Taking Math Tests 
Sierra College – Tutor and Testing Center 

Suggestions for
Preparing for and Taking Math Tests 
1.
Keep
a list of things to remember  problems stressed by the instructor,
definitions, terms, diagrams and graphs, formulas. 
2.
Keep
up with the work  some courses can be passed by cramming, but math isn’t one
of them. Skills in math, as in sports, must be practiced. 
3.
Study
copies of old exams, chapter tests from the book, or make up your own. Then
practice them with the same limits as the real exam. 
4.
Get
a good night’s sleep before the test so that you are rested and alert; a
quick review before the test should be a summary only. 
5.
Arrive
at the test early so that you can be relaxed when the exam begins. 
6.
Quickly
look over the test and budget your time  don’t spend too much time on any
single problem or section of the test. 
7.
Do
some work on each problem  try to work at least part of each problem because
partial credit is better than none. 
8.
Check
your answers and look for careless mistakes during the last few minutes of
your test time (budget this important time). 
Suggestions for
Word Problems 
Solving problems is a
practical art, like swimming or playing the piano; you can only learn it by
imitation and practice. There is no magic key that opens all doors and solves
all problems. The major goal in solving word problems is to translate the
written words into a mathematical equation that we know how to solve. 
1.
Read
the problem for a general sense of what it is about; sometimes putting it
into your own words will help. 
2.
Then
reread it to pick out specific information: 
a.
What
you are asked to find? Usually you choose a variable to represent one unknown
and other unknowns will be represented in terms of the first. 
b.
What
information is given? Make a list, then organize it into a diagram, picture,
or chart. 
c.
What
are the relationships among the information given and the information to be
found? Sometimes it helps to think of similar problems from arithmetic and
the formulas needed there. 
3.
Translate
the information into an equation  get into the habit of doing this for easy
problems. The longer problems will not seem as difficult. 
4.
Solve
the equation you have written and label your answer  then find any other
quantities to be found. 
5.
Return
to the original problem and check your answer(s). Do they make sense in the
original problem and answer the question posed in the problem? 


Adapted from On Your Own in College by William C. Resnick and David H. Heller. 