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STEP Support Programme

How to use the STEP Support Programme

What is the STEP Support Programme?

The STEP Support Programme is a course made up of assignments designed to develop your problem solving skills, in order to help you prepare both for sitting STEP and studying Maths at university. It has been created by Cambridge mathematicians who have taken STEP themselves and have many years of experience in supporting school students with their STEP preparation. The programme is particularly designed to provide help if your school cannot offer support with STEP preparation.

How to use the STEP Support Programme

Before you begin looking at the assignments, it is really important to keep in mind that STEP questions are hard. STEP questions are longer than A-level questions and require more persistence and insight, so don’t be afraid if you find them difficult - you’re supposed to! The best way to get better at STEP is to do STEP questions, and the more you do the better!

You will get stuck. Here are some tips that might help you to get unstuck:

  • Try a 'special case' (e.g. substitute some numbers in)
  • Try drawing a graph or diagram
  • If the answer is given, try working 'backwards' (and write up your argument the 'correct' way around)
  • If you are stuck on a later part, see if you can use the earlier parts to help (STEP questions are usually inter-connected)
  • Try a 'guess' (e.g. for integration by substitution – the substitutions are not usually given to you)
  • Have a break! Go for a walk, have some dinner, sleep on it before returning to the problem

This programme is designed to consolidate and extend your knowledge and problem solving skills, so even if a particular assignment feels like revisiting familiar territory we encourage you not to skip it. Working through all these assignments will help improve your mathematical fluency and build your confidence.

Using the Assignments

The Foundation modules are intended as a structured course, which means that there is a logical order to them. We tend to prove results (usually in the warm ups) before we use them, and if there are two STEP questions testing similar things the preparation for the earlier one will be longer. Even if you are not intending to sit STEP I we strongly recommend that you work through these resources, possibly in year 12, in order to develop your problem solving skills before attempting the STEP II (and later STEP III) modules. However, you do not have to do them in order, or do every one, if you have only limited time or start the programme later.

The STEP II and STEP III modules are designed to build upon the work you have done on the Foundation modules, and are aimed at year 13 students. Each one focuses on a different area of the STEP II or STEP III specification and contains 4 STEP questions. There are no preparation questions for these, but if you are stuck you can look at the "hints" file to give you some starting points. There is also a "solutions" file and "topic notes" available for each module.

See this page for more details on the different types of module.

Using the Discussion Forum

The discussion forum is a place for you to ask any questions that you have about the assignments, or STEP in general. For example, you may want to seek clarification on something said in the 'Hints and Solutions' files. You may have been tackling a different STEP question and want a hint for how to proceed. You may even have spotted a possible mistake (in which case we are very grateful!). Cambridge University staff and students act as mentors on the forum, and will be happy to respond to any questions you have. You may also wish to share suggestions, hints and advice with other students who are working on the STEP Support assignments. And of course, if you have any feedback in general on the programme, please do let us know.