My Thoughts: Maths Calculator Exam – 14 November 2011


UPDATE: I later found out that my GCSE Maths result, with the calculator and non-calculator results combined, was an A.

Click here to read my thoughts on the non-calculator paper.

Last Wednesday, GCSE Maths students across the country found themselves outraged at the difficulty of Edexcel’s November non-calculator paper (the post I wrote on that day has now been read almost a thousand times). This morning, at 9:00am, we sat the second part of the exam – the paper in which the use of a calculator is permitted. Here, as ever, are my thoughts on how that exam went.

For me, the exam started positively. Again, before the time had even begun, I consulted the front cover to see how many questions there were. Expecting a small number (each worth lots of marks), I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were in fact 25 (three more than in the non-calculator exam). This meant that each would be worth, on average, four marks, and therefore that if I couldn’t do one, it wouldn’t be quite so critical.

The questions themselves were a lot more like what I’d prepared for by completing the past papers. They were by no means easy, but certainly manageable in the time allowed. In exams, I’m not a quick worker, preferring to spend a long time on each question than ‘fill’ the remaining time at the end with endless double-checking. I moved slowly and steadily through the paper.

There were a few questions that I had to omit to answer. One was on congruence – a topic my maths-teacher mother had warned me wasn’t worth learning given the few potential marks ‘up for grabs’ – and another was effectively about moving a numerator to make x the subject – again, with so few marks available, I moved on.

Some people were thrown by a question on converting currency. Given the London and Paris exchange rates for £–€, we had to decide which would buy more euros (the snag was the fact that the number of pounds with which we started was not the same in both). I decided against writing a cheeky remark to the examiner to the effect of ‘Why would Amy want to buy any euros anyway? Hasn’t she seen the news lately?’.

In summary, I found the exam a great deal easier than the last one, but I’m not getting my hopes up for a grade on the top of the spectrum. On the question I asked on Facebook, entitled ‘Maths Calculator HIGHER TIER Exam: How did you find it?’. If you’re on my Facebook friends-list – or one of your friends is – click here to vote yourself.

The results from the immediate post-exam thoughts poll on Facebook.

Side Note

Today’s last lesson was Maths. It was great to unwind by watching a 1986 comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which replaced the MathsWatch DVD in my teacher’s laptop – the first disc to do so for three months. That’s not to say, aside from the inevitable retakes, that we’ll never be doing Maths again: we’ve been entered for the International GCSE (IGCSE), which we’ll take in the summer. But for now, at least, it’s lovely to be ‘free’ – however badly I’ve done.

FUNNY FILM_Our Maths class were treated to a film in today's lesson, just hours after leaving the exam room.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.

9 Responses

  1. Amal Abdalla says:

    i was really satisfied with todays maths exam, wasnt easy but definitely a fair paper. the marks on the non calc is definitley bringing my calc paper grade down 🙁 goodbye A*

  2. Andrew Ronan says:

    Great blog, thanks. I thought both papers were quite hard this year however, the calculator a bit harder than most people are saying, and the non-calculator a bit easier- but maybe that’s just me :). For the simple interest question did we have to give the interest or the whole total in the bank? Thanks for the good read.

    • Thanks for your comment! I believe the question asked for the total interest earned – not the amount in the bank. That’s what I answered, anyway! The funny thing was that we’d spent so much time preparing for compound interest, a number of my classmates didn’t know how to react to the simple interest question!

  3. Hasan says:

    Hi there andrew, just like to say what a great blog and community you have created here. i also did this paper today and i have to say it was much easier than wednesday. I have always been aiming for an A* as i am in the top set at my school. I know it is not wise to rely on the shifting of grade boundaries but how do think they will shape for these two papers. I know pretty tricky question rite :)!

    All the best whatever happens m8!

    • And the same for you too. I’m probably capable of an A*, but the first paper probably denied me that grade. That’s why, even if I do get an A – which would be brilliant – I’ve nothing to lose in re-sitting the exam in March. Good luck!

  4. Rory says:

    Hello Andrew

    Liking your blog, good job! I took both papers at Foundation level and totally agree with everything your saying. I’m glad someone is in the exact same boat as me. I really hope I did amazingly good on the calculator to bring the marks up after the sheer shock of last Wednesday.

    On a different note, I visited the Jamboree this year and I thought it looked really good! Apart from the “difficult” climate conditions, all looked good. I was visiting as a Young Leader at my local Scout group and we visited the Greater London South Greenwich contingent. Maybe you spoke to a few of them during your time there.

    Continue writing brillant posts, I’ll continue to read them. 🙂


    • Ah, what a lovely comment! Thanks hugely for taking the time to craft your kind words. I saw you’d started following my blog via email – it’s people like you who do get satisfaction from reading my various ramblings that makes the whole thing worthwhile.

      I’m worried that, due to today’s ‘easier’ paper, the grade boundaries won’t lower as much as I’d first hoped. That said, I’m a great one for not predicting my grades – I just drink the juice, rather than worrying whether the glass is half-empty of half-full. In terms of the exam, I’ll wait until January before I worry too much on how I did. But, whatever, as I say, they’re done now!

      All the best for your results, and thanks for your email following!


      • Rory says:

        It’s my pleasure – I’ll take time out of my revision to read about someone. It is a worthwhile experience writing a blog I think. I’d like to write one professionally but I just don’t know what to say and I probably would only do a post a week with the busy life I lead!

        Yeah, I agree. I’ll worry about it in January. I’ll probably have to resit as the non-calculator I probably only got 50 marks or something like that! Yay! Indeed, they are done for the moment.

        You too – I hope you do really well. Maths is crucial. My pleasure