Success in your Maths paper isn’t merely about getting the answers right. Presenting your working in full and as clearly as possible will earn you points in ways you wouldn’t expect.
John, TutorsPlus tutor and IBDP Maths Examiner shares his top tips for getting the most out of your Maths responses.
Always make an attempt to answer the question.
An unanswered question is sure to score zero marks, and so it is always best to try to write something for every question or part question: you never know your luck!
Occasionally (maybe 1 in 300) the examiner will see a “dream” script which pretty much matches or even betters the official marking schemes, with wonderful presentation and legibility. Slightly more common, sadly, are the scripts which remain mostly blank throughout, other than perhaps the odd poem alongside profuse apologies and pleas for mercy – all of course to no avail other than to distress the examiner!
Examiners know how the candidate feels and do their absolute utmost to be accommodating and to award credit wherever possible – they seek to be able to give marks. Mistakes can occur, and this is controlled by the seeding procedure which is quite strict and where about 1 in 10 of scripts are randomly selected and compared with chief examiner guidelines. Examiners then receive and have to accept feedback on discrepancies in their marking and will be stopped from marking if outside tolerance.
Read the question carefully
The exam often includes a question which links multiple steps, and that can be approached in more than one way. Care must be exercised in reading the question as, unfortunately, it sometimes happens to come across time consuming, lengthy and possibly correct, but fruitless effort. For example, it is crucial to distinguish between the terms: “ hence ” and “hence or otherwise”
Present your answers & working clearly
Candidates are not marked down for poor handwriting or presentation but clearly the chance of marking errors are greater in the context of sometimes barely legible writing and with answers in great disarray. Typically, a student will abandon a question after starting on it, only to resume several pages later and this might easily be missed unless clearly indicated. Experienced examiners learn to look out for this, but you shouldn’t count on it.
Students can help by trying to present their answers as clearly and in an orderly a fashion as they can. This is beneficial to all parties, and to the student in general. This skill cannot be learned overnight and is rather something to cultivate throughout the course: it is all very well to scribble on scraps of paper occasionally, but it is beneficial to transcribe the outcomes to clarify procedures and to practice communicating effectively.
By John Clarke
TutorsPlus tutor and IB DP Maths Examiner
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