I Can’t Sleep

Exams start tomorrow. I can’t seem to fall asleep.

It’s a good thing my first paper starts at 1.30pm.

I must admit, I’m nervous. I’ve never gone into an exam nervous. I hardly ever study during school term, but as soon as exam term hits, I always plough through exercises. Sometimes, 2 days of intense studying and I feel like I can take on anything the paper can throw at me.

But I’ve been revising STEP papers for over 2 months now, and almost exclusively doing STEP for the past two weeks. Yet I don’t feel confident doing STEP questions; half the questions I do I make a fatal (often stupid) mistake somewhere. And it’s slowly driving me mad. Whenever I slow down to do a question carefully, I end up overthinking the question. When I try to go with the flow, I miss out on a crucial point.

It’s frustrating, and I don’t like doing frustrating things.

And I can’t forget about the A-Level papers which are just lurking about. The 4 maths papers are bot too difficult, but I fear I end up forgetting some crucial thing in the middle of the exam. Too often the questions require some very specific method and while doing past papers, I sometimes forgot what to do (especially M4).

Oh, economics. It’s not part of my offers for Cambridge or Imperial. I’ve hardly studied economics over the last month. It’s not that I don’t want to, but every time I touch economics I feel guilty that my maths level isn’t up to par yet. I hate purposely neglecting a subject but I don’t have a choice here.

Maybe I should listen to my own advice and go outside. I’ve been living like a recluse the past two weeks, only leaving for the occasional lunch with friends or for necessities. Perhaps I should have gone swimming to clear my mind, or just taken an hour off to cycle around town. Something to get away from the study table.

But anyway, it’s all in the past now. In exactly 12 hours I start my exam periosteum with, perhaps, the most important paper of all (STEP 2) and on Wednesday I take STEP 3. I know that on Wednesday afternoon, once time runs out and I’m forced to put down my pen, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, because I can finally relax. (And by relax, I mean study for the rest of the A-Level papers).

But really, I should go to sleep.

Cambridge Offer: A Simple Analysis

Here are the exact conditions of my offer to Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

  • A*AA in A-levels, excluding Economics.
  • Grade S in both STEP Paper 2 and Paper 3.

Let’s analyse:

For A-levels, I already have an A* in Mathematics so that’s in the bag. For Further Maths, I must score an average of 80% in 6 papers (called modules) out of 9 that I’m taking. (Not exactly; I already have a 97% in Further Pure 1, so the average I need for the remaining papers is slightly lower, plus I can rearrange my Mechanics 1 or 2 paper into the Further Maths grade instead of Maths if needed.)

For Physics, I currently have 295/300, or 98.33%. To get an A (80%), I need another 185/300 in A2, or 61.67%. This should not be difficult.

For Economics, I could fail it and it wouldn’t matter in terms of my offer. I’d lose all my pride though.

The STEP papers are something else. Whereas all the above are achievable (I would even dare call it… “easy”), STEP papers are… difficult. An example is in order:

STEP Paper 2 2009 Question 1

Two curves have equations x4 + y4 = u and xy = v , where u and v are positive constants. State the equations of the lines of symmetry of each curve.
The curves intersect at the distinct points A, B, C and D (taken anticlockwise from A). The coordinates of A are (α,β), where α > β > 0. Write down, in terms of α and β, the coordinates of B, C and D.
Show that the quadrilateral ABCD is a rectangle and find its area in terms of u and v only. Verify that, for the case u = 81 and v = 4, the area is 14.

There are 13 questions for each paper. 8 are pure mathematics (like the one above), 2 are probability and statistics questions, and 3 are mechanics questions. They will mark your best 6 answers to any questions, with up to 20 marks per question. In general, to get an S, I will need to answer five questions fully and a sixth partially in STEP 2, and four questions fully in STEP 3. To give you an idea of how difficult this is, the above question (and the whole of STEP 2) can be answered using only knowledge from the Mathematics A-Level subject, whereas STEP 3 requires Further Mathematics knowledge. Technically, if you’ve done your SPM Further Maths, you have enough knowledge to answer the question above. Good luck.

My entire focus for the next six months is to study sufficiently to achieve an A* in all subjects, and spending the rest of my studying time on STEP. It should be pretty fun.

Fun Fact: The full name of Trinity College is: The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.