STEP and MAT math exams are written entrance exams for mathematics, computer and other majors in top universities in the UK. This paper compares these two tests from multiple dimensions for the reference of students and parents.
I. Which Universities and Programs Require STEP and MAT?
The table below lists the requirements for the STEP and MAT exams at various universities, with the 4letter and number combinations inside the parentheses being the UCAS course codes.

STEP 
MAT 

Mathematics (G100) Mathematical Physics (G100) Engineering* (H100) 
Not required 

Not required 
Mathematics (G100) Mathematics and Computer Science (GG14) Mathematics and Philosophy (GV15) Mathematics and Statistics (GG13) Computer Science (G400) Computer Science and Philosophy (IV15) 

Mathematics and Computer Science (GG14) Mathematics and Computer Science (GG41) Calculation (G400) Calculation (G401) Calculation (International Project) (G402) Computing (Management and Finance) (G501) Computing (Software Engineering) (G600) Calculation (Safety and Reliability) (G610) Computing (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) (G700) Computing (Visual Computing and Robotics) (GG47) 
Mathematics (G100) Mathematics and Mathematical Calculation (G102) Mathematics (G103) Mathematics (one year overseas) (G104) Mathematics (Pure Numbers) (G125) Mathematics, Optimization and Statistics (GG31) Mathematics and Applied Mathematics/Mathematical Physics (G1F3) Mathematics and Statistics (G1G3) Mathematics and Financial Statistics (G1GH) 

Mathematics** (G100) Mathematics **(G103) Mathematics and Philosophy **(GV15) Mathematics and Statistics **(GG13) Mathematics and Statistics **(GGC3) MORSE**(G0L0) MORSE**(GLN0) Data Science **(7G73) 
Mathematics** (G100) Mathematics **(G103) 
*Peterhouse College may include STEP 2 score requirements in the conditional admission.
* * It is not mandatory to take STEP or MAT, but it is easier to be admitted with STEP, MAT or TMUA scores.
Some universities and majors also require STEP (or MAT, TMUA), including:

University College London

University of Bristol

University of Bath

King’s College London
These universities will specify on their official websites whether these exams are required for relevant programs and the scores or grades needed. Please refer to the specific admission policies for the respective programs in a given year.
II.Exam Key Dates
Key Exam Dates
Key Events 
STEP 
MAT 
Registration Opens 
Early March 
September 1 
Registration Deadline 
Early May 
October 15 
Exam Dates 
June 
End of October, Early November 
Results Announced 
August 10 
The following January 
III.Exam Format Comparison

STEP 
MAT 

Written Exam Offline paper test paper 
Written Exam Offline paper test paper 

3 hours. 
2.5 hours 

Short Answer Questions 
Multiple Choice and Short Answer 

12 questions (choose 6) 
10 multiplechoice questions and 4 shortanswer questions 

20 points per question 
4 points per multiplechoice question 15 points per shortanswer question 

120 points 
100 points 

Not provided 
Not provided 

Not allowed 
Not allowed 
IV. Comparison of Examination Scope
To accommodate adjustments to the UK A Level Mathematics syllabus, significant changes were made to the STEP exam in 2019: the number of questions was reduced, and the syllabus underwent substantial revision. The MAT syllabus of 2018 only added or removed a few knowledge points based on the 2007 syllabus, with the overall scope of the knowledge tested remaining largely unchanged.
The table below compares the examination scopes of STEP and MAT.

STEP 2 
STEP 3 
MAT 

AS Advanced mathematics 
A2 Advanced mathematics 
A Level mathematics 

Pure Mathematics mechanics statistics 
Pure Mathematics mechanics statistics 
Pure Mathematics 

logical inference number theory Proof method, etc 
logical inference number theory Proof method, etc 
logical inference Algorithms, etc 
* Knowledge points beyond GCSE mathematics and ALLEVEL mathematics (or advanced mathematics) syllabus.
It is especially noteworthy that the MAT exam for Computer Science includes topics such as trees, graphs, finite state machines, strings, algorithms, and more, which go far beyond the scope of ALevel Mathematics and Advanced Mathematics.
V. Comparison of Exam Difficulty
The table below is a reference for the difficulty comparison between mainstream international high school mathematics
IB SL Mathematics 
★ 
A Level Mathematics 
★ 
IB HL Mathematics 
★★ 
AP Calculus 
★★☆ 
A Level Further Mathematics 
★★☆ 
Oxford MAT Mathematics 
★★★☆ 
Cambridge STEP 2 Mathematics 
★★★★★ 
Cambridge STEP 3 Mathematics 
★★★★☆ 
The difficulty of the STEP exam is definitely higher than that of the MAT. However, when comparing STEP 2 and 3, STEP 2 is considered slightly more challenging. Despite covering fewer topics than STEP 3, the questions in STEP 2 are more challenging, making it harder to achieve high scores (Grade S or 1). This is supported by data from past years’ STEP 2 results. For STEP’s performance data over the years, please refer to:
VI. Comparison of Exam Features The exams focus on the following:

STEP 
MAT 

Emphasizes fundamental mathematical knowledge and derivation methods of basic theorems and formulas. The range of knowledge tested is relatively fixed, and the problemsolving methods and techniques are quite similar. Guides students to apply known knowledge and methods to solve problems, testing students’ insight and transfer ability, and indirectly examining the students’ basic mathematical literacy. 
The scope of knowledge is relatively fixed, and the methods and skills of solving problems are similar. Short answer questions focus more on the examination of fundamental mathematical knowledge and basic theorems. 

Stresses logical analysis and reasoning abilities. Compared to MAT, it places more emphasis on the examination of fundamental mathematical ideas, methods, and theorems, highlighting the basic literacy and depth of thought in the mathematics discipline. 
Places great importance on knowledge transfer abilities, logical reasoning abilities, and problemsolving abilities. 

The amount of calculation is large, which requires considerable proficiency in mathematical operations. Examine a wide range of knowledge. The strategy of topic selection has a significant impact on the onthespot performance and test scores. There are requirements for writing norms and the rigor of reasoning process, which are easy to lose points. 
The calculation amount is moderate. Most multiplechoice questions are relatively simple. Individual multiplechoice questions are difficult and can dig holes. The background knowledge of at least one short answer question is rarely contacted by candidates, even beyond the scope of knowledge learned in middle school mathematics. It is a key topic to widen the gap between students. 
VII. Comparison of Preparation Periods

STEP 2 
STEP 2+3 
MAT 

915 months 
1218 months 
34 months 

Grade 2 Or more than 1 
Grade 2 Or more than 1 
75 or more or increase by 25 points or more 

Select from 45 chapters At least 33 chapters 
Select from 60 chapters At least 45 chapters 
2122 chapters 
* Refer to Xie Tao’s Talking about Oxford MAT 2022 [5th Edition] and Xie Tao’s Talking about Cambridge STEP 2022 [5th Edition].