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# STEP Tricks and Hacks Thread watch

1. 1. Adding zero creatively (i) (Zacken)
2. Trigonometrical symmetry and substitutions for integration (Zacken)
3. Trigonometrical functions as shifts of others (Zacken)
4. Implicit differentiation and logarithmic differentiation (Zacken)
5. Adding zero creatively (ii) (Zacken)
6. Algebra shenanigans with 'it suffices' (IrrationalRoot)
7. Discriminants as a useful tool for inequalities and in mechanics (Duke Glacia)
8. Weierstrass subs (Shamika)
9. Inequalities and injectivity (Zacken)
10. Summing arc-tangents (16Characters...)
11. L'Hopitals rule for limits (Joostan)
12. Factorising special polynomials and techniques to do so (Aymanzayenmannan)
13. Strong induction (Zacken)

Hopefully we can grow this into a useful and extensive collection of tricks and techniques - feel free to share your own!

So to start with Zacken posted a amazing techniques which could have saved me a lot of time and effort.

(Original post by Zacken)
For one, do you know about the "adding zero creatively trick"? It works wonders.

Here's an example of it:, now you could do long division and what not or use a substitution but it's quite elegant to do just:

.

If you want, you can try it with this gem: which was on a previous STEP II question.

It's very elegant to do this if you notice that so that you can simplify your integrand. :-)
OP written by Zacken
2. Bump. Not sitting STEP but I'll do some papers this summer for kicks
3. One recurring theme is to exploit the symmetry of trigonometric functions during integrating. Using this in conjunction with:

is particularly useful.

Here's an example: . How is this relevant here? Call our integral , then using the substitution we have:

Extension to this, using the same idea, roughly - attempt
4. Use the fact that some trigonometric functions are shifts of another, common examples include , and the likes. This comes in useful and saves a lot of time.

Say you were given - this could be an 8/9/10mark A-Level question easily; want a three liner way of doing it?

The equation is equivalent to

which now becomes elementary to solve.

Extension to this, using a STEP question, show that - should be a two or three liner using this method.

This trick has rendered one or two STEP I questions completely inane, especially the that's let me do a STEP I question in 4 minutes.
5. Using implicit differentiation can make life easier.

Say you wanted to differentiate a nasty function that might require multiple uses of the product rule or such, take logs!

Let's say you have , do you really want to differentiate this normally? I'd hope you said no. What you'd want to do is:

and leaving your answer in this form, i.e: as is quite useful in many a STEP I question that I've come across.

As an aside, here's another place where it's useful: , now the standard thing to do would be to consider intervals of that makes positive or negative and differentiate piecewise.

What'd I'd do is - this also lets you know where the function is not differentiable.

I'll edit it a nice problem for you lot to try in a bit:

Define with both being positive integers greater than . Show that the stationary point of this function in the interval is a maximum if is even and a minimum when is odd.
6. (Original post by Zacken)
Is this something we're supposed to know? I've never seen this before.
7. (Original post by TLDM)
Is this something we're supposed to know? I've never seen this before.
Nothing I've posted is something you should know, but instead it's something that once pointed out is apparent.

In the case you've pointed out, that equality comes right away from using the substitution . It's quite literally a one-liner.
8. I'd just like to showcase an astounding example of the adding zero creatively trick (even if it's been quoted already by Duke in the OP), it featured heavily in STEP II, 2005, Q8 for example and the examiners report and official solutions didn't even mention it, they decided to mention ridiculous things like hyperbolic trigonometrical substitutions instead of a simple trick.

So what we have is:

The seperable stuff is easy and you all know how to integrate , but the RHS is slightly more tricky, how would you integrate - what I'd do:

Whereby integrating is very standard now, since . Oh, and somebody remind me to do a post about multiplying by one creatively.
9. Using 'it suffices' a lot is very useful for proving certain algebraic results (whittling down what is required to be proven).

Taking the last part STEP III 2009 Q1 as an example, I got expressions for st/uv and (s+t)/(u+v) in terms of m and n and needed to prove that p+q (each expressed as somewhat ugly expressions involving m,n,s,t,u,v) is equal to 0.

A very easy way of doing this is to start is to:
Factor out m-n so that it suffices to prove that the other factor is equal to 0.
Combine the fractions so that it suffices to prove that the numerator is equal to 0.
A bit of algebra combined with double-headed implication arrows between steps generates the expressions st/uv and (s+t)/(u+v) and a clear equality results after substituting for these (thus the result follows due to the backwards implication).

This was a simple example but the general technique should be clear.
Starting with a result and progressively reducing it down to smaller problems is a very widely applicable technique.
10. (Original post by Zacken)
Nothing I've posted is something you should know, but instead it's something that once pointed out is apparent.

In the case you've pointed out, that equality comes right away from using the substitution . It's quite literally a one-liner.
So is it not in A level then? We've not finished FP2/3 yet (I know we have some more integration to go), so I wasn't sure whether or not it was in there. We've done things like "adding zero creatively" though.

But I think adding zero is the only thing so far that's not new to me. These are all incredibly helpful; thanks for posting these!
11. Am I high or in the Zacken's quote in the OP should it be 1- 1/(1+x) on the second line?
12. (Original post by Student403)
Am I high or in the Zacken's quote in the OP should it be 1- 1/(1+x) on the second line?
No you're right XD.
13. (Original post by IrrationalRoot)
No you're right XD.
Okay phew! Zain remember to edit the logarithm too
14. (Original post by Zacken)
Using implicit differentiation can make life easier.

Say you wanted to differentiate a nasty function that might require multiple uses of the product rule or such, take logs!

Let's say you have , do you really want to differentiate this normally? I'd hope you said no. What you'd want to do is:

and leaving your answer in this form, i.e: as is quite useful in many a STEP I question that I've come across.
Never came across the idea of logarithmic differentiation for products. Was this featured in any STEP questions?
15. (Original post by TLDM)
So is it not in A level then? We've not finished FP2/3 yet (I know we have some more integration to go), so I wasn't sure whether or not it was in there. We've done things like "adding zero creatively" though.

But I think adding zero is the only thing so far that's not new to me. These are all incredibly helpful; thanks for posting these!
None of these things are remotely requisite for A-Level, they're not even requisite for STEP - just nice shortcuts that you pickup by yourself informally, none of it is really meant to be taught explicitly. :-)

(Original post by Student403)
Am I high or in the Zacken's quote in the OP should it be 1- 1/(1+x) on the second line?
Corrected - thanks for pointing it out; I'm typing all these out in a rush; so people feel free to quote the bits that are wrong and correct me so we can turn this into a nice collection.
16. (Original post by IrrationalRoot)
Never came across the idea of logarithmic differentiation for products. Was this featured in any STEP questions?
At least two STEP I questions I can think of off the top of my head.
17. (Original post by Zacken)
None of these things are remotely requisite for A-Level, they're not even requisite for STEP - just nice shortcuts that you pickup by yourself informally, none of it is really meant to be taught explicitly. :-)

Corrected - thanks for pointing it out; I'm typing all these out in a rush; so people feel free to quote the bits that are wrong and correct me so we can turn this into a nice collection.
Cheers - I only asked if I'm high because I've literally never seen you make a typo in maths before
18. (Original post by Zacken)
At least two STEP I questions I can think of off the top of my head.
I've done virtually every pure one from 1991 to 2013 and have never seen this? Where did you learn this idea?
19. Duke Glacia, Zacken

Lovely idea. perhaps hyperlink the OP with relevant post urls?
(Original post by Student403)
Cheers - I only asked if I'm high because I've literally never seen you make a typo in maths before
He edits very quickly .
20. (Original post by Kvothe the arcane)
He edits very quickly .
Too true!

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