Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP)

STEP is a compulsory aspect of all Mathematics offers for the University of Cambridge, and is sometimes required by Imperial College London for Computer Science applicants.

Next Exam
5th and 24th June 2024
Prerequisite knowledge
Full A-Level/IB
Download our comprehensive STEP Handbook
For students, parents, and teachers

About STEP

Widely considered the most difficult of all the admissions tests, STEP 2 and 3 consist of devious long-form questions designed to stretch students' understanding of mathematical concepts to the limit and broader problem solving skills. Taken later in the school year than the other admissions tests, success on STEP requires a more long-term preparation strategy.

Many universities will accept students with reduced A Level grades on the grounds of adequate performance on one or both STEP papers, which usually means a grade 2. Almost all offers to read Mathematics at the University of Cambridge require a grade 1 in both STEP 2 and STEP 3. In addition, Imperial College London sometimes requires Computer Science applicants to sit STEP 2 if they were unable to take the MAT. Many students also choose to take STEP for their own enrichment, and it provides fantastic preparation for undergraduate-level mathematics.

Both STEP 2 and 3 require students to be familiar with content from both years of A-Level Mathematics, plus first year A Level Further Mathematics. STEP 3 additionally requires knowledge of 2nd year A Level Further Mathematics.

Format and Content
Key Information
  • STEP 2 and STEP 3 are taken on different days and are each three hours long, with all questions requiring a written response with workings clearly set out.
  • Each paper consists of twelve questions, of which eight are on pure mathematics, two are on statistics/probability, and two are on mechanics. Older papers included an additional statistics/probability question.
  • Students are not expected to attempt all questions, but rather choose up to six to complete, with no restriction on the balance between pure/applied.

The following universities take the STEP into consideration as part of their admissions process:

Vantage Preparation Courses for STEP

For most students, STEP is the most daunting obstacle in the university admissions process, far surpassing any of their previous exams in difficulty and time pressure. With rigorous preparation and practice, students can reliably improve their score. The Vantage STEP programme provides comprehensive support and has led many students to admission at their first-choice university. Vantage courses consist of five key elements, which give students the best chance of success on STEP:

STEP Primer Course

The STEP Primer Course is a live course of weekly (students taking STEP 2 and 3) or fortnightly (students taking STEP 2 only) sessions, designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to topics and themes which frequently recur in STEP questions. Sessions are led by Vantage founding director and university admissions expert Rowan Wright, and Maths Olympiad Medallist Carlo Scarian. Sample topics include integration, probability density functions, circular motion, and differential equations. Students are equipped with the knowledge to attempt every question on the STEP paper, including sections B and C, regardless of the options covered by their school. Each lesson has an accompanying worksheet, carefully designed to cover the quirks and difficulties that STEP questions pose. Students are encouraged to complete the worksheets and review the solutions to ensure mastery of the techniques, before applying them to past paper questions. Whilst the course is delivered live, students who are unable to attend every live session can still benefit from the course fully with access to the comprehensive lesson notes.

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Mock Exam Marking

STEP questions often require multiple logical leaps to solve, so students are held to a particularly high standard in terms of the clarity of their written explanation. In our experience, most students can improve by 10-15 marks per paper solely by improving the presentation of their work: this can amount to more than half a grade boundary! Our mock marking service is provided exclusively by our team members who have worked as STEP 2 and 3 examiners with Cambridge Assessment. The style of presentation required for STEP is often contrary to the way students are taught to set out their work at school, but our actionable feedback enables Vantage students to perfect their written presentation.

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Past Paper Solutions

Our STEP programme includes solution booklets to all STEP 2 and 3 papers since 2008. The solutions are authored by our founding director, Rowan Wright, and designed in consultation with our team of qualified teachers, admissions test examiners, and Oxbridge supervisors. Rather than merely presenting a method that works, the solutions focus on how a student can 'come up with' the right ideas and think through a problem systematically. This enables students benefit fully from past paper practice, coming away from each question with a complete understanding and ready to tackle variations in future. The solutions also take care to place questions in context, explaining how ideas might be varied in future questions. A sample solution booklet is provided to view below.

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Individual Tuition

Many Vantage students opt to include individual tuition as part of their STEP preparation course. It is the most personalised support we offer and ensures any and all doubts can be addressed, whether they pertain to specific questions or broader topics and concepts. It also provides an opportunity for students to explore questions further, pursue their own interests, and, most importantly, ask questions. Beyond merely understanding a successful approach to a question, it’s very important for students to understand why their approach to a question didn’t work, which is uniquely well-served by one-to-one discussion.

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Mentoring Sessions

All Vantage students have the benefit of regular mentoring sessions over the course of their exam preparation, ideally attended along with their parents/guardians. All meetings are held with our founding director, a STEP expert who has personally coached several students who have scored 115+ (out of 120) on STEP. These meetings are completely tailored to the student’s specific goals, with the aim of reviewing the student’s progress, addressing doubts or concerns, providing motivation, and creating actionable plans to resolve any difficulties. Personalised mentoring enables students to ensure they are staying on track for success and provides vital support over what is often a long process of preparation.

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We offer a complete programme for STEP preparation in 2024. Individual tuition and ad hoc mock marking is provided separately upon request. We accept payments upfront or in three interest-free monthly payments.

STEP Programme

Course Summary

Our comprehensive STEP programme gives students all the support they need to ensure the best chance of success. An abridged version of the course is available for students who are only taking STEP 2, which is reflected in a reduced price of £799.

  • Complete access to the live STEP Primer Course 2024, including detailed course notes
  • 6 mock exams marked by STEP examiners, including actionable feedback reports
  • Complete access to our past paper solution booklets for 2008-2023
  • Three 20-minute mentoring sessions with founding director, Rowan Wright
  • Ad hoc tuition and additional mock marking available
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Mock Exam Marking


To achieve highly in STEP, students must perfect their style of written presentation and explanation, which can be challenging without close guidance. Receive feedback on your written work from real STEP examiners with our mock marking service.

  • One mock marking credit is redeemed for one marked mock exam paper (STEP 2 or STEP 3)
  • The mock marking service is provided solely by Vantage team members who have been recent STEP examiners
  • Students are provided with an accurate score and a feedback report detailing actionable areas for improvement
  • Suitable for students on our STEP programme who would like additional marked mocks, or as a stand-alone service
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Individual Tuition


Many STEP students opt for individual tuition as part of their STEP preparation process. It provides the important opportunity to ask questions and develop problem solving technique, and to receive personalised support tailored to your individual needs.

  • One tuition credit costs £150 and is redeemed for one hour of individual tuition
  • Tuition can be used for troubleshooting any concerns with past papers, to fortify weaker topics, or for hands-on training in problem solving
  • Our tuition is provided by highly qualified members of the Vantage team, including admissions test examiners, Oxbridge supervisors, and qualified teachers; nothing is outsourced to undergraduate students
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Book a free consultation with our founding director, Rowan Wright, and:

Discuss your university course choices

Determine the most advantageous admissions test combination for your chosen courses

Formulate a personalised preparation strategy and receive actionable advice

Discuss Vantage course options

Hear from our students

"Rowan from Vantage is the real deal, a rare blend of being a sufficiently brilliant mathematician to have a complete, deep and intuitive grasp on the difficult problems set in admissions tests, but also a great teacher who is able to explain the thought process in a way students can understand. I cannot recommend him highly enough."

Achieved 1 in STEP II and S in STEP III