The University of Cambridge's Mathematics Faculty has launched a new, pilot project providing free online support and preparation resources for students now in Year 12 who may want to take STEP (or the Oxford MAT) in Year 13.

STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper) is an additional examination which usually forms part of conditional offers to mathematics applicants at Cambridge and some other universities. The pilot project is funded by the Department for Education and is intended for students who would not otherwise receive much help with STEP.

The pilot STEP Correspondence Course project will provide a series of fortnightly assignments, starting in the January of Year 12 (January 2015 for the first cohort of participants). Each assignment starts with some warm-up exercises, followed by some preparatory work leading to a STEP question. Finally, there is an unrelated warm-down exercise. Lack of confidence sometimes (or often) creates a significant barrier for able students, and the staff developing the pilot course hope that tackling STEP questions from the beginning, with suitable preparation, will serve to break down this barrier.

The pilot is supporting 120 places for Y12 students at UK state maintained schools who will receive individual feedback on the submitted assignments. Applications to take part in this pilot were invited in the 2014/15 Autumn term from Y12 state school students, particularly targeting schools unable to provide help with STEP preparation, and all places have now been allocated. However, as interest in the programme was extremely high, all the assignments created for the programme will be freely available online at the new STEP Correspondence Course website, where they can be used by any student or by teachers looking for additional STEP preparation resources. In addition, the site hosts an online discussion forum, where all students are welcome to discuss the assignments, ask for help or share ideas with others.

As well as the new pilot STEP Correspondence Course, there are several other sources of help and support for STEP preparation available. Our NRICH STEP Prep resources provide a series of linked free online modules for individual additional study. Each module focuses on a specific mathematical topic or technique. The resources are designed to provide an accessible and supportive introduction to advanced problem-solving, and to help students build their confidence, fluency and speed.

The Further Mathematics Support Programme also offers online tutorials and teaching sessions for STEP, AEA and MAT, while there is further information and advice on the Cambridge Faculty of Mathematics website.