PoSWW 31: Really?

Honestly, we cannot believe it. We’ve checked it ten times and we still cannot believe. It’s from the 2022 Specialist Mathematics Exam 2 (08/11/23. The exam is here.), and nothing beyond the discussion on the exam post needs to be added. But, after last year’s screw up, and anyway, it has to be posted.

UPDATE (01/11/23)

The exam report (Word, idiots) simply pretends B is necessarily true (emphasis in the original). Absolutely incredible.

24 Replies to “PoSWW 31: Really?”

  1. It’s not only the fact that they messed up twice in a row, they went out of their way to clarify any possible excuse that “oh z \in \mathbb{C} means \text{Im}(z)\neq0 because we’d indicate that with z\in \mathbb{R}“, then shot themselves in the foot. I truly wonder how a most basic counterexample slipped their mind. If they wanted to repair the question, adding that \text{Im}(a)\neq 0, which I believe should be sufficient.

  2. I’m going to assume that the original writer confused Re(a) ≠ 0 and Re(c) ≠ 0 as meaning that a and c aren’t purely real, and then none of the proofreaders noticed it. (Probably because they didn’t realise why it was required, and thought it was just an extraneous constraint.)

    I think the underlying problem here is that the VCE multiple choice questions are so routine that after you’ve done a few of them, you know what to do without actually understanding the question. I know that a few of my friends employed this tactic quite successfully in the VCAA exams—if you keep a bound reference full with solutions to multiple choice questions from prior years, you’ll probably be able to answer 15 or so out of the 20 even without understanding the content.

    It shames me to say this but it took me a while to figure out what the problem here was—I just looked at it immediately, and without thinking thought “conjugate root theorem.” Proof of the consequences excessive exposure to VCE can have on your brain.

  3. Heads should be hanging in shame.
    No. Rolling.
    But may-be the message is: “we can do what we like and you can’t do anything about it”.

    1. This is a complete failure, very disappointing but unsurprising in some sense. I would be interested in getting your thoughts about Q9 on the 2015 Specialist Exam 2. I always thought this question was very problematic, since students are told to assume that diagrams are not drawn to scale.

      1. Hi Anand. I’ve looked at Q9. I don’t like the question, and I think it’s borderline an error, but maybe just short. I think it’s fairly reasonable to assume the scale is the same in the real and imaginary directions, which is all that is required. But it’s definitely a clunky question.

  4. Could have been just: Im of only b is 0 ( how to phrase it neatly?)
    Res not =0 not necessary, distractors?

    I notice that in various schools, incl. elective, exam qns are recycled for tests/tasks. Included are those with errors, e.g. union of sections of strictly increasing/decreasing. Damage had already been done.

    1. I mean, suppose we have a graph of “an infinite N- shape”, with coords of TPs (and x-ints as distractors) given or tech allows to find them.
      What do the setters mean by:
      ‘State the largest set of values of x for which f(x) is strictly increasing’
      [A qn from a strictly selective school, y11 MM]

  5. Direct quote from The Age:

    “A Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority spokesperson said: “There were no issues or concerns raised by students or teachers during the sitting of the specialist mathematics examination 2 and the exam proceeded without incident.””


    1. Do they expect us to further take up our time by complaining about a question to the examiner during the exam? What would the examiner be expected to do?

      1. Thanks, Torrada, and of course you are spot on. The absurdity of VCAA’s statement really needs no comment. I’m pondering what to do.

        1. There are really two problems here:

          1. We need to (for the moment) assume that VCAA’s statement that no student or teacher complained during the exam at face value. Unless anyone DID complain and had the invigilator note their complaint…?

          2. Why should the right to complain end when the exam finishes?

          1. 1. it wouldn’t surprise me if no one complained, for the reason Torrada gives. But yes, there is no reason to take VCAA’s word for this.

            2. It does not.

            1. Is VCAA answerable to someone in Spring Street?

              If so, would a student writing to their local member of state parliament to complain be a way forward? (Not encouraging this btw, just asking).

              I doubt asking VCAA will achieve anything but I did fill in the exam feedback questionnaire VERY carefully again this year.

              1. I can so no argument against anyone emailing the Minister of Education, with a cc to the VCAA big shot of their choosing.

                1. Should we wait to see who the minister is for the 2023 academic year first?

                  Serious question – I’m drafting my letter right now and plan to use the regular post, not email. Although that will make the CC part more difficult.

                  1. Good question. Not sure, but maybe wait. You can also copy the letter and send it also to VCAA, indicating to both parties that the other party has also received it.

                    1. I will wait for calmer times before putting an envelope in a red box, but there does come a point where it becomes too difficult to just hope that next year will be better.

  6. I understand your point, but is it sufficient that the question says “complex roots”? I would have thought that (z-1)(z-2)(z-3) would be considered “simple roots”, and not “complex roots”?

    1. What can “complex roots” mean other than a, b and c are complex numbers?

      In any case, take a = b = 1 and c = 2, if you like.

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