Exams are certainly one of the most stressful times that students face. Stress does funny things to us as human beings and as a result, students often make mistakes that they would not have made otherwise. The best way to lower your error rates in exams is to first be aware of the common blunders that are made. Only then you can come up with a plan to rectify them. Here I’ll list some of the biggest mistakes that are made in maths exam situations:
- Not paying attention to the clock: This is BY FAR the biggest mistake that students make when it comes to any exam, let alone a maths one. The first thing you should do is to assess the amount of time that is given to you and distribute it based on the amount and degree of difficulty of the questions. I would strongly recommend wearing a watch to your exam and regularly keeping track of time.
- Rounding too early in your responses: Many students lose unnecessary marks just because of minor differences between their responses and the correct answer. This is due to rounding of decimal places early on into a solution. The rule is simple; never round any values until you reach your final answer. If you are hell bent on doing so however, make sure you take enough decimal places (4 to 5 would be ideal) so your answer is still correct.
- Not putting your answers in the correct form: Concentration is a must when undertaking an exam. The reason behind this is that some math questions are there to test your level of attentiveness. For example, a question might be set out in kilometres, while the answer required must be in metres. There is nothing more annoying than losing a mark because you didn’t convert your answer from a fraction to a percentage. Make sure you read the question twice.
- Drawing diagrams correctly: Another area that students choose to be lazy and thereby lose easy marks in is drawing up diagrams. Diagrams should be drawn up clearly and labelled correctly. I would recommend the use of a ruler when doing this. Pretty simple stuff.
- Assuming incorrectly: This primarily concerns geometry questions, though it can apply in a few other areas such as calculus and probability. Never make any assumptions based on what the diagram looks like. For example, unless it specifically says that angle XYZ is a right angle, then it isn’t a right angle until you prove it. Never assume and use only the information given to you.
These are just a few common pitfalls that I’ve shared with you. Losing unnecessary marks are the bane of a student’s existence. Hopefully being aware of them gives you a better chance of working on them before exams come along.
If you know of any other traps, feel free to share them in the comments below!