The ultimate TOP MARK strategy for IB Mathematics Analysis & Approaches SL Paper 1 and 2

Read along to discover IB Maths AA study tips from our expert IB tutor and high-achieving past graduate Jerry Yip! Learn the study and exam strategies that high-achieving IB students use to secure top marks.

21 days ago   •   5 min read

By KIS Academics
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Paper 1 vs Paper 2

In Maths AA SL, you will be sitting two papers for the final exam, Paper 1 and Paper 2.

Paper 1 is a 90 minute long NON-CALCULATOR paper, examining students on their algebraic manipulation, mental maths and conceptual understanding of concepts taught throughout the year.

Paper 2 is another 90 minute long paper but with a calculator. It is focused on using technology to explore more difficult mathematical manipulations.

Each paper equally weighs 40% and will consist of a short answer section and extended response section. The remaining 20% of your final mark comes from Mathematical Exploration.

Pre-exam preparation tips

a) Useful materials

The most important materials for your Maths AA exam are your graphing calculators and data booklet. Always keep this in mind. They are your soulmate in your IB Maths AA study journey. Both of them are super useful in exam so you should make the best use of this material to take the largest advantage out of them (We will come back to later to strategise for no calculator paper 1).

Your graphing calculator is a really powerful machine that can help you to solve lots of questions in Paper 2. Personally, I find the graphing and statistics mode the most useful from the graphing calculator. In graphing mode, the calculator can draw graphs and locate all the important points in the graph, including x and y-intercepts, minimum and maximum point of the function and more. For statistics mode, the statistics mode can help you to find information such as average, median, standard deviation etc from a large set of data. Both these modes can help you save a lot of time to solve it manually so my best piece of advice here is to make sure you are comfortable and familiarise with the operations in your graphing calculator.

BRING TWO graphing calculator into an exam. The worst thing that could happen is that your graphing calculator runs out of power or malfunctions during an exam.

The data booklet is also a great resource for you. You don’t have to memorise all the formulas and a fresh copy of the data booklet will be provided to you for the exam. But at the same time, you should also familiarise yourself with the data booklet because it does not cover ALL formulas. You also don't want to be wasting time in exams flipping through to find each formula. Try to use the data booklet as a back up resource, and if you do, be sure to know where each formula is located.

b) Top mark study strategies

In Paper 1, the ability to solve algebraic equations and mental maths will benefit you a lot as the use of calculators is not allowed. It is important to build up a good habit of solving equations manually and my tip here would be to assume every question you see in your daily homework or assignments is a non-calculator allowed question at first. This will push you to solve difficult questions manually and will train your algebra skills. If you later find the question requires the use of technology, jump back to your calculator to solve the question.

For Paper 2, I always find Section B the most challenging. This part consists of three long questions and around half of the marks of your Paper 2 come from Section B. It could be quite daunting when you are not used to seeing this type of wordy questions. Therefore, the best thing is to practise, practice and practice! Besides accessing questions from past papers some free good resources are RevisionVillage and Paperplainz. The more question types you encounter the more exposure you will have to all types of curveballs and challenge questions.

In general, understanding the marking scheme is crucial. Even if you couldn’t find the final answer, you could possibly receive methods mark if your working out is clear and correct. The marking scheme in past papers have clear instructions in how marks are allocated through different abbreviations and a detailed explanation of those abbreviations is also included. Make sure to check this out and understand what the examiner expects you to know to increase the likelihood of bagging most of the marks even you could not reach the final answer.

During exam

a) Time allocation

Time allocation is important for both paper 1 and paper 2. Both paper 1 and paper 2 consist of 6 questions in section A and 3 long questions in section B. I always try to finish questions 1-6 quickly at around 35 minutes, with a maximum time of 40 minutes. This means I will move on to Section B even though I still haven’t finished section A and I strictly stick with this plan in my exam. I find that more time needs to be dedicated to section B’s long questions and it is not a good idea to rush through it, instead it will make me more anxious when I do section B in a lack of time.

b) Presentation of answer

As mentioned, you could possibly receive method marks even you could not reach the final answer. Therefore, it is important for your working out to be logical and easy for the marker to understand. Check your workings and answers to see whether it makes sense after you completed the whole paper. This process is beneficial as you can spot possible mistakes more easily when going back to the question after a while with your mind refreshed.

My second tip would be when the questions require you to draw graphs, you should use a dark pencil to draw graphs as you can easily correct your mistakes when using a pencil and redraw it. Also, when drawing graphs, remember to be cautious whether your graph lies within the given domain and range, and label all the important information that the question requires you to.

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Written by KIS Academics Tutor for IB Maths AA SL, Chemistry HL and SL, Economics SL, Lai Yin Yip. Lai Yin is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Biomedicine in the University of Melbourne. You can view Lai Yin’s profile here and request him as a tutor.

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