Should you take A-Levels Further Mathematics? A detailed breakdown by a Top in the World Scorer.

by Chan Jun Kang

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Further Mathematics, Yay or Nay?

“Oh boy I like maths, so I will sign up for Further Maths”

Hold it right there lady/gentleman, not a step FURTHER. If you think you have what it takes to challenge Further Maths (FM), you should take a step backwards and contemplate on these few points:

  1. Willing to attend accelerated mathematics classes, with P1, P3, S1 and M1 syllabus condensed into 4 – 5 months (or lesser, depending on the institution). This is due to the entire Mathematics syllabus being pre-requisite to FM which is divided into Further Pure Maths, Further Mechanics and Further Statistics.
  2. Each branch of FM is a giant on its own, which delves deep into the world of calculus, complex number, linear algebra, classical mechanics and the seemingly weird yet super useful statistics. It requires tons of exercises and practices, sometimes it takes even longer than 5 hours just to solve a (sub) question on first try!  
  3. It gives you feelings of hopelessness, disappointment and self-loathing when you face questions that look impossible to solve; but if you DO manage to solve it, it brings immense satisfaction and happiness that rival none. 
  4. Willing to sacrifice hours upon hours to attempt past year questions with detailed mark scheme available free online. 

Further Maths is divided into two papers: Further Pure Maths and Further Statistics/Mechanics which you will sit for both papers in A2. The raw marks for each paper is 100, which add up to a total of 200. More information on grading system is available in FAQ below. 

Personally, I would highly recommend students who intend to pursue engineering/physics/actuarial science to accept this challenge of taking Further Maths, as it awakens something within you that you never thought you had – insane analytical skills. It makes you think critically to solve various kinds of problems that are highly relevant in tertiary studies.

In fact, it eases the burden of 1st Year Engineering Maths which may seem like a child play compared to Further Maths. The knowledge you will gain from Further Statistics is very helpful for tertiary studies especially when data from experiment are involved. On the other hand, you will discover the beauty of tackling any mathematical question from Further Pure Maths as you unravel the truth behind the complexity of the derivations. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How hard is Further Maths?

A: Further Maths has a negatively skewed bell curve, meaning that most students tend to score very good marks (this is because weaker students tend to drop the subject, leaving behind the elites in the survival of the fittest). When I sat for the paper in 2017 June, 195/200 was required to score A*!

Q: No. I still don’t get how hard Further Maths is. How hard is it?

Let’s take SPM Add Maths or IGSCE Add Maths as comparison. If SPM Add Maths is 1 on a scale of 1 – 10, these are the following comparisons:

  • A Level Mathematics P3 is rated 3
  • Further Pure Maths and Statistics are rated 5
  • Further Mechanics is rated 8

Of course, the difficulty scale may vary between individuals, but this scale is coming from the author (me) who scored 200/200 in 2017 June Examination (Top in the World). You might think I’m a mathematics wizard, but the reality is that I never came close to winning any mathematics competition (don’t even bother asking about Olympiad Maths). Although it is not an impossible feat, I spent lots of efforts on doing past year questions until I had mastered every single topic. The journey may be difficult, but the reward is truly satisfying.

Q: I want to study engineering in university. Is it compulsory to take Further Maths?

A: Nope, FM is not compulsory for any engineering studies. However, having FM may be a bonus especially when you are applying for top universities in the world (e.g. Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford). I would also strongly recommend to take FM to get a taste of engineering mathematics. 

Q: Can I take only three subjects with Further Maths as one of it? For example, Maths, Further Maths and Economics/Physics?

A: In the college that I attended, it is usually not allowed, because you would end up with only two subjects for AS Level. Also, having Further Maths as a third subject puts you at a disadvantageous position, due to the difficulty of scoring the subject and unpredictability in grading which may leave you stranded with A* A* B, failing to meet the 3As requirement of most UK universities. 

Q: I wish to take Further Maths but at the same time I might want to study medicine. Should I take biology or Further Maths?

The classic dilemma – doctor or engineer or … a disgrace? Jokes aside, this is a decision that you have to make very early in the beginning, if you decide to go with medicine, you have to resolve to take biology – a core subject. Further Maths is merely an elective to enhance your learning in Mathematics. Of course, if you have the intellectual capability for 5 subjects, or the financial capability for 2-year program, taking 5 subjects is not an unprecedented case and actually quite common.

Q: I can’t take it anymore, should I drop Further Maths?

There are many cases where students are unable to cope with the workload of Further Maths and end up struggling in the three other core subjects – a common scenario of getting caught between two stools. Painful as it may be, you have to drop FM in order to focus on the three main subjects. Of course, this does not mean you are a failure, as you can always make a comeback in university! 3As or 4Bs, the better choice is obvious.  

If you like to get more information about further study, feel free to join After SPM WhatsApp group or WeChat group.

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