English and *dramatic music* Maths Paper 1

So the exams got off to quite a pleasant start, with English Paper 1 being a wonderfully straight-forward paper. I did QA on Text 2 (the tight-rope guy) and QB on text 3 (diary entries). Both were pleasant enough I thought, and there was a range of essay titles which suited almost everyone I talked to. The magazine article on technology’s impact of young people seemed very popular and was what I opted for too! Finished paper 1 on time thankfully.

I then had a nice half-day to rest my right arm for an even longer stint of writing almost faster than I can think. English paper 2 was a bit more convoluted than paper 1 I thought. All the questions had clever (but not unfair, imo) twists in them. In Hamlet, I opted for the “Claudius is a villain with some redeeming qualities” question and then compared him to Hamlet, saying that Hamlet highlights both the good and bad in Claudius but through Hamlet’s pain Claudius is villified. From then on, it was a blend of an essay I’d already written with more emphasis on Claudius, went luurvely. The comparative is usually my least favourite, but I thought the cultural context question required some thought but ultimately was broad. I kinda ran out of synonyms for “uncomfortable” though. I recycled “unsettled,” “perturbed,” even “unnerved” got in there. I’m not sure if I focussed quite enough on the “attitudes and values” part of the question though. I did when I realised about a paragraph in, so hopefully not too much damage was done.

The poetry then – there was much cheering in my exam centre when Boland was on. But the question was awful – in my opinion, she may as well not have been on at all. I was delighted to see Frost on and his question was relatively straight-forward. It seems if you did any of the other likely poets except Boland (i.e. Frost and Dickinson) you were rewarded with a rather pleasant question. I’d seen the unseen poem before, so I was delighted to see it again! It didn’t really help that much though, since the questions were different and I hadn’t really read into the poem too much. Nonetheless, it was comforting to see it.

And finally, for the most controversial – MATHS PAPER ONE. The higher level paper was indeed challenging, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was no paper 1 that you could sit back and relax in, safe in the comfort you’d revised all this – you really needed your head screwed on. I’m not trying to sound mightier-than-thou, but I really felt the HPAT experience helped me with this paper. I just sat back, took my time (of which there was plenty more of, this time) and tried to draw-out/think-out the question. It came to me as a shock though that the paper was much more difficult than it had been in previous years – especially last year.

Of course, I started with the now-infamous integration question. I only glanced at the part C, and for some reason (probably the formula), I thought it was a rotation question to get a sphere! I got a rattle when I came to it and saw a disc. I was thinking, that’s not even a 3D shape! The pi in the area formula had me determined it was some sort of rotation question – but I knew that a disc couldn’t be 3D. So I was having this little internal conflict – not the best start. I managed to realise it was something to do with getting the area underneath a circle – however I didn’t cop that this was the seldom-asked root(a^2-x^2) formula/identity. I hope they’re lenient with the marks on this one – very few people seem to have gotten that C part right.

I didn’t do Q1 and Q4. Q4 scared me with it’s lack of a C part and a (.999) in the last B part. I regret not doing Q1 – in hindsight, it was probably easier than Q3, which had an annoying matrices C part. Q5 was the most pleasant question on the paper, in my opinion – few spanners in the works for anyone that had prepared for it. Q6 caused some uproar but I thought it was okay, really. The exponential function thing was a bit tricky for a B part alright. Q7 part C was unexpected to say the least. I couldn’t for the life of me get out the (c) (i), and I tried almost every sort of take on it. Hopefully I’ll get some of the marks in attempts/blunders. The (c) (ii) was okay, I thought, once again, it was just one where you had to have the thinking cap on. If you didn’t do much background research into what your differential tells you about a graph (like negative will be decreasing, etc) it was tough. Regardless, it was unexpected and seemed to be from the realms of Project Maths – who I heard got a pleasant paper (if Countdown to 806 is anything to go by).

All in all, now that the dust has settled, I think it was really how unexpected the paper was that caused so much trouble. I think the biggest danger would be for somebody who was borderline – who’s be hoping to scrape a pass. Given the unusually high standard of the paper (compared to last year) and the recycling of older, more seldom-asked questions, one could’ve been inclined to just give up on it. It shocked everybody – including me, but the main thing was that you kept going and battled on through it. I think the marking scheme will be very fair and lenient. For example, in the Q2 (c) part, I wouldn’t be surprised in (c) (i) got 10 marks, c (ii) got 5 marks, and (c) (iii) then got 5 marks. I think very few people who came out of that paper could say for sure they got an A1 in it – everybody seemed to be unsure.

Here’s hoping paper 2 is a bit more pleasant, and whatever you do, don’t give up! Always keep going , you’ve 25 minutes for a question, use it! But don’t dwell, when 25 minutes are up – keep going. Don’t panic, if you’ve prepared this is most likely something you know in a guise.

Best of luck with the rest of the exams, I’ll try to keep updating whenever I get time (which isn’t plentiful what with all this cramming)!

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