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STEP Support Programme

Grade Boundaries

While looking at the grade boundaries for past years I saw that the mark requirement for a Grade 2is often extremely close to the requirements to a Grade 1 while being very far from a Grade 3 - out of curiosity why is there such a large difference from 2->3 compared to 1->2?

The reason for this is that in order to do well in STEP, there's a fundamental barrier that has to be crossed, between simply being able to solve standard problems using standard techniques, and being able to solve non-standard, abstract, and unstructured problems using a range of techniques. A candidate who can only do the former (in other words, a semi-competent but unremarkable A-Level mathematician) can get a 3, whereas in order to get a 2 or above, he would need to cross the aforementioned barrier, and this is why there's such a gap between the boundaries for a 2 and a 3. Once that fundamental barrier has been crossed, however, going from a 2 up to a 1 simply comes down to gaining experience with problem-solving through practice, and developing the ability to work accurately even in problems which are demanding algebraically or conceptually. This is why the difference between a 2 and a 1 in terms of marks is often not that much.

Useful Links

Underground Mathematics: Selected worked STEP questions

STEP Question database

University of Cambridge Mathematics Faculty: What do we look for?

University of Cambridge Mathematics Faculty: Information about STEP

University of Cambridge Admissions Office: Undergraduate course information for Mathematics

Stephen Siklos' "Advanced Problems in Mathematics" book (external link)

MEI: Worked solutions to STEP questions (external link)

OCR: Exam board information about STEP (external link)

AMSP (Advanced Maths Support programme): Support for University Admission Tests (external link)