Words of Wisdom

Hi all,
My son and his class are soon going to sit final high school specialist maths exams.
His teacher wants to put together a sort of encouragement video for them, so I wanted to give them some sage advice, but I’m not a qualified sage.

What last minute advice would you give a Maths student about to walk into a year 12 Maths test?

Use a pencil and pack an eraser. Good luck to him!


This may be a bit specific.
But it helped me a lot when I was told it a few weeks before my final highschool maths exams, because I have disgraphia (which means I can’t handwrite easily, or without pain).

Write your 4s with an open top, like the left, not the right, so they can’t be misread as 9s.

Write your 7s with cross bars so they can’t be misread as 1s.


You can’t design rockets, aircraft or racing cars without maths.

Exam technique - questions often have a ‘sting in the tail’ part at the end which you need to answer to get the top marks. Remember your time - if you cant answer the last part of a question move on and make sure you answer all questions. Return to the ones that stumped you if you have time - your brain may have been working on them anwyay.

What I am saying is ensure you pass the exam by answering all the questions. The ‘sting in the tail’ bits sort out the A-students.


On the days that precede the exam, get some quality sleep and do physical activity outdoors. Probably higher marginal value on test performance than some last minute review.

And at the end of the day, even if you do worse than you expected because you had a bad day, it does not really matter: it is an artificial situation that does not correlate with happiness in your adult life, or even success in a job that requires math. Do your best, but don’t fret.


About the 4’s and 9s…That’s exactly what my old Maths teacher told me!

[practical tip]

This may be more relevant to physics than math, but I think it still applies. Draw a picture! Uncertain if it’s complicated enough to need illustration? Illustrate. Most of my math exams there was a unit circle in the top right corner, whether I needed it or not. And I have never met or been an exam corrector who would protest an unnecessary illustration.


Thanks for the words of wisdom everybody!

While drawing a picture is good, be sure that if you rely on a picture to answer the question, you make it really clear how it relates. I had to talk to a prof in college to explain the weird matrix multiplication notation I learned in Budapest (you put the second argument to the right and above the first one, so the row of the first matrix and the column of the second matrix point to the entry of the final matrix where their dot product goes). I was showing my work perfectly well for me, but to anyone who hadn’t seen this method before, it looked like I was writing random numbers.

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