The mere thought of a math exam can fill one with anxiety. Taking a math exam can be a daunting task, no matter how much you prepare. Despite this, math is one of those subjects that we find particularly beneficial to study because it builds on previous learning and exams, allowing you to establish a good routine and pattern. Even a lot of preparation may seem insufficient sometimes. That’s when a few last-minute tips may come in handy. These tips may help you effectively meet the challenges presented by your math exam.1,2,3
Figuring out how much time to spend on each question is the first sum to face in your math exam. If your exam goes on for 100 minutes and there are 100 questions carrying one point each on the paper, you should spend one minute on each question and no more. It’s difficult to leave a question unfinished, but taking too long will cost you points carried by questions in other areas. It may be painful to move on, but remember that staying put is considerably more expensive. It’s pointless to waste six minutes to acquire two more points when those six minutes may be spent earning six points elsewhere on the exam. You must prioritize your tasks and keep to the deadlines you set for yourself.
Consider the Hardest Questions
During an exam, our attention and ability to focus on difficult issues go down. With that in mind, there’s a lot to be said for mentally strategizing responses to the test paper’s most difficult, point-heavy questions while you’re reading (mostly the last couple of questions of the paper). In the best-case scenario, you devise a strategy for answering a question and execute it as soon as the writing time starts. Even if the solution isn’t immediately evident, familiarizing yourself with the tougher questions will give you an advantage when it comes to answering them.
Conceptualize the Answer Before You Write
Before you begin writing or marking your answers, take a minute to consider the best approach to solving a problem. For instance, “I have two known sides and one unknown angle opposite one of them, and I need to identify the unknown angle against the other known side. The sine rule can be used to address this problem.”4
It may seem apparent, but if you think about your approach properly before writing it, you’ll be more likely to notice obvious flaws. Spending a few minutes at the start of your query to ensure you know where you’re going can help you prevent getting lost along the way.
It’s also a good idea to make a concise, point-by-point description of the strategy you intend to employ. That way, if you become distracted while working on it, you can always recall that “Oh yes, I’m attempting to finish answering the question by applying the sine rule here!”
Draw a Diagram, Wherever Possible
Even if it’s specifically not required, drawing a diagram has several advantages. It enables you to visualize the major features of a query as well as the missing component that you must locate. Rather than asking you to hold it all together in your head, it puts all of the relevant information on the page. It also allows you to physically draw out the path to an answer to a query. In some cases, it isn’t practical or desirable to pull out the diagram move⏤just one point, short algebra problems don’t usually require a whole graph⏤but it might be the best solution to a difficult problem.
Think About the Logic of Your Solution
You might think it’s superfluous, but it’s always a good idea to start from the ground up with your answer. Draw a picture, identify any unknowns, establish a formula, or figure out what you’ll need to answer the issue, and then demonstrate your reasoning step by step. This will not only help you in framing your response, but it will also allow the examiner to see your thought process. If your answer is incorrect, you’re more likely to receive partial credit for your efforts when the person evaluating your answer sheet can see what “x” and “y” represent and how you approached the solution to the given problem. Even if you don’t plan out your responses, it helps your teacher understand how to give you a grade. The more work you get out of your head and onto the page, the more likely it is that you will receive higher points from the evaluator!
Be Wary of Rounding and Units
Providing the answers in the requested format is an avoidable but “all-too-common” blunder. A question will usually specify how many decimal places the answer should be rounded to; once you’ve typed your answer, go back to the question to double-check that what you’ve written fits what was requested. A tiny trick that can be applied is to highlight the section of the questionnaire that taught how to provide the answer when it was first read. This ensures that you did not just read it, but can readily refer back to it when needed. The same rationale can be applied to the units that are being used. There is not a more frustrating way to lose points than forgetting to add the units to the end of a number. Tell your teacher or the person evaluating your answers that you’re fully aware of calculating time, distance, speed, a cash amount, or anything else that is an “ask” in the question.
If you find yourself falling into this trap frequently, remember to include your units in your calculations; the extra time spent writing “cm” on every line will be worthwhile.
Check your Work Towards the End
Nobody can be certain of every answer they’ve given in their math exam. Highlight the questions about which you’re the most unsure of, and if you have any extra time at the end of the exam, use it to go over them again and make sure you’ve tried your best to answer such questions. If that doesn’t fill up all of your exam time, another smart strategy is to check all your calculations as soon as possible. When using a calculator, shaky or sweaty hands can sometimes transform a 5 into a 3, or an addition sign into a multiplication sign. Going over each answer again takes out these minor inaccuracies and prevents you from losing points.
These are some last-minute tips for a math exam that will help you prepare for the exam without feeling anxious or tense, while also helping you do well. Browse our collection of articles on BYJU’S FutureSchool Blog for more tips and tricks on effective math learning.
- Preparing for tests and exams – Maths & numeracy – LibGuides at University of Hull. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/mathsskillsresources/preparing
- How to ace a Maths exam? Tips to study for a Math test. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.parentcircle.com/how-to-ace-math-exams-tips/article
- Dos and don’ts of Maths preparation while studying for board exams – Education Today News. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/tips-and-tricks/story/dos-and-don-ts-of-maths-preparation-while-studying-for-board-exams-1632565-2019-12-30
- Oblique Triangles. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2022, from https://www2.clarku.edu/~djoyce/trig/oblique.html