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# Studying for Success: Dealing with a Math Test Study Guide (page 3)

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Updated on Oct 5, 2011

## Math Strategies

### Approach a Math Question in Small Pieces

Remember the problem-solving steps you learned in Lesson 1, when you first started working with word problems? Follow them to answer all math questions! Most importantly, as you read a question, underline pertinent information and make brief notes. Don't wait to do this until you reach the end of the question, because then you'll have to read the question a second time. Make notes as you're reading. Your notes can be in the form of a mathematical equation, a picture to help you visualize what you're reading, or notations on an existing diagram. They can even be just plain old notes in your own abbreviated format.

One of the biggest mistakes test takers make comes from reading a question much too fast—and thus misreading it, not understanding it, or losing track of part of it. Slowing down enough to carefully read a question and make notes turns you into an active reader who's far less likely to make this kind of careless error.

Once you have formulated a plan of attack to solve the problem, go for it! But don't do any math work in your head. Working in your head is another common source of careless mistakes. Besides, that blackboard in your head gets erased quite easily. Use your test book or scrap paper to write out every step of the solution, carefully checking each step as you proceed.

### Use the Backdoor Approaches

If you can't figure out how to solve a problem, try one of the backdoor approaches you learned in Lesson 16, "Backdoor Approaches to Word Problems." If those approaches don't work, skip the question temporarily, circling the question number in your test book so you can come back to it later if you have time.

Checking your work doesn't mean simply reviewing the steps you wrote down to make sure they're right. Chances are, if you made a mistake, you won't catch it this way. The lessons in this book have continually emphasized how to check your work. Use those techniques! One of the simplest and most efficient checks is to plug your answer back into the actual question to make sure everything "fits." When that's not possible, try doing the question again, using a different method. Don't worry too much about running out of time by checking your work. With the 2-pass approach to test taking, you should have enough time for all the questions you're capable of doing.

### Make an Educated Guess

If you can't devise a plan of attack or use a backdoor approach to answer a question, try educated guessing. Using your common sense, eliminate answer choices that look too big or too small. Or estimate an answer based on the facts in the question, and then select the answer that comes closest to your estimate.

## Test Day

It's finally here, the day of the big test. Set your alarm early enough to allow plenty of time to get ready.

• Eat a good breakfast. Avoid anything that's really high in sugar, like donuts. A sugar high turns into a sugar low after an hour or so. Cereal and toast, or anything with complex carbohydrates is a good choice. But don't stuff yourself!
• Dress in layers. You can never tell what the conditions will be like in the testing room. Your proctor just might be a member of the polar bear club.
• Make sure to take everything you need for the test. Remember to bring your admission ticket; proper identification; at least three pencils with erasers (number 2 pencils for a computer-scored answer sheet); a calculator with fresh batteries, if one is allowed; and your good-luck charm.
• Pack a high-energy snack to take with you. You may be given a break sometime during the test when you can grab a quick snack. Bananas are great. They have a moderate amount of sugar and plenty of brain nutrients, such as potassium. Most proctors won't allow you to eat a snack while you're testing, but a peppermint shouldn't pose a problem. Peppermints are like smelling salts for your brain. If you lose your concentration or suffer from a momentary mental block, a peppermint can get you back on track.
• Leave early enough to get to the test center on time—or even a little early. When you arrive, find the restroom and use it. Few things interfere with concentration as much as a full bladder. Then check in, find your seat, and make sure it's comfortable. If it isn't, ask the proctor if you can change to a location you find more suitable.
• Relax and think positively! Before you know it, the test will be over, and you'll walk away knowing you've done as well as you can.

### After the Test

1. Plan a little celebration.
2. Go to it!

If you have something to look forward to after the test is over, you may find the test is easier than you thought!

Good luck!

## Summary of Test-Taking Strategies

 1. Skim the test when it is handed out. Determine what type of questions are on it, how those questions are organized, and how much they are worth. 2. Plan how much time to spend on each group of questions. Stick to your plan and stay calm! 3. Use the 2–pass approach: Pass 1: Answer the questions you can, and circle the ones you are unsure of. Pass 2: Try the circled questions. Don't waste time on questions you can't answer. 4. Make sure you follow the test directions. 5. Leave time to review your answers at the end of the test.

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