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Cambridge STEP Exam: A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Contents
Cambridge STEP Exam - A Comprehensive Guide
Table of Contents

I. What is Cambridge STEP Exam?

The acronym STEP stands for Sixth Term Examination Paper. It is a test designed to evaluate students’ mathematical skills, and it is taken in the final year of school before university.

Till 2023, the test was organized by the group Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT). From 2024 onwards, another group, the OCR Examination Board, has taken over the administration of STEP.

STEP is a mandatory part of the application process for students who choose courses like mathematics, computer science, and other related subjects at top-notch universities in the UK, such as the University of Cambridge, the University of Warwick, and Imperial College London. Although the University of Oxford does not require STEP scores for maths and computer science courses, Oxford officially recommends that applicants take the STEP exams.

II. Key Dates for STEP 2024

March 1st, 2024

STEP registration opens
May 4th, 2024
STEP registration closes
June 5th, 2024
STEP paper 2 test date
June 24th, 2024
STEP paper 3 test date
August 15th, 2024
STEP test results released
August 21st, 2024
Last date for results enquiries

Please note: OCR reserves the rights to make changes to these dates.
Special reminder: Please make proper arrangements in advance in case of possible conflicts with A-Level exams.

III. Registration Process


i. Students must enroll in an approved exam center to sign up for the STEP exam:


1. If the applicant’s school is authorized, they can register and take the STEP exam there.
2. If the applicant’s school is not authorized, they can enroll as independent candidates on the official website of the British Council (China).
3. In some cities, some organizations enroll independent students and organize STEP exams.

ii. Candidates are required to submit the following information at the time of registration:


1. Name, gender, date of birth, and UCAS number.
2. The chosen University, course, and the code of the course.
3. If particular care is required for physical reasons, relevant supporting documents must be submitted together.

IV. What are the Changes in the 2024 Examination Policy?


In 2024, the STEM exam rules are the same as in 2023, which are:
1. Only STEP 2 and 3 exams will be taken, and the STEP 1 exams has no longer been offered.
2. Still using the 2021 version of the syllabus, continuing the important reforms of 2019.
3. STEP 1 topics will be included in STEP 2 and STEP 3 exams.
4. Continue to be open to all candidates (students without an offer can also sit the exam).
5. Bilingual dictionaries were no longer permitted.
Remember, these rules may change, so it is better to monitor updates. Oxford, Cambridge, and RSA examination boards keep the right to change the rules for the 2024 STEP exam.

V. Which Universities and Courses Require the STEP Exam?


1. University of Cambridge





Mathematics with Physics


Typically, Cambridge requires grade 1 or higher STEP scores for conditional offers. All Colleges require at least grade 1 in two STEP papers (STEP 2 and 3) for the Mathematics course.

  •  Since 2018, the Cambridge Natural Sciences (UCAS Code: BCF0) course has no longer required STEP, but the NSAA is required now.
  • Since 2019, the Cambridge Computer Science (UCAS Code: G400 BA/CS) course has no longer required STEP, but the TMUA is required now.
  • Since 2024, the Cambridge Economics (UCAS Code: L100) course has no longer required STEP, but the TMUA is required now; and the Cambridge Engineering (UCAS Code: H100) course has no longer required STEP, but the ESAT is required now.

2. University of Warwick





Mathematics (MMath)
Mathematics and Philosophy
Mathematics and Statistics
Mathematics and Statistics MMathStat
Data Science (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science)


Warwick generally requires a STEP grade of 2 or higher. Although Warwick accepts MAT or TMUA scores in lieu of STEP, many candidates opt for STEP in June due to missing the MAT or TMUA exams in late October or early November.

As guidance, Warwick’s requirements have been 6.5 in TMUA or 64 in MAT in previous years. However, the exact thresholds will only be set after results for these qualifications have been released.

Since 2018, the following Warwick courses no longer require STEP:

  • Mathematics and Business Studies (UCAS Code: G1NC)
  • Mathematics and Economics (UCAS Code: GL11)

3. Imperial College London



Mathematics (Pure Mathematics)
Mathematics with Applied Mathematics/Mathematical Physics
Mathematics with Mathematical Computation
Mathematics with Statistics
Mathematics with Statistics for Finance

MAT is usually required for Maths-related courses at Imperial College London, and conditional offers to post-15 applicants who were unable to take MAT will include a STEP requirement.

Generally, Imperial’s minimum STEP offer is a Grade 2 in either the STEP II or STEP III papers. Both the grade and the number of papers may be increased in some cases.

In addition, some MAT candidates with a borderline mark may be considered for a STEP offer, which may also be increased.

4. Other Universities that require STEP (or MAT, TMUA) include:

  • University College London (UCL)
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Bath
  • King’s College London

For mathematics, computer science, and other related courses at Oxford University, candidates are required to take the MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test) exam. Although STEP scores are not one of the requirements for admission, Oxford also encourages candidates to take STEP exams and provide their scores to fully assess their academic abilities.

To apply to Oxford, Cambridge, and other universities, you must regularly check their official website and admission criteria. 

For a detailed comparison between STEP and MAT, please refer to the blog:


VI. What is the Exam Format?


1. Basic Information

Exam method
Offline and a paper-based written examination
Exam duration
3 hours
Formulae booklet
Not provided[1]
Not allowed
Bilingual dictionaries
Not allowed (from 2023)

[1]As STEP questions rarely require the simple recall of complex formulae, the use of formulae booklets was discontinued in 2019. Where a particular formula is needed, and it is not considered reasonable to expect you to recall or derive it, it will be included in the question.

2. Question Types

The STEP 1 exam has been canceled in 2021, and only the STEP 2 and STEP 3 exams are offered.

The questions are all numeracy questions, and candidates only need to choose 6 out of 12 questions from the paper to answer.

Since the 2019 reforms, the number of questions in the STEP 2 and 3 papers has been reduced from 13 to 12, as shown in the table below:

Section A
Pure Math 8 Questions
Pure Math 8 Questions
Section B
Mechanics 2 Questions
Mechanics 2 Questions
Section C
Statistics 2 Questions
Statistics 2 Questions
In Total
12 Questions
12 Questions

VII. Past STEP Exam Papers

Click below to browse the collection of past STEP 2 and STEP 3 exam papers.


VIII. What is the Scoring Method?


1. Scoring Method

Candidates answer six questions, each with 20 marks, for a full paper of 120 marks.

There is no limit to the number of questions a candidate may answer, although only six questions are required. When a candidate answers more than six questions, marks will be awarded for each question, but only the six questions with the highest marks will be considered for the total marks.


2. Grade levels

About 5-15%
Very Good
About 15-30%
About 30-50%
About 50-80%
Remaining 20%

3. Historical Grade Standards

The critical thing to know is that although maximum marks and grade levels are the same for STEP 2 and STEP 3, the score thresholds for each level are different for each exam each year.

The historical grade distribution and percentage of candidates can be checked by clicking on the image below.


IX. What is covered in the exam?

The scope included pure mathematics, mechanics, probability and statistics from A Level mathematics, along with additional content required by the STEP syllabus.
This has been cancelled but still serves as STEP 2 and 3 knowledge points.
The scope includes pure mathematics, mechanics, probability and statistics from AS-level further mathematics, along with additional content required by the STEP syllabus.
This also serves as a knowledge point for STEP 3.
The scope includes pure mathematics, mechanics, probability and statistics from A Level further mathematics, with additional content as required by the STEP syllabus.

In 2019, the STEP exam underwent profound changes to align with the updates to the A Level curriculum. Here are some changes:

1. The STEP exam content was updated according to the content of A-level courses set by the Department of Education.
2. The number of questions in STEP 2 and 3 has been reduced from 13 to 12.
3. The question style remains the same. This means you can still use past papers for practice.

The 2024 STEP exam will follow the 2023 STEP exam style. There will be a minor change in the mechanic section. All other sections will remain the same except for the use of bilingual dictionaries.


X. How to prepare for the STEP Exam?

For information on preparing for the STEP exam, please refer to:


More information about the Cambridge STEP exam.

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