Getting ready for exam success with the Casio fx-CG50 - Casio Calculators

Getting ready for exam success with the Casio fx-CG50

May 2024 Medium Read: 5 Min

Preparing for GCSE and A-level maths exams will be the top priority for many secondary school teachers and students in the coming months.

This is the time of year when we like to give as much information and support as we can, to help all users of our technologies get the absolute best out of them when it matters most.

One device that will really show its value in exams, particularly for A-level students, is the fx-CG50 graphic calculator.

With that in mind, we sat down with mathematician and fx-CG50 expert Simon May to get his thoughts on what teachers and students can do to maximise the benefits of this handset at exam time.

Don’t overlook the basics

Before getting into the details of the fx-CG50’s functionality and its exam benefits, Simon noted how important it is for students to be familiar with basic settings and checks to ensure the calculator is set up properly.

A good example of this is knowing whether the device is in degrees or radians mode and being able to switch between the two if necessary. Overlooking this, or forgetting about it in an exam, could lead to some unexpected answers that cause unnecessary confusion.

Being able to reset the handset is another useful skill, because it provides reassurance that all default settings have been restored and everything looks as the user would normally expect it to.

The fx-CG50 has an exam mode setting, which isn’t a mandatory requirement, but is recommended as an easy way to show invigilators that the handset doesn’t have anything stored in its memory that shouldn’t be there.

Finally, students should check before going into their exams that their calculator is running the latest operating system, currently OS 3.8. Simon said it’s particularly important for users to check they’re on OS 3.6 at the very least, because this will ensure they have access to the Distribution app, a powerful tool for answering statistics questions.

“Distribution just makes students’ lives a lot easier and helps them work faster, which is useful in exams, but also while they’re learning and revising,” he added.

Use the functionality to your advantage

When it comes to the most useful applications of the fx-CG50 in exams, Simon highlighted key functionality such as SolveN and graphing, noting that the power of features like these really becomes clear when they’re combined.

SolveN takes a numerical approach to solving equations and can present the solutions as exact values, including surds and fractions.

Once they have the solution they need, students can use the calculator’s answer memory function to extract that value and use it in other equations, calculations or graphs.

This removes the need to write down or remember specific values, which can take up valuable time and also raises the risk of manual input errors, particularly when dealing with tricky decimals.

Furthermore, there is the option to store important values as variables, which can then be easily recalled in subsequent calculations in any other app or mode on the calculator. This is available not only through SolveN, but also in various other modes on the fx-CG50, including Graph, Statistics and Distribution.

“Lots of teachers and students might not know that they can do these sorts of things,” Simon noted. “It’s a really useful exam technique, particularly for questions made up of various stages, when you’ve solved something, you have a value, and then you have to do something else with it.”

The value of graphing in exams

A standout feature of the fx-CG50 is its graphing functionality, and this can prove particularly valuable when students are looking to reinforce their understanding and back up their work in exams.

“Graphing can give you a deeper understanding of what’s going on in a question, whether the question asks you to graph it or not,” Simon said. “You can look at the graph and notice that it’s periodic, for example, meaning there could be more values to find.”

He also offered the example of modulus equations, which can be a tricky topic for students to fully understand, particularly amid the pressures of an exam.

The fx-CG50 has the functionality to solve these equations in SolveN, but also offers the option to graph them

The fx-CG50 has the functionality to solve these equations in SolveN, but also offers the option to graph them. This can be a good way to provide reassurance by checking that the graph has the expected shape – usually a V shape in the case of modulus equations.

Furthermore, graphing can help students to check they have the right number of solutions by looking at where the lines on a graph intersect. This offers a much clearer and more visually engaging way to check their working than using algebra alone.

Make the most of preparation time

Simon noted that, to really use it efficiently and get the most benefit from it, A-level exam candidates should ideally have been using the fx-CG50 regularly since the start of year 12.

This provides a solid foundation of experience and familiarity with the calculator, which they can build on at this time of year by reinforcing those core skills and seeking clarification on anything they’re unsure about.

We offer lots of resources that can help students improve their calculator proficiency ahead of exams, including short, easily digestible videos on our YouTube channel.

You’ll also find a large archive of how-to guides and information leaflets specific to the fx-CG50 in our online resources centre.

We hope you and your students will find them useful, and we wish you the best of luck for exam season!