Squeezing every last mark out of the paper

February 6, 2008

You’ve slogged through the twenty-odd pages of your GCSE maths paper. You’ve got a good feeling about this one – you think you’ve got most of it right. And you’ve got ten minutes of the exam left. So what do you do?

When I was sitting my exams, the usual answer was ‘count ceiling tiles’ or ‘look for prime factors of my friends’ phone numbers’. I was an odd child. It turns out that the correct answer – as evidenced by my 99% mark for one paper in which I mis-measured a circle – is to check your work.

Believe me, it’s less tedious than counting ceiling tiles, and much more rewarding. There are many ways to check your work:

  • Look for a different way to do a question
  • Check that your answer makes sense – is your sale price lower than the original price?
  • Measure all the things you were meant to measure, twice.
  • See if you can get back from your answer to the numbers in the question
  • Read each question to make sure you’ve given the answer they asked for
  • Did you write your units down?

There are probably a dozen others I’ve overlooked – do you have any tips?

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