Preparing for the O-Level A Maths exam isn't easy.
There's an ever-expanding list of content you need to know, and the time pressure can make it difficult to cover every topic by your test-date. It can be stressful, hard, and even overwhelming if you aren't prepared properly or have a strong teacher.
But it's also very rewarding to do well.
A strong O-Level score means a higher likelihood of making it into the post-secondary institution of your dreams, and improves your future outlook on life.
It's also simply a personal achievement that many find internally satisfying, and you can use it to leapfrog to greater accomplishments over the course of your life.
To keep things simple for you, we have created a short but sweet list of study tips to score A1 for O-Level Additional Maths (AMaths) exam.
Tip 1: Learn the Basics First
Before we dive into the rest of the study tips, it's safe to say that one of the most important parts of scoring A1 on the O-Level Additional Maths exam is having a strong grasp of fundamental math concepts.
This will help you avoid getting lost when it comes time to actually learn the material.
For example, you might want to read about functions first so that you're not confused later on when learning more complex topics like exponents or roots (both of which are a type of function). For convenience, we've included a nonexhaustive list of syllabus items here:
• understand the O-Level AMaths notation - for example know how to interpret the following expressions, f(x) = sin x, f: x↦lg x, (x > 0), f –1(x) and f(x)^2 [= f(f(x))]
• review the following terms for a strong score: function, range, domain, inverse function, one to one function, and composition of functions
• understand what is meant by y = f(x) and y = |f(x)|
b. Quadratic Functions
• know how to determine the max or min values of a function with the following form f : x↦ax^2 + bx + c
• use previously derived values for the max/min of f(x) to draw the function graph
• solve quadratics for roots
• know the conditions for f(x) = 0 to have:
(1) 2 real roots, (2) 2 equal roots, (3) no real roots (related to the above)
c. Equalities, Inequalities, Graphs
• know how to solve equations of the form |ax + b| = c (c ⩾ 0) and |ax + b| = |cx + d|
• know how to solve inequalities of the form |ax + b| > c (c ⩾ 0), |ax + b| ⩽ c (c > 0) and |ax + b| ⩽ |cx + d|
• know how to solve cubic inequalities (inequalities with three factors) of the type k(x – a)(x – b)(x – c) ⩽ d through graphical means
d. Indices, Surds
• know how to carry out simple operations on indices or on surds (this includes things like rationalising denominators and indexing)
e. Factoring Polynomials
• understand the remainder theorem and understand the factor theorem
• know how to easily determine factors of polynomials
• know how to solve full cubic equations
f. Systems of Equations
• solve equations with one or two unknowns using elimination or substitution
g. Logarithms and Exponentials
• memorize the graphs of the log and exponential functions (Google search for ln(x) and e^x)
• know and use the laws of logarithms (including change of base of logarithms)
• know how to solve equations of the form ax = b
h. Straight Line Graphs
• know how to solve the equation of a straight line graph (of the type y = mx + c)
• know how to determine the answers to questions asking for mid-points or lengths of a line using the above equation
Learning the above concepts (and more) will help you greatly on your path to scoring A1 on the O-Level A Maths examinations.
Tip 2: Stay Well Rested
The O-Level A Maths exams are very demanding, especially if you're studying for them while studying for other topics or working a regular job.
You need to be fully rested in order to focus as well as maintain strong concentration throughout the test.
The best way to do this is by not staying up late at night to study, and instead doing most of your learning throughout the day. Additionally, its recommended that you get as much sleep as possible before taking the exam.
If it's early in the morning (depending on location) make sure you set multiple alarms so that you don't miss it!
Tip 3: Arrive With Time To Study
This is probably the biggest tip I can give you.
It really helps to arrive early enough before your exam to review and give your brain a chance to 'refresh' concepts that you studied the days/weeks before.
This also gives you a moment to prepare your materials and ensure that you can relax when the exam starts, which puts you in a strong headspace to perform well.
Also, arriving earlier in the morning gives you more time for reviewing as well as means your time will be more effectively spent, since there won't be as many distractions from people walking around outside of the exam room, talking, or stressing out.
Tip 4: Don't Cram
Cramming is the worst way to prepare for an exam, no matter how 'easy' or 'foolproof' someone claims it to be.
If you space out your studying over a longer period of time, not only do you give yourself enough time to learn each section, but your brain also has time to rest and refresh itself between each review.
This is due to something called the spaced repetition effect, where your brain retains the information longer if it has a longer period of time to forget it in between reviews.
By cramming, you're actually reducing the effectiveness of your long-term memory and your likelihood of recalling what you learned during the exam.
Tip 5: Eat Well
Your brain works best on a full stomach, especially since you'll be burning plenty of energy during the several hour long O-Level AMaths exam.
There's a reason people call breakfast the most important meal of the day - it activates your body and mind, and prepares you to tackle the challenges of the day.
On test day, your mind is going to be working at peak capacity - it's a good idea to take advantage of your full stomach and utilize that energy.
Tip 6: Use Mnemonics
Mnemonics is a fancy word for 'Memory Trick'. Much like in college or high school, you'll be given formulas and equations to remember. Check out some mnemonic devices for Arithmetic in this website.
Many people tend to forget these quickly, especially if they don't use them on a daily basis. It's natural for your brain to forget things that it doesn't use on a regular basis.
One thing you can do to prevent this is to make up a Mnemonic, or memory trick, to remember the order of operations.
For example, did you know that the phrase, 'Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally' is a mnemonic for the order of operations? It stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, and Subtract.
By creating a mindless sentence out of what you need to remember, you're tricking your brain into easily recalling the information. Bonus points the weirder it is! This way, you're more likely to remember it since you had to think harder in order to come up with the sentence.
Tip 7: Practice Makes Perfect
This should go without saying, but practice, practice, practice. Don't wait until the night before to cram. Start preparing for your exams at least a few weeks in advance, and dedicate a good portion of time every day to taking practice questions. We've added a few below to make things easier.
Q: What is the domain of f?
A: Because of the negative two under the square root, any non-negative values of x result in an undefined function. For that reason, the domain is all real values of x such that x ≤ 0.
2) f(x) = 4x^2 + 2x - 12
Q: Factor the above equation.
A: f(x) = 2(2x^2 + x - 6)
f(x) = 2(2x^2 + 4x - 3x - 6)
f(x) = 2(2x(x + 2) - 3(x + 2))
f(x) = 2(2x -3)(x+2)
There are plenty of other practice questions to know and understand - don't take this as an exhaustive list! However, it's always good to see different questions in different contexts, so get used to answering problems out of the blue to 'train' your brain.
And that’s a wrap!
Hopefully these tips help you to achieve the full potential that you wish to find during your upcoming O-Level exams. Should you need further guidance, engage a private math tutor to help you ace the A Maths exam.
We sincerely wish you the best of luck, and happy studying!