Mathematics prior to junior college to most is likely to be a breeze. However, H2 mathematics would have a sudden spike in difficulty that might initially seem impossible to tackle. Most would actually underperform in the first common test, an experience that serves as a testament to how challenging H2 mathematics can be. But fret not, you are not alone and there are ways to tackle these challenges.
The first challenge is speed. It’s common to hear students complain about being unable to complete the questions within the given duration. Common problems include being stuck on a question for a long time and thus unable to complete the easier questions at the back. Often, these questions are the generally harder pure mathematics questions, and hence, many would miss out on the slightly easier statistics questions at the back when it comes to the paper 2.
To resolve time management issues, one should first learn how to “let go”. However tempting it may be to persevere till you find a solution, this is time consuming and you would incur the opportunity cost of marks that could have been possibly gained if you had tackled the easier questions at the back.
After going through many examinations and gathering my experience from A level Math tuition, my strategy when it comes to tough questions would be to move on if my first attempt at solving them is a failure. You could also set a time limit such that you have to move on if the time is up.
Practice makes perfect. You can get practice questions from the past prelim papers as well as from H2 math tuition. Practising allows you to familiarize yourself with the common question types, giving you a general sense of what the question wants and common methods to tackle it. This would reduce the amount of time that you spend thinking in the exam hall. After much practice, you would be trained to immediately think of the steps of arriving at the answer upon reading the question.
Strategize to your strengths. You would rather spend the limited exam time on questions that you are likely to score compared to questions that stump you. To get the optimal result, you might also want to choose to attempt the topics that you are good at first and secure those marks and then move on to tackle the more unfamiliar topics. Some school tutors might advise their students to finish the statistics questions in Paper 2 first before attempting the pure mathematics ones as the statistics portion is usually easier. In New Dawn Learning Studio’s H2 mathematics tuition classes, students will be advised on exam planning too.
Another challenge would be troubleshooting. This occurs when you know that your answer is clearly wrong, but you have no clue as to where you have made the mistake. Troubleshooting is often time-consuming and more often than not, the error is a result of a small mistake such as a wrong sign or wrong number.
To troubleshoot more effectively, you can try reading through your answer once to find the mistake. if you could not find the mistake after meticulous scanning, you might want to attempt to redo the steps carefully, justifying each step you make with sound mathematical principals. This would allow you to restart afresh and avoid making that mistake again. You might also want to try other methods to solve the question. This is because the original method could have inherent flaws in it. It might not seem obvious to you, but you would not be able to reach the answer as a result. Careless mistakes are also commonly faced problems. As examinees go into a frenzy, they might accidentally skip some questions, miss some number and commit some errors. Moreover, you could misread your own writing and write other numbers or symbols in the preceding steps
Use the graphic calculator to your advantage. Though there is no algebraic manipulation software on it, you could substitute values into your answers to check. This would be useful for summation, integration techniques and differentiation type of questions where the functions could be found in “mode”. Moreover, to find the final answer, certain questions may allow you to use the GC to solve rather than having you manipulate the equation. Examples include simultaneous equations, solving for roots etc.
As the questions are often applied to real-life scenarios, ask yourself if the answers make sense and return to check your working if it does not. In statistics the data given might be obviously siding towards one of the hypotheses, then the p-value should confirm that hence a far deviating p-value should prompt you to check your answers. Moreover, practices from school and H2 math tuition should also give u a sense of what the answer range should be and you’ll make it a habit to check the answers that deviate.
Some may find memorising formulas a difficulty. Formulas like volume finding in integration technique, AP- GP formulas, integration technique formulas., etc, are easily forgettable. Coupled with stress in the exam hall, recalling these formulas is no easy task. Rather than memorising, try to understand the formulas fully such that even if you were to forget the formulas, you could derive them on the spot and not be stuck. Constant practice and getting the right guidance would make your encounters with these formulas more frequent such that recalling them becomes second nature to you.