The secret to surviving Maths Exams

The secret to surviving Maths Exams

It’s pretty hard to avoid Maths exams; whether it be a GCSE, A level or part of an undergraduate degree ( Don’t fool yourself that only people doing an actual Mathematics degree have to do maths exams, a lot of university courses from Geography to Psychology include some sort of compulsory math module).  They can be terrifying compared to other exams with most of the questions being application of knowledge instead of recalling facts. Having been through several sets of maths exams myself, these are the things are the key things I’ve picked up that make the whole ordeal manageable;

Go through your notes and syllabus 

Unlike other subjects you don’t have to learn anything word for word but you should have a good background understanding of the topics you’ve covered. You should also check your syllabus for your exam board online to make sure you’ve 100% covered everything on it. There may be a class you missed that you don’t have the notes for. They can’t ask you anything that’s not on the syllabus, so it’s the most comprehensive revision list you’ll ever read.

Use past papers
if you remember anything from this blog at all then remember this; PAST PAPERS ARE YOUR BEST FRIENDS. The best way to learn maths is the actually do questions. I would estimate about 85% of your revision should be doing papers. The papers are often very repetitive, I mean there’s only so many ways they can ask you to use the Pythagoras’ theorem. That way easy questions may become like routine and means less stress and uncertainty on the day. The papers will also show up any gaps in your knowledge, meaning you need to go through your notes again or see a maths tutor.

Speak to your teachers 

They’re there to help, it’s literally their job. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask, they have a huge wealth of knowledge that is just too good to pass up on.  You can target the areas you’re stuck on and make a lot of progress in a short space of time.If you still can’t stand the thought of having to speak to a teacher outside of class time, there’s always YouTube and Google. There is millions of videos and web pages that cover pretty much all areas of maths. Seeing topics presented differently might help you fit the pieces together needed to finally grasp a topic.

Make your exam technique perfect 

I had a paper once that had a question that had to include ‘hence by induction the original statement was true’. It was a stupid mark after doing a lot of quite difficult algebra that could have been easily missed. You could have not answered any other part of the question and just written that sentence at the end and been awarded one mark! You can be really pedantic and squeeze marks out of questions wherever you can e.g. labelling axis, writing down formulas. Every mark counts! There is nothing more disappointing than being one mark off the next grade boundary.  Make sure you’ve got the other basics covered too, such as your timing per question, making sure you answer all the questions, trying be neat so your don’t change a 3 into an 8 etc. If you have enough time at the end you can go through questions backwards and try get back to the original statement. It can help you spot any silly arithmetic mistakes.

Look after yourself 

I’ve always thought maths was the subject the most like a marathon. You can’t cram for it.  So don’t waste your time for precious sleep time trying to go through your notes again! Even if you feel like you haven’t done enough work, getting a good night’s sleep will mean that you’re on top mental form. That way you’ll at least remember the stuff you have learnt and be less likely to make silly mistakes.  Don’t let all your weeks of ‘training’ go to waste! Try not to do too much during the day of the exam. Seeing a question that you can’t do might lead to total nuclear meltdown and that is not the way you want to start an exam. You can do some light reading on the morning of the exam but otherwise try to relax. Most of the work is already done!

Don’t panic in exam

It can be scary seeing a question unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Try and stay calm. Go through the topics you’ve learnt in your head and think what could be related to the question. They can’t ask you something that isn’t in the syllabus. If your mind is still drawing a blank, just move on. You still have a large portion of the paper that you can do well on, so don’t let it put you off!

After the exam

Don’t torture yourself asking everyone else was if they 12.45 for question 12 b) ii). It’s not worth it and if you overhear/can’t help yourself, remember there are more marks for your method than your answer at the end. Now go have a bowl of ice cream and watch some tv! You’ve done your best and that’s all anyone can ask for.

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