Sept 2020 Update: This exam has been updated / changed since I wrote this post. The pointers contained within however, could still be useful. Here’s why:
Due to obvious reasons, many exam boards are having to alter the way they administrate their exams. The obvious solution is to move all paper based exams online. Not ideal, by any means, but if they do – it stands to reason they will follow in the footsteps of exams that have already been proven to be a successful implementation of an official, online exam. The exam mentioned in this post/page/article/whatever, the Level 2 Functional Skill Mathematics exam from City and Guilds, is one such exam.
Regardless of the nitty gritty, at the very least, these exams will need a place to show working out, time limits, selection boxes, interfaces to draw charts, graphs and diagrams and numerous other features. Due to which, I do consider the advice given below good advice in general, even though it does (now) have a City and Guilds spin on it. [end update 🙂 ]
As part of my online work I have had the opportunity to tutor the City and Guilds Level 2 Functional Skills Maths exam. Whilst this exam is a Level 2 exam (which means it lies on the same tier as the GCSE on the qualifications framework) it is a different beast entirely. What follows are a couple of pointers to help you get the best out of this exam.
Structure and Timing
The exam is split up into 3 distinct sections. The first is more number/proportion based, the second is more geared towards shape, space and measure, whilst the third is that all exciting data handling section that we have all been waiting for.
This exam is a long exam. It’s 2 hours, and considering some exams are a shorter than this – it is an epic slog. With this in mind it’s crucial to give yourself a target of 40 mins for each section. Obviously, if you have blitzed one section, move on to the next. On the other hand if you feel yourself dragging through one of the sections, move on to the next so you can complete as much of the paper as possible. As ever with these things, if you have some spare time at the end, go back to any answers you left blank, and try them again.
Calculators at the ready, go!
This exam is 100% calculator, so get used to using the one on the screen so you are confident in its abilities and how it works. When you are learning topics with your teacher/tutor, make a concerted effort to lock in how you can short cut the calculations by using the calculator. One quick tip is to use decimal multipliers for percentage calculations, rather than breaking it up into those famous percentage facts. Also, make sure you understand the implications of BIDMAS and the provided calculator. Another key takeaway is that money has to be always rounded to 2 decimal places (unless told otherwise – nearest pound etc).
Working Out is Queen
One of the biggest frustrations about this exam – especially if you take the online version – is that all working out has to be typed in to the text boxes on the screen. This is even more important when you consider the calculator element given above. Everything that you typed into your calculator needs to be recorded in that box – this info is the key ingredient to getting those method marks.
Remember – marks are given for correct workings, even if you can’t finish the question, so do what you can, lock in those marks, and move on.
One more thing that is often overlooked is that there is an easy way to insert divide signs and such like in your workings. All you need to do is explore the drop down menus above each text box and generally you will find what you are looking for. Don’t be lazy and skip the workings (I know it is all so easy to do) but this is really what will earn you the marks.
Practice Makes Perfect
Make sure you attempt the sample online assessments too. These are a great opportunity to actually practice the exam as you will see it. I am a firm believer that sitting any exam is akin to a performance. If you want to get it right when it matters, you need to practice the exam – timescales and all, so you are properly prepared for when you sit it in examination conditions.
Another reason to practice as much as you can is so you can get used to the controls of the exam itself. Section 3 is the data handling section, and the controls to draw bar graphs and line graphs etc are slightly, well, lets just say they are not very intuitive, so it’s best to learn how they work when time isn’t critical, rather than panicking during the real thing, because you have 5 minutes to go and you can’t work out why your bar chart is bright yellow!
Paper is so 20th Century…isn’t it?
Umm, not really. Many of the questions will require you to switch between different screens. Use your paper to jot down your answers to speed things up and prevent the frustration of having to keep going back to question 1 (or whatever) all the time.
So that’s it. A couple of tips and pointers to hopefully make the exam less stressful and a positive(?) experience for all concerned.
If you are interested in some online tution for a functional skills exam, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.