Are you doing badly in Mathematics?
Are you a student that is worried about your marks because your O-levels are right around the corner?
Are you an anxious parent because you don’t know how to help your child?
If you answer yes to any of these questions then this article is worth a read. In this article, I will share with you a few tips and strategies that can help you or any other student do better in O-level Mathematics.
1. Knowing the exam format and requirements
Knowing the requirements is very vital in scoring well for Maths. This includes knowing the structure of the paper and how many marks are in each section.
Knowing how many marks in each section is also good with time management in the exam. This helps you allocate time more effectively for each section so that you don’t end up spending too much time on one and end up not ﬁnishing another.
For O-level Math, these are the 2 papers:
[ Paper 1 ] - Short answer questions (SAQ), 50% of the total score
This consists of 25 compulsory short answer questions.
[ Paper 2 ] - Open-ended question and real-world scenario question, 50% of the total score
This consists of 10 to 11 open-ended questions with the last being a real-world scenario question
Other than time management, which is a side beneﬁt, and knowing the mark allocation, knowing the requirements will save you a lot of marks.
You probably made many mistakes and lost heaps of marks due to not paying attention to the question and end up writing the wrong thing or being careless.
The Math O-level syllabus clearly states that the omission of essential working will result in the loss of marks. Knowing this, you need to make sure that you write down every single working leading up to the ﬁnal answer.
It is wrong to assume that the examiner will understand how you got the answer. Check that all workings can be seen by the examiner. As you go through the question, constantly write down the working, even mental ones.
One trick that is in the paper has to do with rounding. You might not think about this too much but always check what the question wants you to round up or down to.
The standard for all tests is to round the ﬁnal answer up to 3 signiﬁcant ﬁgures but some questions might call for something else. Examples could be round up to 1 decimal place or round to the nearest hundred.
This is very simple but sneaky and it could be the difference between an A1 and an A2. Another one of these standards includes π. When you come across a question that requires π, use the π symbol that is integrated into your calculator to solve it unless stated otherwise.
Sometimes, the question might speciﬁcally tell you to use 3.14 or 22/7. As mentioned previously, ﬁnd out if they want the answer to be in π or the traditional 3 signiﬁcant ﬁgures.
2. Self notes
Many teachers and schools usually provide notes that can be very helpful when you are revising your work.
Don’t get me wrong!
Those notes should not be thrown away and should be safely stored in a way that it isn’t a hassle to try and ﬁnd it but it also isn’t with you every time until there is a risk of you losing it.
These notes that your teachers give you can be very intimidating and it can also be daunting to go through. You might have a gigantic pile of these notes and sometimes you might not know where to start to worse yet, how to start.
This is why I think that every student should create their notes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an artist and make notes like how ‘professionals’ do. What I’m trying to say is you don’t have to have an iPad and an Apple pencil to do it.
A piece of paper, a pen, and a highlighter will sufﬁce.
There are many videos out there on YouTube that tell you how they take notes and most of the time they would print out their notes and have nice handwriting. It’s totally ﬁne if you don’t have a printer and nice handwriting as long as you can read it.
Your notes do not have to be shown to anyone and can be kept to yourself so it does not matter whether the notes are nice or not. Creating your own notes mean that you can means that you can start small and work your way from the start to the end.
This all abides with your own pace so you can work faster or slower if you want. Creating your notes works the best with Maths and Science for that matter. Many of the formulae that you will need the exam are not on the paper so memorizing your notes is also important.
Another beneﬁt of having your own notes means that you can make it as elaborate as you want and as small as wanted. So, you can have a glance at it right before you enter the exam room when walking or taking the bus to school.
3. The ﬁrst part of a question
The ﬁrst part of the question is usually the easier one. If the time that you allocated to each question is, for example, 5 minutes, then don’t go over that.
Rather than focusing all your time and effort on that speciﬁc question only to go over time and not be able to ﬁnish the other easier ones, complete the easier ﬁrst part of the question and gain the marks those marks ﬁrst.
After you have gone through answering all the questions, sift through the paper again and answer the hard ones. It is more beneﬁcial to you if you answer the ﬁrst part and move on than waste all your energy on the second part.
4. Asking for help
Some of the tips that I have mentioned can help you prepare for your O-level Maths examination while others take place when you are already taking the exam. Asking for help is one that occurs beforehand.
Once you have identiﬁed what are your weak points and what topics you have to work on, take action.
Nothing is going to happen if you know what you are bad at but continue to go about your revision as if you didn't know that.
Once you have information, use it. Some people that you can ask for help are your teachers. They know you best when they teach you the subject and they also know what you are going through. They know the subject the most and they know how to effectively help you.
If you are in a pandemic or maybe just a long holiday break and you can’t get in touch with your teachers then your friends are next. Your friends also study the same topics as you so even though they might not be able to teach you as well, they would be your next move. Next would be your parents and the internet.
Chances are that somebody else has the same problem as you before and now know the solution to it. Try to reach out to that person and ask him to share with you what he or she had learned.
I mentioned parents the last because unless they are a Maths teacher, they wouldn’t be able to accurately help you and give you useful tips.
Sleep is very important, more important than you think it is, especially for Maths where you have to memorize different functions, equations, and formulae.
Sleep helps you to memorize better and turn all the things that you have learned that day to stone. I recommend that you get 8 hours of sleep so that your mind has enough time to store all the information.
Sleep is better than studying at night. When you study at night, you might be able to learn and cover more topics and ground but the next morning, you won’t be able to remember anything.
The brain is less effective at retaining information at night but in the end, it comes down to your decision. Would you rather be able to remember 1 more point in your notes or be awake and energized in the morning to be able to remember 15 points.
If you are constantly sleeping for only 5 or 6 hours a day, taking a big leap to 8 hours a day is not good. It is better to slowly adjust over some time so that you get use to it. Moving forward your bedtime by 10 minutes a day is acceptable.
Stick to your bedtime routine too. Remember to set an alarm so that when it goes off, stop what you are doing and make your way to bed. How you sleep is also vital because the quality of your sleep is also a factor.
I suggest relaxing your mind before sleeping. How many times do you want to sleep but end up staring at your ceiling wall because you can’t?
Playing a piece of simple relaxing music that puts you to sleep is an idea that works very well, so does listening to a calm song. Reading is also effective, as long as you don’t read something that is so suspenseful that you can’t put it down.
6. Stay in good health
There’s no doubt that food can help you energize your body and stay in shape. Especially when tackling Maths problems, you need to keep yourself mentally fresh and awake.
Remember to eat regular meals at regular times so that you don’t get distracted by hunger when studying. Drink tons of water, 8 to 10 glasses should be sufﬁcient, you wouldn’t want to feel dehydrated and light-headed during your test. Water also helps you to stay focused and alert so drink up.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and restrict the number of processed foods and sugary drinks you consume. Other than eating and watching your input, you also need to watch out if your body is outputting anything.
Eating too much is never good so you’ll have to exercise too. It is wrong to think that exercise isn’t important and that studying should be the main priority because ultimately, being balanced is the main priority.
If you aren’t balanced, all your work could be ﬂushed down the drain with a mental breakdown. What follows after that is a complete loss of motivation. Exercising at least 3 times a week for 30 to 40 minutes is the recommended time.
There you have it. A few tips and strategies that you can use to do better in your O-level Maths examinations. Some of them are general and some are targeted especially for people who are struggling in Maths.
Follow these steps properly and I can guarantee you that you’ll come out of that test hall with marks exceeding your expectations.
Good luck and all the best!