How I got my A1 in Maths

Tadhg Collins is a past pupil of The Institute of Education and is currently studying BSc Economics & Finance at University College Dublin.


Maths was my favourite subject to study for the Leaving Certificate. Its difficulty lends to the satisfaction attained in doing well and the extra 25 points on offer justifies allocating more time to it than other subjects. In recent times, with the advent of project maths, questions have become more practical in nature, which emphasises the importance of understanding rather than rote learning a particular method.

For this reason I believe practicing questions is paramount and indeed the only way to study maths. Try to do as many questions as possible, the more difficult the better. I also think it’s a good idea to take note of the most difficult questions you come across and treat them as ‘benchmark’ questions. This is a good way to identify any weaknesses you may have and work on them.

Working both hard and smart is essential in order to achieve a H1. When you reach the end of a question think logically and ask yourself if your answer is reasonable. You may even cross check it by subbing your answer into an equation or using an alternative method to get the same answer.

With regard to the actual exam, read through the paper fully before starting. A lot of questions are ‘scaffolded’, meaning that one part leads to the next with incremental difficulty, so reading ahead gives you an idea of what they’re looking for at the start.

Also, spend a minute or two on the questions you think are most difficult at the beginning of the exam. Simply reading through them a few times means they will be in the back of your mind and you will more than likely have a better grip on them when you attempt them later.

Finally, know all your theorems, constructions and definitions, there is no choice on the paper so it is definitely worth your while to learn these.