VCE Maths Methods Study Plan – Read Now!
This article was written by Jake Makaling, a current VCE Maths Methods tutor. Jake currently is accepting students, so if you're interested in his services, please go here.
What I’ve learnt from Maths Methods is that it’s not just about the content you learn in year 12. Yes, SACs are heavily based on testing the concepts you learn in class, but when it comes to actually studying for the exam, it becomes much more than that.
Most students will find that the concepts aren’t too difficult to learn, especially through practising exercises (textbook, ‘Checkpoints’ book) and watching tutorials (Khan Academy, Edrolo etc.). Reaching that upper next level, however, may show to be quite challenging. I’ve put together some key tips which I think would be useful for your studies (particularly Maths Methods) leading up to the exams.
Yes, pretty standard, it is essential to understand the concepts before considering success in this subject. Start by scanning through the study design; any unfamiliar terms/gaps in knowledge? Revise over these sections in the textbook and watch tutorials if need be (check out Khan Academy – good for breaking down concepts).
Scan through your past SACs if you have access to them and keep a tab on the errors you make. If these errors are related to understanding, spend some time learning the content. Otherwise, if they’re careless errors (misreading the question, not leaving the answer in exact form), write up a page of all the common errors you’ve made in the past from your SACs.
Your errors might not be limited to those above, but rather due to a messy write up of an extended answer – hard to follow. A clear method when writing up answers is very important (hence, why this subject is called Maths ‘Methods’ probably). Teachers always say ‘show all your working!!’ – yes, it helps you to minimise errors as you can trace back your steps, but it’s also a good way to gain marks even if your answer is incorrect.
Markers/examiners don’t have time to decipher through a maze of information, they’d rather see clear, simple steps leading up to a plausible answer. So practise using the correct notation, keep your steps orderly, and try not to take shortcuts, making sure not to skip any important steps. Especially with a 2-mark question in Exam 2 – it may ask you to find values which are solvable by the calculator, but it usually indicates that you need to include some sort of working. Practise this when writing up solutions as you’ll get more and more efficient at it when it comes to the time constraints of the exam.
This is crucial to your success in the exam. You may feel confident with all the concepts, and you might feel like you’ve nailed writing up answers. What you might be missing though are the foundations, the predominantly algebraic skills that add the extra punch of difficulty to the exam. It may seem simple, but a lot of people don’t have these foundations down pat by year 12. This includes having the skills to be able to manipulate any equation given to you by being able to rearrange and isolate each individual term (eg. make x the subject, make y the subject, make the constant the subject). Do you know how to rearrange for x when given the equation, sin(x) = cos(x)? Skills like these are not physically taught in Maths Methods and are merely assumed knowledge.
Learning how to manipulate fractions and surds is also quite important, especially when it comes to integrals. Knowing how to find a common denominator may seem simple, but it’s knowledge like this that can often lead to the most common errors. If you’re sitting right now thinking ‘wow, that’s me’, then you might have to brush up a bit on algebra. Bit of practise and you’ll get there. Just aim to get to a point where it becomes second nature to you, where you don’t even have to think about how to simplify fractions, how to rationalise surds (not actually needed in the final answer but still helpful when adding to other terms) and so on.
The key to success isn’t limited to the key tips above but I hope it helps you form a basis on what you should focus on from now leading up to your exams.