Universally recognised as the hardest subject in Queensland’s High School curriculum, succeeding in Maths C is no easy feat. Forget about succeeding, even surviving at the start might seem impossible. I still remember the start of Year 11 Maths C. A few lessons in and I (and the whole class) already felt like we were drowning. It just moves so fast, and it felt so easy to get left behind.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel! By following the 7 steps to happiness outlined below, succeeding in Maths C just became much easier. Following these strict principles myself landed me a VHA by the end of Year 12, and there’s no reason you can’t achieve the same too.

Step 1: Master the Basics

If you were fortunate enough to have taken Maths C as an elective in Year 11, you will have gained a solid understanding of vectors, matrices and all those other fascinating concepts. Yet even if you didn’t get that opportunity, there’s no reason to feel left out! Everything you need to succeed in your exams will be taught in your classes, and it is merely a question of how well you learn the content. But where do you start? Master the basics. This may seem like such a generic, recycled piece of advice. Yet unfortunately, it is the springboard to success in Maths C.

A lot of the topics you will encounter in Maths C are incredibly complex. Most flow on from topics learnt previously in the term and culminate in the exam where you will undoubtedly face a seemingly impossible mash of concepts in the one MAPS question. So, you need to know where to start.

It goes without saying that success in Maths C flows from success in Maths B (if you haven’t read that blog post yet either, get your eyes around it here!). A lot of the basic concepts in Maths B will be elaborated upon in Maths C. Use this to your advantage.

Concepts You Should Have Mastered

A list of concepts that I would regularly re-visit until I have them mastered includes:

  • Index laws
  • Trigonometry
  • Derivatives and Integration,
  • Areas and Gradients of Curves
  • Probabilities

As you progress through Year 11 and into Year 12 Maths C, I would add the following to the list of concepts you should have mastered:

  • Vectors
  • Matrices
  • Real and Imaginary Numbers

All of these topics will rear their heads throughout Senior Maths C, and often will be incorporated into (particularly MAPS) questions in exams without having been re-visited that term in class.

That’s why staying on top of these core concepts, along with adding more to your list as you progress through, is so important in achieving an A.

The subsequent boost in confidence that comes with this complete understanding of the basics is invaluable. From here, the transition to the ‘harder' topics is much easier and it is where you will set yourself up for later success.


Step 2: Communicate With Your Teacher

Sure, your Maths C teacher might seem unapproachable. Or they might not. Either way, they’re always going to be your best resource. A positive relationship with your teacher is incredibly important.

Due to the sheer volume of concepts your teacher is going to have to cover, the pace is break-neck. You will fly through vectors, matrices, probabilistic models and imaginary numbers before you can blink.

Every teacher has a specific way they want ‘working out’ demonstrated throughout assignments and exams. In Maths C, particularly in complex dynamics and vector questions, the more working out, the better.

The introduction to dynamics and vectors in Year 11 particularly is one of the hardest areas for students to grasp.

Understanding motion, and being able to solve motion in the complex plane particularly, is the concept I found hardest throughout Senior Maths C. As it is motion in a plane (that you won’t even know exists until your teacher brings it up for the first time), it is very difficult to conceptualise and understand.

This is why it so easily becomes an A Level KAPS question or a Level 1-2 MAPS. Dealing with concepts like these aren’t easy, so keeping up to date with these topics and making sure you seek further assistance if you feel like you’re falling behind is critical.

Whenever you start to feel like you’re falling behind or struggling with a concept (and trust me, it happens to everyone), the first person you should go to is always your teacher.

Whether it be before or after class, or during a lunch break, try to find a time where you can ask the teacher to go back over any problem areas you have identified. They will always be willing to find time for you somewhere, so make the most of this! As long as you are always polite and positive, they will do their utmost to help you through any tricky spots.

The sooner you establish a positive relationship with your teacher, the better. When exams and assignments start to roll in this will prove to be a massive hand-up on your pathway to an A.

Step 3: Maximise on Assignments

Assignments are bittersweet in Maths C. They provide an excellent opportunity to improve your overall grade within the subject. However, treating them lightly can result in a frantic, last-minute attempt to try and cram days of work into a few hours. Sure, you might get it done, but you won’t have maximised the opportunity to really boost your overall grade.

Assignments are particularly important to capitalise on the MAPS and communication marks since it’s much harder to achieve A’s in those criterion under exam conditions. Without the same time constraints as exams, there’s no reason not to use correct and detailed mathematical language to explain your processes to hit the A criteria in ‘Communication’.

To put it simply, every time you finish an equation or solve a step of the problem, you should have at least an explanatory sentence afterwards. At the end of every portion of the assignment (e.g. Question 1, 2 and 3) you should have at least a concluding paragraph, if not several, that covers bases such as the reasonableness of the model you built, the validity of it, assumptions you made and strengths and limitations. Taking the time to add in all those extra words is really worth it when you consider the A at the end.

As elaborated upon in Tip 2 above, effectively communicating with your teacher is so important here. Without frequent check-ins on your progress, you might be halfway down the completely wrong track.

When your teacher presents the assignment to the class, there will likely be a class discussion about it. The teacher may suggest various hypotheses to be considered. Otherwise, speak to them after class to discuss a potential hypothesis for the assignment for clarification or if it’s distinct from their suggestions.

You have to make sure you get off to the right start. Understand what your teacher is looking for.

Most Maths C teachers want structured assignments, that usually involve a ‘simple' model being built in Part 1, improved in Part 2 and finally applying it to a more complex scenario in Part 3. Obviously, this may vary, but the overall point remains the same.

Learn the structure your teacher wants, make sure you include discussions and an analysis of your models throughout your assignment, and work with them to draft it throughout.

If you have access to past exemplar assignments, even if the topic is different, make sure you use them!

Analyse the structure and formatting, and try and find the areas you think you might be able to make improvements in. If you happen to know any students in the older grades who studied Maths C, talk to them! Odds are, they’ll probably be able to give you some good pointers or tips as well.

And finally, make the most of your peers. The other students in your class will be your second-best resource (behind the teacher) to improve your work. Creating a study group, where several of you brainstorm through the assignment problem together, will be incredibly beneficial. Whilst you obviously will individualise your assignments, working and discussing the problem in a group scenario might just give you that ‘light-bulb’ moment. Remember, no matter how challenging they might seem, these assignments are a massive opportunity to get A’s in Maths C.

Young man sitting on the floor using laptop surrounded with great number of different things

Step 4: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail. Particularly in Dynamics and Complex Planes

Even if you haven’t yet started senior Maths C, by this point in the article I’m sure you’ve gained an appreciation of the difficulties of the subject. But by following the right steps outlined throughout this article, you’re setting yourself up for success. Anyone who applies themselves, studies diligently and follows all the points outlined throughout this post has already taken giant leaps towards getting an A in Maths C. But it requires consistency.

The hardest topics in Maths C, from Dynamics, to Simple Harmonic Motion, through to Euler’s theorem, and back across to Hooke’s law, can all become massively time consuming. It can be easy to get stuck going through Dynamics questions for hours, at the obvious detriment to other topics and even your other subjects.

It’s easier to say but try not to let yourself get sucked down that path too badly. If you’re struggling with something, ask your teacher (or your Academic Personal Trainer) for help, and keep working through your study.

We all jump in at the start of the term with a bunch of resolutions: to work harder, smarter and faster. To achieve better. To be more prepared, and not to leave everything to the last minute. Great. Then the weeks start to roll by, and the work-load of all your other subjects starts to intensify.

All those resolutions suddenly seem a lot harder to achieve. So you have to be prepared for this early. As soon as you get a Term Planner, with exam and assignment dates, set up a study schedule, with deadlines to hit for your assessment and revision every week.

Dividing the term into manageable, week by week portions allows you to avoid the stress of trying to over-study in the last few days before an exam and puts you on the right track to an A.

Sticking to your study calendar, even as the term hits its busiest points, is so important. Be it a calendar in your study/room, reminders in your phone or your homework diary, plan your term out!

Writing it down helps to keep you accountable, with the personal satisfaction of being able to tick off completed tasks at the end of every week. Organisation and time-management are crucial components of achieving A's in Maths C. If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

Step 5: Speaking of Time-Management

This flows on pretty closely from the last segment; time-management is another critical step to doing well in this subject. Be it throughout the term, completing assignments or on exam day, time-management is a skill that can be perfected to help you achieve your goals.

Let’s start with your general, day-to-day revision throughout the term. Generally speaking, you should be aiming for at least 30-45 minutes of Maths C study per day. Whilst doing more can never hurt, if you are utilising that time efficiently every day you should start to see serious results. Don’t just let that time slip away.

Resist the urge to check your phone every couple of minutes.

It may be tempting, but it just slows you down in the long run. Get your study done quickly and have personal time afterwards. The same thing goes for getting stuck on a difficult question.

If a part of the homework, or just a general concept, is proving to be a time bomb, don’t let that take up your whole study block. Attempt it as best you can, and then keep working through other topics or questions as efficiently as possible. The same goes for exams.

Don’t let yourself get stuck on one particular question to the detriment of all the others. If you have a mind blank and a seemingly easy question just seems impossible (again, this happens to everyone at some stage), move on. Come back to it later.

You need to pick up the maximum amount of marks possible and spending a disproportionate amount of time on one question will not help you to achieve A’s or do as well on other questions.

Odds are, once you start working your way through the rest of your exam, your brain will start coughing up all kinds of information that might just help you solve that trick question. Getting A’s in Maths C is a marathon, not a sprint, and making the most of your time is another piece of the puzzle.

Step 6: Know your Technology

This might seem like a ridiculous tip to be giving out, but trust me, it’s an edge. I learnt this lesson painfully. A MAPS question in one of my Year 12 Maths C exams was entirely constructed around a probability model you build on your graphics calculator.

Easy to solve if you knew the buttons on your calculator, completely impossible if you didn’t. Half the class scored an easy A on that question. I got a D because I didn’t know how to create the model on my calculator. What a wasted opportunity.

Particularly in any term where you have covered probability models, permutations or exponential or binomial distributions, learning the different functions of your calculator that applies to the relevant concept is so important. Paying very very careful attention to any processes your teacher demonstrates on the calculator can make a massive difference come exam time.

All those buttons that remain a mystery to you? Learn them. If dedicating a tiny portion of time to figuring out your calculator properly scores you an A, then that’s an easy choice. At the end of the year, you definitely do not want to be in a situation where you’re missing out on that VHA because of an easy missed MAPS question. Please don’t let that be you.


Step 7: Learn from your Mistakes

The magical last step to achieving an A in Maths C. If you’ve followed the rest of the guide properly, you’ve given yourself the best possible chance of succeeding in this subject.

However, you’re still probably going to make mistakes along the way unless you’re that student who scored a perfect VHA 10 and didn’t lose a mark all year. For the rest of us mortals, we will make mistakes and that’s fine, everyone does. Just make sure you learn from them. Don’t let a vector question trip you up twice.

Take the time to read through your exams when you get them back, and recognise the areas you didn’t do well in. Use the break between the end of your exam and the start of the following term to build your knowledge of these areas.

A gap in your knowledge that is left unattended will almost undoubtedly re-surface before the end of the year. If you still just can’t quite ‘get it’, then A Team is right here.  Getting an Academic Personal Trainer could just be that last step you need to achieve your goal of an A in Maths C.

If you’ve read through the entirety of this blog, you’ve already given yourself the best possible start to achieving this.