How to Prepare for a Math Exam

How do you prepare for a math exam?  This is one area I excelled.  I often had perfect math exam scores and a 100% final grade in multivariate calculus.  If you have any talent for math, I can help you become the top student at AU.  On the other hand, if you tend to bomb at math, please know that I’ve helped people who’ve failed math repeatedly achieve decent grades.

Select your math class wisely.

Enroll in math classes with highly-rated instructors and textbooks with fully worked-out solutions manuals.  Research the professor’s ratings and pick the best one.  Don’t go for the professor who everybody says is “so smart.” These are often the professors who know their stuff but make it way too confusing for anyone to fully grasp.  Hence, it creates an illusion that the professor is the lone genius.  Instead, go for the professor whose students say, “I can actually learn from her” or “He makes math easy.” But, before you decide on your math professor, ensure he or she provides math textbooks with fully worked-out solutions.  I guarantee you’ll learn a thousand times more with books with fully worked-out solutions manuals, as they act as mini-teachers or tutors.

If your class has no solutions manual, consider borrowing a math textbook with fully worked-out solutions from the library.  This is not the ideal path as it could lead to you having to work harder for the same grade you might have received if the complete solutions manual was part of the course.  Remember, you’re after the top grade—or at least a decent mark—so get the fully worked-out solutions manual, no matter what.  The non-assigned solutions manual you purchase may have questions that appear on your exam.  Bonus!

Get a cheap calculator that simplifies calculations.

I could never figure out why students would buy an expensive calculator that require some level of coding just to operate.

I even challenged my math professor on this topic.  Fortunately, the cheapest calculators enabled brackets and functions that could be entered just as you see them on the math exam.  In other words, they were intuitive and easy to use.  Moreover, they didn’t require an extra step of converting the equations into another coding format just to get a solution.  And the higher I went in the math department, the more the easy-to-use calculator simplified solving complex problems.

It’s like this: if you must choose between opening the door to reach your destination versus climbing through a pit of broken glass, which would you prefer?  That’s the difference between these calculators, especially when you reach the higher math levels.

The only downside to the cheap calculators is they conk out fast.  So, you’ll need two of them, one as a backup.

Get a tutor.

If you ever hit a wall and can’t figure out the solution, contact a tutor.  Try to get a tutor who will time and bill you over the phone.  That way, you can ask a quick question and get a quick response.  I had a tutor who didn’t charge me for services as he was a friend.  I’d just take him for a pizza occasionally.  When I couldn’t solve a problem, he’d spend five minutes showing me what was wrong, and I’d be back on track for the top grade.

Read ahead.

You first need to study the first two to three chapters of the math textbook before your math class start-date.  You’ll need to get a head start early.  For example, when I took linear algebra, it took me about two or more weeks to grasp the basics in the first two chapters.  Had I not studied ahead, I would’ve been lost in math class in the first month or so, possibly falling behind.

Another student, partway through the course, asked me to help him with fundamental questions I had learned before starting the class.  He was utterly lost.  Don’t be that guy!  Study ahead.

Do the math problems in advance of the lecture.

The best thing you can do to become the top performer in the math department is to learn that math topic and do all the math questions before it is covered in class.  That way, the class lecture becomes an excellent reinforcer of your knowledge.

Whenever I failed to do the math problems for the next day’s lecture, I was often completely lost in the lecture and had to relearn it at home anyway.  What a waste.  I was on top of my game by doing the problems a day ahead.  And I looked like the hero, calling out all the correct answers.

But if you’re in an online university, you’ll want to get your lectures through other means if not included in your math course.

With that said, I discovered an excellent resource for online math classes.  It’s on  If you wait for a sale, you can get some advanced math courses for as little as $14.99, and these courses are highly rated.  So, pretend these courses are your lectures.  Then, do the math problems in your textbook, and perhaps watch the Udemy lessons a second or third time for reinforcement.

Leave no stone unturned.

To be the top student in the AU math department, you’ll want to master all the basics.  Suppose there is something you don’t understand or you’re not 100% sure of.  In that case, you’ll need to figure it out before moving on—even if it means wracking your brain over a misplaced negative sign for hours like I often would.  (Just make sure you take a five-to-ten-minute break every thirty to forty minutes so you can look at problems with a fresh eye.)

Prioritize math problems over text readings.

If you are severely pinched for time, prioritize doing the math problems over reading the textbook.  But do both as much as possible.  This will set you up to understand the “why” behind the calculation.

Do all math problems at least three times.

Do all the math problems at least three times in a row from scratch or, if necessary, until you get all the math problems correct.  Only look at the math solutions manual once you’ve completed all the questions.

If you see anything wrong, figure out where you went wrong and how to correct it.  Once you’ve carefully figured out the correct answer, put the solutions manual aside, and then do all the math problems again.  Keep this up until you get all the questions right.  Then, do them one more time just to boost your confidence.  That’s what it took to become the top math student in almost every math class I took.

Redo all math problems before the exam.

Nine days to two weeks before the math exam, do all the math problems for each chapter over again.  For instance, if you have nine chapters covered in the math exam, then budget for eleven days, where you spend the first nine days going through one chapter’s problems a day, doing them all until you have them all right.  And then doing them once more the same day for confidence.  Then, on the 10th and 11th days, do all nine chapter’s math problems in those two days.  You should now have a solid grasp.  Do this if you want the top grade in AU math or if you want to gain a decent mark.

Just before the math exam, stock up on supplies.

Make sure you have at least five very sharp pencils, a good-quality pencil sharpener, two functional calculators, and a high-quality eraser.

When writing your answer, nothing is worse than working on a smudgy, ripped test paper.  This will affect your ability to achieve the top grade.  Instead, buy one of those rubbery white erasers that do a clean, straightforward job of erasing.  Also, before the math exam, bring tons of scrap paper or ensure that a massive amount of scrap paper will be provided during the exam.  You want the final answer you enter on your test paper to be correct and legible.

Finally, consider taking no more than three math classes in one semester.  For example, taking two math classes a semester and two soft classes might make a challenging but more manageable workload.  But if you find you succeed remarkably with this, then up the ante with a fifth class.

If you struggle with this workload, reduce the number of classes until you can achieve primarily A’s.  And then start increasing again until you find the right balance between top performance and a high workload.

I guarantee that following the above steps can help you either gain the top grade or improve your performance considerably in the math department.  Of course, the above requires consistent hard effort and significant time investment.  However, that’s the minimum necessary for top performance in any department.

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