Reflecting on the Written Exam

As well as the collaborative problem-solving (Queen Dido), the students also sat in a hall in rows, taking a traditional exam (practice paper straight from the exam board). We value thinking like a mathematician and providing students with excellent grades.

Some thoughts:

  • The students came out of the exam frustrated. “We have never done questions like that before” they complained. This might be due to the focus this year on big problems rather than exam technique. Or it might just be human nature – in other subjects where there was more focus on exams, students said similar things.

    1.png
    Example of style of question students struggled with
  • In fact, any exam where all questions are familiar is a bad exam? They key question here is: “Did tackling challenging problems throughout the year prepare students to be comfortable in the uncomfortable in the exam room? Did the skill transfer?”.
  • The marks gave stark reminder that I am teaching a mixed ability class, ranging from 17% to 76%.
  • When in a corner, the students resort to more primitive thinking. Less differentiation, more trial and error.
    IMG-9633
    Finding a maximum without calculus

    IMG-9603
    Proving a function is increasing, without calculus
  • There were also some instances of excellent (if misguided) links to other parts of maths

    IMG-9609.JPG
    Using proof by induction to show that a function is increasing
  • The focus on clear write-ups in Problem-Solving has ensured that some students write amazing answers, occasionallyIMG-9610.JPG
  • Maybe the struggle through a long problem helped this student wade through a 9 mark question?IMG-9624.JPG
  • An over-emphasis on concepts without valuing calculations maybe led to this misconception: student understands link between integration and area, but doesn’t actually know how to integrate…IMG-9626.JPG
  • If you haven’t drawn a diagram, you probably made a mistake.
  • Drawing rough diagrams is always an excellent idea. They shouldn’t be neat, but they definitely shouldn’t be misleading. This question involved a tangent to a circle, with the circle’s centre not at the origin. The sketch muddies everything:IMG-9631.JPG

In conclusion, we are so lucky to not have any external exams this year – it gave us time and space to explore problems and to refine exam technique in a measured way.

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