Math Tests

Tests can be nerve-wracking, but you can help yourself succeed with a bit of preparation. On top of that, tests help you recognize areas where you’re not as strong, which can be especially important for improvement. You can work on these areas before they hinder your ability to pick up future concepts. This section contains some techniques to help you prepare for tests, as well as advice about how to stay calm while completing the test.

Preparing for a Math Test

  • Do lots of practice problems. The best way to prepare for a test is to do what you will be asked to on the test. Your textbook is a good starting place to find examples of practice questions, but you could also create your own questions, or collaborate with a study group to create practice questions for one another. Your notes is also a great place to look for examples that were given in class.
  • Make a reference sheet that summarizes the important concepts covered in a chapter or unit. This reference sheet will be helpful as you do your assignments, complete practice problems, or study for your test.
  • Create a formula sheet by writing down new formulas you come across along with their explanations to help you remember them and when to use them.
  • Fill in knowledge gaps. Math builds on itself, and so you cannot move on to the next topic without understanding what came before it.
  • Get help if you need it. Talk to your instructor, Student Success advisor, or make an appointment with the Learning Curve.

Writing Multiple Math Tests or Exams

  1. Be prepared: Arrive early with all the materials that you need (pencils, eraser, ruler, calculator, and so on).
  2. Do a ‘brain dump’: The first thing you should do as soon as the exam starts is turn to a piece of scrap paper and write down any formulas or information that you think you might forget. This will allow you to relax and worry about completing the problems rather than remembering formulas in your head.
  3. Read the instructions and begin: Go through the test, answering all the questions that you can quickly. Do the questions you know how to do first, and go back to the more difficult ones later.
  4. Check the points: Note point values for each question. Budget your time and allow yourself more time for questions with higher point values.
  5. Show your work: Write neatly and show all your steps. It is important to show how you arrive at your answer.
  6. Check your work: When possible, check that your answer is reasonable. Does it make sense?
  7. Review your test: Review your test for any questions you may have missed and check answers if time permits.

Creating a Formula Sheet

The number of formulas in math can sometimes be overwhelming. How do you remember when to use each formula and what the variables in each formula mean?

Whether not you can bring them to your assessment, a useful strategy to help you remember formulas is to write them down in one place. Whenever you encounter a new formula, add it to your list. You can then use this formula sheet as a quick reference guide when solving problems or studying for a test.

Click here to download an example formula sheet

When you add a formula to your list, make sure you write down all necessary information. Use the WIN method to remember what you have to write down.

Write Down the Formulas

  • On a separate page or document, write down each new formula you encounter on the left side of the page.
  • Include an image if it is applicable.

Identify the Variables

  • To the right of your formula, write down each variable and what the variable represents (for example, l = length).
  • Remember that a variable is a letter or symbol that represents an unknown value.

Use a Neat Layout

  • Keep your formula sheet neat and organized so it is easy to read and use when doing assignments or studying.
  • Use the lesson names or textbook chapter names as headings on your formula sheet, so you can easily reference your notes or textbook for more information.

Creating a Summary Sheet

When preparing for a test, make sure you are familiar with all of the key concepts covered in the applicable chapters or units. A summary sheet is a set of notes summarizing a unit or chapter. It is a good tool to help you review the important information.

To create and use a summary sheet:

  1. Look at your notes for the unit/chapter and the textbook to find the important concepts. Tip: If you used the Cornell Method, you can find summaries of the concepts at the bottom of each page of notes.
  2. Write down the important concepts and formulas and add short explanations. Include details such as:
    • steps to solve the problems;
    • definitions of key terms;
    • meanings of variables in formulas.
  3. To help organize your summary page and remember important information, use formatting tools such as:
    • headings;
    • definitions of key terms;
    • tables;
    • underlining or bolding font;
    • colour;
    • highlight.
  4. Use this summary to review concepts as you prepare for tests.

See an example of a summary in Prealgebra 2e.

This work, “Preparing for a Math Test,” is a derivative of “Study Strategies” From the Learning Portal  used under CC BY 4.0. “Exploring College” is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Assiniboine Community College


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