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Monday, December 11, 2017
Article written by N Pinhey

Intermediate GCSE Maths Revision – Mistakes to Avoid in the Maths GCSE Exam

Get More Marks Without Knowing Any More!
Intermediate GCSE Mathematics examines grades E, D, C and B. Each grade is worth 25% of the marks on the exam paper. Each Intermediate Maths GCSE exam paper starts off with the easier grade E questions and finishes with the harder grade B questions. Approximately 55% is needed for grade C, and approximately 75% for grade B, (these percentages vary from year to year according to the difficulty of the exam). Many students who revise thoroughly, forget to spend time on the easiest way to gain and lose marks in the exam. Candidates need to be aware of these 9 very simple steps as both a source of very easy marks, and as a way to prevent losing marks needlessly.

1. Show All Stages in Any Calculations
This is the advice given to candidates on the front of the Intermediate GCSE Maths exam paper. This is also the number one cause of losing marks. For some reason, many candidates (and it is more often boys), believe that everything they do will be perfect and mistake free, so why bother using up precious energy writing needlessly, when they can work out the answer faster their own way? Unfortunately, this is also the fastest way of losing marks.

Let us consider a two mark question where you have to work out the length of a model car. The student works out in their head, or on their calculator, that the length is 0.45 m and writes this answer down. Unfortunately the student will get no marks at all for this if the question stated that the answer should be given in centimetres. The two mark question is made up of 1 method mark for the method used, and 1 accuracy mark for the correct answer. The student will therefore not get the accuracy mark for the correct answer, nor the method mark as no working out has been shown. So although they can undoubtedly do the question and would have got one mark if they had shown their working out, they ended up with no marks at all. Instead of staying on target for a grade C by getting one mark out of two, they have fallen behind on an easy question. The exam is as much about how to prevent losing marks, as it is about gaining them.

2. Give the Final Answer as Asked For in the Question
The exam question will often state the level of accuracy needed for the final answer. For example to give your answer correct to 1 decimal place, or to 1 significant figure. If you do not give your answer in the form asked for in the question, you will not get the final accuracy mark (1 mark). In algebra or ratio questions, it often states to give your answer in its simplest form. Altogether on the average Intermediate GCSE Maths exam paper, around 10% (ten percent!) of all the marks are for giving your answer in the form asked for in the question. Once you start spotting this and making sure that all your answers are in the correct form that has been asked for, you will stop throwing away lots of marks.

3. Use the Marks Given to Help You
There is a significant difference between a 1 mark question, and a 4 mark question. If for example you are doing a 3 mark question in 1 line, then beware, as you have either not shown all your working out (and will lose marks), or you have not spotted correctly what to do, so look at the question again. As a rough guide aim to do one more line of working than the number of marks in the question:

2 mark question: 3 lines of working out
3 mark question: 4 lines of working out

This will ensure that you show all the steps needed to get full method marks.

4. Don't Cramp your Working Out
As candidates write on the Intermediate GCSE Maths exam paper itself, sufficient space is not always provided. Don't be tempted to squash your work into a small space - ask for extra paper. If you are squashing your work in, then it is very common for candidates to leave some steps out – these steps are frequently the method steps that the examiner needs to see to get the method marks!

5. Watch out for Mixed Units
Quite often different units are used to measure quantities in the same question, for example:

cm and mm
m and cm
km and m

The golden rule is to always work with just one unit throughout, either all centimetres or all metres or all kilometres. Change any different measures at the start of doing the question to the same unit.

6. Beware the Calculator Paper!
The GCSE Mathematics exam consists of a Calculator exam paper and a Non-Calculator exam paper. GCSE Mathematics is the hardest GCSE exam to get the grade you need, and far from making the exam easier, using a calculator often results in more mistakes and a lower mark than in the non-calculator paper. It is even more important to show all your working out on the Calculator paper as it is very easy to do two or three lines on your calculator without showing any working out. You would lose all your method marks, and if you have made a mistake you won't get any marks at all. As the exam paper consists of more method marks than accuracy marks it is essential that you show all your working out.

7. Not being in DEG Mode
Make sure that your calculator is always in DEG (degrees) mode, otherwise you will never get Trigonometry questions correct!

8. Don't Measure Diagrams
If it states “diagram not accurately drawn” then do not bother measuring the diagram, it will not help you, and it will waste time. “Diagram not accurately drawn” means you have to find a calculating method (not measuring method) to get the answer.

9. Write Down Measuring Units
Remember to write down the units you are using e.g. cm, m, km if they are not given at the end of the question. If you forget, you will lose 1 very easy mark. (It is very easily forgotten though!).

Conclusion
If you practise and remember these 9 simple steps, it is possible to prevent losing up to 10% of your exam marks needlessly. Good examination technique should be practised as part of Intermediate GCSE Maths exam preparation, and when revising the most essential exam questions and exam topics.
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