When I have been involved with running exams (I wasn’t, really, this year), special care seems to be made to spread these out so that where possible students don’t get exams bunched together. Still, I’ve heard students complain “we only have one day off between the Monday and Wednesday exams, that isn’t enough time to revise for the second topic”. I have a lot of sympathy for this; assessing a module (or proportion thereof) by how you perform in a one-, two- or three-hour window is quite a problematic arrangement, and if you haven’t had sufficient time to get up to speed on the topic, even more so. But I have had in mind that, essentially, “when I were a lad, we had it much worse”. Clearing out some boxes to move house, I found exam timetables from five of the six semesters I spent as an undergraduate, so now I can confirm or refute my feeling on this, in the latest of my series of posts that are surely only of interest to me.
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This morning, Twitter was doing its Twitter thing about a maths problem again. Most people were linking to this BBC story, “Crocodile maths question ‘was challenging'”.
Apparently this year’s Scottish New Higher maths exam contained a question which a lot of people found hard. You could remove the word “crocodile” from that headline and obtain a perfectly acceptable statement about a maths exam, but that’s not what people are complaining about.
This Friday, close to 13,000 students in the Republic of Ireland are set to take higher level maths in the Leaving Certificate, the state exams for 17-18 year old school leavers. That’s the highest number for two decades, and a 25% increase on last year’s all-time low of 10,400 who registered to sit the higher level exams. Typically, only about 80% of those show up for the higher level paper on the day–last year just 8,200 did–the rest playing safe and switching at the last minute to the ordinary level exams.
In 2011, a little over 55,000 Irish students overall, in a country with a population of 4.6 million, sat the Leaving Certificate in their final days of secondary education. This year, just under 54,000 school leavers are taking the Leaving, as it’s known. I hope they’ve studied hard, and wish them every success!
Dublin native Colm Mulcahy has been in the Department of Mathematics at Spelman College since 1988. His interests include algebra, number theory, geometry and mathematical card principles and effects. Follow him on Twitter at @CardColm and also check out @WWMGT.
The last question, under the heading “Two-Part Analysis”, at the end of this NYT article (from July 2011) on the new GMAT seems to be deliberately worded in a way that forces one to read and think very carefully.
It takes a while to even process the question as it’s asked! I’m assuming that was intentional.
I’m curious how “they” intended people to solve this. Exclude impossible answers until only one is still Included? I guess so.