This article explains circle theorems, including tangents, sectors, angles and proofs (with thanks to Revision Maths).
Two Radii and a chord make an isosceles triangle.
Perpendicular Chord Bisection
The perpendicular from the centre of a circle to a chord will always bisect the chord (split it into two equal lengths).
Angles Subtended on the Same Arc
Angles formed from two points on the circumference are equal to other angles, in the same arc, formed from those two points.
Angle in a Semi-Circle
Angles formed by drawing lines from the ends of the diameter of a circle to its circumference form a right angle. So c is a right angle.
We can split the triangle in two by drawing a line from the centre of the circle to the point on the circumference our triangle touches.
We know that each of the lines which is a radius of the circle (the green lines) are the same length. Therefore each of the two triangles is isosceles and has a pair of equal angles.
But all of these angles together must add up to 180°, since they are the angles of the original big triangle.
Therefore x + y + x + y = 180, in other words 2(x + y) = 180. and so x + y = 90. But x + y is the size of the angle we wanted to find.
A tangent to a circle is a straight line which touches the circle at only one point (so it does not cross the circle- it just touches it).
A tangent to a circle forms a right angle with the circle’s radius, at the point of contact of the tangent.
Also, if two tangents are drawn on a circle and they cross, the lengths of the two tangents (from the point where they touch the circle to the point where they cross) will be the same.
Angle at the Centre
The angle formed at the centre of the circle by lines originating from two points on the circle’s circumference is double the angle formed on the circumference of the circle by lines originating from the same points. i.e. a = 2b.
You might have to be able to prove this fact:
OA = OX since both of these are equal to the radius of the circle. The triangle AOX is therefore isosceles and so ∠OXA = a Similarly, ∠OXB = b
Since the angles in a triangle add up to 180, we know that ∠XOA = 180 – 2a Similarly, ∠BOX = 180 – 2b Since the angles around a point add up to 360, we have that ∠AOB = 360 – ∠XOA – ∠BOX = 360 – (180 – 2a) – (180 – 2b) = 2a + 2b = 2(a + b) = 2 ∠AXB
Alternate Segment Theorem
This diagram shows the alternate segment theorem. In short, the red angles are equal to each other and the green angles are equal to each other.
You may have to be able to prove the alternate segment theorem:
We use facts about related angles
A tangent makes an angle of 90 degrees with the radius of a circle, so we know that ∠OAC + x = 90. The angle in a semi-circle is 90, so ∠BCA = 90. The angles in a triangle add up to 180, so ∠BCA + ∠OAC + y = 180 Therefore 90 + ∠OAC + y = 180 and so ∠OAC + y = 90 But OAC + x = 90, so ∠OAC + x = ∠OAC + y Hence x = y
A cyclic quadrilateral is a four-sided figure in a circle, with each vertex (corner) of the quadrilateral touching the circumference of the circle. The opposite angles of such a quadrilateral add up to 180 degrees.
Area of Sector and Arc Length
If the radius of the circle is r, Area of sector = πr2 × A/360 Arc length = 2πr × A/360
In other words, area of sector = area of circle × A/360 arc length = circumference of circle × A/360
Common entrance exams have a time limit. If they didn’t, they’d be a lot easier! If you want to save time and improve your story, one thing you can do is to prepare three ‘off-the-shelf’ characters that you can choose from.
You can work on them beforehand, improving them and memorising them as you go. By the time the exam comes around, it’ll be easy to dash off 8-10 lines about one of your favourite characters without having to spend any time inventing or perfecting them.
Here’s what you need to do.
The first thing to say is that you need your characters to be a little out of the ordinary. Most pupils writing stories tend to write about themselves. In other words, 10-year-old boys living in London tend to write stories about 10-year-old boys living in London!
Now, that’s all very well, and the story might still get a good mark, but what you want to try and do is stand out from the crowd. Why not write a story about an 18-year-old intern at a shark research institute in the Maldives?!
To decide which one you’d rather write about, you just have to ask yourself which one you’d rather read about. One thing you can do to make sure your characters are special is to give them all what I call a ‘speciality’ or USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
It might be a superpower such as X-ray vision or mind-reading, or it might be a special skill such as diving or surfing, or it might be a fascinating back-story such as being descended from the Russian royal family or William Shakespeare – whatever it is, it’s a great way to make your characters – and therefore your stories – just that little bit more interesting.
Secondly, you should also make sure all your characters are different. Try to cover all the bases so that you have one you can use for just about any story. That means having heroes that are male and female, old and young with different looks, personalities and nationalities.
For instance, Clara might be the 18-year-old intern at a shark research institute in the Maldives, Pedro might be the 35-year-old Mexican spy during the Texas Revolution of 1835-6 and Kurt might be the 60-year-old Swiss inventor who lives in a laboratory buried deep under the Matterhorn! Who knows? It’s entirely up to you.
Thirdly, creating an off-the-shelf character is a great way to force yourself to use ‘wow words’ and literary techniques such as metaphors and similes. You may have learned what a simile is, but it’s very easy to forget to use them in your stories, so why not describe one of your heroes as having ‘eyes as dark as a murderer’s soul’?
If you use the same characters with similar descriptions over and over again, it’ll become second nature to ‘show off’ your knowledge, and you can do the same with your vocabulary. Again, why say that someone is ‘big’ when you can say he is ‘athletic’, ‘brawny’ or ‘muscular’?
Fourthly, try to stick to what you know. If you’ve never even ridden on a horse, it’s going to be quite tough to write a story about a jockey!
Alternatively, if you’ve regularly been to a particular place on holiday or met someone you found especially interesting, then use what you know to create your characters and their backgrounds. It’s always easier to describe places if you’ve actually been there, and it’s easier to describe people if you know someone similar.
So what goes into creating off-the-shelf characters? The answer is that you have to try and paint a complete picture. It has to cover every major aspect of their lives – even if you can’t remember all the details when you come to write the story. I’d start by using the following categories:
Job or education
Friends and family
USP (or speciality)
Names are sometimes hard to decide on, so you might want to leave this one to last, but you just need to make sure it’s appropriate to the sort of character you’re creating. It wouldn’t be very convincing to have a Japanese scientist called Emily!
Age is fairly easy to decide. Just make sure your three characters are different – and not too close to your own age!
Job or education goes a long way to pigeon-holing someone. You can tell a lot from what someone does for a living or what they are doing in school or at university. You can include as much or as little detail as you like, but the minimum is probably the name and location of the school or college and what your characters’ favourite subjects are. You never know when it might come in handy!
Looks includes hair, eye colour, build, skin colour and favourite clothes. The more you describe your heroes’ looks, the easier it’ll be for the reader to imagine them.
Home can again be as detailed as you like, but the more specific the better. It’s easier to imagine the captain of a nuclear submarine patrolling under the North Pole than someone simply ‘living in London’…
Friends and family are important to most people, and it’s no different for the heroes of your stories. We don’t need to know the names of all their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, but we at least need to know who they live with and who their best friends are.
Personality covers many things, but it should show what your characters are ‘like’ and what their interests are. Again, you don’t have to go into enormous depth, but it’s good to introduce the reader to qualities that might be needed later on in the story, such as athleticism or an ability to sail a boat.
USP (or speciality) covers anything that makes a character worth reading about. One of the reasons Superman is so popular is his superpowers: his ability to fly, his X-ray vision and the fact that he’s invulnerable. His greatest weakness is also important: Kryptonite. It’s the same for your characters. What can they do that most people can’t? What qualities can they show off in your stories? What will make them people we admire, respect and even love?
If you wanted to make Superman one of your off-the-shelf characters, this is what your notes might look like:
Name: Superman (or Clark Kent, Kal-El, The Man of Steel, The Last Son of Krypton, The Man of Tomorrow)
Age: Early 20s (when he first appears)
Job or education: News reporter at The Daily Planet in Metropolis
Looks: Tall, with a muscular physique, dark-haired, blue eyes
Home: Krypton, then the Kents’ farm in Smallville, Kansas, then Metropolis (or a fictionalised New York), where he lives in a rented apartment
Friends and family: Jor-El and Lara (biological parents)/Jonathan and Martha Kent (adoptive parents), Lois Lane (colleague, best friend, girlfriend), Jimmy Olsen (colleague), Perry White (boss as editor of The Daily Planet)
USP (or speciality): Superpowers, including invulnerability, super strength, X-ray vision, super hearing, longevity, freezing breath, ability to fly (but vulnerable to Kryptonite!)
Once you’ve created the notes for your three characters, you can write a paragraph of 8-10 lines about each of them. This is your chance to create something that you can easily slot into any of your stories, so use the past tense and stick to what the characters are like, not what they’re doing. That will be different in each story, so you don’t want to tie yourself down.
Here’s an example using Superman again:
Clark Kent led a double life. He wasn’t happy about it, but he needed his secret identity so that no-one would find out who he really was. He might have been a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet with a crush on his partner, Lois Lane, but he was also a crime-fighting superhero: he was Kal-El, Superman and The Man of Steel all rolled into one!
His secret was that he’d actually been born on Krypton and sent to Earth as a baby to protect him from the destruction of his home planet. He’d been found by a childless couple living on a farm in Smallville, Kansas, and Jonathan and Martha Kent had adopted him as their own.
They didn’t know where he’d come from, but they’d provided him with a loving home as they watched him grow into a blue-eyed, dark-haired, athletic young man with a passion for ‘truth, justice and the American way’.
And they soon realised he was special when they saw him lifting a tractor with one hand…! He was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! “Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s Superman!”
Try using your characters for stories you’re asked to write by your English teacher (or tutor, if you have one). The more often you use them, the better they’ll get as you change things you don’t like about them, bring in new ideas and polish the wording.
Try to create three off-the-shelf characters. Make them different ages, male and female and from different parts of the world. Start with the notes and then create a paragraph of 8-10 lines for each one in the past tense, ready to drop into any story…
I’m often asked by parents what books they should try to get their children to read, but I don’t think I’ve been much help so far, so this is my attempt to do better! If you’re still not convinced, there are a number of reading lists on my Useful Links page.
Tastes differ, obviously, so perhaps the best thing I can do is to list all the books that I loved when I was a boy. I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I read them, so you’ll have to use your common sense, but they did at least provide me with happy memories.
My favourite series of books when I was a child was the one written by Ronald Welch about the Carey family. He wrote about the men in the family over the course of around 500 years, from 1500 up to the First World War.
Each novel focused on one character in one particular period – rather like Blackadder, and there was a clear formula: whatever the period, he would have to fight a duel, he would do something heroic and he would win the fair lady!
The duels started with a dagger and a sword and then moved on to rapiers and then finally pistols as the years rolled on. I loved the military aspect to the books – as most boys would – and I read just about every single one I could get my hands on.
Unfortunately, they’re almost impossible to find in print nowadays, but it’s always worth a look…
CS Forester wrote the ‘Hornblower’ novels. I was interested in both sailing and military history when I was young, and this sequence of novels about a naval officer called Horatio Hornblower in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1792-1815 was a perfect blend of the two.
Alexander Kent (Douglas Reeman)
Alexander Kent was the pen name of Douglas Reeman, who wrote a series of novels about Richard Bolitho. I first came across him after finishing all the CS Forester novels, and he provided a similar mix of nautical and military history during the same period. They weren’t quite as good as the Hornblower novels, but I still enjoyed them.
I didn’t read absolutely all the Enid Blyton books when I was a boy, but the one that I do remember is The Boy Next Door. Among other things, I loved the name of the character (‘Kit’), I loved the bits about climbing trees and I also loved the word ‘grin’, which I never understood but thought was somehow magical!
Again, I don’t remember reading all the Roald Dahl novels, but James and the Giant Peach left a big impression. The characters were so interesting, and the idea of escaping from home on an enormous rolling piece of fruit was very exciting to me in those days…!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I read The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes when I was a boy, and it’s probably still the longest book I’ve ever read. I remember vividly that the edition I read was 1,227 pages long! I listened to the whole thing again recently in a very good audiobook edition read by Stephen Fry, and it was just as good second time around.
I loved the mystery of the stories, and I still read a lot of crime fiction even now. I’ve always had a very analytical mind, so Holmes’s brilliant deductions were always enjoyable to read about.
The Young Bond novels weren’t around when I was young, but I read the first few as an adult, and I enjoyed them. James Bond is a classic fictional creation that appeals to boys in particular, and I think I would’ve lapped it up as a teenager. The first one is called Silverfin. Once you’ve read it, you’ll be hooked!
Jane Austen introduced me to irony with the immortal opening line from Pride and Prejudice, but the first of her novels that I read was actually Emma. I had to read it at school as part of my preparation for the Oxford entrance exam, and I didn’t like it at first.
However, that was just because I didn’t understand what was going on. Once my English teacher Mr Finn had explained that the character of Emma is always wrong about everything, I found it very funny and enjoyable. They say that ‘analysing’ a book can sometimes ruin it, but in this case it was quite the opposite.
“If Henry James is the poodle of American literature, Ernest Hemingway is the bulldog. What do you think?” I was once asked that question in an interview at the University of East Anglia, and I had no idea how to reply!
As it happens, Hemingway was one of my favourite authors. My interviewer called his style ‘macho’, but that wasn’t the appeal for me. I simply liked the stories and the settings. I particularly loved the bull-fighting scenes in The Sun Also Rises, and there was just a glamour to the characters and the period that I really enjoyed.
If you don’t know where to start, try The Old Man and the Sea. It’s very simple and very short, but very, very moving.