For the last couple of years Graham (Cumming .. of course!) has been sending out some additional reminders for both students and teachers a few weeks before the exams. This year has been no different and he has kindly given me permission to share on here too (to which I’ve added a little extra that you may find useful for the classroom!!) his original text and attachments below. BTW If you aren’t on the “emporium” mailing list … you really must contact them to get on it: [email protected]

The content that follows is Graham, all Graham (or could be Mark?) flipping brilliant!  So last night, whilst trying to find a distraction (my hubbie is away!) I took the main points from his document and the below text (I “may” have added a few more too) and put together a funky little PowerPoint which you can find here -> Preparing for your Maths Exam , that may be useful to go through with your students.

“.. a good opportunity to offer a few reminders and to answer a few questions we’re asked at this time of year. Many of these come under the general injunction of “don’t make life difficult for the examiners”. I’ve tried to capture this in a document for students here-> GCSE Maths exam advice 2018  (including a couple of pages for teachers as well).

OH .. I can’t help myself … I love this document Graham has put together … here’s an extract! … Sorry … MEL

1. The rubric on the front of the examination papers says to use black ink or ball-point pen. I shouldn’t think there are many that use fountain pens and ink these days, but be aware that all scripts are scanned so they can be marked onscreen by examiners and black ink shows up clearly.

2. The rubric on the front of the mathematics examination papers also says that candidates must have an HB pencil. Pencils should be used for graphs and diagrams, but not for general writing. HB pencils will scan; H pencils can be a bit faint, so should be avoided. 

3. Coloured pencils should probably be avoided, now matter how pretty the result may look – the scanner doesn’t pick up colour and all will look grey. Students can use coloured pencils to help them, but shouldn’t rely on any answer which depends on the examiner knowing that colours are being used (e.g. shaded regions, comparative bar charts).

4. Highlighter pens may be used by students who wish to highlight words in the questions (we do get asked). However, they shouldn’t be used for highlighting any answers; again, they don’t scan well and the darker coloured ones tend to obscure rather than illuminate.

5. Tracing paper may be used; equally, it may not be needed. You might wish to give it to students before the exam just in case, but students shouldn’t worry if they don’t actually use it. Mirrors, on the other hand, are not allowed (not even those shiny bits of cardboard that are mirror-like).

6. Students shouldn’t write any answers below the line on any given page; such answers won’t be scanned. The scanners are programmed to pick up only the space given for the question (to save examiners scrolling through a lot of empty pages). I can’t help feeling it used to say “do not write in this space” and I don’t know why it doesn’t now – all the same, don’t write below the line. The space allowed for working is intended to give guidance to students on how much work may be required to arrive at an answer.

7a. There are no formulae sheets given in the new GCSE (9-1) 1MA1 papers, so students shouldn’t look for them. A poster with all the formulae students need to know can be found here ; no formulae will be given for Foundation tier, but the formulae for surface area and volume of both a sphere and a cone will be given at both Foundation and Higher tiers if required to answer a question. The formula for pressure will also be given if required.

7b. If you have any post-16 students are re-sitting the legacy specification 1MA0, they should be advised not to write any answers on the formulae sheet on page 2 of the examination paper – they will be missed by the scanners.

8. Students shouldn’t forget to look at the last page of the examination paper (the back page) – there’s sometimes a question there. Where possible, we like to set papers which have a multiple of 4 pages to save chopping down trees for the sake of blank pages.

9. Any pages which are blank will have “BLANK PAGE” written on them. Although this means they’re actually not blank, it’s intended to show students that they don’t have a paper where printing has been missed off.

10. Students shouldn’t assume that if they can’t do the question, there must be a mistake on the paper (and nor should invigilators). Students ought to look again or go on to the next questions. Errors in examination papers are still mercifully rare, no matter how much I may have put the mockers on this year’s exam by saying that.

11. We have much the same group of examiners setting papers as we have had for a number of years. Nevertheless, as should be expected, every examination paper is different to any seen in the past. With the introduction of the new specification this year, students should particularly expect to see a few questions testing their understanding of mathematics rather than their memory of past paper questions.

12. Our examiners are a pretty cosmopolitan lot and can deal with the occasional European student who uses a comma for a decimal point, or who uses an unusual looking 1 or 7, as long as they do so consistently.

13. Examiners are looking to award marks where they can – students shouldn’t make life difficult for them with truly illegible handwriting, newly invented notation or vigorous crossings out. Students should be advised to give the examiners what they are looking for – neat working and clearly written answers. Doubtless there is more, but this is what I can think of today – I hope it’s useful to you and your students over the coming weeks.” 

BACK TO ME … I wonder how many of you made it this far? Well … I hope some of that is useful!

On a personal note I’m gonna leave this here -> 4 years ago yesterday! Where does the time go?