Should you do VCE methods in year 12?

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Many VCE students and parents throughout years of tutoring have become uncertain about whether they should do VCE Methods in year 12, or whether they should do VCE Further Maths. Within this article we will be investigating the difference between the two in order to assist you to choose the right subject for your own academic level.

(1) How does VCE Methods and VCE Further differ?
From the 2009 official VTAC scaling report it is found that VCE Further study score on average drops by 2 points. This means that if you were to obtain a 39 raw score, the score used to calculate your ATAR would be 37. The average mark for VCE Further in 2009 is 27.81 (out of 50).
On the other hand, VCE Maths Methods VTAC scaling generally increases by 6 points. This means if you obtained a raw score of 32 you would also receive a score of 37. The average mark for VCE Maths Methods in 2009 was 35.16.

The scores indicate that on average people perform well in Methods and worse in Further – however it is important to move away from the average value and make the decision of studying VCE Methods vs. VCE Further on a more individual level. An average obviously doesn’t indicate how you would cope in VCE Methods, nor is it a guarantee that you are “average” in this challenging subject. You could have three people with Methods scores of 12, 40, 23 – the average would be 25. This average is not from an individual perspective, simply the score from a group of people – so always be sure to make the decision based on your mathematical ability not a simple glance over the average of all individuals in Victoria.

VCE Methods is a different form of maths compared to VCE Further. VCE Maths Methods deals with algebra, graph sketching, functions, trigonometry, calculus and probability – it requires a strong foundation of basic mathematical ability (more on this soon). On the other hand VCE Further Maths deals with data analysis, simple trigonometry, geometry, business maths, linear relationships, sequences and series, measurement – it is a different form of mathematics and is not as definite as VCE Methods.

(2) Dangers of choosing VCE Methods.

VCE Maths Methods is generally a pre-requisite for admission into certain university degrees. Be sure to check these requirements on the VTAC website. If VCE Methods is a requirement for your course, you should consider choosing to study VCE Methods; however there are always alternatives to this!

Some VCE students chose VCE Methods and find that they struggle with the concepts immensely. VCE Maths Methods is generally not an easy venture for VCE students and requires a significant amount of discipline, persistence and studying throughout the VCE year.

Many students believe that it is simply worth doing VCE Methods for “extra points”. This is a complete illusion – the “extra points” that are added on to the score is because most people obtained relatively low scores for VCE Methods and therefore there needs to be an adjustment in order to make the scores more “fair”. VCE Methods gets scaled up by 6 points. However remember that VCE Methods is a challenging subject – don’t merely chose VCE Methods on the basis that it “increases” your study score, because there is a chance that your resulting study score will not be any different after scaling when compared to VCE Further Maths.

For example, say you know that maths is not really one of your strengths – but you chose VCE Methods on the basis that it increases the study score. You could work fairly hard throughout the year for Methods, and in the end obtain a study score of 23. This would scale to 29 (in 2009). Now on the other hand, if this student were to study VCE Further– perhaps the score they could have achieved was 36. This would scale down to 34. Although it seems tempting to chose VCE Methods based on the “scaling up” argument, it does not guarantee that your VCE study score will be higher!
There is nothing wrong with a subject being scaled down – and it may still result in a higher score and contribute more significantly to the ATAR score.

In order to make the decision of choosing VCE Methods, you need to analyse your mathematical ability and character traits to ensure that the choice is best for your individual needs. Remember scaling up does not mean higher ATAR. The reason it is being scaled up in the first place is that most people struggle with the subject!

(3) Maths skills you need in order to study VCE Maths Methods;

VCE Maths Methods requires you to have a very well developed foundation in mathematical ability. If you struggle with working with fractions, finding unknowns, transposing formulas or being confused about arithmetic, in particular dealing with negative numbers then you should seriously reconsider studying VCE Methods. These skills are the foundations of the subjects and will definitely not be taught in class.

These maths skills need to be well developed, meaning that you can accurately and swiftly perform problems, without hesitation. It is disappointing to see some VCE Methods students struggling with fractions and transposing – and it is generally an indication that they are studying the wrong subject, perhaps simply choosing it because of the scaling.

The concepts of VCE Maths Methods, at times, get challenging. If you need time to work out fractions without a calculator and dealing with +/- numbers than chances are that you will run out of time to deal with the actual problem.

Another way of finding out whether VCE Methods is suitable for you is to look at the year 10 maths marks. If you found that you struggled with year 10 maths- in particular quadratic functions, probability, algebra and surds than you should again reconsider studying VCE Methods. The year 10 marks should preferably be above 70% to ensure that you should cope in VCE Methods – however this is a guideline and does not guarantee you will actually be better off studying the subject.

(4) Try VCE Methods in year 11 – it is similar to unit 3/4

Another way of deciding to studying VCE Methods is completing the year 11 course. The unit 1/2 course is very similar to the unit 3/4 course – in year 12 VCE Methods you will only learn about 15-20% new theory which builds “on top of” the year 11 knowledge. If you find that you struggle with VCE Methods Unit 1/2 there is always the option of changing subjects and studying VCE Further Maths.

Many students begin to obtain marks of 10 – 25% in their tests and exams. There is no need to place yourself under such a burden, and although it is possible to improve – it would be easier to swap the subject to VCE Further. However if you find that you are passing you year 11 exams and tests (averaging above 50%) than perhaps VCE Methods is the right subject for you. Also if you find that your marks are gradually improving throughout the year than it is suggested that you continue with VCE Methods.

(5) Remember VCE Further is not the same style of maths!

Some VCE students believe that VCE Further is “so easy” that you can get away with putting minimal effort into the subject and obtaining a high study score. Many students drop VCE Methods, even though they would be capable of excelling in it, to study Further Maths and find that in reality Further is not really so simple.

Many of the SAC’s in Further require you to analyse data and explain things in words. In Further you have to understand not only which answer is correct – but also give an explanation of why the other alternatives are incorrect. This is not the case in VCE Methods. VCE Methods is a more “exact” subject in the sense that the answer you generate will generally be identical to the answer at the back of the textbook. On the other hand, VCE Further Maths involves a range of numbers – it analyses data not function and in some cases there can be a discrepancy between your answer and the answer in the book.

If you choose VCE Further, don’t believe that you will not have to do work – because there will still be workload and stress involved.

(6) Chose VCE Methods only if you are willing to do the work;

If you chose VCE methods, expect that you will have to do some maths homework every day – this is to ensure that the theory remains “fresh” in your mind. VCE Methods requires dedication, enthusiasm and persistence – only then will you be able to reap the rewards of the scaling!

If you know that you have the mathematical ability to study Methods, and are hardworking and dedicated then Methods is probably the right choice for you. Remember that VCE Methods is highly rewarding if you are able to take advantage of the full 6 scaling points.

To chose VCE Methods or VCE Further be sure to look at your general maths ability and ask yourself if you are willing to work hard throughout the year – even if you find that you don’t understand certain topics. If you prefer functions, graph sketching and more “algebra” based maths, then VCE Methods is probably the right choice for you. However if you find statistics and more “everyday” maths more appealing than choose VCE Futher. Remember to forget about the scaling of the subject and focus on whether or not you have the ability to cope with the demands of the subject.