Student Advice

What is STEP?

Ben Maples  · Oct 31st 2023  · 3 min

The STEP exam is one of the lesser-known admissions exams for students. It is an exam that is not required by all universities but is becoming increasingly common.


The STEP exam tests a student's maths skills. It’s an admissions test that is designed specifically to test these aspects of a student's ability and to see how they can cope with further and advanced maths.

What is the STEP?

What is the STEP?

The STEP is the Sixth Term Examination Paper. This is a university admissions test for students who are looking to study maths degrees.

The following universities require the STEP to be sat:

The following universities may require you to sit the exam:

The test will examine your mathematical skills. Specifically, the level of questions on the test are at undergraduate level, meaning they will be more advanced than A-Level or AS-Level maths courses.

What is the format of the STEP?

There are two separate forms of the STEP students can take. The university you’re applying to will generally dictate what paper you need to sit in order to apply. This will usually come through with your conditional offer letter.

Despite there being two different exam papers, they follow virtually the same format. The exam is three hours long and has twelve questions, of which you only need to answer six. You can attempt as many as you like and you're not restricted in terms of what questions you can actually attempt.

The exams you can choose from are either STEP 2 or STEP 3. If you’re wondering why we’re stepping over STEP 1, this paper has been discontinued and isn’t offered any more.

Each exam follows the same basic structure:

  • Questions on A-Level maths.
  • Questions on A-Level further maths.
  • 12 questions in total.
  • 8 pure maths questions.
  • 2 mechanics questions.
  • 2 probability questions.

You will need to know your mathematical formulas off by heart, as these will not be provided in the exams. Rulers, protractors and compasses are permitted in the exam, but you cannot bring a calculator.

What is the STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper)?

When is the STEP exam?

The STEP exam dates change every year.

For 2023, the STEP dates are:

  • 1st March 2023: Registration opens.
  • 20th April 2023: Last date to request modified papers.
  • 4th May 2023: Closing date for standard entries (also last date to request specific access arrangements).
  • 8th June 2023: STEP 2 takes place.
  • 21st June 2023: STEP 3 takes place.
  • 17th August 2023: STEP results published.
  • 23rd August 2023: Last date for Results Enquiries applications.

How is the STEP marked?

Each of the questions in the STEP is marked out of 20. Bizarrely, you’e not given marks purely for correct answers. Students are also given marks for progress, working out and other intangibles, even if they do not arrive at the correct answer. Correct answers will always receive top marks, regardless of the methods used, this is because it's a very testing paper - it's meant to push your knowledge of maths to a degree level, so rewards your approach and mathematical thinking to get to the answers you do.

There are five grades that students can achieve:

  • S: Outstanding.
  • 1: Very good.
  • 2: Good.
  • 3: Satisfactory.
  • U: Unclassified.

The university you are applying to will inform you of which grade they require.

What is the Sixth Term Examination Paper?

How do I apply for the STEP?

You will sit the exam at a registered test centre. In order to study at a test centre, you need to be registered as a STEP candidate.

In order to do this, you will need to provide the test centre with the following information:

  • The universities you are applying to, the courses you are applying for and your course codes.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Your gender.
  • Your name.
  • Your UCAS number.

After this, you will then be given a candidate number.

How much does the STEP cost?

The cost of the STEP is £93 per paper. For students outside of the UK, the STEP will cost you £129.

Students also have to pay to receive their results. Your Results Enquiries application will cost you £46 per paper and will cost another £46 if you want to appeal the results too.

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