Phew! All this maths is exhausting. Last on my list (for round 1) is AQA Paper 3 (calculator). I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a difference between each of the two calculator papers per exam board, but I suppose I’ll find out in due course. I needed the calculator more obviously for some questions here (trig) but most of it could be solved without.

Time Allowed: 1 hour 30 minutes

Time Taken: About an hour, with no distractions for once!

As before, the paper is hosted on AQA’s site here. I recommend opening it in a new tab or printing it off, otherwise the comments etc below will seem odd.

The first thing I noticed about this paper is that it’s rather a weighty tome. It has a whopping 26 questions in it compared to a mere 15 in the Edexcel paper. It turned out that the reason was that most questions are only a few marks each, rather than the 6 and 8 mark questions that litter the edexcel paper. So I guess there may be issues with finishing this paper on time. It’s very long.

Now there has been some controversy with the AQA papers recently. In a strange kind of school playground bullying fiasco, OCR and Edexcel both ganged up on AQA claiming their papers were far too easy in comparison to their own, and accused AQA of tactically attempting to gain market share through easier papers. Interesting. Well, let’s see…

Q1 -3 were indeed very straight forward. No real thinking required, and quite far removed from the first few questions on the other two papers I’ve tried. Particularly the Edexcel one. They’re all worth very few marks though, so I kind of took the opinion that the first few questions are equivalent to the first question of the other papers in terms of difficulty. So far OK. Q4 got me second guessing myself but it wasn’t hard.

Note that there are multiple choice questions in this paper. I don’t recall any multiple choice AT ALL in the other papers.

Q5-7 were also very, very straight forward. Considering how stunned I was at how quickly the other two papers became difficult, this was a bit of a shocker. These questions really are simple! Question 6 didn’t even bother to ask me what the nth term of a quadratic sequence was!

At first glance I thought Q8 would be difficult. It has a DIAGRAM for goodness sake. However, it was painfully simple. And seemed pointless. Students will know the formula (n-2)180, so why do this? Is this a ‘proof’ question in disguise?? I would expect this question to say ‘prove (n-2)180 is a valid formula to find the sum of internal angles of any shape where n is the number of sides. Instead it kindly draws out the triangles, tells you to use the triangles, and only gives a 5 sided shape! Very easy.

Q9 is a simple percentage of a percentage question. I don’t think it would trip many up.

Q10 has a quadratic graph in it. I fooled myself into thinking this would finally be a challenging question. How wrong I was. Multiple choice, with the alternative choices all being a bit “stupid”. All you need to do is read a few values. I seriously think my Year 8’s could ace this question. Considering the huge increase in difficulty I observed in the Edexcel paper, I began to wonder if the AQA paper might in fact be easier than the Edexcel Foundation paper!

Question 11 was a nice question. Not overly difficult, but I liked it anyway. Find the missing value using mean and other values. Again, I’m teaching averages to my Y9 at the moment and I doubt (middle set) they would struggle with this much. The only slipping point is that they’re using times of races, which is often an exam ploy to get students to get it wrong (in my opinion) because they assume highest number = 1st place, but as they’re times it’s reversed in effect.

Q12 is standard fare on the current GCSE, but surely too easy for new one? I actually laughed when I read Q13.

Q14 was quite nice, but I ended up throwing numbers into a calculator until I got the desired outcomes. Is there a simpler way that I’ve missed?

Q15 my Y8s could do. Q16 just requires a basic understanding of pythag (less sneaky this time), although I made a mistake by writing 180+60 = 140. Duh. Checked it when I found that you only buy 2 cans of weedkiller, which seemed low considering the effort required to find out! Turns out it was only one more than that anyway. Some students will no doubt put a decimal for the amount of cans required. Silly students.

Jeez this paper is long. Q17 double brackets Meh. Q18 reasonably difficult ratio question, but I don’t think it has that ‘how do I approach this?! factor of the other papers

Then a simple box plot with all the key values provided for you…

Compound interest for Q20. Again these feel no different at all to the current GCSE.

Q21 again had me trial and error’ing on the calculator. “what are the factors of 551?!” although if I had a proper calculator rather than the shitty one I had to hand, I could just press the factors button.

oh my God when will this paper END?!

Q22 Nice bit of trig but really this isn’t a tough trig question by any means. It’s probably the first question on the text book page titled “Sine Rule”. Q23 almost tells you to complete the square. Why not just ask it in a more challenging way? There seems to be an awful lot of ‘leading’ in this paper, whereas the others have almost no guidance quite often (which is better in my opinion moving forward, although it makes me nervous for the first ones through)

Q24 is the circle theorem question I’ve been alluding to recently. This really is an excellent question. I’m very impressed. Far better than most attempts at testing knowledge of circle theorems.

Somebody go make me a cup of tea, there’s another 3 bloody questions yet!! Q25 straight forward bounds question.

Q26 is new material, compound functions, but really it’s quite easy especially with the functions they provide you with.

Finally! The last question. Very much inline with current GCSE in that it is definitely the hardest question. Formulae are provided *within* the question rather than as a booklet at the front of the paper., That’s intentional. This question is hard, and requires good knowledge of trig and shape in general. I realised I was making it too hard for myself towards the end and had successfully ignored SOHCAHTOA up to then. Students will find it hard, but I’d expect a lot to get through most if not all of it.

Phew! Final note: this paper is so far behind the other two (particularly Edexcel) in terms of difficulty in my opinion. You could argue it’s harder in that it will be a challenge to get through it all, but it feels like they missed the memo. Questions are often guided, there are no ‘trip ups’ or at least far fewer (think conversion of units, weird anomalies, misinterpretations, random nasties etc. There are far fewer words, which makes it more accessible too. If a student can’t do a question, they only lose one or two marks rather than 8 in Edexcel! Is it a ploy to gain market share? Well, if I were still a HoD, I’d probably switch to the safest bet for highest A-C which is…?

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