Year 12: done and dusted. 

Year 12 has finally come to and end and I’ll be returning to school in September as a Year 13. How odd is that? How time flies! We’ve pushed diligently on with the Further Maths course (whereas Physics has thankfully been a bit more chill) and as the academic year has winded down, it’s been harder and harder to soak in the new theory. I think you’ll agree with me that it’s a bit off-putting when you can’t answer a question even with the textbook’s in front of you. 

The next few months of my life are going to be intense but I’m not overwhelmed because I have had multiple hour-long conversations with various members of the maths department at school and I’m mentally prepared. I have a plan and I’m being realistic. I know that of the six modules I took, the chances of that M2 paper dragging me down the grading system are sky-high (guaranteed 99%) and well, that’s okay. The grade doesn’t get cashed in this year as I did it the exams in Year 12 (basically, a year early) and so I can take the paper again in the coming academic year and I’m fine with that. The issue is actually my predicted grades, and so I’ve agreed to sit three mock exams in the first week back of school in September so I can basically prove to my teachers that I can do maths. 

It’s a really frustrating position to be in seeing as I wanted to spend my holiday reading mathsy books and practising entrance papers but now there’s this added weight of mock papers which could make or break my predicted grade. 

Speaking of reading books, I’ve been advised to read an extensive list and I’ve made a start on Polya’s “How to Solve it.” Following this, I will read “How to study for a Mathematics Degree” (I’ve ordered it so fingers crossed it’ll come soon!). Then I’ll trawl through another Martin Gardner book (I have a few of his puzzle books and they’re so clever – I thoroughly recommend you scoop one up for some rainy day fun.) The list might not actually look extensive, but for someone who prefers solving problems to reading, it is incredibly daunting. I also have to re-read this other book I wrote about on my personal statement because I can only remember the first half. 

I need to read a Physics book (to slot into my personal statement which is otherwise complete, bar the 327 characters I’ve left in which to talk about this book). This needs to happen because, well, I am unable to decide what I want to do so I’m choosing to apply for three different courses. GASP. Not really. I mean I think we all saw this coming. 

I need to be able to show that I have Physicsy interests and the tricky bit is that I started to seriously consider Physics late on in the year. Unlike Maths, for which I’ve tried to do as many related things as possible, all I can actually do now is read a book. Solve some puzzles. See what happens, I guess. 

Through UCAS you have to make 5 applications and so I’ve decided that 3 will be for Maths, 1 for Maths and Physics and 1 for Theoretical Physics. For some reason I feel like I’ll end up doing a Physics degree. If I were offered a place for let’s say, the joint course and a single Maths course, honestly I’d firm the joint and keep Maths as my insurance. How’s that for a plot twist, folks. I’m baffled myself but I can’t deny the fact that I’d be very happy to continue having Physics in my life. 

I am very curious to see what happens around this time next year. Will I be right in my prediction? Who knows!

I am excited for the future but oh wow, is it going to be hard. I’ve experienced such a big shift in my mathematical maturity and I’m now considering all sorts of options that I’d initially vetoed at the beginning of Year 12. For example, I decided that I’d only sit the MAT paper, and now I’m open to the idea of sitting STEP. I can solve problems less frantically and I’m consolidating work as I go along, by which I mean attempting textbook exercises and jumping straight into past papers. Why wait until the end of a module? This allows for more time to work through problems and go through mistakes. 

MATHS IS COOL AGAIN PEOPLE AND I’M WAY MORE POSITIVE!

Physics pah I’m (still) (it’s so sad) failing at percentage uncertainties but I’m trying okay and I’ll just keep rolling with it. 

UCAS Bwahahaha

Sometimes I do wonder what I am playing at. I have a pile of work to do and though I’ve genuinely worked all day the pile has somehow increased? Exponentially? It’s hard to believe. I might have to form a differential equation to model this. Seeing is believing after all. 

However, I feel that I am at the stage in sixth form where instead of despairingly questioning everything I do, I will essentially cut the crap and JUST DEAL WITH MY DENSITY. 

Starting with everybody’s favourite, the dreaded personal statement! I foolishly decided that I could bang out my first draft between the hours of 11pm and 4am and thanks to my mate Mr Cappucino Sachet I managed to meet my internal deadline. At my school, those of us hoping to apply to Oxbridge were set a slightly earlier deadline which I only discovered two days in advance and I was well chuffed that I met it, albeit sacrificially. It’s definitely a draft and of a draft and weak in many respects. I don’t even think I can apply to Oxbridge anymore. I for sure totally failed a module this year and they don’t like re-sits so wahey it’s okay. Miracles don’t  happen to kids like me but it’s not the end of the world. My current favourite course is that Warwick one which still wants very high grades but I will kick my butt and I will work. To be honest at this stage I’ll be grateful with whatever I can get. Getting offers is hard and like please, can I just have two so I can firm one and have the other as my insurance? Please. Someone. Take me. I like maths, I smell great. I’ll bring my Mr Muscle too. 

Writing a personal statement is deceptively tricky. The toughest part for me was linking the things I’ve done to my subject interest and making it flow nicely. That was tough. But the on the bright side, at least I’ve put something on paper because now my teachers and I have something that we can work with. 

Uni open day. 

As the title aptly suggests I did in fact spend my first full day of freedom (woo final maths exam was on Friday) at the University of Warwick, bobbing around the campus clutching my A5 booklet. A friend and I went by train together yesterday and we had a lovely time. We have different interests, so throughout the day we went to our respective talks and visit different departments, but meet up in between sessions to see how the other was getting on. 

I visited the Maths department and the Physics department, attending the introductory talks which aimed to address the most frequently asked questions about the courses, including entry requirements, module options and potential job prospects. 

Following these talks I decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my morning exploring the Physics department. Thought I’d say Maths right? WELL. We’ll get onto that later. There were frequent guided tours setting off here there and everywhere but I decided that I didn’t want a tour, but instead I wanted to talk to a student about the course and focus the conversation on the things which applied to me personally. So I bumbled my way over to the crowded desk, poking innocent parents with my prospectus, and asked if this could be arranged. To my luck a Physics student was standing behind me and within moments we’d sat down and started talking about the course. This was possibly the best part of the day because I really got a detailed insight into what studying at Warwick could be like and how the Physics course is. At the end (the chat was very detailed) the student kindly showed me around the labs and explained some common experiments to me and the types of equipment on hand. I was impressed. I went nuts on the inside when I walked into a lab brimming with functioning oscilloscopes! The one at school is faulty you see. 

I don’t think the student I spoke to knew how crucial the conversation we had was for me because I learnt so much – and all of it was relevant to me. I appreciated the emphasis he placed on trying to understand what I was thinking and why as opposed to giving me a sales pitch. 

I loved the Maths and Physics course. I loved it. I love it. 

Currently my issue is that I’m worried I won’t get onto the right course for me. I have become progressively more interested in Maths and Physics combined and I’m struggling to process this, seeing as I’ve been hell-bent on Maths for years. When I discussed my interests and what I liked, I was told that I sounded more like a “Physics” than a “Maths” which was very interesting. Over the past couple of weeks in particular I’ve really learnt about the differences between A Level Maths and University Maths and it’s overwhelming. When I looked at sample problems on the day in both departments I honestly found myself more drawn to the Physics ones. I want to discuss this in more detail in a future post. 


So. Afterwards we bussed into city centre and before getting slightly lost we went to Coventry Cathedral. It was so lovely and a really nice experience, especially seeing as I’d last been there on a Religious Studies trip a few years ago. Personally I appreciate the architecture and the history behind the place. I even saw one of the most poignant pieces (in my opinion) and I’m terribly sorry for my hand getting in the way here.
 

Then we went back to the University and had a look around accommodation before heading home. All in all a very eye-opening day. I have lots to think about in regards to university choices and so forth. I’m currently reading through the Physics prospectus (in which there is a snazzy booklet on Maths and Physics!) and here is the top bit of the packet-thing which it came slotted in. I don’t know if you can see but there are glossy equations dotted around. 

AWFUL

IT WAS HORRIFIC. I DIED IN THAT EXAM HALL. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT. 
OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. I CANNOT EVEN. I CAN’T DEAL. I COULDN’T. 
WHAT THE EFF. 
MECHANICS 2 IS MEANT TO BE OKAY. IT WAS SHITE. 
I COULDNT EVEN FINISH THE PAPER. 
IM LITERALLY IN HYSTERICS I’VE GOT A U. And trust me I tried the whole “oh it probably didn’t go as bad” but I’ve seen the unofficial mark scheme and I got a grand total of 2 questions right out of the whole damn thing. 
Can we just omg. Omg. Why didn’t school let me do Stats in Year 12, and then Mechanics in Year 13 when I’ve finally got some brain cells or something. I’m a wreck. 
All that work was for nothing. I’ve completely wasted a year. 

Oops.

I’ve given up with revising M2 because I cannot bring myself to suffer through another collisions question without physically colliding with my desk myself. In an ideal world there would be a 10-mark ladder question where it’s on rough horizontal ground leaning against a smooth wall, and the question is asking for the coefficient of friction. Then, at least 20 marks devoted to the work-energy principle, and a projectile motion question that strictly does NOT involve i and j components, but instead gives the initial bloody speed. I cannot deal with velocity; give me magnitude please. 

Of course everything I want isn’t actually going to come. It’ll be interesting to compare what comes up with what I hope for tomorrow after the paper. I’m dreading the centre of mass question – especially if they stick the lamina on an inclined plane. That is the one type of question I just haven’t even looked at. 

I should go look at it now shouldn’t I. 

I also can’t really prove that formula thang either. I’d quote it here but the most I know is that there’s an x and a y involved and some trig. It’s not even one of those proofs you can sit down and start to work through on the spot, because you can’t really get anything out of the question itself. They just shove it on the page and say “Prove this.” And I’m like no thanks?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Pure Maths kind of gal. But don’t make me do pure in applied. My brain doesn’t work like dat. 

And I still maintain that I prefer M2 to M1. 

La la la. 

I’ve just stress-eaten a whole bag of Doritos. I’ve done Mechanics basically every day for the past year because of my stagnant level of rubbishness and like what the hell am I going to do with myself afterwards? Start M3? Revise for next year’s resits? Start a Mechanics blog? Chuck my folder out the window? 

Although I absolutely detest Mechanics I am curious as to what M3 entails. I know that somewhere down the line the pulleys aren’t smooth anymore…oH my FRICTION. 

Mechanics 1 IS OVER 

I’m free. FREE I TELL YOU. Well kind of. The next instalment in my two-part Mechanics box set is M2 on Friday. I prefer M2 to M1 because I live for the Work-Energy Principle but then again I thoroughly dislike projectile motion so I’m still very nervous for Friday’s exam. 

The exam hall was rather quiet today. Don’t get me wrong, it always is! But I mean that it was a quiet day for exams. There were only M1 students so all in all just my class and a few Year 13s doing resits. The first thing I did before writing my name on the top was hold the paper between my index finger and thumb and decide how many questions there would be based on the thickness of the wad of paper. I knew there would be 8 questions.  

Then the invigilator started us off and well, yes, off we went. The first question was deceptively straightforward and I don’t really know how you can allocate 6 marks to equating i and j components. I was happy with the working out but it didn’t feel adequate, you know?

There was one particularly fickle modelling question and I had no choice but to kiss a mark out of the two possible goodbye because I could not for the life of me explain the wonders of using a uniform rod. Since when has that been a two-marker? Yes, never. 

I was psyched when I wasn’t required to draw a velocity-time graph but thrown by the question left in its place. It’s odd because motion graphs are pretty fundamental in this module but there wasn’t one? The question in its place was weird in that I did not understand how finding the acceleration was worth 4 marks. 

(I think you can tell that I spend a good chunk of time staring at how many marks each question is worth. I live for that stuff. Honestly, it’s the best exam tip out there seeing as it gives a rough guide as to how much working out you should probably be doing. If it’s two marks don’t expect to have to bang out a page of solid scribbles.)

But yes, I was thrown. I came back to it later on and thankfully I realised that I needed to work out the initial velocity first! 

However. Hands down the worst question was that thrust question. First off, what the actual hell is thrust? No joke I thought well thrust starts with the letter t and so does tension so I’ll treat it like tension. I think it kind of made sense? I distinctly remember whipping over the page to seeing the most hideous diagram of two particles held together with 15N coming out of nowhere. I hope I get a couple of method marks. I definitely did not get the answer. I even re-drew the given diagram to make it look like a car and trailer problem like what was I thinking. 

The final question was mad. I got there eventually but I had to think very hard about what I was doing. The question had literally no numbers in it. I mean the big bad bit at the end was asking us to find the length d in terms of h, for crying out loud. I’m chill though. I am chill. My value was greater than h so it satisfied the inequality snuck in at the top of the page. 

Dodgy thrust/tension/who knows question aside (plus the modelling assumptions) I think it was okay. It was definitely more forgiving than the 2016 paper. That was the most hideous paper I’ve ever seen.