New AS level maths SAMs

Having spent most of my Saturday this weekend working through the new AS level sample assessment materials for each exam board I thought I would briefly summarise my thoughts so far. Being a little rusty on statistics and mechanics I have brushed up mostly on M1 and S1, so all the binomial distribution and hypothesis testing questions I haven’t touched for now.

As I am currently teaching the Edexcel specification and so decided to attempt their materials first. They are the only exam board who have proposed a 2 hour core pure paper and a 1 hour applied (statistics and mechanics) paper. The material in both papers seemed reasonable and at similar level to the current qualification.

I then looked at the AQA material which seems to be ever so slightly ‘easier’ than the Edexcel papers. AQA, like OCR A and OCR MEI, have gone with two 1 hour 30 minute papers split into pure and applied. For some of the new material, particularly applicable to differentiation from first principles, AQA have designed a ‘guided’ question (see question 8 in paper 1). In contrast, a question on this topic when assessed in all other boards is just asked up front, e.g. Differentiate f(x)=3x^2 from first principles (Edexcel paper 1 question 9). There are also some multiple choice questions which, following a brief conversation on Twitter with Tom Bennison, I am informed is similar to their GCSE papers. This, I think, could be seen in both positive and negative views. It’s quite nice to be able to get students thinking about some of the misconceptions and really thinking about their answers in the exam, however some students could get frustrated over the quantity of work they might need to do for a single mark (I make this statement with respect to my year 12 class who showed me their AS physics sample paper in which they sometimes needed to do large amounts of work to find the correct choice).

OCR A were the next papers I looked at and I very much enjoyed these ones. Some more interesting and different questions cropping up and the statistics element taking up what felt like half the first paper. I particularly liked the trigonometry and vectors questions in paper 1 (question 5 & 6) and the proof question in paper 2 (question 6). The papers were slightly more difficult that the Edexcel papers in my opinion, though with some similarities.

Finally, I looked at the MEI materials. The first paper opened up with a nasty looking question in comparison to other papers, but most of the content again seems to be on par with the OCR A sample materials. Interestingly, MEI are also the only exam board to mix the pure and applied questions together, rather than separate the sections.

I still need to look over the physical specifications for each board, but at this stage I think my preferred set of sample materials for the AS in mathematics are those provided for the OCR A.

Next, I think I will look over the A level mathematics materials before I look at some of the further maths. But before that I need to revise some mechanics and statistics!

Edit (12/06/16): Note also that OCR A has included binomial expansions as part of their statistics section, whilst Edexcel and AQA included this within pure.


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