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STEP III, 2008

Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:00 pm UTC
by Nebuduck
Did anyone else here do this? And if so, did you find it as ridiculously, mind numbingly, impossibly difficult as I did? I only fully completed 1 question (and probably got all but the very last bit of another 3 or so).

I just hope STEP II is easier...

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:32 pm UTC
by SimonM
Please do not discuss this until 4:30 tomorrow (The same rules are being applied on all other British mathematics fora)

I did I, although I am chatting to loads of people who took III

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:05 pm UTC
by z4lis
What exactly is this? O_o

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:25 pm UTC
by SimonM
STEP - Sixth Term Extension Paper is an admission paper to get into Cambridge to study mathematics.

There are 3 papers, I, II and III.

I and III were sat today.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 11:38 pm UTC
by z4lis
Ah, I see. I'll be going into my local uni tomorrow for something similar, only it's oral, in front of a group of professors and merely to get into the honors program for moath. Hopefully, we'll all do alright! :P

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 6:46 am UTC
by SimonM
So, how did you find it?

I say STEP I, although I have seen a few questions from this years STEP III.

Q1, had a nice solution
Q7 was easy along with Q8
Q13 looks nice too

That would be me sorted

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:23 am UTC
by Nebuduck
This is now where I am going to establish my religion worshiping SimonM as a supreme creator style being. He's in year 12, and he could have done that STEP III paper better than most (when most are in year 13). Therefore, he must be some type of god.

Unfortunately, I have not yet established what type of livestock we should sacrifice to him.

Back on topic, I thought it was harder than most STEP III papers. I probably got between 55 and 60, I think. I answered 1 question completely - question 6. I'm pretty damn sure I'll get 19 or 20 marks for that, since it had a lot of "show that" bits, so I know I got the right answers. Question 2, I did all but show that all the coefficients added to 1, so maybe 10-15 marks for that. Question 5, I did all but find r(x) in terms of x - but that bit didn't look too hard, I just ran out of time, it should have just been solving a linear equation though (if I'd had 5 more minutes I'd have got it. Hell, if I'd had one more minute I would have), so I don't think it can be worth that many marks - so I'm saying about 15 for that. For question 8, I did the first half, and the sum to infinity of the second part. I didn't finish the sum to n, but got some of the way, so again, I'm thinking about 15 marks for that. I also probably got 2-3 method marks for question 1, and a few marks for question 9 (I drew the graphs!)

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:46 am UTC
by phlip
For the curious non-British of us, will these questions you're referring to be available online someplace?

Based on what SimonM said, I'm guessing they wouldn't be available yet (are some people yet to take the test?), but will they be available sometime?

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:18 am UTC
by Nebuduck
I think everyone's taken the test now. I don't know that yesterdays are around yet, but I'll link you to an archive of all previous papers:

http://www.stepmathematics.org.uk/downloads.html

They're based on A-level maths (end of high school sort of level), but aim to go more in depth and require a deeper understanding of what's going on.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:42 am UTC
by Token
Ah, those 2006 papers bring back the memories.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:58 am UTC
by Nebuduck
OK, here's a rapidshare of this year's STEP III.

http://rapidshare.com/files/124644130/STEP_2008_III.pdf.html

Personally, I think it's vile compared to the others. But then, that could just be because I took it yesterday.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 11:50 am UTC
by z4lis
Those questions are *nasty*. To be perfectly honest, my high school only required you to pass algebra II (no trigonometry, no calculus at all) and might have been even less than that. Our math curriculum has absolutely no focus on working with proofs, just applying the formulas. We did have a bit in calculus on series, and the majority of the class felt that it was a nightmare. It's good to see there's at least one country actually teaching mathematics. Anyway, hats off to anyone who can correctly answer a large number those STEP III questions. O_o;

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 11:57 am UTC
by Nebuduck
Oh, this isn't a general thing - the standard british A-level maths syllabus is absolutely appalling. So places like Cambridge ask for STEP as part of their offers.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:17 pm UTC
by SimonM
Nebuduck wrote:Oh, this isn't a general thing - the standard british A-level maths syllabus is absolutely appalling. So places like Cambridge ask for STEP as part of their offers.


Since there is only one place like Cambridge, only Cambridge requires a high mark.

Oh, and I should probably be bowing to you, given the fact that I haven't got a place there yet

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:33 pm UTC
by Nebuduck
Yeah, but come on, you could probably get a place there now if you wanted.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:05 pm UTC
by Frimble
SimonM wrote:
Nebuduck wrote:Oh, this isn't a general thing - the standard british A-level maths syllabus is absolutely appalling. So places like Cambridge ask for STEP as part of their offers.


Since there is only one place like Cambridge, only Cambridge requires a high mark.

Oh, and I should probably be bowing to you, given the fact that I haven't got a place there yet


Isn't the syllabus the same for Further maths and STEP? I thought the only difference was that the STEP was much harder.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:17 pm UTC
by SimonM
Nope there is a slightly wider syllabus for STEP and the standard A level is much less than is actually in the syllabus

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:34 pm UTC
by Frimble
Even with the Further and additional Further Maths syllabie?

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:36 pm UTC
by SimonM
Yes, I believe so

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
by Robin S
z4lis wrote:Those questions are *nasty*. To be perfectly honest, my high school only required you to pass algebra II (no trigonometry, no calculus at all) and might have been even less than that. Our math curriculum has absolutely no focus on working with proofs, just applying the formulas. We did have a bit in calculus on series, and the majority of the class felt that it was a nightmare. It's good to see there's at least one country actually teaching mathematics. Anyway, hats off to anyone who can correctly answer a large number those STEP III questions. O_o;
Nebuduck wrote:Oh, this isn't a general thing - the standard british A-level maths syllabus is absolutely appalling. So places like Cambridge ask for STEP as part of their offers.
STEP is, as has been mentioned, based only on the OCR syllabus, though the type of question asked is far less textbook-format; instead it requires the ability to use mathematical knowledge and skills creatively, as is expected at university.

There's a lot more material taught in secondary school (particularly the last year or two) in the UK than in the US, from what I've heard. In particular, a lot of the stuff taught in the first year or so of Maths degrees in American universities tends to be already covered by most British students by the end of secondary school, while those British students who took all available courses before uni will already have covered much of the first-year material from UK universities, meaning that they are almost two years ahead of their American counterparts.

STEP, and Cambridge in general, is a bit (ok, a lot) of a sore point for me: I was given an offer to get into Cambridge, and would have made it were it not for several facts: first, that I had applied for Trinity, the one college where standards for maths candidates are incredibly high, even relative to the rest of Cambridge; second, that until shortly before applying, I had intended to take a degree in natural sciences, and refused to give up my extra A-levels so that I was effectively trying to take seven in total, leaving no room in my timetable for Further Maths which I consequently self-taught; third, that despite my lack of timetabled lessons, I mentioned on my application that I planned to take the full Further Maths A-level, so was asked to take STEP II and III instead of I and II; fourth, that I was going through a minor nervous breakdown at the time, missing most of my school attendance, constantly stressed, sleep-deprived, and only getting round to much of the aforementioned self-teaching on the mornings of the exams.

I took some past papers, and achieved the required grades with no problems. During the exam itself, however, I just blanked. I got a 2/2 instead of a 1/1, and thus missed my place. This is a sore point in particular because, two years earlier, I was invited along with a dozen other top students from the UK to a week-long training course for the International Maths Olympiad, and came third in the practice paper (I would have done considerably better, but didn't have time to finish writing up most of my proof). Many of those other students are now at Trinity, along with other students who didn't even get invited on the course.

I know, I'm sorry. I sound like a whiny egotistical git. Maybe I should move this whole post to the Rants thread or something. Just felt the need to get it off my chest, because it's been haunting me ever since (Imperial may be supposedly third-best in the UK, but really it doesn't hold a candle to Cambridge, especially for Maths).

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:09 pm UTC
by Frimble
IMO is my sore point. I only got one chance to sit the Mathmatics Challenge papers and I had glandular fever at the time. Then again I doubt I am really that good at maths anyway, but it would have been nice to try.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:10 pm UTC
by SimonM
Yeah, IMO is a sore point for me too. I only took it for the first time this year which means I'm miles behind anyone with a serious chance of anything.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:13 pm UTC
by Frimble
I think Robin S has more status as a mathematician than either of us then. Even if he didn't get to go to Cambridge.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:48 pm UTC
by Robin S
I think it's more that I was ahead of most people when I was 16, but fell severely behind since then. Even if in theory I knew the maths needed to solve the problems, I readily admit that I was in no state to take on a place at Cambridge. I doubt I'd make the top hundred now, let alone the top three.

In my opinion, anyone who's still in secondary school, and can seriously consider tackling - properly tackling - STEP III problems, deserves some respect as a mathematician.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:46 pm UTC
by Yakk
Curious: what is the typical grade required for a place at Cambridge? Are scholarships typical from a higher mark, or is this purely an entrance exam?

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:28 pm UTC
by Nebuduck
I believe it's purely an entrance exam.

Probably the modal offer is AAA and 1,1 (in STEP II/III or possibly I/II), however, that's just be a slight margin - my offer was AAB and 1,2 (II/III) - it really depends on what college you apply to and how you do at interview.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:38 pm UTC
by Robin S
Indeed. At some colleges - for example, I believe, Jesus - they give offers of EE, with no STEP requirement, to their favourite candidates, whereas at Trinity even the best are expected to get AAA 1,1 and the weaker candidates are asked for S,S I believe. With A* grades being introduced soon at A-level, I'm sure the offers will change to reflect that.

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:09 pm UTC
by Yakk
Your alphabet soup confuses me, and doesn't answer the question I was wondering about. :-)

What mark, grade, percent, total points, sum-of-number-up-to-20 per question would be a typical value to get into a particular (college?) (program?) at Cambridge?

Any acronyms, or single letters, or short forms used should be substituded with random bafflegab, to determine how well it communicates the answer to me.

I'm just wondering -- is 100/120 a good score? 60/120 a good score? Do they publish percentile splits for the tests?

Re: STEP III, 2008

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:31 pm UTC
by Robin S
In STEP, I believe grades 2, 1 and S correspond roughly to 50, 60 and 80 out of 120 respectively, though these vary from year to year and between the three papers. The papers are marked harshly, with almost-complete answers dropping marks for practically every omission, oversight etc. and less-complete answers usually receiving almost no marks. At A-level, grade boundaries again vary, but an A usually corresponds to about 80% overall. Cambridge tends to prefer Maths applicants to take Maths, Further Maths (the Maths A-level system's rather complicated) and Physics or at least Chemistry A-level, particularly if applying somewhere like Trinity, where I believe the full Further Maths A-level is now compulsory.