Math Strategies for Nursing School Entrance Exam Study Guide
- Don't work in your head! Use your test book or scratch paper to take notes, draw pictures, and calculate. Although you might think that you can solve math questions more quickly in your head, that's a good way to make mistakes. Write out each step.
- Read a math question in chunks rather than straight through from beginning to end. As you read each chunk, stop to think about what it means and make notes or draw a picture to represent that chunk.
- When you get to the actual question in the middle of a word problem, circle it. This will keep you more focused as you solve the problem.
- Glance at the answer choices for clues. If they're fractions, you probably should do your work in fractions; if they're decimals, you should probably work in decimals; etc.
- Before you begin doing any math, make a plan of attack to help you solve the problem.
- If a question stumps you, try one of the backdoor approaches explained in the next section. These are particularly useful for solving word problems.
- When you get your answer, reread the circled question to make sure you've answered it. This helps avoid the careless mistake of answering the wrong question.
- Check your work after you get an answer. Test takers get a false sense of security when they get an answer that matches one of the multiple-choice answers. Here are some good ways to check your work if you have time:
- Ask yourself if your answer is reasonable, if it makes sense.
- Plug your answer back into the problem to make sure the problem holds together.
- Do the question a second time, but use a different method.
- Approximate when appropriate. For example:
- $5.98 + $8.97 is a little less than $15. (Add: $6 + $9)
- 0.9876 × 5.0342 is close to 5. (Multiply: 1 × 5)
- Skip hard questions and come back to them later. Mark them in your test book so you can find them quickly. Make sure you also skip the question on your answer sheet!
Backdoor Approaches for Answering Questions
Remember those word problems you dreaded in high school? Many of them are actually easier to solve using backdoor approaches. The two techniques that follow are terrific ways to solve multiple-choice word problems. The first technique, nice numbers, is useful when there are unknowns (like x) in the text of the word problem, making the problem abstract. The second technique, working backward, presents a quick way to substitute numeric answer choices into the problem to see which one works.
- When a question contains unknowns, like x, plug "nice numbers" in for the unknowns. A nice number is one that is easy to calculate with and makes sense in the problem.
- Read the question with the nice numbers in place. Then solve it.
- If the answer choices are all numbers, the choice that matches your answer is the right one.
- If the answer choices contain unknowns, substitute the same nice numbers into all the answer choices. The choice that matches your answer is the right one. If more than one answer matches, do the problem again with different nice numbers. You'll only have to check the answer choices that have already matched.
Judi went shopping with p dollars in her pocket. If the price of shirts was s shirts for d dollars, what is the maximum number of shirts Judi could buy with the money in her pocket?
To solve this problem, let's try these nice numbers: p = $100, s = 2 shirts; d = $25. Now reread it with the numbers in place:
Judi went shopping with $100 in her pocket. If the price of shirts was 2 shirts for $25, what is the maximum number of shirts Judi could buy with the money in her pocket?
Since 2 shirts cost $25, that means that 4 shirts cost $50, and 8 shirts cost $100. So our answer is 8. Let's substitute the nice numbers into all four answers:
The answer is choice b because it is the only one that matches our answer of 8.
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