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Mathematics Advanced

4 Essential Stages of Maths Exam Preparation

While consistent study and constant revision is the key to success in exams, our Matrix Maths team have some tips on what you should do to boost your Maths performance before, during and even after your exam.   

The prospect of any kind of exam is daunting, however Maths exams can be especially intimidating. 

The Night Before

Just as a marathon runner wouldn’t run a marathon the day before the real thing, don’t overwork yourself the night before the big day. Staying up late to study will only add to your stress and the benefit, if any, is often minimal.

For example, a cramming session the night before an important Mathematics exam is not going to guarantee you 100% on your exam. Mathematics is not a subject that can be taught overnight, since success in Maths relies on problem solving and applications of theory, rather than just knowing the formulas. This is similar to English exams, where the ability to understand and apply concepts will be of more use than the ability to memorise essays. This means that one of the best things you can do the night before an exam is to get a good night’s rest. By resting the night before you are starting the day fresh, ready to use your brain to its full potential.

If you’re in the unfortunate situation where you have no choice but to cram (i.e. most of us at one point or another), make sure you’re using your minimal time to learn what will help you the most. Focus on the broader ideas, rather than the finer details of each concept. This is when it may be helpful to try and imagine what type of questions your teacher may pose in the exam and focus on those specific concepts. Remember, cramming your brain with detail indiscriminately will not be an effective strategy, so focus on the main points likely to be tested and don’t overwork your brain.

Your learning is consolidated while you sleep, as the brain reboots, so sleeping is far from a waste of time. Rather it is one of the best strategies you can use the night before an exam.


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Morning of the Exam

Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and arrive early to the exam. Allow enough time so that if you miss your bus or train, you will still have enough time to arrive early to your exam. Exams can be stressful enough, so don’t add to your stress level by being late.

Even if you’re not hungry, your brain needs plenty of energy to perform so have a light breakfast and stay hydrated. Lastly, take a deep breath and stay calm. If you are really worried about a certain part of the exam, review it on your way to school, but don’t try to memorise information until the very second you enter the exam room. It might only make you panic more! You may find it helpful to be alone before an exam, away from any distractions and friends, so that you can go into the exam with a calm and focused mindset.

During the Exam

Use your time wisely. If you get stuck on a certain question, keep calm and just move on. If you have time you can always revisit that question later and start with a new perspective to help you solve the problem. Especially in a mathematics exam, too often students will stare at the blank page hoping for the answer to jump out. Drawing the diagram again may help you look at a difficult question with a fresh pair of eyes, and often makes a solution much more apparent.

Use all the writing space available to you in the exam. You can always ask for extra exam booklets or working out paper, so don’t be afraid to write down all your working out even if you’re not sure it’s correct. However, always make sure your final answer is clear to your examiner by underlining, highlighting or circling it.

It’s a common rule in Mathematics, that all drawn diagrams should be about half a page in size. So when drawing your diagrams, don’t be afraid to make them large –  use the space to help you visualise the problem and provide a direction for your working.

After the Exam

Relax! As a general rule, it is best to not talk about the exam with your friends. Though you may be curious as to what the correct answer may be, discussion of exams only ever results in disappointment and self-doubt. Don’t cause yourself more grief. After all, you’ve just finished a Maths exam,  you deserve a break!

While exams are important, performing poorly in one will not ruin your chance of getting into your dream course or achieving your desired mark. If you aren’t happy with your performance, ensure you use that as a learning experience in order to ace your next Maths assessment.


Written by Matrix Education

Matrix is Sydney's No.1 High School Tuition provider. Come read our blog regularly for study hacks, subject breakdowns, and all the other academic insights you need.


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