As students prepare for their exams, questions that only assessors can answer often pop into mind. Unfortunately, most students don’t have access to assessors in most of their subjects, so we took your questions and presented them to a senior VCAA assessor who has extensive experience in marking the VCE exams that you will soon sit. Here are his/her answers.

We hope that your exam preparations are going well.

TSFX.

I am doing Specialist Mathematics next year. What does it involve and how difficult is the subject?

Units 3/4 Specialist Mathematics is quite difficult, even for talented students, and that is one of the reasons that the ATAR boost is really high. It helps that all Specialist Mathematics students are doing, or have done, Maths Methods as the Calculus and the Probability knowledge overlaps significantly. The best advice is to work right from the beginning at all levels of qns. And buy a summary book to follow along with your teaching, like the Cengage A+ books. And students need persistence for the harder qns. So practcse them as much as possible and don’t give up or leave gaps. The subject involves Functions, Graphs, Diff and Integ calculus, Complex Nos, Vectors, Mechanics and Probability and Statistics.

Do you have to fit your working out within the provided space in the exam? For example, showing an arrow to working out in the margins.

Usually the provided lined space is larger than what is required, and some students worry they finish the question in a much shorter space, but yes you can use spare spaces on the paper, with an arrow and clearly labelled, to continue with your working if needed. Often there are spare pages throughout the paper for this purpose. Just write “continuing with qn 4a”. A detail though, please remember that if you write a correct answer, say for 4a, in a wrong lined space, say for 4b, you will be deducted a mark.

Just like specialist unit 1/2, is unit specialist unit 3/4 also applications-based exams.

Specialist 3/4 has Exam1 with all Tech Free short answer qns. One hour.

Exam 2 is Tech Active and two hours. This exam will be tough.

Exam 2 has 20 Multiple Choice qns (some very difficult requiring quite a bit of working).

Exam 2 also has 4-6 non-routine qns, which range from easy to very difficult. These non-routine qns are sometimes called Analysis qns.

They go from easy part a) through to perhaps part g) of h) increasing in difficulty.

I’m not sure what you mean by “applications-based exams”. The application task is a SAC worth 50% of the SACs and not an exam.

In regards to the probability of making a type I error, is this probability equivalent to the level of significance, alpha, or the p-value?

The p-value is the probability of observing a value of the sample statistic as extreme or more extreme than the one observed, assuming that the null hypothesis is true. Alpha is the significance level of the test. This significance level is the condition for rejecting the null hypothesis.

We say if p<alpha, then reject H0.

And, we say if p>alpha, then we do not reject H0.

It’s important not to say accept H1. We either reject or do not reject Ho.

How dependant are the exams on the CAS?

The Specialist Maths 3/4 Exam 1 is all Tech Free short answer qns. One hour, no CAS at all.

Exam 2 is Tech Active and two hours. This exam will be tough.

Exam 2 has 20 Multiple Choice qns (some very difficult requiring quite a bit of working), where efficient CAS use will make you much quicker

Efficient CAS use means knowing when to use it and when to not use it. Only practice during the year will help with these decisions.

Exam 2 also has 4-6 non-routine qns, which range from easy to very difficult. These non-routine qns are sometimes called Analysis qns.

They go from easy part a) through to perhaps part g) of h) increasing in difficulty.

All of these questions provide “entry points” so if a student is completely lost they can use what is given to continue. CAS is most important in these questions, particularly in defining a function at the beginning of a Calculus question. CAS is less important in Complex Numbers and Vectors.

In summary CAS makes you much more efficient and quicker in Exam 2, and lots of practice with your CAS is vital.

When do I use 1.96 and 2.58 for 95% & 99% confidence intervals rather than actual invnorm calculated values? Why is 1.65 connected to a 90% Conf Int when the Z score is 1.64485 (5dp)?

On a ClassPad using Inverse Norm we can see that 90% CI gives you 1.65. I agree that rounding would actually give 1.64, But statisticians have decided to use 1.65

Again you can use InvNorm to get 1.95996…. and 2.5758… But statisticians have decided to use 1.96 and 2.58

So you always use the commonly assumed and decided 1.65, 1.96 and 2.58 etc.

On a side note, a recent exam asked for an integer approximation for the z-score for 95%CI. And students were expected to use 2 instead of 1.96, to make the working easier as it was in Exam 1. (therefore Tech Free).

If you’re given an equation in exam 1 or exam 2 and is defined as f(x) in the question. Let’s say and asks us to find the bounded area can we write the inergral of f(x) or do we have to write the whole equation?

If the question states f(x)= at the beginning you can absolutely use it throughout the qn.

You don’t need to write the whole rule for the function out every time.

For example “State an integral statement that would find……..”

You write Integ(f(x)) dx…….Just make sure it actually IS f(x) and not changed to, say, g(x) through the qn. Or f1(x).

Another point along this same line: several years ago there was a really long derivative that had to be analysed.

Students successfully said :”Let a= the section of the really long derivative” and then use a for the rest of the qn until the last.
Step to save writing this section of working every time.