How To Avoid Making Careless Mistakes in Your Math Exams
For a student, nothing is more frustrating than losing marks because of careless mistakes in a Maths exam. Think about it, you’ve been studying, practicing with worksheets, and attending tuition in preparation for the exam only to lose precious marks not for lack of knowledge, but lack of diligence. Parents, too, become anxious and would not want their children’s hard work to go to waste.
As such, here are 10 tips parents can impart to their kids so they can avoid making careless mistakes during Maths exams:
- Practise, practise, practise
Mastering maths concepts takes practise. Much like learning a musical instrument or playing a new sport, one cannot be good at it overnight. Moreover, a 2013 study indicates that in order to be good at maths, you have to practise different kinds of mathematics, even if you’re already good at a specific type of maths. In other words, a student cannot rely on their innate abilities, they still have to practise. If you’re looking for materials, tuition centres normally provide worksheets to prepare the students.
- Prepare yourself for the exams
Make sure you are in tiptop shape when taking the exam. Any distraction, such as a growling stomach, or discomfort, like a headache from lack of sleep, can cause you to lose your focus and make careless mistakes. Days before the exam, make sure you are eating right and getting enough sleep. Get into a routine that won’t leave you drained after revision. That’s why it is important to plan out your revision schedule early on.
- Check your work
This may sound simple, but a lot of students fail to check their work once they are done. If the problem involves solving equations, substitute your final answer back to the original equation and see if it makes sense based on the scenario given in the problem. If you notice that something is off, do not hesitate to go back and revise your work. When preparing for the test, make it a habit to check your answers on your practise worksheets. Remember that spotting an error is a skill in itself that must be strengthened.
- Make sure you’ve understood the question
Often, the mistake comes from a misunderstanding of the problem. What are you being asked to provide in the question? Analysing the questions thoroughly would lead to clear solutions, hence, less errors. It is helpful to underline or highlight key words and information that would help you figure out the problem, as well as the appropriate formula you should use.
- Use the proper units
When looking at a given problem involving Speed, Volume, Area, and the like, don’t overlook the units of measurement provided. An extra step may be required for you to convert units and failing to do this may result in losing marks or getting the wrong answer altogether. Moreover, don’t forget to include the unit in your final answer because incomplete statements may cost you marks.
- Don’t do everything in your head
There are some students who prefer to do computations in their heads in the rush to solve a problem. However, when the problem involves multiple steps and equations, it’s easy to make a mistake or lose one’s focus especially on challenging multi-step problems. It is better to write everything down, even the simple computations, so it will be easier to go back and see if everything adds up, so to speak.
- Make sure your handwriting is legible
Maybe because you’re nervous or your hand is trying to keep up with your mind that’s already processing the problem, but try as best you can to keep your handwriting neat and legible. It will allow you to see the work clearly and catch errors you may have done in the process. Teachers may also require you to show the work, so writing legibly will be beneficial.
- Don’t scrimp on space
Students may tend to squeeze in too much computations in a small portion of the paper. The risk in doing this is that you won’t be able to see the numbers clearly. You may miss out on the negative sign, for instance, and it will affect the rest of the process. In order for you to see the work you are doing so far, give ample space for your work. You may want to divide your paper beforehand and designate a space for each problem. If necessary, request more paper from the teacher or exam proctor.
- Always make sure you’ve answered every question
As a student, the last thing you want is to submit your answer sheet only to find out that there there was another page of questions that you failed to see. What a nightmare! So before you start the exam, make sure to check how many pages there are, as well as if there are questions written on the back pages. And you skip questions along the way, don’t forget to return to them after you’ve finished the other questions. Make sure to check the items one by one.
- Don’t be overconfident
One barrier that may prevent a student from checking his or her work is overconfidence or thinking that a question is too easy. While it’s good to be confident, especially if you know that you’ve prepared well for it, be humble enough not to underestimate the difficulty of the question. Treat all questions with the same care and consideration.
Check your work (again!)
It’s worth repeating: Double check your work! After you’ve finished answering all the questions, go back to each one and check your calculations. With the time pressure of an exam, students sometimes miss out on important steps because they are worried they would run out of time for the other problems. Now that you’ve gone over all the problems and given there is still enough time, you can now look at the problems with a relatively more relaxed mind.
Teacher and parents often refer to careless mistakes as the “silent killer” because it can cost the student an A or it can spell the difference between pass or fail. Being diligent in one’s work is just as important as understanding all the concepts. Schools and tuition centres can prepare the child well, but when exam time comes, it is up to the student to apply what they learned and see to it that careless mistakes are prevented.
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