This article has been written by Les who is one of our online tutors and is also a senior examiner at GCSE and GCE.
As a Maths Examiner I have lots of scripts to mark and there is normally a very tight deadline to meet so that you get your results on time.
There is nothing worse for an examiner than to have to look at badly laid out work; he has to look carefully at the working to see whether any method marks can be awarded.
As a guide to whether you are setting out your work logically, you should ask yourself “Would I actually understand my reasoning if I was looking at this in a few weeks time?” If the answer is “No” then you can be sure that the examiner will also have a problem trying to unravel what you have written.
You will get marks at various stages so make sure you write down the individual steps – at whatever level. If you just write down an answer and it is wrong you will get no marks at all, even though it might have been nearly right.
One point here – if you try to solve a question in 2 different ways the examiner won’t know which one you finally decided on and won’t know which one to mark. Also, if you have a choice of answers the examiner will not be able to give you a mark even if one of the answers is correct.
Sometimes you may not know how to start a question off but remember – these questions are not designed to confuse you or make things difficult. One of the main points of Maths is being able to apply it to solve problems – so, questions will be asked in context and, at GCSE, will be more functional than they used to be. However, you will only be tested on the content of the syllabus – you will just have to try to recall which concept is being tested here.
If you are struggling with a question it is often worth writing down the facts you are given and, with a bit of luck, something will occur to you to help you to start things off.
You sometimes get questions where you are asked to “show that……” in other words the answer is already given. It is nice for you to know what the answer should be but don’t try to fool the examiner by doing some working and then changing things in the middle to make it look as though you have got the right answer. This will be spotted, particularly in those questions. The examiner’s guidance in the mark scheme is “N.B Answer given”. This means that any false reasoning in the middle will be spotted and you will lose “method” marks as well as the final “accuracy” mark.
Doing past examination papers is extremely useful. Try to do as many as you can.