## Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths

Practising past exam questions is essential if you’re looking to score highly in Maths. Similar question types come up regularly; but you still need to revise all the topics on your course, as the Maths exam isn’t predictable anymore. Both sections (A and B) at Leaving Cert higher and ordinary levels are equally important and the correct amount of time must be left for the longer questions in Section B, as they tend to require more thought.

The new Maths syllabus at both Junior and Leaving Certificate level is quite crowded with a lot of material to get through, not to mention trying to link up topics in true Project Maths style. Incidentally ‘Project Maths’ was the name given to the subject ‘Mathematics’ when it was changed and rebranded in 2008. It has now reverted to ‘Maths’ after this bedding in period.

**Why Past Exam Questions are Key**

With so much to cover during class time, it is difficult for teachers to expose their students to any substantial level of exam questions during term time. The reality is that many teachers will only fully complete the course after Easter, through no fault of their own. It is up to each individual student to dust off the exam papers (usually purchased in September) and start by initially attempting part (a)’s and (b)’s of past exam question. You should initially focus on topics you have covered yourself in class in order to build up your competence.

*‘Do an exam question a day, and start today’*

I would recommend attempting exam questions, to the best of your ability, with guidance from your textbook and class notes. Subsequently, refer to a good solutions book to see how accurately you are progressing. With an unprecedented level of detail, my exam paper solutions (ACE Solution Books) at both Junior and Leaving Certificate levels are an ideal companion to complete this process efficiently. This puts you in a much more commanding position when your teacher does commence past exam questions in class. You should start by practising and familiarising yourself with the language used on past papers. Waiting until they appear on the board in class isn’t good practice in my opinion. This also applies to 5^{th} year students.

Your exam paper focus should always be on practising previous official state exam questions under time pressure. Replicating exam hall pressure is a brilliant way to hone your skills and really check if you can complete the question asked within the time limit allocated. I would start by taking on a short question or two against the clock, and then a longer question, until eventually you feel confident enough to take on a full paper. Constantly doing questions out from your textbook will never fully prepare you for a full sit down test paper in Maths.

**How to use Past Exam Questions to your Advantage**

Leaving Certificate Maths examines your analytical and critical skills. Most of the questions asked tend to be calculation-based. Hence, it becomes essential to solve as many questions as possible in your revision preparation. Some key preparation tips to keep in mind while tackling past papers are:

- Solve as many past exam questions as possible from every topic that you study. This will help you understand the type of questions asked. It will also indicate how near or far you stand from your target score in the subject. Also, estimate how an examiner would have graded you on your efforts by comparing your solution against a detailed solution book.
- Maintain an error-log on mistakes you keep making. This will help you get to know your weak points and what traps you regularly are falling into.
- Everyone has deficiencies in Maths. To overcome these, attempt extra questions from topics you struggle with. Start with questions you can do. This will build confidence and reduce anxiety on topics you are concerned about.
- When solving questions, make a habit of always timing yourself. Buy a stopwatch. This will help you improve your speed and manage timing better during the actual exam.

Doing an exam question trial at home every week will improve your speed and accuracy for the final exam, and after some time you will cut out silly errors and feel calmer about tackling a full paper. This process will give you the belief that you can get the awkward question started or tackle the unseen graph/diagram on the day.

** ****Commence a Strict Diet of Past ‘Exam Questions’ Today**

If I was in 6^{th} year, i would move quickly now onto the strict but ultimately rewarding ‘Past Exam Question’ diet. Here are some directions to consider as you trawl through good quality past exam questions and their solutions over the next few months:

- You need to get practicing multiple real life application questions
- You need to get familiar with marking schemes and how marks are allocated
- You need to practice exam questions under time pressure
- Constantly strive to get used to the wording, layout, and style of past questions
- Get accustomed to how the examiners are phrasing exam questions now
- Be conscious of the fact that there is extra text and less numbers on the papers now
- You need to be aware that you now could be asked to explain your answer
- Be able to justify your answer using Maths calculations
- You need to practice question types that ask if you agree with an opinion and why
- Practice different strategies for starting unseen/unexpected questions
- Be familiar with the exact meaning of each word that appears on past papers. Joe.

To read last weeks feature article on ‘How to Construct your Revision more Efficiently’, click here.

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More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

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© Joe McCormack 2021

## Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths

**Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths***Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths*