Are you currently studying 3U Maths, otherwise known as Extension 1, and want to improve your marks? If you’re not 100% happy with your current performance, and feel like there’s no way to move from there, do not stress!
We’ve heard from Patrick, who went from 70% to 90% in HSC 3U Maths, and we’ll be sharing all his tips and tricks.
Let’s get started!
How did Patrick turn things around?
From receiving his first exam mark of 70%, Patrick was hoping to have achieved a higher score and was contemplating dropping the subject. However, for some degrees, you need to do 3U Maths as it is a prerequisite, so Patrick wanted to find out a way that he could boost his performance.
For Patrick he had support from his Sydney Maths tutor at Art of Smart and learnt not to take the marks too harshly upon himself, and instead, to keep working hard.
#1: Aim for consistency and gain perspective
“Consistency is key in every course you do in the HSC, right? As I got better and better and more consistent, I think the marks just naturally started going up and started improving,” Patrick said.
Essentially, if you receive a mark that you are unhappy with, gain some perspective and look at the bigger picture. Say the assessment is worth 20% of your final grade, know that there is still 80% to build your mark and rank up.
Also remember that this weighting is halved because you’ve got the final HSC exam to work towards. So really, for 3U Maths it’s only 10% of your grade and you’ve got 90% to improve!
#2: Face your mistakes!
Often when receiving a poor test result, all you want to do is shove it at the bottom of your bag, hope your water bottle leaks and just forget about it. However, it’s crucial that you look at a bad test paper, more than looking at a good test paper!
Patrick said, “Instead of just feeling bad about it, you should face it and find the problems, and try to solve them, get your tutor to help you, get all the help that you can get for the paper and if you find the mistakes and face it, you’ll improve a lot faster than if you just leave it.”
From here, it’s a good idea to look at a handful of similar styled questions and attempt them as well. It’ll allow you to solidify your understanding for that particular equation or style of question so that you can consistently get it correct and feel a lot more confident if it pops up in an exam! This will also help minimise the chances of you making the same mistake again.
“The only way to build your confidence in a certain style of question is by doing a similar type of question to the ones you get initially,” Patrick said. Know where you went wrong, give it a second shot, and learn from it. So rip the bandaid off, and face those mistakes!
Looking for some help in writing effective study notes for Maths? Check out our how to guide here!
What did the week-to-week progress look like?
Patrick went through the topics systematically with his tutor at Art of Smart, James, to look at different questions and approaches to answering questions. Patrick also learnt some important tips and tricks that would help him have a strategy when taking exams and specific techniques to use under the clock.
“Say I get a question on projectile motion, he [James] would always take me step by step, and as well as that, he would give me an extension as well. So like, if there are any curveball questions, he would take me through them and leave me to solve them,” Patrick said.
Holistically, it’s a matter of knowing where to break the question down and also being exposed to numerous question types of all difficulty levels. Once you’re confident with different question types you’ll be able to answer these questions confidently under exam conditions and time pressure.
What sort of studying did Patrick complete at home?
Patrick said, “It was around an hour a night of homework… 3 Unit was like 40 minutes and 2 unit 20 minutes.”
An hour a night isn’t a huge amount of work if you think about it, especially as it’s dispersed throughout the week, rather than cramming in 4 hours a night twice a week. What you’re doing by dedicating an hour a day is slowly building up your skill set and ability level, however it is important that you can maintain this consistency!
Depending on whether or not there is an exam coming up, you can be flexible with yourself and perhaps spend an extra hour or two on the weekends to focus on areas of weakness.
This consistent study approach works out really well in the sense that you don’t feel like you’re forcing yourself to spend hours and hours of study. In Patrick’s case, he scored a 96 for Advanced (or 2 unit) maths on essentially 20 minutes of study each day.
Building a Strong Foundation for Yourself
With a weak foundation a house won’t stand — so even if you focus on the hard sections because that’s where you feel the weakness lies, you may not necessarily improve in 3U Maths. If you’re realising that you aren’t confidently understanding the basics, it’s more effective to go back to step one and work yourself up!
Patrick said, “I think personally for me, Year 11 was a year where I went through a lot of trial and error… and I think I started building my foundation during term one of Year 12, where I started to realise my mistakes.”
How should you prepare for exams?
Firstly, expose yourself to different question types, especially the ones that are out to trick you, so you are aware of them in the exam. Of course, keep up to date with homework, and if you’re falling behind, a couple of weeks before the exam is your calling to catch up before those exercises snowball!
Past papers are a central aspect of any sort of exam preparation. However, as the syllabus is still somewhat new, you don’t have years and years of past papers at your disposal. So it’s a matter of gathering different resources, practice exams and maths papers from different schools, perhaps searching up trial papers, which you can use to complete more exam style questions.
It’s also good to know that the new syllabus has some topic areas and question styles common from first year university, so you can use university questions and also papers from other states.
“I think the first time you do a past paper for an exam, it’s more like you should try to focus on getting those questions right, getting your working out on the dot, instead of trying to do it timed. And then as you get towards the exam, it’s better to do it timed, maybe like 10% less time than you would usually get, just to put the pressure on yourself,” Patrick said.
This is a great way to get you to work faster, so that you become used to a time crunch and also leave time for checking answers or going back to questions you’re unsure of.
“Every time your teacher hands you homework, every time your tutor hands you homework, don’t just leave it for like a day every week — try and split it, so you gradually build, instead of just getting a spike and you know. And I think, when you gradually build, it leads to a more stable performance in the whole HSC.”
“So, just don’t give up, keep consistently doing those past papers, doing your homework, building, and I think the marks should end you somewhere pretty good!” Patrick concluded.
There you have it — insights into how Patrick managed to improve his 3U Maths mark from 70% to 90%! You can do it too, it’s just a matter of working consistently and building your knowledge gradually so you don’t feel pressured to do so much in so little time.
Looking for some extra help with Extension 1 Maths?
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Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.