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More questions, fewer topics: Students sit first VCE further mathematics exam

Ethan said he felt relief when looking down at the questions and even more relief once the exam was over.

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“The exams have never been like this before so it was hard to prepare,” he said. “But I felt good.”

Ms Varghese and fellow further maths teacher James Smart said they were pleased with the relatively easy exam.

“I don’t think it was a hard exam. It had more questions on fewer topics as they amended the curriculum because of the disruption,” Mr Smart said.

Students at Alphington Grammar School were among 32,215 Victorian teens sitting the first of two further mathematics exams on Friday afternoon. The second exam is on Monday.

Questions covered recursion and financial modelling, data analysis and matrices.

“Some questions I haven’t seen on an exam paper before,” Mr Smart said. “But overall it’s standard.”

Petra Christofileas said she could not wait until the second part of the exam was over on Monday morning.

Alphington Grammar School year 12 students finish their further mathematics exam.

Alphington Grammar School year 12 students finish their further mathematics exam.Credit:Jason South

“Then I never have to touch a calculator again,” she said. “I feel good. I fought to get here and I’ve done it.”

Galateia Kontogiannidou has her sights for next year set on studying health science at La Trobe University. She said she felt closer to that goal after finishing the exam.

“I’m feeling alright. I think I did well.”

Galateia said she felt lucky to be able to sit the exams at school with her friends; a prospect once threatened by the coronavirus lockdown.

“It was a bizarre year. It feels really good to be back here with everyone. At the same time it’s sad as well because this is the end and we missed out on so much.”

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The relief was palpable as jubilant students emerged from the Alphington exam hall, hugging and shouting answers and reassurances to each other.

They chatted and joked with assistant principal Lukas Silver, who said it was good to see such high spirits.

“It’s been an awful year for them” he said. “I hope special consideration can come through for them.”

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Students across the state were quick to take to social media to debrief the exam, with some claiming mock suspicion about the number of times they answered D in the multiple choice section.

Chris Caldow, principal of Penola Catholic College in Broadmeadows, said VCE exams were off to a good start after a stressful year marred by the coronavirus pandemic and remote learning.

“It’s been a really tough time for them but now we’re getting positive feedback about how exams are going which is really good,” he said.

Penola students walked out with confidence after the “reasonable and mostly familiar” exam, according to maths teacher Nora Macawli.

“Some of the questions were easier than usual,” she said, adding that one portion that usually has questions that are longer and wordier, appeared shorter than normal.

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Student Matilda Qariaus said having one less module than usual helped in her preparation.

“It was so much better,” she said. “This way we could familiarise ourselves more with the content that we needed to know.”

Penola principal Chris Caldow said the year 12 cohort had done well to stay focused on their studies despite the school closing on two separate occasions due to student coronavirus cases.

Further mathematics is the most popular voluntary VCE subject, with only the mandatory English exam sat by a greater number of students.

It’s also the most commonly studied maths subject. About 16,000 students are preparing to sit the mathematical methods exam next Tuesday.

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