How to get an ‘A’ in SQA Higher Maths

This advice is for those who are intent on obtaining an ‘A’ pass at SQA Higher maths. Please read and implement today. So many students will hear this advice but leave doing anything about it until only a few weeks before the exam when it will likely be too late to change the course of things.

Achievement in mathematics is much more easily realised than people would imagine, but it has to be earned through a steady effort.

  • get a coach — due to class size numbers it is unfortunately the case that individuals do not receive the 1-1 help that they sometimes need, this is where a tutor comes in!
  • become diligent
  • work steadily
  • develop grit
  • develop top notch ‘C’ grade skills — basically things that can be improved by practice eg completing the square
  • maths cannot be learned passively you have to actively engage with it by doing problems
  • put your effort into understanding rather than merely memorising maths facts
  • review your work at regular intervals
  • practise past paper questions regularly — this should help you to feel more confident in identifying topics in questions (which is a problem that many students have)
  • become someone who takes pride in being able to give a full and clear explanation for the solution to any given problem
  • invest in and read Leckie’s Grade C Booster which will reinforce many of the points made in tutorials
  • invest in and read a maths dictionary such as Oxford Student’s Mathematics Dictionary which will help you to review earlier maths studies — NB this is important!
  • consider using an app(s) that will help you improve your basic maths — this would make a big difference in helping you learn the new things in Higher
  • consider the use of flashcards and spaced repetition techniques for helping you learn and remember vocabulary and maths facts — my brainscape flashcards on SQA Higher Maths which help aid understanding
  • invest in and read Leckie’s study skills guide for National 5 and Higher
  • consider to yourself: how can I ask better questions? Please  note that I do not mean that you should self censor your questions — ask away! But do consider, in a cool hour, what questions you want to ask and how you want to ask them. Pointing to a problem in a past paper and asking “How do you do this?”, is not a good question, in my opinion.
  • as the exam approaches work through exam papers in a methodical manner — structure your revision in order to aid retention of material, approaches and methods
  • as the exam approaches keep your focus on getting an ‘A’
  • maths cannot be learned passively you need to actively engage with it by doing problems — yeah I know I’m repeating myself but this is important!
  • work on a gradient — that is try easier problems first and work up to harder problems
  • use the Heinemann School Network unit summary notes — these were produced for the pre CfE Higher Maths exam but the content remains virtually unchanged — whilst working on problems and past paper questions. The idea is to transfer the information on the sheets to your brain — eventually your need to refer to the notes reduces because you know the formula or result ie it is in your brain!
  • use your textbook as a source of notes and worked examples — use the method in the book to solve a problem you are stuck with
  • remember nothing is being hidden from you, everything is in front of you in black and white — but if you cannot see it, ask!
  • read your your notes with attention
  • do problems with attention — switch off social media
  • when revising, and a question or problem gives rise to a feeling of aversion or revulsion, this is a sign that this is a topic you need to revise! Find out how to answer it so that the negative emotion is dissipated! Doing this will boost your confidence.
  • remember you are learning maths so it is okay not to know how to do something but you must find out — the onus is on you!

Please see my other writing on how to study to do well in Higher maths: my scheme