The Leap From Nat. 5 Maths to Higher

Diane Duguid

Ask any ex-Higher Maths student and they’ll tell you the transition from National 5 to Higher was much harder than they ever imagined it could be.  But who explains why, or what exactly to expect?  

Here’s some pointers that may help you navigate this early phase with a little more confidence and a little less stress and anxiety.

Getting Into the Right Headspace

You can’t anticipate what it’s actually going to feel like until you experience it, so give yourself some breathing space;  accept a massive change is coming and allow yourself time to adjust.  There will be times when it feels disheartening or overwhelming and that you’ll never ‘get it’.  Every student goes through this and it is totally normal;  there will be a time when it does finally come together and you’ll be able to look back at how far, intellectually, you’ve progressed.  Until that moment though, hold on to the thought that by the final exam nearly 85% of you will get a grade A – D.  That means you!

Why Does the Work Seem So Hard?

The first challenge is the sheer volume of new maths you need to absorb, in every lesson.  It’s a very full curriculum and the lessons march on relentlessly, building on what you covered the last time, expecting you to retain all of that new information. You’ll need to be so much more organised this time around to keep on top of it; the onus is on you now to work independently and find ways to solve any difficulties.

Working Independently

Secondly, most students underestimate just how much they’ll need to adjust to working independently – at Nat 5 your teacher will have told you what to do, how much to do, when to do it and any deadlines. At Higher you’re more likely to have to decide for yourself how much extra practice you need, what kind of study notes you keep, how much preparation time you have (allowing for your other subjects, eating, sleeping and maybe even having a life!).

A New Way of Thinking

Lastly, how you approach the maths requires a whole new way of thinking that you won’t have had much experience at in the Nat. 5 course. Things like using formula from other areas (e.g. trig) to find a value to use in the circle theorem, applying the converse to get the info you need, being fluent in algebraic manipulation and the level of precision you’ll now need to show in your answers. It takes some getting used to, but you will get there!

Prepare to be Organised

Be prepared to do the work.  Seriously. This is the one critical time in your school career where you just CANNOT cram a couple of weeks before the exam, no matter if you managed to scrape by in Nat. 5, Higher Maths is a totally different ballgame!

Being able to cope with the workload means you’ll have to be organised – find routines that allow you to go over the day’s work, do practice questions, have rest periods, exercise, socialise.

School-Based Study Periods

Study periods are for studying!  Easy to say, but it’s very hard to resist using the time to socialise. If you become aware that you’re frittering your time away with friends, take stock, this is your responsibility and take yourself away from the situation – go to the library or a quiet space. Remember, you also owe it to your friends to not be the reason they’re distracted from their studies!

Know When to Ask for Help

Don’t let a missed fact or lesson get away from you – find someone who can help you iron out the problem now; leaving it until revision before an exam means you risk not only losing sight of the whole topic, but losing your confidence; often all it takes is a re-phrasing of the maths.

Hang In There!

No matter how awful it feels right now, you will develop your skills for independent study, the kind that'll stay with you a lifetime.

That's the real achievement!

Bonus Bundle + FREE Tutor

Save £50 with the whole-course bundle and gain instant,
unlimited access to all topics.
Plus, unlocks time from a qualified tutor*, all for just £190
(*T&Cs apply)

STart today!
By clicking “GOT IT”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.