While many of the same strategies that students use to navigate other portions of standardized tests apply to math tests, there are a few additional methods with which they should be familiar. Math, after all, is an animal all its own and routinely requires students to solve a plethora of problems by applying a variety of problem-solving strategies.
- Know the Vocabulary! Make sure you are familiar with all of the related terms that may appear on the test—area, circumference, and quotient. It would be a shame to get a problem wrong simply because you didn’t understand what you were being asked to do!
- Underline Key Words! Read the problem carefully then underline the key words that indicate what you are required to find. Are you looking for the sum? The difference? The perimeter?
- Recognize and Eliminate the Unnecessary! Often math word problems will provide you with information that you don’t need in order to solve the problem. Seek the information you need and ignore the information you don’t.
- Select a Strategy! Often there is more than one way to solve a problem. Chose the strategy that will work best for you. Will you draw a picture? Use a formula? Make a graph?
- Use Estimation and Recognition! In many cases you will be able to recognize the correct answer immediately. In others, you may be able to simply make an estimate. Estimation and recognition are two strategies that can save you a lot of time on standardized tests.
- Use Mental Math! Occasionally, you may encounter problems that you can solve in your head. Lucky you! This, too, can save you a lot of time.
- Read All of the Options! Before you jump to any conclusions, make sure that you read all of the options. Think of the options as helping hands leading you to the correct answer.
- Beware the Lure! You may frequently encounter traps or lures on multiple-choice math exams. Often one of the options, usually the first or second one will contain an answer that appears correct but is actually wrong. Have a look:
If you add $11.11 to $32.73 the sum will be
A. $ 43.84 greater than $ 32.73. < – lure
B. $ 43.84 less than $ 32.73 < – lure
C. $ 11.11 less than $32.73 < – incorrect
D. $ 43.84 < – correct
This is your average, run-of-the-mill addition problem; however, if you were not careful, you might be tricked into selecting either A or B because the first number that you see, $43.84, is actually the sum of $32.73 and $11.11. Of course, neither one of these is the correct answer.
For more test-taking tips and standardized test practice for math, check out: