Without a doubt, the mere mention of the word “math” immediately strikes fear into the hearts of many. Head to any public library and you’re more than likely to see 90% of the pupils there working on some math problems! Math is the one subject students tend to find difficult because of the seemingly infinite number of ways a single concept can be tested in the paper, as those pesky examiners love to twist and tweak questions to make them unrecognisable. Nonetheless, the number of question types that can possibly be tested is not unlimited. The trick to scoring high is to be able to classify each and every question into a fixed few question types, and understand the various methods that can be used to tackle each of them. Want to improve your math grades? Read on to find out how!
1. Practice, practice, practice
Many students spend the time period leading up to the exams familiarising themselves with all the content in the lecture notes, thinking that is sufficient to get a good score, and then get a rude shock when they go for the paper without having done any practice questions. Math papers test you on your conceptual understanding, not “concept-knowing”. It is insufficient to merely know the concepts if you don’t know how to apply them. You have to be able to adapt to the requirements of different problems and make use of the relevant concepts to write an elegant solution. At least 80% of your preparation time should be spent on doing questions, not reading the notes. This is also true at the primary and secondary levels.
Don’t do practices “blindly” too – doing extra practices for every single topic could take a massive toll on you, and we all want enough time to do the things we like. Well, granted it can be done if you start early enough, but if you have limited time on your hands, start with your weakest topics. You can find out which topics you’re weak in by doing a few practice papers and keeping track of the chapters you frequently struggle with/make mistakes in.
2. Focus on understanding the worked examples in your lecture notes
Try to listen in lectures and be sure to take down the solutions to the worked examples! Often, the worked examples will give you a good idea of the different types of questions that can come out in the exams. Do pay particular attention to the presentation of the answer presented by the lecturer – it’s usually in line with what your school wants, and what works at the A-Levels. You don’t want to lose those precious ‘P’ marks, do you!
3. Write concise summary notes
When revising your lecture notes, it often helps to make a summary of all key ideas presented so you can refer to them while doing your practices. Each topic can usually be split into two parts – key concepts and problem solving strategies. As such, a portion of your notes should be dedicated to the useful formulae, theorems and properties, while the other should list down the key question types for each topic and the methods you need to tackle each question type. What you should not do is copy out the whole lecture notes again. Try to structure the thoughts presented in your own way. You can also draw mind maps to link ideas and reinforce concepts you have learnt.
4. Watch crash course videos
Practice makes perfect! Many students often fall into the trap of spending too much time on their notes and too little time actually trying questions. This is because students might not have been able to grasp/copy down everything during the lectures, missing out things here and there that can prove to be of tremendous importance. As such, students resort to re-watching the lecture videos at home, only to find that it’s very time-consuming to do so. It can be hard to find exactly what you want among a series of lectures that total to more than 8 hours for the chapter of Vectors alone!
The H2 paper nowadays is very tricky, with many different question types per topic. The problem with many lecture notes is that they only present concepts and theorems without linking them to question types. As a student, trying to figure out the vast array of question types that can be tested will lengthen your revision time by a lot and give you less time to work on questions.
Here at JC Crash Courses, we solve this problem for you. We create short crash courses – most of them under 30 minutes – to teach you the entire topic. We don’t compromise on detail. We developed a framework for every chapter, and we teach you the concepts in a way that will help you understand the connections between them. We also identify all the problem types for you and explain the proper ways to identify and tackle each of them with the proper presentation techniques, so you don’t have to do so yourself.
For example, we explain the essential problem solving strategies in Vectors problems by breaking down the topic into six distinct question types, as explained in the video below:
When you watch our crash course videos, you will gain a deep understanding of the concepts involved and how they are used to solve problems in each chapter, in a far shorter time than what it would usually take. You can then use the additional time to work on more practice problems! Our videos will also help if you’re last minute cramming for an exam the next day 🙂 Do visit our website and our YouTube channel frequently – we will be uploading two crash course videos a week, along with short worked solution videos to hard problems handpicked by ourselves.
5. Consult your teachers!
Your teachers will always be more than willing to help with any difficulties you might encounter while revising for a particular topic. If you attend math tuition, do make full use of it! Ask questions proactively in class and prepare questions to ask your tutor during/after every session.
6. Take it easy!
If you’re intimidated by all the things you seem like you have to do, don’t fret. Start slow! If you’re weak in calculus, make it a point to set aside some time to do 1 calculus question a day. Then slowly build up your momentum 🙂 If you approach studying for math with the right mindset, you will find yourself enjoying it. Feel free to study with friends or play some background music, unless you’re easily distracted. And of course, if you find any parts of our videos unclear or face difficulties with understanding certain concepts, feel free to DM us on Instagram or get in touch with us here! We will get back to you as quickly as we can. We can make a worked solution for you if you need it, and publish it on our online platforms so everyone can benefit.
The COVID-19 outbreak is forcing all of us to adopt new lifestyles and adapt to unfamiliar forms of lessons in home-based learning. We know it can be difficult to adapt so we are here for you 🙂 Do set aside some time everyday to relax and bond with your family and pursue your interests, be it cooking or learning a new skill online. Work hard and make good use of your time but don’t study all day okay! Stay safe, take care and have a restful May holidays. Thanks for reading, and see you in our next post!