As most of my tutees are acutely aware, the exams are now almost upon us. Here are a few tips to help you get maximum marks in whatever Maths exams you may be sitting. My marking experience is mostly on the AQA A-level so that's the basis of my advice, but it holds true for most Maths exams.
- Look at how many marks are available and divide your time accordingly. For example, an AQA A-level module paper has 75 marks available and 90 minutes allowed, so 1 mark per minute is a good rate to aim for, leaving you with a bit of time to go back and check your answers, or wrestle with the tricky bits, at the end.
- You can answer the questions in any order you like, so start with the ones that you feel most confident about.
- Make sure you read each question carefully and answer it - don't just assume that it's asking you to do exactly what you've practised doing in the past!
- Make sure you answer each question in the correct space - if you have lots of extra space on the pages for Q5 but need more space for Q4 then ask for more paper, DON'T write your Q4 answer on the Q5 pages!
- If a question has several parts then number each part clearly.
- If you can't do the first part of a question then don't be afraid to try the rest of it; the first part will often be a "Show that" which provides you with an answer that you wil use later in the question, and sometimes the question parts are completely independent of each other.
- Write down ALL your working, explaining what you are doing so that it's easy for the examiner to follow and give you marks. This is especially important on "Show that" questions!
- A sketch diagram can often help you to visualise what's going on and see what needs to be done.
- Give final answers to a sensible degree of accuracy, but use extra significant figures throughout your working. 3 s.f. is usually a safe bet for your final answer, though if the original information you were given was only to 1 s.f. then your answer can only really be accurate to 1 s.f. too. If the question asks for an exact value then give your answer as a fraction or a surd or in terms of pi - a decimal is only OK if it's exact.
- If the question says "Show that..." or "Verify that..." then you should always finish your answer with a statement that you have shown what you were asked to show. If the question says "Show that x+2 is a factor of f(x)" then you should end your answer with "so x+2 is a factor of f(x)".
- "Show that..." means you should work out the answer for yourself and end up with the answer given. You won't normally get full marks if you try to do it by working backwards from the answer. With "Verify that..." questions, on the other hand, it's fine to just plug in the value given and show that it works. Don't forget to finish with a statement! (If you're doing AQA C2 then you might find it helpful to have a look at the "June '11 Show Thats" document in my Resource Bank - see link on home page. That particular paper had lots of this type of question on it and this document shows you how carefully you have to present your answers to get full marks on them.)
- Don't cross anything out unless you DEFINITELY don't want the examiner to look at it. If you think you've messed up an attempt at a question then box it off and make another attempt before you cross out the first one. Even if you do cross something out, just put a line through it - don't obliterate it so that it's illegible, as occasionally you may still get a mark or two if you've done something correctly and haven't got those particular marks for your (otherwise largely correct) replacement attempt.
- Exam boards vary on how they mark multiple attempts at the same question; at AQA A-level the current policy is to mark every attempt and give credit for the best one, so it's best to leave all your answers un-crossed out. Until about four years ago, though, the policy was to average the marks and round down to the nearest whole number - so if one attempt got 2 out of 4 and another got 3 then they'd average it to 2.5 and round down to 2.
- Above all, don't panic! If anxiety starts to get on top of you then see if you can calm yourself down by slowing down your breathing or concentrating on counting backwards in 3s from 300. You can find more tips on dealing with exam stress here. If you don't do as well as you hoped in the exam then it's not the end of the world; true, you may end up having to adjust your life plan, but in the long run that may well turn out to have been a good thing.
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## AuthorB28 Maths Tutor Lynne Davis at www.b28mathstutor.co.uk - offering private tuition in the Hall Green area of Birmingham, UK ## Archives
March 2018
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