The very thought of studying for maths strikes fear into many students’ hearts. However, there are a few things that you could do to make sure that you’re ready! Here are five things that you should be doing, starting right now!
1. Make sure you understand basic concepts
Textbooks are great to help you understand the basic concepts in maths. If you’re not understanding the basic concepts, it’ll be very difficult for you to tackle those difficult questions in maths. For example, the chain rule in differentiation is used in quite a number of topics in Year 12 and if you’re not getting the “All Stations to Central” concept, you’ll have a very tough time with HSC trigonometry questions. If you don’t understand these basic concepts, you might choose to get maths tutoring or you can get together with your friends and study together or you could go to your teacher for help.
2. Spend quality time
Like any other subject, you need to spend time on maths study. It’s not a subject where you can simply understand the basic concepts and “wing” the exam. How can you spend quality time on maths? It’s extremely important to do all your school homework as your teacher assigns it. If you’re finding that you constantly need to catch up on several exercises, you’re not spending enough time on each exercise to absorb the content well. When you do the homework, make sure that you understand every single question and if you don’t, or you got it wrong, check the answers and figure out the solution. Of course, textbook questions tend to be very repetitive, so if you already understand those questions (and your teacher doesn’t require you to do all of them), you don’t need to waste your time!
3. Do practice papers
This is possibly the most important thing you could be doing to prepare for the maths exams. Textbooks can only provide mildly difficult questions at best, but there are very few out there which can truly prepare you for the questions that exams will ask. Thankfully you can find past HSC maths exams going back to 2001 online and most schools will also provide their past exams as well. Use these resources to familiarise yourself with the style of questions that will be tested. When doing these papers, feel free to “cheat” by looking up the solutions when you don’t understand something. Remember, you’re not in exam conditions just yet and these past papers are for revision! Doing these papers two or three times also is quite useful.
4. Write useful notes
Some people say you don’t need to write notes as you can’t rote learn for maths and they are partially correct. Writing notes for maths should be quite different from other subjects. If your notes are simply full of formulas and basic information, then that is indeed quite useless. Instead, write notes on specific types of questions. For example, nearly all exams will contain a big financial mathematics question, a curve sketching question, a max/min question and a motion question. Pick a couple of fairly difficult questions for each of those common topics, write out the solutions to them and annotate those solutions with reminders to yourself about things you shouldn’t forget along with any other notes you think would be useful.
5. Learn good exam technique
You can do as much studying as humanly possible but if you don’t have good exam technique, you might still find yourself disappointed with your results. Firstly, make wise use of the reading time. You have 5 minutes in which you should skim through as many questions as possible, making a mental note of the basic method used to solve them. This will help you to do those questions really quickly during the actual writing time, freeing up more time to do those pesky questions at the end. Secondly, make sure you work through the exam at a decent speed. An ideal speed to aim for is 1 mark per minute. Assuming you achieve this, you’ll finish the exam with over an hour to spare. Of course, for some of the questions, this will be impossible, but for the first half to two thirds of the exam, you should definitely be aiming for this speed. Lastly, use your spare time to check over your work! You might not need to redo all the questions, but check that you’ve entered everything into your calculator correctly and that you haven’t done any careless errors. It’d be a shame to lose a lot of marks due to these errors!
So there you have it, five tips to help you ace the maths exam! Now go and study.