H2 Math Exams: Critical Time Management

This week, let’s revisit one of the H2 Math tips I touched on in my last post. Let me share an analogy that I find really useful in explaining my approach to time management during an H2 Math exam.

Doing an A Level H2 Math exam paper is more like competing in a Formula 1 race than a 100-metre dash. How so? Well, it is no longer going to be as straightforward as running at top speed in a straight line. Rather, we should expect to be met with sudden twists and sharp turns along the way. 

It goes without saying then, that maintaining the exact same pace will not be the best for us, strategy-wise. After all, no race car driver would drive at the same speed along the straight portion of the circuit and the hairpin turns, unless they want to crash! Similarly, what we need to do is to adjust our pace as needed, speeding up along the straight parts, and slowing down to navigate the sharp turns. It is therefore critical that we learn how to identify when to accelerate, and when to downshift. 

Before we jump in: there are a couple of pre-requisites. Firstly, we need to be very well-acquainted with the H2 Math syllabus. Secondly, we must have been practising questions diligently. So if you are ready, then let’s start! “Straight parts” are generally what students know as “direct questions” and “sharp turns” are the more indirect questions.

Direct H2 Math Questions vs Indirect H2 Math Questions

As a rule of thumb, direct H2 Math questions have more instructional components built into the question itself. On the other hand, indirect H2 Math questions will have fewer instructions. Instead, we must extract the information ourselves and utilise it to make logical deductions. When facing questions like these, slow down in the exam and give yourself time to think. Now, this takes a certain level of confidence in order to do so, something which only familiarity and experience can give us.

Slowing Down vs Going Slowly

I want to make it clear that slowing down is not the same thing as going slowly. Take the time to parse through the question analytically. Think about all its aspects critically. By doing so, you will increase your chances of getting the right answer. On the other hand, if you speed through it, you are likely to miss important clues. Going fast may even prove counterproductive if you lose precious time going in the wrong direction.

That being said,  it would be impractical to perform microcalculations for each question during the exam. My recommendation would therefore be to go at a good pace for questions you find to be manageable. Conversely, slow down if you aren’t able to immediately get a clear idea of the strategy you should use. This may sound like a no-brainer, but in reality, we naturally relax and slow down when a question seems easy. To counteract this, we need to remind ourselves that if we don’t pick up the pace when we can, we won’t have the luxury of time to think when the need presents itself. 

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