Sixth Term Examination Paper

Sixth Term Examination Papers in Mathematics, often referred to as STEP (or redundantly as STEP papers), are examinations set in the United Kingdom by the University of Cambridge to assess applicants for undergraduate mathematics courses. Other universities may require STEP including Warwick. Students used to be entered for STEP through the OCR exam board, but are now administered by Cambridge Assessment. Results from STEP papers are used to supplement candidates' existing exam results, which are often claimed to be insufficient to distinguish between the very brightest applicants. Each year, roughly 400 people in the UK may take STEP to attempt entry to Cambridge University; many more may enter for the purpose of entering Warwick, and in fact anyone, with or without the aim of seeking admission to an institution, may take STEP, making them public examinations. All of the Cambridge colleges require candidates to achieve good STEP grades before accepting them onto the maths course. Mathematics applicants for some Cambridge colleges who compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad are often excused from taking STEP. Before 2003, STEP papers were available for a wide range of subjects, including, for example, chemistry and biology, but the mathematics STEP paper is the only one now in use. Three STEP Maths papers are set each year. Candidates may take a maximum of 2 of these, usually STEP I and II if they are taking one mathematics A Level, and STEP II and III if they are also taking Further Mathematics. STEP Maths grades are also occasionally required for other courses, such as computer science and engineering.

STEP Test Format
The syllabus for STEP I and STEP II is based on A level content whilst the syllabus for STEP III is based on Further Mathematics A level. The questions on STEP II and STEP III are the same difficulty and harder than those in STEP I. Candidates are only expected to have knowledge of topics within the A level syllabus. Candidates who are not studying Further Mathematics will not be expected to sit STEP III. Lined answer sheets and a formula booklet are provided for each paper. From June 2009 graph paper is no longer to be used by candidates in the STEP examinations as all the graphs required are sketches, it is neither necessary nor appropriate for candidates to produce detailed graphs on graph paper. Instead all graphs should be sketched inside the answer booklets alongside their answer to the question. Calculators may not be used during STEP.

STEP Grading
There are five possible grades awarded on STEP. From best to worst, these are 'S' (Outstanding), '1', '2', '3', and 'U' (Unclassified). The 'rule of thumb' is that four good answers (to a reasonable level of completion) will gain a grade 1; more may gain an S, and fewer will gain a correspondingly lower grade. However, the grade boundaries can shift dramatically from year to year, and the boundaries for Mathematics III are generally a small but appreciable margin lower. All STEP questions are marked out of 20. The mark scheme for each question is designed to reward candidates who make good progress towards a solution. A candidate reaching the correct answer will receive full marks, regardless of the method used to answer the question. All the questions that are attempted by a student will be marked. However, only the 6 best answers will be used in the calculation of the final grade for the paper.

STEP Subjects of Examination
* Biology (before 2003)
* Chemistry (before 2003)
* Economics (before 2003)
* English Literature (before 2003)
* French (before 2003)
* General Studies (before 2003)
* German (before 2003)
* History (before 2003)
* Mathematics I
* Mathematics II
* Mathematics III
* Physics (before 2003)

STEP Statistics
Numbers taking the exams (across all subjects before 2003):
* 2005 – 1350 entrants
* 2004 – 1273 entrants
* 2003 – 1183 entrants
* 2002 – 1607 entrants
* 2001 – 2160 entrants

STEP Results
Typically (based on all subjects; i.e. before 2003),[citation needed]
* 12% achieve grade S
* 37% achieve grade 1 or above
* 63% achieve grade 2 or above
* 83% achieve grade 3 or above
* 17% fail to achieve a grade
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