Whether you love working with numbers or can’t stand the sight of a tan graph, the thought of sitting the final maths exam can easily make anyone nervous. While some may have a love and affinity for the subject more than others, it doesn’t remove from the fact that success in mathematics opens up so many doors in a student’s career and life. Having said that, here are the top do’s and don’ts when it comes to succeeding in your exams.
DO: Practice as much as physically possible
Unlike many other subjects, mathematics is not forgiving when it comes to feigning knowledge. While you might be able to fill your English essay with fluffy sentences that give the impression that you know what you’re talking about (even though you only studied the night before), you will not get away with this in a maths exam. Examiners are only looking for the exact solution to a question; you’re either correct or you’re not. Due to the lack of subjectivity in maths, you cannot cut corners when it comes to studying. The only way to learn is to practice, practice, practice. Do questions from every single topic area and focus specifically on those you struggle on. If you run out of homework to do, turn to finding past papers, either from your school or online practice papers that fit your grade level. Do questions on the trip to school, while you’re waiting for something to download or in ad breaks of your favourite show. Integrate practice wherever you can.
DO: Understand where you’ve gone wrong
An integral part of practising is not only making sure your answers are correct, but understanding where you went wrong. It is essential to learn from your mistakes so you don’t keep repeating them. When you get your tests back, don’t just throw it to the side. Look through it and find questions you’ve gotten wrong or lost marks in. Read the feedback and make sure you clearly understand where you went wrong in the question and how you could’ve done it correctly. For even better understanding, try redoing the questions you got wrong after you’ve seen feedback. Similarly, when doing practice questions in your own time, always make sure to check the answers.
DO: Believe in yourself
While it may sound silly, studies have shown that those with a high positive attitude performed better in exams than those that didn’t (The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study, 2007). Mental attitude is critical to performance in exams; if you show up flustered, panicked and with a negative attitude, you’re bound to achieve lower than your potential. Be sure to take appropriate steps to have a clear, focused mind and positive attitude before your next exam. (See: “What to do before an exam” article link once it’s been written)
DON’T: Be afraid to ask for help
A critical mistake made by many students is not accessing help that is available to them. Many students find maths difficult and don’t understand key concepts but sit in silence. If your teacher introduces a concept that seems completely alien to you, don’t be afraid to go up after class and let them know. It is not a teacher’s job to only teach a class, they are also available and willing to provide further support. If arranging a one-on-one with a teacher isn’t an option for you, there are plenty of quality resources online such as Khan Academy that cover a massive range of topics for all year levels.
DON’T: Just practice easy questions
Another common mistake among students in maths is to selectively practice questions they find easy to do. This often gives a false sense of security and positions them to get a shock when the exam rolls around. Constantly doing questions that you find easy and simple will not extend your knowledge or ability in maths. It is essential to choose questions designed to challenge you and push the boundaries of your knowledge. If you don’t immediately know how to solve a question – do it! If you get it wrong then it’s okay; you will have learnt how to tackle a challenging question. The more challenging questions you expose yourself to, the better equipped you will be for your exam.
DON’T: Leave it to the last second
As said before, maths isn’t something you can cut corners in. The more time you have to practice, the better. Instead of cramming just before an exam, do regular practice throughout the year. Just a few hours of individual study a week will do wonders for your performance in mathematics. But as always, the more the better. You will get out what you put in.