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The British S-level exams (not to be confused with A-levels or O-levels) were said to be challenging exams that were used to select who got a place at the University of Oxford or Cambridge.

Is anyone aware of:

  1. The books that were used to supplement this exam
  2. Rigorous books generally used in this era in Britain (1960s and before)
  3. Books containing exam questions from these papers (or where I can find past papers) or questions at a similar difficulty.
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2 Answers 2

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The book that I mainly used (for pure maths) was

Further Mathematics by R. I. Porter (first published 1962 by Bell).

It has plenty of past 'S' level questions at the back.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the recommendation, do you know of any other books of a similar difficulty? $\endgroup$
    – seeker
    Jan 18, 2015 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ The only ones I can think of are Pure Maths 2 by Bostock and Chandler (but I don't think this is aimed at 'S' level and it is from the 70s). It does have some things in it that Porter doesn't though. Another one would be 'Higher Algebra' by W.L. Ferrar - I'm going off memory here since I haven't seen this book for decades but I think it's at about the level you need. $\endgroup$
    – APGreaves
    Jan 18, 2015 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Brilliant book. My favourite at A-level $\endgroup$
    – user50229
    Jan 20, 2015 at 13:45
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Definitely "Extending Mathematics" by T.J.Heard. This book is an old A-level maths book and comes in two volumes. It includes many challenging "STEP type" (Sixth Term Examination Paper) problems and in the Preface the author said he wrote it to cover the whole S-level mathematics syllabus. In the second volume, I was also surprised to find a few IMO problems at the end of the last chapter under the heading "miscellaneous problems". They all had a combinatorial flavour. Also, I only found this book because I saw that "Jack Shotton" (~2006 UK IMO team member) recommended it in an old thread in the asknrich forums.

Hope this helps!

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  • $\begingroup$ It does, thank you so much $\endgroup$
    – seeker
    Jan 26, 2015 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know of any other challenging books at a similar level? $\endgroup$
    – seeker
    Jan 26, 2015 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @seeker: No problem. Another good book is "Pure Mathematics" in two volumes by Backhouse et al., but although the problems are challenging (around S level difficulty), they are not as hard as the ones in the previous book I mentioned. They are also easier than STEP questions. Other books I know of from this era, and covering the S-level syllabus: Bostock Chandler Further Mathematics (the bright yellow one with and orange circle is the most challenging), Bostock Chandler Core Mathematics (bright red cover is the most challenging), Bostock Chandler mechanics (two volumes - similar covers... $\endgroup$
    – user45220
    Jan 26, 2015 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ continued... to the other bostock chandler books I mentioned). Also I think you will find this useful: knowledge-dojo.com (I will post more as I remember them) $\endgroup$
    – user45220
    Jan 26, 2015 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ That's a great help, thank you! $\endgroup$
    – seeker
    Jan 26, 2015 at 16:59

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