Cynthia Arem, Ph.D.
Pima Community College
|Be successful in
math. Here are
some excellent strategies for
succeeding on math tests.
1. Always review daily, weekly and then do a major review one week before your exam. Use study checklists and flash cards.
2. Once an exam is announced:
3. To guarantee success of your math test, you
master all the topics on your list BEFORE you work on any practice
4. Do not expect to be able to work out very
problems on a test if you have not practiced working out these kinds of
problems ahead of time. So work out lots and lots of difficult problems
dealing with each topic. Do one topic at a time.
5. The best way to ensure success on a test is to
and master "practice tests" that have the same form as the actual
tests you are preparing to take. Create sample tests for yourself from
guides and course outline review texts that have the correct answers
so you can check your solutions. Test yourself often. When you can get
100% on your own difficult tests, you are bound to do well on your exam.
6. If you will have a time limit on your exam,
give yourself timed practice tests similar to the one you expect in
Time yourself with a kitchen timer or an alarm. Practice various types
of problems and see how fast you are working. Often speed counts on a
You may have to practice some types of problems over and over again
you can work them in less time.
7. Learn to recognize your math concepts, formulas
or procedures in random order, that is, in a different order than they
were presented in your textbook or in class.
8. Remember, it is not possible to study too much
a math test. It is not possible that over studying can lower your
Doing more work can only help you to gain greater mastery of your
But do not study until the last minute and be sure to get a good nights
sleep the two previous nights before your exam. Learn to do calming
to relax. The last half hour before an exam should be devoted to calm
techniques and relaxation.
9. Do an error analysis of your homework problems, practice tests and past exams. Note the typical careless or "dumb" errors you usually make and the types of problems that cause you difficulty. Give yourself more practice in these areas of difficulty. Make a check list of the careless errors, such as simple addition errors, copying numbers incorrectly, leaving the decimal point out, reversing signs, etc.
After completing your next exam, be sure to
proofread as you would do an essay, to correct these typical errors.
often give you many more points on an exam.
10. When taking your math exam, know how much time
have and the point value for each question. Set up a schedule for
through the exam, not spending too much time on any one problem. Work
a regular pace. Begin the exam wherever it feels comfortable. Often it
is best to start with the easiest question and then go to the next
and so on. You do not have to begin at the beginning, and often the
question is not the easiest. Omit and mark questions that resist a
response. After finishing the exam, use all the remaining time to
and proofread your exam and to work out omitted items.
11. When you get your exam, write out all of your
on the top corner of the sheet. This becomes your "cheat sheet' and
you can refer to it any time during the exam. Be sure to put down even
easiest formulas so you will not blank on them later, as some students
12. Get into the habit of always checking every
you work out. Estimate the correct answer first and then see if your
out answer is close to your estimate. Do the problem a different way
see if you get the same answer. Ask yourself, is this answer
reasonable. Did I make any of my usual careless errors?
13. Throughout the exam focus on remaining calm, relaxed and positive. Make sure you are breathing regular and slowing from your lower lungs. Relax any tight neck or shoulder muscles and push away any negative or disturbing thoughts. Keep saying positive things to yourself. Say things like:
14. Give yourself the entire test period to finish
and do not get spooked because others leave early. Teachers have
reported that students who leave early often do poorly on exams.
15. After finishing your exam, check
proofread for your typical errors and then leave and reward yourself
a job well done.
The math test taking tips on this page were
"Conquering Math Anxiety, a Self Help Workbook" (Brooks/Cole 2010) by
For great tips
on how to study math go to my Web Site:
For great tips on how to read a math textbook go to my Web Site: Reading a Math Textbook
For tips on how to overcome math anxiety go to my Web Site: Conquering Math Anxiety
To return to Frequently Asked Questions go to my Web site: Effective Math and Sciences Study Skills
Pima Community College
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