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Zero To Hero : How I Aced My Math Exam

MathsMath tests are, to most people, tedious and bland. However, if you have a record of failed math tests, or feel that you can’t understand math no matter how hard you try, math tests are terror and tedium rolled into one. Yet, math is doable by anyone once you have the basic approaches sorted.

Pay attention in class. If you aren’t listening to the teachings of the lesson, how will you possibly pass your test? That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the math instructor when he or she is talking. To pay attention, remove all distracting items from your desk; this includes laptops, a note from a friend or any juicy reading you’re trying to catch up on. Look at the instructor or teacher and listen attentively. If you need to be looking at the board, be sure that you are. If you’re at a spot where you can’t see, hear, or concentrate, ask your instructor or teacher if you may move to a different seat (or just shift if permission isn’t required).

Take notes. Writing notes is very important because they will serve as a recapping pathway to help you study for the test. Use lined paper and a pencil, and write down any key information that either the teacher or instructor is saying or writes on the board. Remember, you’ll be looking at your notes to study, so write clearly and neatly. Write any practice problems if you think they’ll be helpful.

Participate. Don’t you hate it when you get called on and didn’t know the answer? If you paid attention, you might have, but sometimes, you just don’t know the answer. Try to participate in class. It’ll help you understand the information, and it will show your math instructor that you understand the problem and can get involved. Know that it’s okay to get an answer wrong, so give it your best guess; it’s better to show enthusiasm than to be perfectly right each time

Ask questions. Everybody, even the smartest people, ask questions. And remember the Chinese saying if you feel stupid: “People who ask a question are stupid for five minutes; people who never ask a question are stupid for a lifetime.” So speak up, and don’t be afraid. In actual fact, there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. Ask your teacher or instructor in class or a lecture, or privately after class, if you think you’ll be embarrassed. If you still don’t get it, see your teacher or instructor after math class, during lunch, or after school to discuss the problems. It’s their job to help you get it.

Do your homework. Almost everybody despises homework, but it’s assigned for a reason: to help you understand the lesson by coming to grips with the information on your own terms. When you have homework to do, write it right away in your agenda book to make sure you won’t forget it. Remember to bring it home, and if you need your book for homework, take it home. (Ask your teacher or instructor if you can get the math book online so you won’t have to bring it home; this is becoming more commonplace now).

When you do your homework, get comfortable but not too comfortable, remove distractions such as cell phones, electronic devices or TVs, and be in a well-lit room. Try to be in a quiet place where you can always be alone. If you need to, put on some soft music in the background, which can help some people with work.

Always follow the directions, and check your work. If you’re stuck on a problem, go back to it later, or ask a sibling/parent/friend/classmate for help. For short answers or word problems, write with labels and complete sentences.

Study. The study rules apply to homework, as far as your study space goes. Studying requires concentration, so don’t think you can get away with studying while watching TV, slinging off Angry Birds or texting. Gather all your materials needed to study, which could be your notes, math book, a study guide, and/or homework. For math vocab, try making flash cards and looking over the words and their definitions. A good approach to studying is: Try some practice problems on the internet or in your math book to solve.

Focus the most on what you need help with, if you already know the rest.

Since repetition is very important in math, make sure you keep doing problems until they stick in your head.

Try studying with a buddy by having them check your answers and quiz you on math vocab. You could email answers back and forth if you’re not physically together.

Include fun. Math can be fun as well. Pretend you’re a contestant on a game show and have to answer math questions. Have a friend come round to do math homework together. Then flip flashcards and have you say the correct answers before another friend.

Be aware that there are many methods to studying, so find yours and go at a pace that works for you. Remember to study at your level. If you push too hard, you’ll get tired and confused. Start easy, then gradually get more difficult on the problems.

Have a good night sleep. While it’s great to study, you shouldn’t be staying up all night doing it! Sleep matters too, so make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep (or get the amount of sleep you personally need within the 6-9 hour sleep range). Sleep is a necessary part of remembering information long term; the material a student studies must be “locked in” by a period of sleep. After a certain period of time with no sleep, no new information can be retained.

Eat a healthy breakfast. While you should eat a well-balanced breakfast every day, it’s especially important to eat breakfast the day of your math test, or before any test, so that your energy-hungry brain gets the energy needed to think straight. Eating before the tests will ensure that you won’t be hungry, and you can focus on passing the test. Obviously though, don’t eat too much or you’ll feel drowsy and sick.

Relax. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth slowly three times. Get comfortable in your chair (but not too comfortable), close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing for a couple of seconds. If you need to, during the test, change positions to become more comfortable, and find a position in which you will do your best and focus. Remove any possible distractions, such as a book or highlighter on your desk. Don’t think about any fear, just stay positive and calm. Promise yourself that you will do your best on this test, and know that, whatever grade you get, you deserve it based upon your effort.

Read the directions. This may sound self-evident but time and again, examinees forget to read the basic instructions and lose points or marks for it. The first thing you should put on a test, on any paper, is your name. If you don’t have your name on your test, you will lose all credit for the test. You could also put the date on the test, the period, homeroom, teacher or instructor, etc. Then, skim the test yourself, or while the teacher or instructor is explaining directions. Change any errors in the test if your teacher or instructor says to do so (you need to be listening carefully, not silently panicking), or ask them if there is a possible error if you find one. Always read the directions again before doing the problem, and pay attention to words such as least to greatest, sum, difference, product, quotient, and about.

Start the test. When you may begin, start the test. It can be helpful to keep to the given order to guarantee no missed questions, or start with the easier problems first then go back to the more difficult ones, making sure you’ve missed none. However, it’s up to you, so go in any order that will help you the most, as long as you have a method for checking for missed questions.

For multiple choice, read the question, then solve. Then look at the choices given. Make sure you read them all before selecting an answer. If your answer matches, check your work and select that answer. If you are having a little trouble, realize that there will always be two choices that are far from the answer, and two that are close, but one of which is the correct answer. Two answers that are close to each other are both probably wrong, so you can rule those two out immediately and focus simply on the two possible correct ones.

For word problems, don’t panic! Many people hate math word problems, you aren’t alone. Read through the entire problem, highlighting/circling numbers and important information. Think to yourself, “Is there information I don’t need?” and cross off unnecessary information. Look at what is being asked (the last sentence, almost all of the time.)

Choose an operation to solve the problem. Will you add? Subtract? Multiply? Divide? Look for key words, such as “more than”, “product”, and “divide”. Then solve the problem.

Check your answers. Many people think they have answered everything perfectly, and don’t even bother to check over their answers. This could become a bad habit as there may well be something missed or slightly wrong, so always check your answers, even if you think you got everything right. You could have easily made a silly mistake. Check your test for your name, and see if any questions are missed. If you missed something, add it in, and check for labels and other silly errors. Then, hand in your test.

Pat yourself on the back for a job well done! You should be proud of yourself for completing the test, so sit back, relax, and wait for the results. Know that whatever grade you get, you deserve it, because of your effort.


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