Preparing for and taking math exams can be extremely stressful for students who do not feel they are strong at mathematics or test taking in general. Because math requires strong concentration skills, math exams can also be difficult for students who may have problems focusing, especially those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are, however, a variety of tips and techniques all students can use when studying for and taking math tests. Some of these techniques are specific to math tests, while others can be applied to all academic exams.
Math is one subject where skills continue to build upon each another. In other words, in order to succeed in algebra, you have to have a strong foundation in pre-algebra. In order to do well in calculus, you need to have a strong foundation in many aspects of math, including algebra and geometry. Therefore, studying for a math exam cannot begin the night before. You need to continually work on improving basic math skills (for example, it is much easier to solve an algebraic equation if you have your multiplication facts memorized). It is also important to stay on top of homework assignments and class work. If you do not understand the first homework assignment of a new unit, chances are you will not understand the rest of the material to follow.
If possible, you should try to study alone and in a group. When you work in a small group, other students will be able to help answer questions and solve problems you find difficult. You will also be able to help other students. Being able to teach a topic is an indication that you thoroughly know the material, while not being able to teach it indicates that you need to continue working on learning that math skill. When you work alone, you can test yourself. One way to do this is to actually make an exam using unassigned problems from the text book. Then, simulate classroom conditions and even set a time limit for yourself. When you are finished, grade yourself so that you can better assess what material you have mastered and what material you need to study.
The first thing you should do when you sit down to take the actual math exam is to read through the test. Look at how many questions are on the exam and the types of questions. This will help you to prioritize what problems to work on first. Remember, there is no rule that states you have to complete the test in the order that it is presented. Next, take the time to thoroughly and completely read the directions. Many times students miss a problem because they do not follow the directions, even though they know how to solve it. When you are working on a problem, make sure that you write clearly. This ensures that you do not misread your own handwriting and make a mistake, and it also ensures that the teacher can follow your process. Go back and check over your work to make sure that you did not make any simple mistakes, such as adding together two numbers to get the wrong answer. Making a simple mistake at the beginning of a problem usually means that the final answer will be wrong. Finally, if you get stuck on one problem, move on. You can always come back to that problem when you have finished the rest of the exam, instead of wasting all of your time on trying to solve one problem.