage for all students. The Mathematics Admissions Committee have confirmed that they will continue to use STEP for the basis of their admissions.

Exam conditions:

- Each paper is 3 hours long
- No calculators are allowed

- You are not given a formula booklet from 2019 onwards. You may use a formula booklet when practicing past papers, but Siklos himself has said that the formula booklet has never been essential.

- You are given a 40 page answer booklet with lined paper. The current rules state that you may not get additional answer booklets, so be wary of your usage. This is currently volatile and may change. The first three pages of the answer booklet are admin, where you have to enter your candidate information and questions answered so the marking process can be anonymized. Do not write your name anywhere in the answer booklet where it is not explicitly asked for.

Do all of your working in this booklet. Every year someone asks whether scrap paper is given. You have no need for it - the only way you can get marks is if the examiner sees your work. This includes all arithmetic / algebra that you would want to do on the side. You don't get marks for being neat, you get marks for doing correct maths.

- You are given no reading time, and therefore choosing the right questions is key.

If you're finding STEP hard...

You're in the right place - it is hard and this thread is designed to help you.Some stupendously intelligent people do not do well at STEP, either through lack of preparation or just a bad day. STEP is aimed at the top 2% of those who take A-Level mathematics. About 2100 STEP papers were sat in 2016, which equates to about 1000 people (because most people sat 2 papers). You have to be very good at maths to think about giving STEP a go.

That's not to say you can't prepare. If you're reading this, it means you want to do well. There are plenty of resources to help, including this thread. Most importantly, with practice and dedication, you have every chance of excelling.

You do not have to be a genius to do well in STEP (but it does help of course ).

1. Required knowledge

The specification for STEP 2019+ is still in progress.



The specification changes do not mean that STEP is entirely different and you don't have any preparation resources. In the words of the ATS: "The style of the questions will remain unaltered, and most of the STEP questions from previous papers can be used for preparation."

If you are trying to prepare for STEP I, you really should cover the pure section of A-Level Mathematics - covering this material and being comfortable with it by January 2019 is highly recommended. If you want extension material before you cover C3 and C4, you might want to look at the MAT.

Krollo, Zacken and Number Nine have kindly categorised all questions by topic - see the spreadsheet in this post. STEP II questions here.

Dr. Stephen Siklos has very kindly created an online STEP question lookup database at http://stepdatabase.maths.org/index.html - the instructions on how to use it are provided on the site as well and it's an excellent tool!

2. The STEP Megapack

You can download the STEP Megapack from here: https://github.com/mzjp2/step-resources - the link contains instructions to download a zipped copy of the repository, but you should also monitor the repository for updates and additions. Feel free to suggest improvements or things you'd like to see. Also feel free to submit a pull request.

The megapack includes:

- Past papers from 1987 - 2017
- Official solutions (2004 onwards) and examiners' reports (2007 onwards)
- Both of Dr. Siklos' old booklets*
- Dr. Siklos' new book
- The grade boundaries for 2000-2018
- The old formula booklet
- A STEP questions spreadsheet.

The repository contains more information about each resource.

More information about the (old) Siklos booklets:
1. Advanced Problems in Core Mathematics - 67 problems, some from STEP papers. This is the revised version of the original booklet, based on the current A-Level syllabus. More details are given than the original, with a nice intro. It is a good idea to start with this one.
2. Advanced Problems in Mathematics - 43 problems mostly taken from STEP papers, some adapted. As good as the first one but the problems are taken from older papers, so the Core Maths booklet is probably the most relevant.

Siklos has amalgamated the above booklets into a book: you can download this for free from the link at (it is also included in the megapack): http://www.openbookpublishers.com/pr...for-university

*Siklos has had an awful lot to do with STEP, including writing exams, being the principal examiner, organising the Cambridge Easter prep sessions and advising on the admissions process for Cambridge. These booklets come highly recommended and are a great place to start preparing for STEP.

3. Other Resources

- The Admission Testing Service "preparing for STEP" page - this will be the official place the 2017 papers will be released and is the official site for STEP.

- Individual STEP papers can also be downloaded from The Maths Orchard or Mathshelper or PhysicsMathsTutor

- A spreadsheet cross-referencing the Siklos booklets to STEP questions

- University of Warwick videos of worked STEP solutions (follow the links from this page).

- STEP Support programme and in particular their discussion forum is a Cambridge run website to support students taking STEP - it's a replacement to the STEP Easter school that used to be run.

- The STEP Correspondence course (this is outdated), which is designed for early STEP preparation. Assignments are on this page. They also have a forum which might be helpful.- Meikleriggs website is an oldie but has worked to solutions to STEP papers (you might need to sign-up to the site).

- NRICH STEP preparation modules. (I'm not convinced that these are particularly helpful. However they were developed by Cambridge so I would be remiss not to include them on this list.)

- TSR hints and tricks

- STEP hacks and tricks (made by the 2016 year!)

- STEP Questions Database by Dr. Siklos

- Notes on Mechanics by Krollo

4. Solutions

If you're stuck on a problem, you're basically like every single person who has prepared for STEP. Do not look at solutions unless you've thought about a problem seriously (i.e. at least for more than one day), and have asked on this thread for help.If you do need the solutions:- The Megapack has all of the official solutions since 1996. Some of these are basically hints, which are better for you in the long run (because once you see a solution, the question is basically ruined for you).- TSR has worked solutions to most papers.
4. Marking and Grade Boundaries

All questions are marked out of 20. Best 6 answers contribute to your final score.

After a Freedom of Information request, Admissions Testing Service provided the 2014 solutions (with mark schemes). I am releasing these in the public interest to help students prepare for STEP.

Individual links straight to the files are below:

STEP I 2014 mark scheme
STEP II 2014 mark scheme
STEP III 2014 mark scheme

Also, thanks to the correspondence course, we have:

STEP I 2013 mark scheme
STEP II 2013 mark scheme
STEP III 2013 mark scheme

The 2015 markschemes are available on the ATS's website, along with STEP 2011 I. There's also some miscellaneous markschemes here.

Note that the general guidance given regarding marking remains unchanged - see this link for details.Grade boundaries are shown in the picture below:



Graphs

Spoiler:
Show



















6. FAQ

When should I start?

Whenever you want. January 2019 should be sufficient time for a good Cambridge offer holder to get a 1,1 if they work hard. Using that as a benchmark might be helpful (be honest with yourself about how good you are!)

Don't worry or feel intimated by the handful of people starting preparation in the summer of 2018, they are very much in the minority. As above, starting in January 2019 gives sufficient time to prepare.

I need inspiration before the exam...

This post seems very popular. I think it's useful well before the exam though. In particular, the stuff about knowing what A \Rightarrow B means, what "if and only if" means, and the fact that \sqrt {x^2} = |x| comes up again and again in STEP.

Can I get by with just the pure?

Maybe. But the applied is often straightforward and if you ignore it, you'll be in for a shock at uni because your first year may be up to 50% applied. Things that tend to be relatively simple:

- Mechanics: collisions, projectiles
- Statistics: definitions of a pdf/cdf, expectations, counting arguments for probability.

What should I leave as mocks?

Make sure that during your prep you cover the most recent papers as this is the best indication of the current difficulty of STEP. I do not recommend that you have to leave all of the most recent papers as mocks.

You should see this post for a very detailed FAQ - no need to read it all!

Should I panic about the STEP specification changing?

No! There changes will not be particularly grand. It's simply a reshuffle of the content (which has never been the focus of STEP) to better fit the content you now learn as part of your linear A-Levels, which is a good thing. All the previous preparation resources and advice applies equally, the style of the questions should still be the same. There is some slightly new content that hasn't featured in STEP for a while (in particular, matrices) - maths.org/stpe has a few assignments and questions to help you get used to the STEP style of those questions, for example, here is the one for matrices: https://maths.org/step/step-ii-matrices-new

7. After the exam

This advice will be updated if the 2019 process is different to 2018.

.If you are a Cambridge offer holder and have missed your offer:

- Check UCAS Track: your original college may have accepted you anyway. Congrats!

- If not, you may be in the summer pool. Call up your college and provide your A-level UMS - assuming this is good it may help your case. You should keep your emails / phone with you as you may be get told that another college has accepted you. Note that the pool has access to your actual STEP scripts, not just your marks, so they will be looking in detail for who to accept.

- Your best place for advice will be the TSR Summer pool thread, where experienced people will hopefully be on hand to deal with your situation.

No matter what happens, you have become a better mathematician for attempting STEP and if you're good enough to try it, you should have no problems being a success in whatever you do, wherever you end up!





Above all, best of luck!




the new spec has been released!
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TheTroll73
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(Original post by _gcx)
Siklos said that any identities you can't reasonably be expected to recall/derive.

Identities like \sin(A \pm B) and \cos(A \pm B) you should be relatively familiar with anyway through practice. They're not testing your memory here.
uh no I can't recall them right now...

see my memory isn't as good as most people's. being 'familiar" with a formula does not mean I remember it. Or worse, I could confuse it with a similar one.

So yes STEP now testes memory, on top of mathematical ability. There are those few formulae that feel, to me, unreasonable to ask for memorization.
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Drogo Baggins
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(Original post by TheTroll73)
okay looked at the required formulae (to remember) from the spec. There is way too many (do people really memorize all of these). I am able to derive most, if not all these formulae with relative ease but this will cost me time in the exam...

I'll check this for the MAT now...
I still draw sketches for things like sin(90-A)=cos A, and mentally substitute A=A, B=1 to check I have log(AB) = log A + log B correct...

When I was in the first year at university I wrote out a load of formulae (by hand) and stuck them in places I would look at regularly - the fridge, back of the toilet door etc. This seemed to help me memorise them with little effort.

What would be great is if you could get the idle screen of your phone to show a different formula each time
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Drogo Baggins
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(Original post by RuneFreeze)
Hey, thanks very much for the thread!

I have a question about timing, cause it says in the post that starting to prepare at the beginning of january but the foundation modules say that you should do them in year 12 or in the summer, so I now I feel a bit behind already haha. I I haven't done any of the foundation modules (will start tomorrow) or done much really at all of year 13 maths or fm, my question is is that okay? Or should I be a be trying to get ahead on year 13 stuff and doing STEP 2 and 3? Just a bit stressed as to what I should focus on tbh lol, I assume that just doing the step foundation questions and maybe step 2/3 should be good enough practice for interview?
The idea behind the foundation modules of the STEP support course is that it can be a real shock to first attempt STEP questions and we are trying to gently introduce them (some people find the approach and scaffolding of the foundation modules means they are too gentle). A lot of the foundation modules are STEP I questions and the first ones have been carefully selected to include very little A-level maths (as different schools teach different topics at different times, and we didn't want people to be learning new stuff as well as attempting STEP questions for the first time). Some of the later foundation modules introduce things like chain rule/product rule/integration by substitution/trig identities because in the old A-level system these were A2 single maths topics which many schools did not teach until year 13, but without them it was very hard to attempt most STEP questions. They are also very much designed to help students who have no other sources of help (though saying that I know of quite a few schools who use the SSP materials themselves when helping their students.)

Don't feel that you have to use the foundation modules. If you are feeling confident you can start straight on the STEP II/III modules. Or you can just do the STEP question part of the foundation modules - please use them in anyway you want! (I had had complaints that the "preparation question" made the STEP question too easy in the foundation modules - my response was "don't look at it then!".)

For interview try attempting some STEP questions "out loud" - if there are more than one of you applying at your school you could so this together in turns? The thing you are practising here is talking through your thoughts as you are doing a question.
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Drogo Baggins
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(Original post by RuneFreeze)
One more slightly off topic question that I don't know you'll be able to answer; does it make a difference to applications if I have a fourth A level in chemistry? I'm thinking of dropping it to give me more time to focus on everything else. Also I'm right in assuming that I'll most probably get an interview if I have an A in a level further maths as right? My GCSE's are pretty dodgy but my school is also really dodgy so that should help I guess.

Sorry for the slightly rambly post I just have a lot to think about, would be really grateful if anyone could clear any of that up for me ty
Do you already have an AS grade in Chemistry? If so I would be slightly cautious about dropping it before interview. Whilst they only ask for 3 A levels, any suspicion that you have dropped a fourth due to finding the workload too much might count against you! What is your other A level?
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RuneFreeze
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(Original post by Drogo Baggins)
Do you already have an AS grade in Chemistry? If so I would be slightly cautious about dropping it before interview. Whilst they only ask for 3 A levels, any suspicion that you have dropped a fourth due to finding the workload too much might count against you! What is your other A level?
Hi! I havn't read the rest of your reply yet but no I havn't got an as level in chemistry, only in further maths, so there's no risk of that happening. In that case would I be particularly disadvantaged if I drop one against someone that does 4?
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Gregorius
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(Original post by TheTroll73)
So yes STEP now testes memory, on top of mathematical ability.
You say this as though you think it to be a bad thing; but memory is a vital part of actually doing mathematics. You often have to spot patterns in mathematics (not least in algebraic manipulations), and if you don't have those patterns close to hand in your memory, you are going to get struck!
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TheTroll73
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(Original post by Drogo Baggins)
I still draw sketches for things like sin(90-A)=cos A, and mentally substitute A=A, B=1 to check I have log(AB) = log A + log B correct...

When I was in the first year at university I wrote out a load of formulae (by hand) and stuck them in places I would look at regularly - the fridge, back of the toilet door etc. This seemed to help me memorise them with little effort.

What would be great is if you could get the idle screen of your phone to show a different formula each time
That's great advice. Thanks!

*does not have a phone tho*
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TheTroll73
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(Original post by Gregorius)
You say this as though you think it to be a bad thing; but memory is a vital part of actually doing mathematics. You often have to spot patterns in mathematics (not least in algebraic manipulations), and if you don't have those patterns close to hand in your memory, you are going to get struck!
Your example is not the same as remembering a formula. For example, I can recognize the binomial expansion pattern almost immediately while I can't remember the quadratic formula.

This is because I am not memorizing the pattern; I am familiar with the pattern, although I don't know it by heart.
However, I can't do that with a formula (I need to remember everything exactly or I will make mistakes).

Similarly I can't remember what I am told by heart but I can remember the meaning more easily.
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Drogo Baggins
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(Original post by TheTroll73)
Your example is not the same as remembering a formula. For example, I can recognize the binomial expansion pattern almost immediately while I can't remember the quadratic formula.
Probably not entirely helpful, but did you know you can "sing" the quadratic formula to the tune of "Pop goes the weasel"?
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Drogo Baggins
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(Original post by RuneFreeze)
Hi! I havn't read the rest of your reply yet but no I havn't got an as level in chemistry, only in further maths, so there's no risk of that happening. In that case would I be particularly disadvantaged if I drop one against someone that does 4?
I think that if your interviewers knew that you had dropped one you would be at a disadvantage, whereas if you had only done 3 from the start you wouldn't IFSWIM.
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TheTroll73
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(Original post by Drogo Baggins)
I think that if your interviewers knew that you had dropped one you would be at a disadvantage, whereas if you had only done 3 from the start you wouldn't IFSWIM.
unless you did start 4 but dropped one without doing any AS exam (and not saying anything about it)
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