The New GCSE #4 : Calculator Papers side-by-side

I thought I’d approach my analysis of the second calculator paper for each exam board in a different way. This time I shall reserve all judgement and simply (without comment) put the questions side by side, in 10% chunks. ie: “to earn the first ten percent of marks on each paper, you must answer these” etc. I’ll let you judge difficulty etc. I shall use no words, but simply… President Barack Obama facial expressions.


Edexcel and AQA are out of 80, whereas OCR is out of 100, so there needs to be a bit of adjustment. Also there’s no guarantee each 10% will line up exactly with the end of a question, so this quasi-science is already flawed, but you knew that. Questions are also summarised and abbreviated, not exactly as written.

The First 10% ish (0%-10%)


Q1: Person A & B have £300 each to change to Euros.
“Get 1.04 euros for £1 on amounts < £500.
Get 1.12 euros for £1 when you change >= £500.”
They put their money together before changing to Euros. How much extra money do they get by putting it together before exchanging? [3 marks]

Person throws dice until she gets a six. Work out the probability they throw the dice
i) twice
ii) once
iii) > twice [4 marks] ~ 9 % of paper


Q1: Person is in a class of 28. 3 are left handed. There are 1250 in school.
i) estimate number of left handed in the school [3 marks]
ii) is this likely to be over/under estimation? EXPLAIN [1 mark]
iii) Person B is in a different school in a class of 26, 6 are left handed. Person B says “in our 2 classes there are 54 students, 9 of them are left handed. This bigger sample will improve our estimate”.
What assumption has Person B made? Explain if argument is correct. [2 marks]

Q2: 18kg of copper is mixed with 10.5 kg of zinc to make an alloy.
Density of copper = 9g/cm3, density of zinc = 7 g/cm3
i) work out the volume of copper use in the allow [2 marks]
ii) what is the density of the alloy? [4 marks] ~12% of paper.


Q1: Which of these calculates density?
mass x volume
mass^2 x volume
mass / volume
volume / mass  [1 mark]

Q2: Circle equivalent fraction to 2.375
23/75     9/4     19/8     75/23   [1 mark]

Q3: Circle the equation of the x axis
x + y = 0        x – y = 0        x = 0        y = 0  [1 mark]

Q4: Angles of a quadrilateral are 140, 80, 60 and 80
What type could it be?
kite      parallelogram      rhombus      trapezium   [1 mark]

Q5: Solid cuboid is made from cm cubes. Plan, front and side elevations are shown (diagram*)
How many cm cubes made the cuboid?   [2 marks]

Q6: Times that 80 customers waited at a supermarket checkout shown below (freq table with ranges shown*)
i) In which class interval is the median? [1 mark]
ii) “90% of our customers wait less than 6 minutes” – does the data support the statement *show your working [2 marks] ~11% of paper


The Next 10% ish (10%-20%):


Q3: Take a square and equilateral triangle. Side of square = x cm, side of triangle is 2cm more than side of square. Both have equal perimeters.
i) work out the perimeter of the square  [3 marks]
ii) the length of the diagonal of the square is y cm, and height of triangle is z cm. Which has a greater value? [4 marks] ~9% of paper


Q3 i) Solve 5x + 1 > x – 18  [3 marks]
ii) Write largest integer that satisfies 5x – 1 < 10  [1 mark]
iii) Solve 3x2 = 75   [2 marks]
iv) Solve
4x + 3y = 5
2x + y   = 3   [3 marks] ~9 % of paper


Q7: 50 people took a test. 30 predicted they’d fail. 36 actually passed. Of these 36, 3x as many predicted pass as predicted fail. Complete the frequency tree (*diagram, col 2 = ‘prediction, col 3 = actual’)   [3 marks]

Q8: Person ran Lucky Dip. Tickets 50p, Tickets ending ’00’ win £12, tickets ending ‘5’ win £1.50.
750 tickets numbered 1 – 750.
Person sold all winning tickets, and some losing tickets. Profit = £163.
How many losing tickets did he sell? [6 marks] ~ 11% of paper


The Next 10% ish (20%-30%) *To avoid “bias” I’m swapping the order this time!! :
* not a scientific way of removing bias.


Q4: Interest in Account A : 3.5% compound per year, no withdrawals until end of 3 years.
Interest in Account B: 4% for first year, 3.5% second year, 3% third year. Withdrawals at any time.
i) Which gives most money after 3 years. Give difference to nearest penny. [5 marks]
ii) Why might you not use Account A ? [1 mark]

Q5: n2 – n + 11 generates a sequence including some primes.
i) Find the 1st three terms  [2 marks]
ii) Show that the sequence does not only generate primes. [2 marks]
iii) “Odd square numbers have 3 factors” Give an example and counter example [2 marks] ~12% of paper


Q9: Write 280 as a product of prime factors [2 marks]

Q10: Expand and simplify (y + 5)(y – 4)  [2 marks]

Q11 i) Find angle of a right-angled triangle with 2 sides given (11cm hy 8cm adj) [2 marks]
ii) Find opp length of right angled triangle with angle 30 and adj 37cm [2 marks] ~10%


Q4: Person has 140 chickens. Each lays 6 eggs per week. Person gives each chicken 100g of food per day. Food costs £6.75 for 25kg. What is the cost per 12 eggs?
[5 marks]

Q5: Person invests £5000 for 2 years at 3% compound interest per annum. Pays 20% tax on interest each year. Tax taken from account at year end. How much is in the account at the end of 2 years? [4 marks] ~11%


The Next 10% ish (30%-40%)


Q5 Cont R is common factor of 288 and 360. It is a common multiple of 4 and 6. It is larger than 25. Find 2 possible values for R [4 marks]

Q6: 3 diagrams: 2 x freq density/Time (Male & Female) 1 x scatter graph (Time / Age)

i) What information from the diagrams can be used to support the following:

The older John’s colleagues are, the lower their estimate is [1 mark]

Males in the sample tend to underestimate the interval and females in the sample tend to over estimate the interval [2 marks]

Comment on whether any conclusions can be drawn for the UK population from the results of this sample.[2 marks]

Q7: Show that 64 2/3 is equal to 16.[2 marks] ~11%


Q12 Cylinder has radius 40cm and depth 150cm. It is filled at a rate of 0.2 litres per second.

1 litre = 1000cm2

Does it take longer than 1 hour to fill the tank? [4 marks]

Q13: x(x+4)  x2 + 4x
For how many values of x is x(x+4) equal to x2 + 4x? (circle your answer)

0     1     2     all

[1 mark]

Q14 Person A sells cards.
She adds 30% profit to the cost.
She sells the cards for £2.34 each.
She wants to increase her profit to 40% of the cost price.
How much should she sell each card for? [3 marks] ~10%


Q6: Use a ruler and compass to construct a right-angled triangle equal in area to the rectangle shown (*diagram) The base has been drawn for you. [3 marks]

Q7: ABCD is a rhombus. M is the midpoint of BD (diagonal). E is the point on BD such that DE = CE. Calculate angle MCE [3 marks]

Q8: In a school competition each athlete has to throw a javelin 200m.
The points scored are worked out using P1=16(D – 3.8)
where P is the number of points scored when the javelin is thrown D metres.
i) If you throw 42m, what is your score?
ii) If you score 584 points, what was your distance? [4 marks] ~12.5%


The Next 10% ish (40%-50%) *To avoid “bias” I’m swapping the order AGAIN!! :
* not a scientific way of removing bias.


Q15 (6 x 10a) + (6 x 10b) + (6 x 10c) = 6006.6
Write a possible set of values for a, b ,c [3 marks]

Q16 Find the equation of the line that is parallel to y = 5x – 3 and passes through (-2,4)

[3 marks]

Q17 Make 2 criticisms of this histogram (*diagram) [2 marks] ~10%


Q8 (cont) Points scored for running 200m are worked out using P2 = 5(42.5 – T)2g
where P is the number of points scored when time to run 200m is T.
Person A scores 1280 points in the 200m
i) Work out the time in seconds that it took Person A to run 200m.
ii) The formula for number of points scored in 200m should not be used for T > n. State the value of n and explain [4 marks]

Q9: Triangle ABC has a right angle at C. BAC = 48o, AB= 9.3cm. Calculate BC. [3 marks]


Q8: The rule of nines states that a whole number is a multiple of 9 if the sum of its digits is divisible by 9.
i) Show that 292158 is divisible by 9 [1 mark]
ii) Any 2-digit number with tens digit a and units digit b can be written as (10a + b)

By writing this as 9a + a + b show that the rule of nines works for two-digit whole numbers [2 marks]

iii) Extend your argument to show that the rule of nines works for three digit whole numbers [2 marks]

Q9: A, R and W each watch a different film. A’s is +30 minutes than W’s.
R’s is twice as long as W’s
Altogether the films last 390 minutes.
How long is each film? [4 marks] ~9%


The Next 10% ish (50%-60%)


Q18 Draw a cumulative frequency graph on the grid provided to represent this data : (*table of times as ranges, and number of films). [3 marks]

ii) Estimate the number of these films with running time < 2 1/2 hours [1 mark]

Q19 w is directly proportional to y
w is inversely proportional to x2

i) When y = 4, w = 14. Work out the value of w when y = 9  [2 marks]

ii) When x = 2, w = 5. Work out the value of w when x = 10  [3 marks]

iii) Which graph shows the relationship between y and x? (*4 graphs given) [1 mark] ~12.5%


Q10: Diagrams show a sequence made from grey and white tiles.


i) Find an expression in terms of n for the number of grey tiles [2 marks]
ii) Find an expression in therms of n for the total number of grey and white tiles in Pattern. Give your answer in its simplest form.[3 marks]iii) Is there a pattern for which the total number of grey and white tiles is 231? Give a reason [2 marks]
iv) The total number of grey tiles and white tiles is always an odd number. Why? [2 marks] ~11%


Q10 i) Work out the average speed between 2 and 8 seconds from this distance/time graph (*diagram) [ 2 marks]

ii) Estimate the speed of the animal at 6 seconds [4 marks]

iii) “I think this animal can move at over 20 m/s” Do you agree? Explain [2 marks]

Q11 i) 88% of people passed Literacy exam. 76% passed numeracy exam. Show this in a Venn diagram. [3 marks] ~11%


The next 10% ish  (60%-70%)


Q20 This iterative process can be used to find approximate solutions to x3 + 5x -8 = 0


i) Use this to find a solution of x3 +5x – 8 =0
Start with x = 1 [3 marks]

ii) By substituting answer to part a) into x3 + 5x – 8 comment on the accuracy of your solution to x3 + 5x – 8 = 0 [2 marks]

Q21 ABCD is a parallelogram. Triangle is Isosceles.
Prove y = x


[5 marks] ~12.5%


Q11 (from Venn) cont. ii) One person is picked at random. What is the probability they passed numeracy given that they passed literacy?

iii) passed literacy given they passed only one section? [4 marks]

Q12 Person A cuts the corners from square paper to create a regular octagon. A and B are vertices, O is the centre. AOB = 45o. Find the area of the octagon [3 marks]

ii) Find the area of the original square [5 marks] ~12%


Q11: Size of animal population in 2014 was 2500. Size increases exponentially. Person A assumes rate of increase is 20% per year.
i) Using this assumption, work out size of population in 2009. [3 marks]
ii) Assumption is too high. Explain how part i) is affected [1 mark]

Q12: A rectangular sheet of paper can be cut into 2 identical rectangular pieces in 2 different ways (cut across middle width, or cut across middle height)
i) When original is cut, the perimeter of each new piece is 50cm. When it is cut in the other way, perimeter of the two pieces is 64cm. What is the perimeter of the original?[5 marks] ~11%


Penultimate 10%ish (70%-80%)


Q22 P = 120 coins. T = Coins from 20th Century B = British coins


A coin is chosen at random. It is British. Work out the probability that it is from the 20th Century [5 marks]

Q23 Estimate the acceleration at 6 seconds from the graph (*speed time graph shown)

[3 marks] ~10%


Q13: i) Using the scatter graph (*diagram) comparing rainfall in 2013 and in 2012, add the boxplot of rainfall in 2013 underneath the boxplot of rainfall in 2012 (*diagram2) [3 marks]
ii) Compare the distributions [2 marks]

Q14:  The quantity of heat, H calories, delivered by a current I amps, acting for t seconds to heat an amount of water is given by the formula:

H = atl2 – b

where a and b are constants.
i) Rearrange the formula to make I the subject [2 marks]
ii) Using the graph (*diagram) work out the average rate of decrease of the temperature of the water between t = 0 and t = 800.
iii) The rate of decrease of the temperature of water at time T seconds is equal to the average rate of decrease of the temperature of the water between t = 0 and t = 800.
Find an estimate for the value of T. Show your working [4 marks] ~14%


Q12 cont iii) Person B has a square of card and makes a regular octagon. The sides of the square are half as long as Person A’s. Find the ratio of areas between their octagons. [2 marks]

Q13: Two similar pyramids have surface areas 180 and 80cm^2. The volume of pyramid A is 810cm^3. Show that the volume of pyramid B is 240cm^3 [5 marks]

Q14 Calculate x:


[5 marks] ~12%

obama sweats

FINAL 10% (90%-100% – we seem to have lost 10% somewhere. Do the maths.)


Q23 (cont) Find the average speed of the car for the journey (from speed time graph)

[4 marks]

iii) Is your answer (please circle)

underestimate     exact     overestimate [1 mark]

Q24 Show that:


[5 marks] ~12.5%


Q15 Straight line goes through (p,q) and (r,s) where

p+ 2 = r

q + 4 = s

Find the gradient. [3 marks]

Q16 A unit fraction is the reciprocal of a positive integer. Unit fractions can be written as the sum of two different unit fractions e.g. 1/2 = 1/3 + 1/6

Write the following unit fractions as the sum of two different unit fractions:

1/ 4 = 1 / ? + 1 / ?

1/5 = 1 / ? + 1 / ?

1/6 = 1 / ? + 1 / ?

[3 marks]

Q17 y = 6x^4 + 7x^2 and x = sqrt (w + 1)

Find teh value of w when y = 10. [6 marks] ~12 %]


Q15: i) Prove that the recurring decimal o.151515 has the value 5 / 33 [2 marks]
ii) x = 1 / (2 183 x 5 180)
Show that when x is written as a terminating decimal, there are 180 zeros after the decimal point. [2 marks]
iii) The reciprocal of a prime number p (where p is neither 2 nor 5) when written as a decimal is always recurring. A theorem states
“The period of a recurring decimal is the least value of n for which p is a factor of 10n – 1″
Person A uses his calculator to show that 37 is a factor of 103 – 1.
Person A states “The period of the recurring dedcimal equal to the reciprocal of 37 is 3 because 37 is a factor of 103 – 1. This shows the theorem is true in this case”

Explain why Person A’s statement is incomplete. [2 marks]



Person A spins the spinner above twice. Her score is the sum of the two spins. The probability she gets a total of 4 is 16 / 81. Find the value of x [5 marks] ~14%



The New GCSE #3: AQA Paper3

2015-01-16 15.10.26

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.

2015-01-16 14.51.46

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!

2015-01-16 14.52.30

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.

2015-01-16 14.53.34

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!

2015-01-16 14.57.54

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.

2015-01-16 15.00.47

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

2015-01-16 15.01.27

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?

2015-01-16 15.02.06

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.

2015-01-16 15.03.04

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

2015-01-16 15.04.07

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

2015-01-16 15.04.59

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

2015-01-16 15.05.41

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.

2015-01-16 15.06.25

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)

2015-01-16 15.07.15

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.

2015-01-16 15.07.44

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

2015-01-16 15.08.19

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

2015-01-16 15.08.44

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.

2015-01-16 15.09.26

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…?

The New GCSE #2 : Edexcel Paper 2


Next up is the Edexcel equivalent to the OCR paper I sat. Their calculator papers are Paper 2 and 3 (out of 3). This is Paper 2.

I needed the calculator a bit more on this paper.

Time Allowed : 1 hour 30 minutes

Time Taken: 2 hours-ish whilst watching ‘Fringe Season 4 Episode 1’, and Groundhog Day. Also ate a curry and drank some beer, which may well have affected things a little.

The paper itself is hosted on Edexcel’s website. The link below will open in a new tab directly onto Page 135, where the paper begins – assuming you’re using a decent browser (hint: not explorer). You’ll want to scroll through as we go, or print it and have it next to you. I’m not posting the pages on here as I’m a bit conscious about copyright stuff (apart from the photo above!). I’ll update the OCR one accordingly too.


Question 1 was very straight forward. There seems to be a LOT of emphasis on proofs, multiples and primes in this paper.


Q2 asks to prove that ‘x cannot be a multiple of 6’. I think students won’t like these kinds of question, as they’re not simple ‘get the answer’ questions, but more about deduction of general rules and patterns. As before, really would appreciate your thoughts too in the comments.


Question 3 and already things are getting a bit nasty. There are conversions to be made (= mistakes for students) and profit needs to be converted into a percentage (students will miss this step). There’s a lot of work to be done in this question, which again feels new. I don’t recall so much needed so early in a paper. I also have a terrible memory. My immediate thought after this question was that without the ‘easing’ into the paper that has been common up to now, is there  a risk of students being really put off before they get stuck in?


Question 4 is a nice puzzler, and it’s a shame there aren’t more questions like this rather than boring recipe questions like the one before. Two thumbs up.

Question 5 is a bearings question that is a bit tricky and I think could easily stump some students. It also has a sneaky pythag question in there which I like. There was a sneaky pythag question in OCR too. Is this a thing now?

Curiously the mark scheme makes no mention of Sin40, and instead opts for Cos50. So we’re assuming *all* markers will be fine with deducing Sin40 IS Cos50?? Seems like they should probably put a note in the marks. The same happens later on where the answer in the mark scheme is given as sqrt(20) but there’s no mention of accepting 2sqrt(5)

I like the question but already this paper seems a lot harder than the OCR one. Everything seems more ‘figure it out on your own’ than before. What do you think?


I didn’t like the next question. At this point I started to notice there seem to be lots of opportunities for students to miss a bit out on a question, or forget to convert something, or not check as to how an answer needs to be presented. As the paper progressed I even started to feel like they were writing questions with a view to tripping students up, which hopefully isn’t the case!

In part (c) I imagine a LOT of students will forget to put the value of ‘n’ back into the nth term to get the final value. If you’re lost here, did you forget to open the paper? Link  These notes won’t make much sense unless you’re looking at the exam paper questions at the same time!


Q7 is reading from charts. It was OK but the tolerance in the mark scheme seemed a little strange to me. I felt it should start and end a bit higher.


Q8 and we’re back to proofs and primes and multiples. Didn’t like this question either. Part b felt like it needed a difficult algebraic proof, but it didn’t, just a deduction using words. They feel a bit too subjective to me. So far only one question felt ‘fun’ to me. Why can’t you examiners write FUN questions?! So boring…


The next question had a real sucker punch. It’s kind of easy_easy_easy OHMYGOD WHAT DO I DO NOW?! I suspect a LOT of students will mess up the final part, and once again, it involves conversions and things “Ooh, I KNOW what will make them get this wrong… put this in Larry!” (note, I have no idea if there is a Larry working for Edexcel, or if they even thought like this!).


The next question needed circle theorems. I instinctively went for the wrong one then thought better of it. It’s harder than the OCR circle question, but I still feel like they could be more creative with these. Wait until you see the brilliant one in the AQA paper 😀


Venn Diagrams!! This is new on the curriculum, and I fell hook line and sinker for the stupid answer. I drew out a Venn that made no sense if you look at the data, but I bet a lot of students will do the same (just trying to feel better about being an idiot). I blame Bill Murray’s irresistible wit, and delicious beer. As soon as I looked at this question as a puzzle, it became fun.


Next is another sneaky pythag question (what is it with sneaky pythag?!)

I liked this one to be fair. Solve simultaneous linear / quadratic intersection thingy, turn it into right angled triangle, find missing side.


Q14. Nearly there, and what a HORRIBLE question this one is. It requires a massive reverse engineering job on a histogram, and interestingly leaves very little space to do it on the paper (maybe I missed a few tricks??) Ugly and leaves a lot of areas to make silly mistakes in. Clever question though, but I HATE IT!!!


Final question, and more than anything I was just really bored. Shame. Probably beer. This one was also fiddly and annoying. Lots of working out, but not very rewarding afterwards. I had lost the will to live at this point.


Well. Overall I thought this paper was a LOT harder than the OCR paper. Lots of places to slip up, lots of emphasis on proofs, primes, multiples, and lots of fairly dull, overly long questions.

There were a few nice ones like the circles puzzle, but they were complimented by the likes of  ‘real life’ question about cooking (sigh) which was at least less ridiculous than the tree measurer from OCR. Difficult and dull. Like looking in a mirror.

I’m glad that the papers seem to be getting more difficult, which was kind of the point, but current Year 9 will likely struggle as the first guinea pigs through the door.

The New GCSE #1 OCR Paper 4


So with the impending new GCSE, I thought it’d be a good idea to publish a few thoughts on the new specimen papers. What better way to do it than to sit each paper myself, then write down my random rambling thoughts afterwards…

I decided I’d do the OCR Higher papers first. There are three, but I just did Paper 4 (which is paper 1… very confusing). This is a calculator paper, although I didn’t really need one for 95% of the questions.

TIme Allowed: 1 hour 30 minutes

Time Taken : about an hour, during which I ate some sandwiches and listened to Radio 6 and took a phone call.

I didn’t check any of my answers once I’d moved onto another question, and I wrote comments in as thoughts jumped into my head. There are a few notes post-test when I looked over the mark scheme, which I did in red but sadly the scanner was b&w and I forgot!

You might want to open the paper in a separate tab to reference as we go along.

Finally, if the pictures below seem small, just click on them.


The first noticeable difference was that the ‘easy’ or ‘gentle’ introduction from previous years seems to have gone. Even though the first questions are only worth a couple of marks each, they’re harder than in previous papers. Of course, feel free to disagree!


Immediately I noticed that 1(b) required me to re-read 1(a), which in itself will certainly throw a few students off the case. Hopefully not many. Also I know a lot of students who will immediately start the answer to 1(a) as soon as they read the first half of the question, and will miss out the part about leaving your answer in terms of pi.

I was a little unsure what to do with my answer to Q2, so put a rounded integer and rounded 1 decimal place answer. The mark scheme preferred a decimal, although you could get the mark if you put integer with all of your working out (bit weird).

Q3 was straight forward enough.

Q4 asked me to sketch a graph where y is directly proportional to x. I know a lot of students who would not be able to access that question simply because of the mathematical language, which would be a shame as it’s a really easy question. I guess it’s testing your language rather than your mathematical skill.

4(b) was quite a nice question, but I was a little weary about whether they wanted any working out related to inverse proportion:


Turns out I didn’t need it. All marks were for the graph only. I got irritated by the whole length vs width vs height thing, but I’m just being pedantic.

Q5 straight forward.

Q6 I thought was a bit dastardly :


Firstly, the price per litre of both paints is significantly different. Fair enough, but I initially thought ‘that might be wrong’. No doubt plenty of students will think the same but be less confident of their methods. Perhaps not?

But the really tricky bit I felt was that you end up calculating the price of 5 litres (unless you use a different method to me of course), then double it to ten litres. I strongly suspect a lot of students will think they’ve worked out the price of 1 litre, then multiply it by 10, or just leave it as it is.

Q7 seemed suspiciously simple considering we’re approaching midway through the paper. No hidden agenda, just an easy question.

Q8 was the first question I really liked. It was clever and had a fun looping sequence in it. I thought part (b) was particularly tough as there’s no guidance to help you find a solution. I started thinking I’d have to find the nth term then thought better of it:


Q9 annoyed me, because exam boards still insist it seems, on writing really bad links to real life to set up a question. Anna estimates the height of a tree using a ruler. The fuck she does. Who are you kidding?! Either way, straight forward question.


Q10 straightforward.

Q11 Give one reason why 0 is a positive number. Blurgh. I was under the impression there were some sects that disagreed with zero being even. I checked with trusty Dr Math and apparently the world has accepted it’s even. Fair enough.

11(b) isn’t hard, but students hate proof questions.

Q12 was a nice question. A little bit tricky but a nice way of asking a pythagoras question in a puzzley way.


I think Q13 would leave a lot of students baffled, or they’d just skip it. I rushed it a bit with some crude rounding.


I lost a mark for Q14 because I didn’t use a ruler:


I also made a right bloody mess because I assumed they’d want Q1,2,3,4 and they didn’t, making it a kind of homage to Jackson Pollack instead of an answer. However, I think it’s a straight forward question.

I saw a great circle theorems question on one of the AQA papers (we’ll get to it in a different post) so I was disappointed at the boring one they used for Q16 which is a very, very standard circle theorems question:


Then a bizarrely simple question for Q17, which would perhaps have been more suited to page 1 or 2 ?!


A quite nice perimeter problem for Q18, but nothing a little bit of thought can’t handle:


And the back page is where I dropped another 2 marks, although probably error carried through, so 1 mark. Just a simple error I would hopefully have picked up had I checked through the paper. For final questions on a paper, these seem easier than in previous years. Has the ‘progressively difficult’ thing gone now?? Not convinced I’d get full marks for Q20 either, but piss off I’m totally right. :p


In summary: not as hard as I was expecting. One or two creative questions, but mostly same same. A few tricky questions with no real guidance that will trip up some students. I’ll draw up a comparison table as we go on!