The little words that make all the difference

Students might get tired listening to advice to answer the question they are asked, not the one they want to be asked, or thought they were asked. Many of them might be surprised to find how often they do in fact answer the wrong question. Even students with absolutely no problems with the mathematical concepts may lose marks in exams if they do not read the paper carefully, or do not fully understand the language used. I have found that many students have problems with recognising the precise meaning of very important words on their exam papers.

For example; The word “hence” is generally used to connect two tasks which the candidate is expected to perform, one after the other, with the outcome of the first helping the second. It points candidates to the method or approach which examiners expect. It is important to note that when “hence” is used in this way, candidates may be penalised if the first result is not used in order to perform the second task.

More commonly, the phrase “hence, or otherwise” is used. This indicates that any approach of the candidate’s choosing can be taken to the second task. However, a helpful lead-in is always provided by the first part, and candidates usually fare better if they follow this rather than make a fresh start at the second part.

A Sketch is a non-accurate drawing that gives a rough idea of of a situation whereas a graph is done accurately on graph paper.

To help address this lack of understanding of the vocabulary used in the Inter cert and Leaving cert exams I have added a page called Exam Vocabulary on the “Resources” section of the site.

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