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My Review of 2013 Leaving Cert Higher Maths Exam Papers


Paper 1

Paper 1 seems to have been designed to be easy to pass but hard to get an A in. Q1 to Q4 were very standard, designed to get as many people as possible over the pass line. Even if you messed up one or two of them which can easily happen under pressure in an exam, the questions were chosen so that he could give you attempt marks for every correct step e.g. three simultaneous equations is an old reliable - lots of steps and every step is worth marks.

Even in the harder questions that followed, there were plenty of  'stretchy' boxes -  i.e. very easy Part (a) 's - e.g. The 'Matches' question, the Differentiation and Integration questions. The beauty of these is that when they start correcting and if they find too many people are still failing, they will go back to the 'stretchy' boxes and stretch them up so that they are worth a bigger proportion of the overall question.

Also, I liked the 'scaffolding' throughout the paper  - e.g. Q1 (a)  - even if you couldn't work out the answer, he told you the answer because you needed it for the next part -  then he asked you to plot z in the 2nd part because it turned out this is always the first step in the 3rd part (write in polar form). This continued right throughout the paper - by the end there was more scaffolding than you'd see left on a ghost estate from the Celtic Tiger days!

There was plenty in there as well to separate the A's from the B's etc. The 'Matches' question was typical of this - everyone was given a terrace ticket in that they should have been able to answer part (a) -  however there were only a few corporate box tickets left for the A students by the time you got to the last part! 

Surprisingly, there were only 3 questions out of the 8 that were actually 'Project Maths' questions. Q1, Q2, Q3 (and all of Section C obviously) could have been answered by a student from the old course. I am not complaining - it's probably no harm that they introduce the new exam paper style gradually over a few years.

Lastly, I felt that Q7 (c) was ambiguous - in part (i) you were told Sin y = x. This means that 'Inverse Sin' of x  = y. However if you subbed y in for 'Inverse Sin' of x in part (ii), you got y = x + y which means x = 0 - which means the triangle disappears in a puff of smoke! I know he didn't say it was the same y in both parts but then why put both parts under (c) when they weren't related.


Paper 2

This paper is now overshadowed by the famous 'impossible triangle' in Q8 - very unsettling for the conscientious student who cares about the fact that maths is supposed to make sense. 

That aside, a lot of it was predictable - Q6 on triangle centres was long overdue as was the trig proof (even if they threw that wobbly about area of a triangle into it). Realistically, there was never going to be a theorem on this paper - they can't keep asking the same three forever.

Also, the old reliables were there - a question on the circle, a question on the line, a question on trig, a geometry question etc. 

My biggest problem with this paper was that the wording of questions was clumsy in places

For example in Q2 (b) at one stage it looked like he was going for the Nobel Prize in literature.  Q6 annoyed me - I can't understand why he didn't just ask 'Explain what an incentre is'  instead of  saying 'The incentre is ...' and making them word it in a particular way as if they were completing a slogan to win a holiday competition on the back of a box of cornflakes. Also, one of my students made a very good point about Q7. According to the survey, when airline passengers were asked were they satisfied with the service, 98 said they didn't know. How can you not know if you are satisfied with a service or not? Surely, it is a Yes/No answer if ever there was one.

Apart from this though, I felt it was definitely a more accessible paper than last year - the main complaint my students seem to have was that they ran out of time at the end