For those of you who expect me to reveal some hidden secret of how to ace math tests without having to do any work, I think you may be reading the wrong blog. You probably need to wait for my "How to Fail a Math Test" blog. Hopefully by then, you would have NOT already discovered that secret...but let's get back to the matter at hand.
How do you study for a math test? You don't! Well, ok, you sorta do, but not like how you would study for another type of test. First of all, math isn't something that can be crammed! Many students make the mistake that all they have to do is look at a review packet the night before or just skim over their notes a few times and that would be enough to do well on a test. Unless you have the type of brain that automatically retains math concepts and processes the first or second time you see or hear it, preparing this way for a math test will not benefit you too much. Did you notice how I used the word PREPARE just now instead of STUDY? It is because I believe that you should PREPARE for a math test, just like how athletes PREPARE for games.
How much sense does it make for a sprinter to wait until the night before to start exercising and "running really fast" so that they can be ready for a race the next day? Is this what Usain Bolt did? I wonder if Michael Phelps developed his speed the night before. Perhaps Kevin Durant waits until he has games the next day before he practices his three point shooting skills. Do you get the point? Being able to do (and apply) math is a SKILL. SKILLS are only developed with practice! This means that you cannot wait until the last minute before you start practicing your math skills. PREPARATION for a math test starts from the day you learn the material, not the night before! So are you ready for the secret of how to PREPARE for a math test? Here goes...
You have to DO the math! Learning math by just watching your teacher do is as effective as trying to get stronger by watching someone else lift weight. You can't get stronger unless you lift you OWN weights. You can't get better at math unless you do examples yourself. Yes it may get boring or even tedious at times, but you can't be successful at something if you don't do it often. Use you textbook to do practice problems and check your answers. Make sure the problems are new and fresh and that you aren't redoing old problems. The internet is also a great resource for problems and answers! Use it!
Ask lots of questions! Make your teachers work for their money. That's why they are there! Make sure you get your teachers to explain things to you until you get it. You may need to seek out some extra help from a tutor or online if you aren't able to understand the concepts. However, don't stop asking questions until you understand it! Then refer back to #1 and practice it so that it sticks!
Find out what are the most important concepts to focus on! Obviously, some problems are more important to know how to solve than others. You aren't expected to know everything! Use tip #2 to find out from your teacher what is most important. Then use tip #1 to practice those types of problems.
Wash, Rinse, and Repeat! Tips #1, #2, & #3 should be done often. Doing them every day would be ideal, but I would settle for every other day. As long as you do them more often than you do now, that is a great start!
Don't confuse UNDERSTANDING math with LEARNING math! They are two different things. Just because you understand something when your teacher explains it doesn't mean you have learned it! The LEARNING part only happens when you practice. When you can REMEMBER what you understand, that is when you know you have LEARNED it.
Look for opportunities to use and apply what you have learned. The whole point to learning math is to apply it to the real world. This part may be the most challenging for you to do, however, it is not as difficult as you may think. Whether it be solving the real world problems that you get in class, or making the math real in your own life, unless you USE the knowledge that you have gained to do something, you will not truly OWN the knowledge.
If you are truly serious about succeeding in your math class and use the tips that I have laid out above, I GUARANTEE that your grade will reflect all the effort that you have put in. You can take that to the bank and cash it!