Every UK state school student holding a conditional offer to study Mathematics at the University of Cambridge was invited to join us in March 2019 for an intensive full-day event to help prepare for the STEP exam.

STEP is an additional mathematics examination which forms part of conditional offers to applicants for mathematics, and some related degress, at Cambridge and a number of other universities. The STEP exam covers content based on the A-level Maths and Further Maths syllabus, but questions are different in style, and designed to be more like those you meet at university.

This is the third year we have run these events, and each year every UK state school student holding an offer from the University of Cambridge to study Mathematics is sent an invitation. Travel bursaries are available to help ensure that everyone who wants to take up the invitation can do so. Take up was high - this year 211 students attended one of the days.

The days included talks on STEP questions and exam preparation by Dr Stephen Siklos and NRICH staff working on the STEP Support Programme, plus workshops led by staff from NRICH. The workshops also included small-group mentoring by current undergraduate student volunteers, and a panel discussion where current students shared their experiences of preparing for STEP.

Widening access for all

The face-to-face events for Cambridge offer-holders were designed to complement and extend our free online STEP Support Programme. The online programme is freely accessible and open to all students, and consists of a structured programme of modules for individual study. The online assignment modules start with Foundation modules building advanced problem solving skills, introducing selected STEP 1 questions, which we encourage students to start working on in the summer of Y12, and progress through to preparation for STEP 2 and 3.

As well as providing pre-application, pre-interview and post-offer support and help for applicants to Cambridge and other universities recommending STEP, we hope that we hope that another long-term outcome may be to encourage students who might have under-rated their ability or not had the opportunity to explore whether they enjoy this type of mathematical thinking to consider applying. The programme has proved enormously popular: last academic year (2017/18) there were over 128,000 unique downloads of the assignment materials, with more than 1,800 users demonstrating significant and sustained engagement with the programme as they progressed through to the advanced modules.

You can read more about the experiences of some of the first students to benefit from the STEP Support Programme in this article on the Faculty of Mathematics website.