This combo WitCH comes courtesy of mystery correspondent, tjrb. They flagged three multiple choice questions from the 2018 Algorithmics exam (here, and examination report here), and we’ve added a fourth. tjrb also remarks, “There are probably a lot more errors in this paper (and the other algorithmics papers), but these were the most strikingly incorrect”.

For Q2, the examination report indicates that 41% of students gave the intended answer of A. By way of explanation, the report then remarks,

“Cobham theorised that problems that are feasibly computable (also known as easy problems) are those that are decidable in polynomial time.”

For Q6, the report indicate that both A (51%) and C (33%) were “accepted”, but is otherwise silent.

The report is silent on Q12 and Q16, except to indicate the intended answers: C (94%) and A (66%), respectively.

The question below is from the first 2020 Specialist exam (not online). It has been discussed in the comments here, and the main issues have been noted, but we’ve decided the question is sufficiently flawed to warrant its own post.

We’ve finally gone through the exam, we’ve read the discussion below, and here are our thoughts.

In brief, the exam is OK but no better, and there are issues. There is some decent testing of skills, but the emphasis (as in the Methods 1 exam) appears to be on fiddly computation rather than deeper concepts. That isn’t great for a 1-hour sprint exam, and commenters have suggested the exam was overly long, but of course a 1-hour sprint exam is intrinsically insane. At a deeper level, some of the questions are contrived and aimless, which is standard, but it feels a little worse this year. And, there are screw-ups.

Here are our question-by-question thoughts:

Q1. The kind of pointless and boring mechanics question whose sole purpose is to make mechanics look bad. Part (a) asks students to compute the normal force, but to no end; the normal force is not required for the rest of the question.

Q4. A good inequality inequality question involving absolute values. The question is not difficult but, as commenters have suggested, it seems likely that students will do the question poorly.

Q5. A pretty nice vector resolute (projection) question, sort of a coherent version of last year’s debacle. Part (a) is contrived and flawed by having to choose the integer solution from the two roots of the quadratic; it’s not a hanging offence, but it’s the kind of oddity that would make a thoughtful writer think again.

Q7. An OK if (for a Specialist exam) unusual integration question involving continuity and differentiability of a “hybrid function”. The wording is clumsy, since all that is required is to demand that the function be differentiable; continuity of the function is then automatic, and the demanded continuity of the derivative is irrelevant. Sure, spelling out the continuity may simply be being nice, but including the continuity of the derivative suggests the examiners don’t really get it, or are planning a sleight of hand. We’ll see. Given the most authoritative (Methods) textbook makes a complete hash of this topic, it will be interesting to see if the examination report can get it right. We wouldn’t be betting the house on it.

Q8. An ok but ridiculously contrived volume of revolution question. Asking for the volume to be given in the form where is needless, ill-defined and dumb.

Q9.An OK but ridiculously contrived arclength question. The introduction of the symbol for the arclength is gratuitous and confusing. And (reviews notes), asking for the arclength to be given in the form where is needless, ill-defined and dumb.

UPDATE (21/11/20) A link to a parent complaining about the Methods Exam 2 on 774 is here.

UPDATE (24/11/20 – Corrected) A link to VCAA apparently pleading guilty to a CAS screw-up (from 2010) is here. (Sorry, my goof to not check the link, and thanks to Worm and John Friend.)

OK, we should have thought of this earlier. This post is for teachers and students (and fellow travellers) to discuss Methods Exam 1, which was held a few days ago. (There are also posts for Methods Exam 2, Specialist Exam 1 and Specialist Exam 2. We had thought of also putting up posts for Further, but decided to stick to mathematics.) We’ll also update with our brief thoughts in the near future.

Our apologies to those without access to the exam, and unfortunately VCAA is only scheduled to post the 2020 VCE exams sometime in 2023. The VCAA also has a habit of being dickish about copyright (and in general), so we won’t post the exam or reddit-ish links here. If, however, a particular question or two prompts sufficient discussion, we’ll post those questions. And, we might allow (undisplayed) links to the exams stay in the comments.

UPDATE (21/11/20) The link to the parent complaining about the Methods Exam 1 on 3AW is here. If you see any other media commentary, please note that in a comment (or email me), and we’ll add a link.

UPDATE (23/11/20) OK, we’ve now gone through the first Methods exam quickly but pretty thoroughly, have had thoughts forwarded by commenters Red Five and John Friend, and have pondered the discussion below. Question by question, we didn’t find the exam too bad, although we didn’t look to judge length and coverage of the curriculum. There was a little Magritteishness but we didn’t spot any blatant errors, and the questions in general seemed reasonable enough (given the curriculum, and see here). Here are our brief thoughts on each question, with no warranty for fairness or accuracy. Again, apologies to those without access to the exam.

Q1. Standard and simple differentiation.

Q2. A “production goal” having the probability of requiring an oil change be m/(m+n) … This real-world scenarioising is, of course, idiotic. The intrinsic probability questions being asked are pretty trivial, indeed so trivial and same-ish that we imagine many students will be tricked. It’s not helped by a weird use of “State” in part (a), and a really weird and gratuitous use of “given” in part (b), for a not-conditional probability question.

Q3. An OK question on the function tan(ax+b). Stating “the graph is continuous” is tone-deaf and, given they’ve drawn the damn thing, a little weird. The information a > 0 and 0 < b < 1 should have been provided when defining the function, not as part of the eventual question. Could someone please send the VCAA guys a copy of Strunk and White, or Fowler, or Gowers, or Dr. Seuss?

Q6. An OK graphing-integration question, incorporating VCAA’s fetish. Interestingly, solving the proper equation in (b) is, for a change, straight-forward (although presumably the VCAA will still permit students to cheat, and solve instead). As discussed in the comments, the algebra in part (c) is a little heavier than usual, and perhaps unexpected, although hardly ridiculous. The requirement to express the final answer in the form , however, is utterly ridiculous.

Q7. This strikes us as a pretty simple tangents-slopes question, although maybe the style of the question will throw students off. Part (c) is in effect asking, in a convoluted manner, the closest point from the x-axis to a no-intercepts parabola. Framed this way, the question is easy. The convolution, however, combined with the no-intercepts property having only appeared implicitly in a pretty crappy diagram, will probably screw up plenty of students.

Q8. A second integration question featuring VCAA’s fetish. Did we really need two? The implicit hint in part (c) and the diagram are probably enough to excuse the Magritteness of part (d), but it’s a close call. Much less excusable is part (b):

“Find the area of the region that is bounded by f, the line x = a and the horizontal axis for x in [a,b], where b is the x-intercept of f.”

Forget Dr. Seuss. Someone get them some Ladybird books.

The question below is from the first Methods exam (not online), held a few days ago, and which we’ll write upon more generally very soon. The question was brought to our attention by frequent commenter Red Five, and we’ve been pondering it for a couple days; we’re not sure whether it’s sufficient for a WitCH, or is a PoSWW, or is just a little silly. But, whatever it is, it’s pretty annoying, so what the hell.