Maths Methods, two words that send chills down the spines of VCE students - but it doesn’t need to be that way. Don’t get me wrong, Maths Methods is a very intense subject across units 1 through 4 but there are strategies to make Maths Methods more manageable and set yourself up for success. Methods is a stressful subject and can easily make you lose your cool. It's important to stay calm and use your time to set yourself up well from the start of unit 1 until the end of year exams in year 12. Getting the highest score possible in Methods is a great way to also ensure you receive some of the bonus points from subject scaling!
Preparation and Consistency are key
Whilst what you do in Maths Methods 1 and 2 may not count towards your study score, this doesn’t mean that you can slack off. Methods is a huge step up from year 10 mathematics, the course load is heavier and the content is harder so you need to put in the effort from the start to keep up (or get ahead even) - Maths Methods is not a subject to be playing catch up in.
In Maths Methods 3 and 4 your SACs make up 34% of your contribution to your study score, with 17% from both units 3 and 4 respectively, preparing for your SACs and doing well in them can not only give you a strong contribution to your study score but it can also give you a boost come exam time. Here are the types of Maths methods exam questions you may encounter.
Make your reference book as you go
Preparing your reference book as you go allows you to include the necessary content while it is still fresh in your mind. It ensures you include all the content that you find necessary or difficult as opposed to hastily slapping it together at the last minute and hoping for the best. Creating your reference book is also a great revision tool as it gets you to critically think and reflect on the content and be selective about what you include - if you put time and effort into carefully curating your reference book you should know the content well enough in the reference book that you do not need to use it during an assessment (which can be a lifesaver with the time pressures of an exam).
Your calculator is your best friend in exam 2
The Maths Methods end-of-year exam and most SACs have two components: a technology-free section and a technology-active section. In the technology active section, you will have access to both your calculator and reference book, but the questions in this section are a lot more complex so you need to be able to utilise your calculator well as time goes by extremely quickly. Adding shortcuts with the shift key can save you a load of time, binding things like the trigonometric functions (sin, cos, tan), e^x, Define f(x)=, f(, 𝝿 and a given that symbol (this symbol | ) can be the difference in getting that bit of extra time to make sure you finish your exam and catch any mistakes. It is also good if you know your shift key bindings off the top of your head as it will save even more time (but don’t fret if you don’t, you can write them in your reference book!).!
Practice and then practice again!
In Maths Methods you can never do too many practice questions, you do not know what a SAC or an exam will hit you with so practising over and over means you will be prepared for whatever is thrown at you (and in Methods, they throw a lot of curveballs). The best way to make sure you have understood a concept is to do practice questions and then check your answers with solutions - ideally worked solutions as these give you an insight into what steps you need to include for full marks! Here are the types of Maths methods exam questions you may encounter.
And of course, it is good to do as many practice exams as possible to get a feel for what it will be like under exam conditions. Doing practice exams under exam conditions allows you to both get used to the time constraints and pressure of the exam as well as get familiar with the types of questions you will be asked. The more practice exams you do, the more you will be familiar and comfortable with the questions you are asked.
Read the questions carefully
In case I haven’t mentioned the time constraints of the exam enough in both exam 1 and exam 2 you will be under pressure and will have to work at a good pace to get through (don’t worry if you aren’t there yet, that’s what practice is for!). This pressure can lead to silly mistakes in basic arithmetic and not understanding the question. It is important to read the questions carefully and make sure in your answer that you are responding to the actual question and not what you think the question might be. The Methods exam will try to trick you, reading the questions carefully and using a highlighter to highlight all the key information can give you a boost!
Use your time wisely
This is not only about the exam, what you do in all units of Maths Methods is important in setting yourself up for success for the end-of-year exam. Consistently updating your reference book and doing practice questions will help you come to your final exam, but rereading your notes won’t help nearly as much.
Then there is your reading time in the exam, make sure you read every single question and get a feel for what they are asking. Know which questions will take you a lot of time or are harder and plan your time accordingly. Smashing out the quicker and easier questions is a good way to guarantee some marks on the exam. There is no point staring at a question for the first 20 minutes of your exam when another question might be something you are comfortable answering, take a deep breath, stay calm and move on to a question you are confident with (you can always come back later).
Most importantly take a breath and don’t panic (which might be easier said than done) because while Methods may seem like a giant monster, you have the tools and skill to over come it 🚀💪.
Written by KIS Academics Private Tutor for VCE Maths Methods, Tanya Hammill. Tanya is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science/Master of Teaching (Secondary) at Deakin University. You can view Tanya's profile here and request her as a VCE tutor.