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This article should hopefully provide some tips for parents and students on how to prepare for the upcoming Mathematics exams for Years 10 and 11. We will discuss preparation leading up to the exams and matters relating to the exam day.

In preparing for their exams, students should make sure that they have completed the 2021 and 2019 exam papers as practice for the exams. For General Mathematics students, this involves completing both papers with the aid of the calculator and for Mainstream and Methods students, this includes practicing both the tech-free and technology assisted papers. Students should take note of the marking memorandum to see how marks are allocated to the solutions. This will give an indication of how to logically sequence worked solutions so that students receive all the allocated marks for a question. Any question worth more than 1 mark requires working steps. Students should aim to identify common questions or skills that appear each year and practise these thoroughly.

Students should practise as many questions as they can in preparing for the exam. This may involve redoing examples from class and practising questions from worksheets or the textbook which will help with building procedural knowledge. Chapter reviews and Semester reviews in the textbook can provide additional materials. A good practice is to redo the topic tests that students have written during the semester. Practising procedural questions will build confidence. Students should also practise questions involving worded contexts. This is very important so that confidence can be built for accessing the problem-solving aspects of Paper 2. Being proficient in the use of the calculator can both save time and assist with problem solving. This is a skill that needs to be practised well before exam day.

Students should aim to identify questions or skills that they find difficult and address these with their teacher before the exam period begins. Sometimes a short teacher conference can go a long way to addressing conceptual errors. Students should aim to see their teachers in class or make an appointment to touch base with their teacher outside of class time. This could be at a lunch break.

Students should ensure that their summary books are up to date with relevant notes and plenty of examples covering the concepts from each topic. General Mathematics students are allowed to use their summary book for both Paper 1 and 2, and Methods and Mainstream students are able to use their summary books for Paper 2. Summaries should include calculator procedures. Summary books should adhere to regulations where all notes are stuck flat into the book. Students can check with their teachers to make sure that the summary book fits the guidelines discussed in class.

Students should aim to eat well, exercise and sleep well in the lead up to exams.

Further information regarding Study Skills and Exam Preparation can be found on SIMON under School Links. ‘Study Habits Website’.

Students should make sure that they bring all the correct equipment to the exam. If the calculator is permitted then students should ensure that their calculators are fully charged. They should also ensure that the settings on the calculator are correct based on the course they are undertaking. For example, should the calculator be in degrees or radians?

Exam technique is critical to performing well.

Students should make efficient use of reading time at the start of the exam. During reading time students should not be trying to solve questions in their heads but rather thinking about what areas of mathematics they have learned that will help them in solving the question. They should be conceptualising answers. For example, if they are presented with a question to find the span of a parabolic arch of a bridge, they should be thinking that this may involve finding the -intercepts of the parabola and devise a strategy for answering the question.

During reading time, students should consider the complexity of the questions in the exam. They might make a mental note of which questions they should complete first. The exam does not have to be answered in the order the questions are presented. Students may identify that they will start at question five and then move to question two. Effective reading will allow students to determine how they are going to ‘attack’ the exam. Devising a strategy for answering the easier questions first will leave time for the more difficult questions later. Answering easier questions first will also build confidence as the exam progresses.

Students should take note of the length of the exam and the total mark allocation for the exam. By dividing the number of minutes by the number of marks, students will be able to determine the minutes per mark. This will help students understand how long they can spend on a question. Do not spend more time on a question than is necessary, otherwise you will not finish the exam. If students get stuck on a question, they should move on and come back to the question at the end. This will save time.

Students should leave the harder multiple-choice questions to the end and they should never leave a multiple-choice question blank. If students have run out of time they should make sure that they have circled a selection in each question in order to give themselves a chance of receiving a mark. A question not circled has a zero probability of being correct. In making-a-selection, a student has a 20% chance of getting the question correct.

If the question is a ‘show that’, i.e. the answer is given, you need to show every step of working. If you are unable to ‘show’ the working to a question, you can always assume the answer and use it in the next part of the question. Don’t give up on a question because you can’t do the first part. Remember in a question with a number of parts, the early parts are there to help you with the parts that follow – so use the information you have already found.

If you make a mistake, put a line through the work. Make it clear what you want the marker to mark. Don’t waste time erasing your work. Even if you know the final answer is wrong, don't erase your entire work because you may get partial credit for using the correct procedure.

Students must write legibly so that the teacher is not guessing what the student meant.

In approaching problem-solving questions, students should be using highlighters to underline key words and instructions in the question. Students should be drawing diagrams where possible to help the cognitive process. Students should draw on the areas of maths they have covered which are relevant to the problem and think about what concepts are applicable to the problem.

In the technology assisted papers they may use technology to test their solutions. Students may try different formulae, identify unknowns and test different methods in arriving at a solution. Students should demonstrate working steps in their solution that are logical and sequential. If a response is incorrect a student may still gain a method mark if the solution has logical thought processes written down. The more work you can get out of your head and onto the page, the more likely it is that you will receive credit.

Be wary of rounding instructions, significant figures and writing units of measurement. Only final answers should be rounded unless otherwise instructed. Not following the instructions means an unnecessary loss of marks.

Students should check their answers at the end of the exam to avoid any careless errors. If students have the time, they should thoroughly check their responses to ensure that they have followed all instructions and that they have eliminated any mistakes. Students should also think about the reasonableness of their answers. Does the answer fit the context?

Good luck to all the Year 10 and 11 students in undertaking their Maths exams this Semester.

Mark Vorster
Mathematics Learning Leader