Taking Math Tests

Sierra College Ė 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 isnít 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 nightís 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 - donít 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.