I’ve invited Mark Maclaine, a London based super tutor specialising in maths, science and school admissions, to share his best maths exam revision tips for panic-free exams.
1. Practise past papers
Working through past papers is the best way to get an understanding of the exam format and different types of questions that will come up. Remember that it’s vital you practise past papers under timed conditions! You won’t have unlimited time in the exam, so timing yourself will help you get to know what you’re capable of getting done in the exam. As you get used to the question formats, you’ll get more comfortable with the questions and quicker at knowing how to approach them.
Ensure you review the papers with a mark scheme and take the time to understand why your answer might be wrong instead of marking your work without looking over it properly. It might be frustrating initially, but you can’t always memorise your way to success with maths, so ensuring you have a thorough understanding is key. If the mark scheme provides more than one method for solving a question then ensure that you look over other ways you could have approached it. This can be a useful way to deepen your knowledge and challenge yourself to grow.
You should also always remember that there’s no shame in getting things wrong – in fact, making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. Whilst it’s easy to put off the more challenging questions, it’s important that you focus on getting better in these areas as soon as possible. Doing past papers helps to identify questions that need some more work so you can prioritise these. After all, practise makes perfect.
2. Group revision
Two heads are better than one, and two people working together have a better chance of solving something than you on your own. Whilst you don’t need to limit yourself to working with one other person, make sure that you keep your group relatively small to help you stay on track with work.
Chances are the people in your group will each have different things that they’re good at, so there’ll be plenty that they can help you with, and equally a lot that you can help them with. One of the most powerful learning methods is actually teaching. Taking turns to explain concepts to one another will encourage you to solidify your knowledge and will very quickly expose areas you might need to work on. The more fun you make this the easier it will be to do! Try to challenge each other to find faster and more efficient methods if you can.
3. Write yourself instructions
If you can’t set up a study group, the next best way of reinforcing what you’ve learnt is by explaining questions to yourself. As with any skill, it takes time to get comfortable new concepts. Writing down the steps you have to take to answer a question will simplify the process for you, as well as help to make it stick in your memory. Order your instructions into a list or flowchart that you can refer to time and time again.
To avoid confusion when you come back to your instructions, make sure you explain it in as much detail as possible. Imagine that you’re explaining the process to someone else who has no knowledge in the area. This will help you when you revisit your revision and need some direction of where to start.
Flashcards are useful for more concise snippets of information. Use flashcards to refresh your memory on the topics you cover by writing a prompt or question on one side and the answer on the other. When you have your flashcards ready, go through them and keep track of the ones you get right and wrong. Make sure you put the ones you get wrong to the back of the pile so that you can review them and ensure that doesn’t happen in the exam. You could also experiment with putting them up around the house and answering them each time you see a card. Eventually, you will have seen the question enough to know exactly how to handle it.
You should also use your flashcards to help compile a last minute cheat sheet. A cheat sheet is essentially a flash card with all of the things you’ll want to look over right before your exam. Use your flashcards to compile the ultimate card with all of this information on, from formulae to technical vocab – anything you might need fresh in your memory for the exam.
5. Memorise (where possible)
Whilst maths is mainly about understanding topics and applying this knowledge to questions, there are a few things that you can memorise to help you out in the exam. Make flashcards for circle theorems and SOHCAHTOA equations. Looking over these regularly will help ingrain them in your memory and ensure you don’t miss out on easy marks.
Inputting numbers into a memorised formula is another one of the simplest way to boost your marks, so make sure you take the time to learn your formulae! To help remember these, try writing them over and over until they stick or put them up around your house.
If you’re still struggling with your maths revision, seek out extra help. Whether it be from a parent, teacher, or tutor, someone else might be able to explain an area you’re struggling with in a way that it suddenly clicks for you.
In need of a maths tutor in the UK? Look no further. Tutorfair is a website that allows you to find and book private tutors for face-to-face tuition. For every student who pays, Tutorfair give free tutoring to a child who can’t. With hundreds of verified tutors who specialise in Dyslexia, 11+, GCSEs, A-levels and degree level subjects, why not get in touch for some help with your maths?
Mark Maclaine is a London based super tutor specialising in maths, science and school admissions, and co-founder of Tutorfair. Tutorfair is a website where parents and students can find and book local tutors or online tuition.