With their study interrupted by almost two years of a global pandemic, those facing the NSW HSC maths exam on Monday could have been forgiven for hoping for something a bit more straightforward.
At the very least, they did not expect a question about emu and goanna legs – but that is what they got.
The question involved simultaneous equations and required students to calculate a total number of goanna and emu legs.
The emu (pictured) may be a beloved Australian symbol, but few were expecting it to feature in a HSC maths exam
Given the world is still in the midst of Covid-19 it would have been more topical to make the creatures bats and pangolins, each of whom has been blamed for the coronavirus outbreak, but they kept it local with emus and goannas.
A commenter on a Facebook HSC page said they were confident because of last year’s paper that this one would be less difficult, ‘but that was destroyed quickly’.
They were referring to what happened in 2020 when pupils got questions they had not been taught.
One commenter may have been exaggerating slightly, though, when he posted ‘Don’t you love it when 2021 4u is 10x harder than 2020.’
Last year’s exam required students to use concepts which had been taught to advanced mathematics classes but not to those in the standard course.
Karen McDaid, the vice president of the Mathematical Association of NSW said last year’s exam had left many upset.
She said the association told the New South Wales Education Standards Authority not to let that happen again.
‘They have promised they will go through a more rigorous process but we won’t know until after [the exam happens],’ Ms McDaid said.
Maths classes featuring one of Australia’s national symbols and a lizard may or may not have been taught as part of the school curriculum throughout NSW in 2021.
Not many people remember what was on their final maths exam once they leave school, but the HSC class of 2021 may just remember it forever.
So would YOU pass high school today? As Year 12 students start their final exams, a look at modern-day questions proves how tough they’ve REALLY got it
By Brittany Chain
Almost 70,000 students in NSW began their Higher School certificate exams this week, the culmination of 13 years of education.
The exams were postponed for four weeks due to Covid lockdown, but began on Monday when 62,000 sat their English exam.
Adults may scoff at the intensity of the three-week exam period, but the tests are designed to be tough.
So, how would you go with answering last year’s HSC questions for these key subjects?
For almost 70,000 17 and 18-year-old kids from New South Wales, sitting their HSC marks the most stressful time of their lives to date. Pictured: A student at Sydney Secondary College completing her English exam
STANDARD MATHEMATICS, 2020
There are four levels of mathematics subjects students can choose to take, the easiest of which is Mathematics Standard 1.
Students are given two hours to answer 30 questions for a potential total of 80 marks. They’re allowed a calculator, and certain questions require them to show their reasoning and calculations.
The first 10 questions are multiple choice, beginning with identifying which shape has the most vertical edges and working up in difficulty to choosing the correct scatterplot data sets.
One of the questions worth just three marks in the 2020 standard paper is as follows:
The time in Melbourne is 11 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The time in Honolulu is 10 hours behind UTC. A plane departs from Melbourne at 7pm on Tuesday and lands in Honolulu 9 hours later. What is the time and day in Honolulu when the plane lands?
The correct way to answer the question, according to the marking criteria, is as follows
Time difference: 11 + 10 = 21 hours
Lands at Honolulu: 7pm + 9 hours = 4am, Wednesday (Melbourne time)
Time in Honolulu: 4am – 21 hours = 7am, Tuesday
One of the easier multiple choice questions worth just one mark is:
What is 0.002073 expressed in standard form with two significant figures?
A. 2.07 × 10−2
B. 2.1 × 10−2
C. 2.07 × 10−3
D. 2.1 × 10−3
Correct answer: D
To view the entire 2020 Standard Math exam, visit here
Answer: Tax = 20,797 + 0.37 (122,680 – 90,000) = $32,888.60 | PAYG tax = 3000 × 12 = $36,000 | Refund = 36,000 – 32,888.60 = $3111.40
Answer: Interest in 3rd year = 0.06 × 12 056.71 = $723.40 | Amount owing at end of 3rd year = 12 506.71 + 723.40 – 4510.53 = $8269.58
Answer: Amount owing = $253.50
STANDARD ENGLISH, 2020
There are four different variations of English classes students can choose from, and doing at least one is mandatory.
Students can choose between Standard or Advanced English, and Advanced students can add on an Extension 1 or 2 class.
The English exam for Standard and Advanced is split into two papers, the first being 90 minutes long and the second lasting two hours.
The first paper is split into two sections, worth a total of 40 marks, and consists of five questions.
After analysing a previously unseen pamphlet – usually featuring poetry, images or short stories – students must answer a series of questions with in-depth analysis of how the texts relate to their studies for the year.
George Orwell’s 1984 was one of the prescribed text options for general English students in 2020
The longer-form question, worth 20 marks (half the test) relates to prescribed texts students have studied throughout the year.
In 2020, students had to answer the following question: ‘How effectively does your prescribed text tell stories to reveal both the personal and shared nature of human experiences?’
Students had studied a variety of texts over the year, including but not limited to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See.
To receive top marks for the second section, students were required to:
Just a few words separate the top marking criteria from the second-highest marks, between a 13 and 16:
After completing this paper, which is usually held on the first day of exams, students must return the next day to complete a second two-hour exam.
This is the marking rubric used to grade students on their creative writing pieces
The second paper is broken into three questions, all worth 20 marks each, and students are required to write two essays based on texts they’ve studied in the lead-up to the exam.
The third question requires the student to craft a piece of creative writing.
Essay questions for the 2020 paper included:
Essay One: To what extent does your prescribed text disrupt assumptions about culture? In your response, make close reference to your prescribed text.
Essay Two option: In what ways does The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time invite questions about acceptance and prejudice?
Essay Two option: In what ways does A Midsummer Night’s Dream invite questions about conflict and reconciliation?
For the creative writing piece, students are encouraged to come up with an idea they’ve previously workshopped in class. The hope is that the question and the bones of the article will be malleable enough to adapt to the exam.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller was one of the prescribed text options for students in 2020
In 2020, students were given this criteria for their creative writing piece:
Compose a piece of imaginative writing that is set in a significant place. Begin with the words:
‘This is my world now, and it can be yours too, if you like. A place can soak through your skin like sweat, and ooze into your heart and soul. Breathe it in, and let me tell you a story’ – ‘Breathe Me In’ by Sophie L Macdonald Extract from Underdog by Tobias Madden with courtesy of Tobias Madden
Note: You are NOT required to write out the extract as part of your response.
To view the entire Standard English 2020 exam, visit here
Questions only get harder in the advanced and extension-class exams.