University admissions tests: STEP, MAT and TMUA

What are STEP, MAT and TMUA?

Several more selective universities ask students applying to their maths-related degree courses to take admission tests. These tests may form a part of the offer for a place on the course or may reduce the UCAS points score required. These are generally required in addition to specific A level grades (or alternative qualifications).

The maths admission tests they may require are:

The questions in these tests are longer and less-structured than most A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics examination questions.

In early October 2020, the Admissions Testing Service announced that from 2021, STEP 1 will no longer exist. STEP 2 and STEP 3 will continue to be offered and form part of the offer for Mathematics at Cambridge University.

Are there other admissions tests that involve maths?

Some universities require applicants to take admission tests for other types of degree courses.

Often the level of mathematical knowledge needed for these is no more advanced that GCSE Mathematics; however they may involve quite challenging problems.

There are many different types of these tests. Some examples are CSATOpens a new window (Computer Science Admissions Test) and TSAOpens a new window (Thinking Skills Assessment).

Which tests do universities ask for?

Details of the admissions requirements for specific courses are detailed on the universities’ websites.

Some universities use admissions tests to help them decide who to interview, some make them a condition of offer, and some use them to make a reduced offer.

Check the pages about applying for the courses you are interested in.

Are you looking for advice about the university applications process and admissions tests?

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How do I know which test to take?

Here's a decision table to help you decide which test is right for you:

University STEP MAT TMUA
University of Cambridge Compulsory. Take this if also applying to Imperial College London. Consider taking if also applying to the University of Warwick (although the TMUA is also acceptable for Warwick). If not taking the MAT, this can be useful experience (and may be a better choice than the MAT for Warwick); it may result in lower offers from your other university choices. Remember: fewer than 50% of University of Cambridge offer holders gain places.
University of Oxford Useful for the experience. Compulsory. Only take the TMUA if you are sure it will not impact on your MAT performance.
Imperial College London A high score in STEP may be required if the MAT deadline is missed. Compulsory, unless you miss the deadline. Only take the TMUA if you are sure it will not impact on your MAT performance.
Durham University Useful for the experience. Do not take the MAT unless you are also applying to the University of Oxford or Imperial College London (or possibly the University of Warwick). Very strongly encouraged, but if you need the MAT, there is no need to take the TMUA as well.
University of Warwick The University of Warwick now requires applicants to take an admissions test for their standard offer. TMUA, MAT and STEP are all accepted.
Other universities Several universities will give lower offers if you score well in STEP. Do not take the MAT unless you are also applying to the University of Oxford or Imperial College London (or possibly the University of Warwick), but note that a good score may give a lower offer at several universities as an alternative to STEP and TMUA. Several universities will give lower offers if you score well in the TMUA.

How can the AMSP help with preparing for STEP, MAT and TMUA?

The AMSP provides tuition to support to students preparing to take the STEP, MAT and TMUA admission tests. This can be delivered in various formats to help you to access it easily:

  • Our Setting out In Problem Solving (SOIPS)Opens a new window course is ideal for Year 12 and 13 students who are interested in beginning to develop their problem-solving skills or who are wanting to find out more about university entry examinations.
  • For students interested in sitting the MAT or TMUA examinations, the AMSP in partnership with Oxford University, Imperial College, Warwick University, Durham University and Bristol University runs the Problem Solving Matters Course each year. The course is designed to prepare students for the way they will have to think to achieve success in the MAT, TMUA and other problem-solving mathematics examinations by developing their mathematical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • The AMSP provides online support for students sitting the STEP, MAT and TMUA examinations. The MAT course and the TMUA course run from September to the end of October each year. The STEP courses run from February to May each year.
  • AMSP Area Coordinators run a number of regular problem solving classes designed to support students sitting the STEP, MAT and TMUA examinations.
  • We offer a limited number of free places for students at state-funded schools and colleges located in AMSP Priority Areas.

Your local AMSP Area Coordinator can advise you on the best options for circumstances.

If you want to work on developing your problem-solving skills, here are some resources to help you: