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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Exam Tips: How to Score A in CIE AS and A Level Mathematics

Guest post by Daniel Lim (Share your exam tips with 50,000+ Malaysian students)

I got 4A for my AS Level in October 2013 and 4A* for my A Level in May 2014. The 4 subjects that I took were Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. Do you want to know how to score in AS and A Level for these 4 subjects? Here, I am posting the complete tips for AS and A Level. These tips are intended for all students who are sitting for AS or A Level in May 2016 or October 2016.

AS & A Level Mathematics Tips:

One of the 4 subjects I took was Mathematics. My percentage uniform mark for Mathematics was 96% in AS Level and 94% in A Level. Do you want to know how to score in AS and A Level for Mathematics? Here, I am posting the complete tips for AS and A Level Mathematics.

Complete Tips for CIE AS & A Level Exam: Mathematics

1. Studying tips

  • When your teacher is teaching in class, pay attention to what your teacher says. Make sure you understand everything taught by your teacher. If you do not understand anything, ask your teacher or friends.
  • You need reference books that are complete. I recommend you to use the following reference book for each paper:
    • Paper 1: Pure Mathematics 1 for Cambridge International A Level, by Bostock, L, Chandler, S and Jennings, T (Nelson Thornes, UK)
    • Paper 2 & Paper 3: Pure Mathematics 2 and 3 for Cambridge International A Level, by Bostock, L, Chandler, S and Jennings, T (Nelson Thornes, UK)
    • Paper 4: Mechanics 1 for Cambridge International A Level, by Bostock, L, Chandler, S and Lee, D A (Nelson Thornes, UK)
    • Paper 5: Mechanics 2 for Cambridge International A Level, by Bostock, L, Chandler, S and Lee, D A (Nelson Thornes, UK)
    • Paper 6: Probability and Statistics 1 for Cambridge International A Level, by Chambers, J, Crawshaw, J and Balaam, P (Nelson Thornes, UK)
    • Paper 7: Probability and Statistics 2 for Cambridge International A Level, by Chambers, J, Crawshaw, J and Balaam, P (Nelson Thornes, UK)
  • When studying a chapter for the first time, read through the notes in the reference book. Make sure that you understand the concept for that chapter and relate them to what your teacher had taught in school.
  • You need to know how to apply what you have learnt to solve questions. Go through all the example questions in the reference book. Make sure that you understand how every question is solved.
  • Then, you have to do a lot of exercises. You can start by doing questions in the reference books topic by topic. When you have understood all topics, proceed with doing past year A Level questions. They are available on the internet. After doing the questions, refer to the mark scheme and do self marking. The mark schemes can usually be found on the same website as the past year questions.
  • You should understand how the mark schemes are used. In the mark schemes for Mathematics, there are 3 types of marks, which are M, A and B. The A marks are always dependent on the M marks before them, which means that A marks can only be scored if the M marks before them are also scored. On the other hand, B marks are independent of any other marks, which means that they can be scored without other marks also being scored.
  • When doing revision before exam, you should go through the example questions for all chapters in the reference book. If you have forgotten the concept for any chapter, go through the notes in reference book for that chapter again. You should also do some past year questions.
  • AS and A Level Mathematics also requires knowledge gained from SPM, IGCSE or equivalent, although it does not test on them directly. Make sure that you do not forget them.

2. Answering tips for all papers (Paper 1 to 7)

  • When answering, read the question and information given carefully. For questions involving diagrams, mark any important details on the diagram. For some questions without diagram, sometimes it may be helpful to draw a diagram so that you can illustrate the information given in the question. Apply what you have learnt in mathematics in order to solve the questions and get the answer. Use the correct concept or formula for every question. Certain formula are provided in the formula booklet, refer to them if necessary.
  • You must show all workings for every question. You should not skip any important steps. You do not need to write down the formula used to solve the question. The number of marks allocated for a question usually shows the amount of working needed. 1 mark will be given for each important step and the final answer. Marks can only be given for the final answer if the marks for working are scored. Therefore, correct answer without working usually scores 0 mark.
  • On the other hand, if your final answer is wrong but some of your working is correct, you may still be given some marks. You are not allowed to write extra solutions or answers for any question. If you do so and any of the answers/solutions is wrong, marks will be deducted. When copying figures from the question or from your answer for the previous part of the question, be careful not to copy wrongly.
  • For a part of question which requires you to use your answer from the previous part, even if your answer for the previous part is wrong and you use it for this part, causing your answer for this part to be wrong, you will still get the working marks (M marks) for this part as long as your calculation for this part is correct, but you will usually lose the answer marks (A marks) for this part.
  • If the question does not state that you must or you cannot use a particular method, then you can use any suitable method to solve the question. You can also use methods that are not learnt in the A Level syllabus, if you know them. If the question states that you must use a particular method, then you can only that method to solve the question. If the question states that cannot use a particular method, then you cannot that method to solve the question.
  • If the final answer is a number with infinite decimal places, you should round up to at least 3 significant figures, unless if the question states that you have to give your answer to a specific number of significant figures. You can also write your final answer as a fraction or in surd form if possible. However, if the question states that you must express your answer as fraction, as decimal or in surd form, then you must follow the instruction. If a number with infinite decimal places is involved in between the workings, you should take at least 4 or 5 significant figures (3 significant figures is not sufficient) or the value stored in the calculator to ensure accuracy of the final answer. Otherwise, marks may be deducted if the final answer is less accurate.
  • For questions involving Pi, you should use the value of Pi from the calculator, unless if the question asks you to use Pi = 22/7 or Pi = 3.142 . You must also follow all other special instructions given in the question. After you have answered all questions, you should recheck your answers for mistakes. Leave at least 15 minutes to recheck your answers if possible. When rechecking, use a different method to solve the question or directly use the calculator if possible.

Related Post: Revision Notes for CIE AS & A Level Subjects (New 2016 Syllabus)



Daniel Lim Jhao Jian, 20, speaks English, Mandarin and Malay. His hobbies are surfing the internet, watching television and reading. His ambition is to be a doctor.

Daniel was born in Subang Jaya, Selangor, but he grew up in Kulim, Kedah. He lived in Kulim with his grandparents for 17 years. His primary school was SRJK(C) Chong Cheng while his secondary school was SMK Sultan Badlishah. After completing secondary school, he moved to Subang Jaya and he studied Cambridge A Level at Taylor's College Subang Jaya for 1.5 years. Currently, he is living in Johor Bahru, Johor and studying 2nd year of Medicine course at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia.

These tips were first posted at Daniel's blog.
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