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examination paper

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 and the University of Warwick to assess applicants for their undergraduate mathematics courses. 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.

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.

Grading

There are five possible grades awarded on STEP. From best to worst, these are 'S' (Outstanding), '1', '2', '3', and 'U' (Ungraded). 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 shift dramatically from year to year - and the boundaries for Mathematics III are generally a small but appreciable margin lower. Questions are marked out of 20, and are classified as 'alpha' or 'beta' type answers, dependent on the level of completion. Only the best six answers provided by the examinee will be marked, and hence students are advised to allow 45 minutes to complete a single question. Little to no credit is given for fragments of answers.

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)

Mathematics I is sat at the same time as Mathematics III, meaning that were students to take both, they would have to be sat in succession. Traditionally, Mathematics I was for students applying to read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, while Mathematics II and III were for those applying to read Mathematics. People who have done Further Mathematics A-Levels would take Mathematics II and III whereas those who have done only the Core Mathematics A-level would take Mathematics I and II. For this reason few students have to sit Mathematics I and III.

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

Results

Typically (based on all subjects; i.e. before 2003),

  • 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

Cumulative percentage of candidates achieving the following grades in 2006:

S 1 2 3 U
Mathematics I 7.7 21.3 44.2 68.1 100.0
Mathematics II 12.9 41.4 57.2 82.4 100.0
Mathematics III 12.2 38.6 59.2 78.7 100.0

References

External links

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