Apologies for my absence over the past few week. I have been busy marking November session examinations. This experience can be somewhat disheartening at times particularly when you see students making the same mistakes year after year despite our best effort to prevent them. Even more discouraging is when you come across an entire allocation where students have not answered say the normal distribution question or the vector question because they had never seen anything like it before. Or there is an entire class who cannot find the standard deviation of a set of data on their calculator, opting instead for an algebraic approach using the formula for standard deviation which often always results in errors.
So what can teachers do?
Teachers can often help students to avoid certain mistakes by analyzing the subject report that is written following each examination session. In these reports (available on the OCC), a detailed analysis of how students responded to each question is given – what were the common errors, misconceptions, approaches, etc. More importantly perhaps is the section on guidance for the teaching of future candidates. Here, practical advice is carefully written and suggested for teachers to follow in order to help students achieve better results.
Teachers can also refer to the Paper 2 exemplars available on the OCC which demonstrate how candidates should approach the GDC portion of the examination. On this paper, questions are set that expect students to use their GDC as the primary method for solving a problem. Analytical approaches are not only tedious on this paper but also inappropriate. Again, these points are written in the subject reports.
Finally, teachers should ensure that they design their program in a suitable time frame to teach all syllabus content. Of course, that doesn’t always mean that students will learn all topics but at least they will have a chance to address each question. When preparing examinations, every attempt is made to examine the entire syllabus across all papers. Effective teachers will be able to predict which syllabus areas will be examined on which paper.