Ahh, the external exam. The new monster that’s ultimately going to contribute the most to your final result.
Hopefully, you will already be familiar with the fact that 50% of your final mark comes from the external exam. For example, if (post-scaling) your external exam result was 80, your overall mark will increase by 40. If your external exam result was 95, your overall mark will increase by 47.5. As you can see, this weighting is insane.
So it’ll likely be on your minds throughout the entire year. Which is especially true with the new system! In this article, I talk through what I believe you should know at the very least in preparation for it.
For your external assessment, you will sit two papers.
The papers are both 90 minutes long, with an additional 5 minutes for reading only. They each contribute to 25% of your final mark. But considering that you have to sit them back-to-back, that’s quite intense! (Your internal assessments are spread out through the year at least!)
The difficulty of the questions will be spread out across both exams at the very least. It’s possible that each of the two exams will follow the same difficulty spectrum.
For the last two categories, you may be asked to evaluate the reasonableness of your answer. This requires you to give your own judgement based on precursory numeric/algebraic computations.
How should you prepare for mathematics exam? Well, there is no one unique correct answer. ‘Studying’ is an odd thing in that everyone has different optimal strategies. In fact, even your best friend may find strategies that are highly effective on you, having no impact on them!
So I can’t simply pull out what’s going to work for you out of a hat. But I can provide some recommendations!
Cliche, right? Still applied to mathematics a lot. It’s not entirely true, but we tag it with mathematics often.
The skills-based nature of mathematics is the culprit here. The distinguishing aspect of mathematics from other subject areas is the problem solving required. On one hand, the exam isn’t going to test your memorisation; it is not a mind dump. On the other hand, whenever you do memorise something, it’s likely a technique or a pattern. But that question your teacher showed you on this technique is unlikely to be the same one in the exam!
So how can you ‘get good’? This is why people associate practice with mathematics. (It happens in both Vic and NSW.) Think of the brain as a muscle. You exercise to keep your muscles strong and fit. You need to be consistent with your practice to make you brain comfortable at the sight of mathematics.
One reason to not (rush to) ditch your textbook is due to the supply of questions. It’s not limitless, but it’s still a bucket-load. It’s not going to mimic everything in the exam, but it gives your brain that extra training! The easier questions in the textbook will likely overlap well with the ‘simple familiar’ questions in the exam. Naturally, the harder questions also offer guidance with the ‘complex familiar’.
If by the end of it all you think the textbook’s too easy, well done! But you still had to make sure you understood all those concepts in it throughout the year!
However, I wouldn’t want to say that the textbook is everything either. What textbooks don’t always offer are:
That, and because your textbook questions are sorted by topic, they may look like ‘complex familiar’ questions at most! In Vic and NSW, the students/teachers believe past papers are one of, if not the most effect studying tool. After all, they were also written by examiners, just that they were in the past!
Of course, sadly you don’t have that. All you have that right now is the QCAA sample. But don’t fret too much, because the papers in the other states will still be similar! Throughout the year, I seriously encourage considering VCE past papers for Maths Methods. Your syllabus was designed heavily based off theirs, and hence the overlaps will be huge! You’ll also find some relevant content in HSC Mathematics (now renamed to Maths Advanced), just not as much as from Victorian papers.
When I say practice in mathematics is about consistency, I actually mean that. Please try to avoid being that person that does the following two things!
Before I close off this article, I want you to realise that stress is a real thing. I personally believe that stressing over exams is normal for us students. A lot of my friends have been there too.
But it’s likely a good thing, because it shows that you care! It shows your determination to do well. The main objective here is to figure out how to control it. What you don’t want is for that stress to start dominating you, to the point you stop behaving rationally as a human. (Which isn’t something you can always do, but at least reduce how often it happens!)
Through a lot of ways. But here are some common ones.
Note: Stress doesn’t have to be influenced by exams. It’s just that exams are one potentially huge source of it. You should always try to figure out what’s actually causing the stress, so that you can take better action.
If you’re genuinely convinced that the exam is the cause of your stress, I’d try considering the following.
Remember, stressing is not a bad thing in itself; if anything it is perfectly normal. It’s all about how you manage it, and keep it reasonably well-contained.