Joe's Jotter: Tackling the LC Maths papers from the chalk face (Part 1)

General Advice

· It’s on the Friday so you may have two/three papers done before it (Eng/Engin/Home Ec).. i.e. You need to have the bulk of the prep done from the week before

· Paper 2 material can come up on Paper 1 and vice versa – i.e. 2015/2017 Trig Functions appeared. Financial Maths appeared on P2 in 2018 even though it’s more of a P1 topic. A&V can appear on both

· There is no specific layout to the paper year to year – Any topic can appear anywhere.

· Topics tend to mix together into one question. So….I wouldn’t leave any topics out

Example Prob/Stats and Geom/Trig

· But I also wouldn’t do extra questions on the paper as you will run out of time

· Night before exam – Maths set, pencils, two alarms, your usual calculator set etc

· Answer the question that’s being asked by reading it carefully

· Often the answer can be on inside the question

· Do not scribble or tippex out any writing and make it unreadable. Draw an X through it and make sure it is readable – this could be worth marks and will be corrected.

· Always give your answer in the form requested in the question e.g. surd form

· Always use units.. e.g. m2 for the area of a rectangular field

· Only round off your answer at the very end of the sum. Retain as much of the decimal as you can through the question.

· If you don’t give your answer in the correct form, round off decimal places or leave out the units, you will more than likely lose one marks

· Exams are scanned in but are not corrected by a person (examiner)

· When revising, break the course into sections and break each section into sub-topics in order to make it more manageable to tackle

· Practice as many past exam questions as far back as the 2012 papers.

Exam Paper Layout [Italic Text Applies to 2021 only] – Paper 1 and 2

The layout is normally 6 short questions (150 marks) and 3 or 4 long questions (150 marks). This is not the layout in 2021.

· In 2021, we have Section A: 6 short questions of thirty marks (Do 4 of these).

· Section B: These are the more practical real life scenario Questions..4 long questions on the paper (Do 2 of these) (fifty marks each). [Both Higher and Ordinary level]

· Even though there is a choice on both papers, I would NOT attempt an extra question in either Section A or Section B

My proposed Timing for 2021: (Apply the 20:30 rule for Exams 2021)

- Short Question (4) (30 marks) – Max of 20 minutes

- Long Questions (2) (50 marks) – Max of 30 minutes

- 5 minutes max to read and decide

- 5 minutes floating

· Time is crucial in a Maths exam. You must stick to it.

What is the best Strategy for tackling both Papers?

Just for 2021 only, I would spend 5 minutes reading the paper and tick off the parts of the questions that look familiar making a few notes at the side.

At this point, you should know by your ticks and notes which questions that you fancy taking on. Take on the questions you like first to settle the nerves

For each paper, I would attempt two of my favourite short questions first (20 mins each), then complete two long questions (30 mins each). I would then come back and finish my final two short questions ( 20 mins each). My reasoning for this is that students tend not to get the long questions done if they are left until the end of the exam. This brings you to 145 minutes. You have 5 mins left over then for checking etc. Here is a summary of the strategy:

1. Read and select questions - 5 mins

2. Do your favourite two short questions – 40 minutes

3. Do you favourite two long questions - 1 hour

4. Return and complete the final two short questions – 40 minutes

5. Check, recalculate and tidy - 5 mins

Total Time 2021 = 150 mins (2.5 hours)

Read each question twice highlighting and underline the key words and numbers with your red or green pen. Think what a word might trigger from a Maths point of view. e.g. The word indefinitely in a pattern indicates to use the sum to infinity formula. Identify clearly what you are being asked to find or do…

Marking and Timing on the Exam Papers

50 markers [LONG Qs] - spend at most 30 minutes on these [2021]

30 markers [SHORT Qs] - spend at most 20 minutes on these. Stick rigidly to time [2021]

I have noticed that the first parts of most questions are carrying 10 marks, so it is really Important to make a big effort on them.

I was giving an exam recently and a student submitted by email. She explained in her email how she ran out of time on Q1. I was delighted. She had stuck to the time and moved on.

Often you need the first part of each question for further parts, so this is even more of a reason.. You will only know how much marks each question is worth – you will not know how many marks.

I would say it is easy get the first 60% of any question part but more difficult to get the last few percent. Trying to get that last few percent can cost up to 5/7 minutes and may not be worth it. This could mean that you don’t get the last question on the paper – that there is a knock on effect. Stick to the time at all levels especially for the longer Paper 2.

It is better to know a little about loads of topics than an in-depth knowledge of one topic. Algebra is the exception to this and really worth learning in-depth for all levels. Algebra is the language of Maths and effectively appears inside every question.

The moral of the story is that if you have made a reasonable attempt – move on

Incorrect answer and no workings out = No Marks

Incorrect answer with a step in the right direction = Some Marks


Show what you are thinking on the page.. If you think you should multiply/divide/subtract/add and aren’t sure, show it on the page anyway

How does attempt marks (Low Partial Credit) work in Maths?

You can pick up 2/5 and 4 or 5 out of 10 for just getting one step in the right direction. This is called Low Partial Credit

- This could just be writing down line one


Writing down the correct formula and subbing a relevant value into it [‘Relevant substitution’]


Bringing down the last answer and doing something sensible with it

- Write down everything – a formula from your Log tables, a step, a piece of English, a diagram, a table anything at all.. If you type something into your Calculator, write it down. The examiner will be desperate to give you 2/5 or 3/10 or 6/20 or whatever Low partial credit is. They will take no pleasure at all in giving you zero.

- You may use a different way to solve a question (with success) that’s not written on the examiners marking scheme - this is full marks.

- If you make more than one attempt on a question, make sure to leave both visible on the paper.. Never scribble out anything. Never write a ? on your paper.

- Draw a single line through a method you feel is incorrect, it will be checked and may be allocated marks

What if I need an answer from the previous part of a question and didn’t get one?

There are two possible scenarios’ here. If you got an answer you think may be wrong and need to use it further down the question, carry it down anyway

If you didn’t get an answer at all and need one further down. Tell the examiner you are going to guess the answer needed and use it. You might word it something like:

“I didn’t get a value for x in part a so I’m going to assume that x=10 here.”

Do this and continue on…You can still get 8/10 for this question…

What do you do if you mind goes blank?

1. Try and fill in some Information on the question

2. Use the Information in the question in some way

3. Use a formula you think that may be relevant to the question

4. Any correct element to a question will give you low partial credit

What are the core skills I cannot live without for LC Higher Maths?

· Solving a linear and quadratic equation

· Solve a simultaneous equation

· Subbing into a formula

Why are Log Tables so important..?

Each student will have a set of log tables on their desk when they go in. You will not be allowed to bring in your own set of log tables. Know whats in your log tables but more importantly whats not in your log tables. Be familiar with roughly where each formula is in the tables, so you are not in a mild tizzy trying to find one. Learn off the formula’s not in your hardback – Enter them into a hardback notebook and start learning them


More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Students (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

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