Curriculum: Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a query about teaching any aspect of the MEI specifications you can contact the Curriculum Programme Leader, or visit the OCR(MEI) A level page of the OCR website. Some of the queries we have answered recently are answered below.

A level

When will there be a new A level Mathematics specification?

New AS and A levels for Mathematics and Further Mathematics are being prepared for first teaching from September 2017.  Required content for these A levels has been published

How will A* be awarded in Mathematics and Further Mathematics?

A* will be available at A Level from summer 2010. The award of A* is based on UMS marks in A2 units. The May 2009 Newsletter included an article about UMS marks.

To be eligible for an A* grade in A Level Mathematics, candidates need a grade A overall and a total of at least 180 UMS marks in C3 and C4. For A Level Further Mathematics, they need a grade A overall and a total of at least 270 UMS marks on the three best A2 units.

C2: The textbook has sections about the area between two curves and the area between a curve and the y-axis but neither of these topics is mentioned in the specification. Do students need to know this?

Students will not be expected to find the area between two curves as a one-step operation but they could be asked to find the area below one curve and then the area between two curves. They could also be expected to find the area between a curve and the y-axis as a two-step operation, finding the area between the curve and the x-axis first.

C2: Are equations such as sin2x = -0.5 included in C2?

Yes, candidates are expected to be able to solve equations like this.

C4: Are volumes of revolution about the y-axis included in the C4 specification?

In the C3/C4 MEI textbook, the section about volumes of revolution about the y-axis, on page 257 and 259-60, has a dotted line by the side of it; this usually indicates extension material and it is an error in the book, as can be seen by reference to page 70 of the MEI specification. Volumes of revolution about the y-axis are included in the C4 specification.

Although the text books have been written specifically to support the MEI units, examiners work from the specification and so teachers should also ensure that they check the specification.

C4: Are small angle approximations included in the C4 specification?

Students are not expected to know small angle approximations for the exam - it used to be in A Level but it is not currently in the national common core. However, teachers may well want to use small angle approximations when teaching differentiation of sin and cos so it is useful to have it in the book. The 2004 changes to the specification came soon after the 2000 changes and we were keen to future proof the books as much as possible at the time, in case of any further changes soon after, so this section in the C3/4 book was not marked as "enrichment".

Where do asymptotes feature in the MEI A Level?

The word "asymptote" is not included in the national Subject Core for AS and A Level Mathematics and testing of asymptotes is excluded from C1. However, students are likely to have seen asymptotes already, for example, through sketching the curve y = 1/x in GCSE.

In C2 students meet asymptotes when they draw graph of y = tanθ. This curve, together with transformations of it, is explicitly in the syllabus. So it is likely that, by now, students will have met the word "asymptote", at least in the context of vertical asymptotes, since teachers will have used the word when describing these curves.

When doing C3 coursework, students are expected to know that failure of a change of sign method can occur for solving f(x) = 0 when f(x) has a vertical asymptote, as stated in Note C3e2 on page 61 of the specification.

In examination questions in C3 and C4, for example June 2007 C3 question 7, the correct technical term "asymptote" is used to avoid a lengthy explanation. Teachers are advised to look carefully at the style used in previous questions on these papers and to treat them as establishing precedent. Considerable care was taken when setting such questions to make sure that the meaning was clear from the accompanying text and/or diagrams and this will always be the case when the word "asymptote" is used on the C3 and C4 papers.

In FP1 vertical and horizontal asymptotes are explicitly in the syllabus (Note FP1C2 on page 75 of the specification) and are routinely tested in examination questions. Oblique asymptotes are first met in FP2 (Note FP2C4 on page 91).

S4: What is included in the S4 specification for confidence intervals?

While working on the online resources for S4, we realised that some clarification of competence statement S4 I5 might be helpful. This covers confidence intervals for the difference between two population means in the unpaired situation. It should be read in conjunction with competence statement S4 I2 which covers the corresponding significance tests. Both the case of an interval based on the Normal distribution and the case of an interval based on the t distribution are included in S4 I5, as they are for the corresponding tests in S4 I2. The Normal case is, of course, for situations where the population variances are known or the samples are large. The t case is for situations where the samples are small and the population variances are unknown (but the populations are assumed Normally distributed.

There is no specific reference to one-sided confidence intervals in the specification. These are touched on in the S4 textbook on page 129 but one-sided confidence intervals should be regarded as extension material; only two-sided confidence intervals will be tested in examinations.