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A-level Maths

There has been some big changes made to AS and A Level Maths in recent years. Maths remains one of the most essential subjects for many higher education courses and in future careers.

Paper 1

What’s assessed Any content from:

  • Proof
  • Algebra and functions
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Sequences and series
  • Trigonometry
  • Exponentials and logarithms
  • Differentiation
  • Integration
  • Numerical methods How it’s assessed
  • Written exam: 2 hours
  • 100 marks
  • 33⅓ % of A-level

Questions

A mix of question styles, from short, single-mark questions to multi-step problems.

Paper 2

What’s assessed Any content from Paper 1 and content from:

  • Vectors
  • Quantities and units in mechanics
  • Kinematics
  • Forces and Newton’s laws
  • Moments How it’s assessed
  • Written exam: 2 hours • 100 marks
  • 33⅓ % of A-level

Questions

A mix of question styles, from short, single-mark questions to multi-step problems.

Paper 3

What’s assessed Any content from Paper 1 and content from:

  • Statistical sampling
  • Data presentation and interpretation
  • Probability
  • Statistical distributions
  • Statistical hypothesis testing

How it’s assessed

  • Written exam: 2 hours
  • 100 marks
  • 33⅓ % of A-level

Questions

­­A mix of question styles, from short, single-mark questions to multi-step problems.

Subject Content

Mathematical argument, language and proof

  • Construct and present mathematical arguments through appropriate use of diagrams; sketching graphs; logical deduction; precise statements involving correct use of symbols and connecting language, including: constant, coefficient, expression, equation, function, identity, index, term, variable.
  • Understand and use mathematical language and syntax as set out in the content.
  • Understand and use language and symbols associated with set theory, as set out in the appendices.
  • Apply to solutions of inequalities and probability.
  • Understand and use the definition of a function; domain and range of functions.
  • Comprehend and critique mathematical arguments, proofs and justifications of methods and formulae, including those relating to applications of mathematics.

Mathematical problem solving 

  • Recognise the underlying mathematical structure in a situation and simplify and abstract appropriately to enable problems to be solved.
  • Construct extended arguments to solve problems presented in an unstructured form, including problems in context.
  • Interpret and communicate solutions in the context of the original problem.
  • Understand that many mathematical problems cannot be solved analytically, but numerical methods permit solution to a required level of accuracy.
  • Evaluate, including by making reasoned estimates, the accuracy or limitations of solutions, including those obtained using numerical methods.
  • Understand the concept of a mathematical problem solving cycle, including specifying the problem, collecting information, processing and representing information and interpreting results, which may identify the need to repeat the cycle.
  • Understand, interpret and extract information from diagrams and construct mathematical diagrams to solve problems, including in mechanics.

Mathematical modelling

  • Translate a situation in context into a mathematical model, making simplifying assumptions.
  • Use a mathematical model with suitable inputs to engage with and explore situations (for a given model or a model constructed or selected by the student).
  • Interpret the outputs of a mathematical model in the context of the original situation (for a given model or a model constructed or selected by the student).
  • Understand that a mathematical model can be refined by considering its outputs and simplifying assumptions; evaluate whether the model is appropriate.
  • Understand and use modelling assumptions.

Proof

  • Understand and use the structure of mathematical proof, proceeding from given assumptions through a series of logical steps to a conclusion; use methods of proof, including proof by deduction, proof by exhaustion.
  • Disproof by counter example.
  • Proof by contradiction (including proof of the irrationality of √2 and the infinity of primes, and application to unfamiliar proofs).

Algebra and functions 

  • Understand and use the laws of indices for all rational exponents.
  • Use and manipulate surds, including rationalising the denominator.
  • Work with quadratic functions and their graphs; the discriminant of a quadratic function, including the conditions for real and repeated roots; completing the square; solution of quadratic equations including solving quadratic equations in a function of the unknown.
  • Solve simultaneous equations in two variables by elimination and by substitution, including one linear and one quadratic equation.
  • Solve linear and quadratic inequalities in a single variable and interpret such inequalities graphically, including inequalities with brackets and fractions.
  • Express solutions through correct use of ‘and’ and ‘or’, or through set notation.
  • Represent linear and quadratic inequalities such as y > x + 1 and y > ax 2 + bx + c graphically.
  • Manipulate polynomials algebraically, including expanding brackets and collecting like terms, factorisation and simple algebraic division; use of the factor theorem.
  • Simplify rational expressions including by factorising and cancelling, and algebraic division (by linear expressions only).
  • Understand and use graphs of functions; sketch curves defined by simple equations including polynomials, the modulus of a linear function
  • Understand and use proportional relationships and their graphs.
  • Understand and use composite functions; inverse functions and their graphs.
  • Understand the effect of simple transformations on the graph of y = f x including sketching associated graphs.
  • Decompose rational functions into partial fractions (denominators not more complicated than squared linear terms and with no more than 3 terms, numerators constant or linear).
  • Use of functions in modelling, including consideration of limitations and refinements of the models.

Coordinate geometry in the ( x , y ) plane

  • Understand and use the equation of a straight line.
  • Be able to use straight line models in a variety of contexts.
  • Understand and use the coordinate geometry of the circle including using the equation of a circle.
  • Completing the square to find the centre and radius of a circle.
  • Understand and use the parametric equations of curves and conversion between Cartesian and parametric forms.
  • Use parametric equations in modelling in a variety of contexts.

Sequences and series

  • Understand and use the binomial expansion
  • Work with sequences including those given by a formula for the n th term and those generated by a simple relation, increasing sequences; decreasing sequences; periodic sequences.
  • Understand and use sigma notation for sums of series.
  • Understand and work with arithmetic sequences and series, including the formulae for n th term and the sum to n terms.
  • Understand and work with geometric sequences and series including the formulae for the n th term and the sum of a finite geometric series; the sum to infinity of a convergent geometric series.
  • Use sequences and series in modelling.
  • Understand and use the definitions of sine, cosine and tangent for all arguments; the sine and cosine rules; the area of a triangle.
  • Work with radian measure, including use for arc length and area of sector.
  • Understand and use the standard small angle approximations of sine, cosine and tangent.
  • Understand and use the sine, cosine and tangent functions; their graphs, symmetries and periodicity.
  • Know and use exact values of sin and cos for 0, and multiples thereof, and exact values of tan for 0,  and multiples thereof.
  • Understand and use the definitions of secant, cosecant and cotangent and of arcsin, arccos and arctan; their relationships to sine, cosine and tangent; understanding of their graphs; their ranges and domains.
  • Understand and use the trig identities connecting tan, sin and cos. Including the Pythagorean identity and the identity with secant, cosecant, and cotangent.
  • Understand and use double angle formulae, understand geometrical proofs of these formulae.
  • Solve simple trigonometric equations in a given interval, including quadratic equations in sin, cos and tan and equations involving multiples of the unknown angle.
  • Construct proofs involving trigonometric functions and identities.
  • Use trigonometric functions to solve problems in context, including problems involving vectors, kinematics and forces.

Trigonometry

Exponentials and logarithms 

  • Know and use the function and its graph, where  is positive.
  • Know and use the function and its graph.
  • Know that the gradient of is equal to and hence understand why the exponential model is suitable in many applications.
  • Know and use the definition of as the inverse of  , where a is positive and x ≥ 0
  • Know and use the function ln x and its graph.
  • Know and use as the inverse function of
  • Understand and use the laws of logarithms.
  • Solve equations of the form
  • Use logarithmic graphs to estimate parameters in relationships of the form and  , given data for x and y .
  • Understand and use exponential growth and decay; use in modelling (examples may include the use of e in continuous compound interest, radioactive decay, drug concentration decay, exponential growth as a model for population growth); consideration of limitations and refinements of exponential models.

Differentiation 

  • Understand and use the derivative of f (x) as the gradient of the tangent to the graph of y = f (x) at a general point ( x , y ); the gradient of the tangent as a limit; interpretation as a rate of change; sketching the gradient function for a given curve; second derivatives; differentiation from first principles for small positive integer powers of x and for sin x and cos x.
  • Understand and use the second derivative as the rate of change of gradient; connection to convex and concave sections of curves and points of inflection.
  • Differentiate , for rational values of n , and related constant multiples, sums and differences.
  • Differentiate and related sums, differences and constant multiples.
  • Understand and use the derivative of .
  • Apply differentiation to find gradients, tangents and normals, maxima and minima and stationary points, points of inflection.
  • Differentiate using the product rule, the quotient rule and the chain rule, including problems involving connected rates of change and inverse functions.
  • Differentiate simple functions and relations defined implicitly or parametrically, for first derivative only.
  • Construct simple differential equations in pure mathematics and in context, (contexts may include kinematics, population growth and modelling the relationship between price and demand).

Integration 

  • Know and use the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.
  • Integrate (excluding ), and related sums, differences and constant multiples.
  • Integrate , ,  ,  and related sums, differences and constant multiples.
  • Evaluate definite integrals; use a definite integral to find the area under a curve and the area between two curves.
  • Understand and use integration as the limit of a sum.
  • Carry out simple cases of integration by substitution and integration by parts; understand these methods as the inverse processes of the chain and product rules respectively.
  • (Integration by substitution includes finding a suitable substitution and is limited to cases where one substitution will lead to a function which can be integrated; integration by parts includes more than one application of the method but excludes reduction formulae).
  • Integrate using partial fractions that are linear in the denominator
  • Evaluate the analytical solution of simple first order differential equations with separable variables, including finding particular solutions (Separation of variables may require factorisation involving a common factor).
  • Interpret the solution of a differential equation in the context of solving a problem, including identifying limitations of the solution; includes links to kinematics.

Numerical methods

  • Locate roots of f(x) = 0 by considering changes of sign of f(x) in an interval of x on which f(x) is sufficiently well-behaved.
  • Understand how change of sign methods can fail.
  • Solve equations approximately using simple iterative methods; be able to draw associated cobweb and staircase diagrams.
  • Solve equations using the Newton-Raphson method and other recurrence relations.
  • Understand how such methods can fail.
  • Understand and use numerical integration of functions, including the use of the trapezium rule and estimating the approximate area under a curve and limits that it must lie between.
  • Use numerical methods to solve problems in context.

Vectors

  • Use vectors in two dimensions and in three dimensions.
  • Calculate the magnitude and direction of a vector and convert between component form and magnitude/direction form.
  • Add vectors diagrammatically and perform the algebraic operations of vector addition and multiplication by scalars, and understand their geometrical interpretations.
  • Understand and use position vectors; calculate the distance between two points represented by position vectors.
  • Use vectors to solve problems in pure mathematics and in context, including forces and kinematics.

Statistical sampling

  • Understand and use the terms ‘population’ and ‘sample’.
  • Use samples to make informal inferences about the population.
  • Understand and use sampling techniques, including simple random sampling and opportunity sampling.
  • Select or critique sampling techniques in the context of solving a statistical problem, including understanding that different samples can lead to different conclusions about the population.

Data presentation and interpretation 

  • Interpret diagrams for single-variable data, including understanding that area in a histogram represents frequency.
  • Connect to probability distributions.
  • Interpret scatter diagrams and regression lines for bivariate data, including recognition of scatter diagrams which include distinct sections of the population (calculations involving regression lines are excluded).
  • Understand informal interpretation of correlation.
  • Understand that correlation does not imply causation.
  • Interpret measures of central tendency and variation, extending to standard deviation.
  • Be able to calculate standard deviation, including from summary statistics.
  • Recognise and interpret possible outliers in data sets and statistical diagrams.
  • Select or critique data presentation techniques in the context of a statistical problem.
  • Be able to clean data, including dealing with missing data, errors and outliers.

Probability

  • Understand and use mutually exclusive and independent events when calculating probabilities.
  • Link to discrete and continuous distributions.
  • Understand and use conditional probability, including the use of tree diagrams, Venn diagrams, two-way tables.
  • Understand and use the conditional probability formula.
  • Modelling with probability, including critiquing assumptions made and the likely effect of more realistic assumptions.

N: Statistical distributions

  • Understand and use simple, discrete probability distributions (calculation of mean and variance of discrete random variables is excluded), including the binomial distribution, as a model; calculate probabilities using the binomial distribution.
  • Understand and use the Normal distribution as a model; find probabilities using the Normal distribution.
  • Link to histograms, mean, standard deviation, points of inflection and the binomial distribution.
  • Select an appropriate probability distribution for a context, with appropriate reasoning, including recognising when the binomial or Normal model may not be appropriate.

Statistical hypothesis testing

  • Understand and apply the language of statistical hypothesis testing, developed through a binomial model: null hypothesis, alternative hypothesis, significance level, test statistic, 1-tail test, 2-tail test, critical value, critical region, acceptance region, p -value; extend to correlation coefficients as measures of how close data points lie to a straight line and be able to interpret a given correlation coefficient using a given p -value or critical value (calculation of correlation coefficients is excluded).
  • Conduct a statistical hypothesis test for the proportion in the binomial distribution and interpret the results in context.
  • Understand that a sample is being used to make an inference about the population and appreciate that the significance level is the probability of incorrectly rejecting the null hypothesis.
  • Conduct a statistical hypothesis test for the mean of a Normal distribution with known, given or assumed variance and interpret the results in context.

Quantities and units in mechanics

  • Understand and use fundamental quantities and units in the SI system: length, time, mass.
  • Understand and use derived quantities and units: velocity, acceleration, force, weight, moment.

Kinematics

  • Understand and use the language of kinematics: position; displacement; distance travelled; velocity; speed; acceleration.
  • Understand, use and interpret graphs in kinematics for motion in a straight line: displacement against time and interpretation of gradient; velocity against time and interpretation of gradient and area under the graph.
  • Understand, use and derive the formulae for constant acceleration for motion in a straight line; extend to 2 dimensions using vectors.
  • Use calculus in kinematics for motion in a straight line.
  • Model motion under gravity in a vertical plane using vectors; projectiles.

Forces and Newton’s laws

  • Understand the concept of a force; understand and use Newton’s first law.
  • Understand and use Newton’s second law for motion in a straight line (restricted to forces in two perpendicular directions or simple cases of forces given as 2D vectors); extend to situations where forces need to be resolved (restricted to 2 dimensions).
  • Understand and use weight and motion in a straight line under gravity; gravitational acceleration, g , and its value in SI units to varying degrees of accuracy.
  • (The inverse square law for gravitation is not required and g may be assumed to be constant, but students should be aware that g is not a universal constant but depends on location).
  • Understand and use Newton’s third law; equilibrium of forces on a particle and motion in a straight line (restricted to forces in two perpendicular directions or simple cases of forces given as 2D vectors); application to problems involving smooth pulleys and connected particles; resolving forces in 2 dimensions; equilibrium of a particle under coplanar forces.
  • Understand and use addition of forces; resultant forces; dynamics for motion in a plane.
  • Understand and use the model for friction; coefficient of friction; motion of a body on a rough surface; limiting friction and statics.

Moments

  • Understand and use moments in simple static contexts.

Assessment details

Assessment Objectives

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all A-level Mathematics specifications and all exam boards. The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives.

AO1: Use and apply standard techniques.

Students should be able to:

  • select and correctly carry out routine procedures;

accurately recall facts, terminology and definitions.

AO2: Reason, interpret and communicate mathematically.

Students should be able to:

  • construct rigorous mathematical arguments (including proofs);
  • make deductions and inferences;
  • assess the validity of mathematical arguments;
  • explain their reasoning;
  • use mathematical language and notation correctly.

Where questions/tasks targeting this assessment objective will also credit students for the ability to ‘use and apply standard techniques’ (AO1) and/or to ‘solve problems within mathematics and in other contexts’ (AO3) an appropriate proportion of the marks for the question/task must be attributed to the corresponding assessment objective(s).

AO3: Solve problems within mathematics and in other contexts.

Students should be able to:

  • translate problems in mathematical and non-mathematical contexts into mathematical processes;
  • interpret solutions to problems in their original context, and, where appropriate, evaluate their accuracy and limitations;
  • translate situations in context into mathematical models;
  • use mathematical models;
  • evaluate the outcomes of modelling in context, recognise the limitations of models and, where appropriate, explain how to refine them.

Where questions/tasks targeting this assessment objective will also credit students for the ability to ‘use and apply standard techniques’ (AO1) and/or to ‘reason, interpret and communicate mathematically’ (AO2) an appropriate proportion of the marks for the question/task must be attributed to the corresponding assessment objective(s).

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