This blog is based on a recent Pearson training event which discussed performance on the summer 2022 A-level maths papers. The feedback gives valuable insight into topics students struggle with, topics students feel confident on, which questions are particularly challenging and where students are losing easy marks. Most comparisons on performance were made with the 2019 papers as they were the last live exams before COVID.

The **key points** were that:

· Timing did not seem to be an issue on the papers for most candidates. This is a marked improvement since 2019.

· Proof and modelling questions are being handled much better.

· Students are becoming adept at using calculators to find probabilities and standard statistics.

· Familiarity with the large data set is improving allowing students to attain some easy marks on the LDS question.

A **comparison of the grade boundaries** between 2019 and 2022 showed that higher-attaining students (grades A*-C) benefitted from the advanced information. However, for lower-attaining students (grades D/E) the advanced information was not enough to compensate for lost learning during COVID. This led to lower-attaining students preforming poorly compared to their counterparts in 2019.

**Positive news** for current A-level maths students is that the exam board received a lot of feedback in 2018 (the first year of assessment for the new A-level) regarding the papers being too difficult and inaccessible. The examiners made significant but subtle changes in response to this. The changes are:

· Questions 1-5 on papers 1 & 2 were more accessible allowing students to get off to a good start. The questions where short, sharp, and familiar.

· More restart opportunities were given. Essentially this means that if a student was unsuccessful in part (a) of a question, part (b) was set up to allow for a fresh start.

· Trapped marks are unlocked. This means that in longer, more difficult questions, students may choose to not start the question if it looks too difficult. By breaking down the question into sub-parts the exam board is making it possible for students to access marks even if they don’t attempt the entire question.

· Language was made more accessible. This is most notable on the mechanics paper where information was presented in bullet points rather than as a large paragraph. This allows students to get on with the maths rather than trying to make sense of chunky paragraphs.

The good news is that the exam board intends to continue with these modifications, and indeed build on them further.

Where are students **losing easy marks**? Many examples of losing easy marks were given. These are generally marks being lost which were not related to maths ability. There are a variety of reasons for losing easy marks. Failing to use correct notation; for example using recognise set notation, for example understanding the meaning of n Z. Mis-quoting formula form the formula book; this is a very basic mistake. Students should have a good familiarity with the formula book. Not using the formula book enough; a selection of standard derivatives and integrals are given in the formula book, but the exam board noted those derivatives and integrals were often solved incorrectly showing that the students were not accustomed to working with the formula book as a reference tool. Lack of knowledge of pre-learned proofs, such as sum to infinity of a series. There are standard proofs which can simply be memorised and reproduced in the exam. Failing to give a conclusion where a conclusion is required or in a “show-that” question. The conclusion only ever needs to be a simple statement, and it gets a mark, every mark is priceless.

What are the **hardest questions**? In many ways there are no surprises here. An analysis of the 2022 performance shows that the hardest questions tend to be, parametric integration, modelling with trig functions, vectors (on pure papers), proof and parametric differentiation. On the hardest questions, it is common for the questions to be left without any attempt. This suggests a lack of confidence and certainly a lack of practice. The harder questions are often not attempted by students who ultimately achieve below a B. This shows that to access the higher grades, confidence and skill in the harder topics is essential.

Students perform well on many of the topics covered in year 12 such as factor theorem, dealing with logs and exponentials, sketching functions and transformations. As expected, this suggests that it is the year 13 topics which are presenting the most difficulty for students.

Overall, it is positive news for A-level maths students. Of course, there is no advanced information this year. However, the exam board intends to continue to make the papers more accessible, allowing more students to have a positive experience of their A-level maths papers. The main issues to note are to watch out for the loss of easy marks, be 100% familiar with the formulas in the formula book and get plenty of practice of the more challenging topics. There are still 16 weeks left to fine tune skills and gain that valuable practice of exam questions.There is still plenty of time to make a difference to that final grade. Good luck.

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