Maths can be a tricky subject - in fact, UK students have ranked A-level maths and GCSE level maths as both the hardest subjects at their respective levels. From trigonometry to prime factorisation, it’s certainly not a “cram the night before” type of subject.
So, what can you do to improve your maths performance, especially when it comes to sitting important tests and exams? In this guide, we’re going to go over 8 of our top tips when it comes to revising for a maths test; from prepping the night before to making sure you perform well during the test itself.
So, want to know how to revise for a maths test and bag that A? Keep reading!
Focus on your weak points
When it comes to taking maths tests, it can be reassuring to go over the topics that you already know well and understand during your revision. But this isn’t doing you any favours - it’s much better to spend your revision time focusing on the points that don’t quite make sense, or the concepts that you haven’t yet managed to wrap your head around.
Unless you’re preparing for an exam - in which case it’s a good idea to refresh your memory on all topics within your given subject - it’s best to spend your revision time trying to better understand the topics that are most difficult for you. You can go through your curriculum and rank each topic according to difficulty - that way you can allot extra time to the subjects that you find the trickiest to master.
Study with friends
It might seem counterproductive or distracting to your studies, but it can actually be a good idea to study with friends. Typically, you’ll each have areas of weakness and be able to help one another understand concepts that you each find difficult. So long as you take the study session seriously - it’s a study session, not a fun get-together - it can actually be incredibly productive.
You’re more likely to feel confident asking your friends than your teachers questions about a certain topic, or admitting when you feel stuck. Just make sure that your group study sessions make up just a small percentage of your revision time - solo study is best when it comes to revising for a maths test.
Do past papers
Even if you’re not yet prepping for an official exam, it’s a good idea to do past papers in order to get an idea of what your overall level is. Remember - taking a timed exam is not the same as revising; when you revise, you have all the time and resources at your fingertips. During an exam or test, you only have your memory and a limited amount of time to get all your answers down. For this reason, taking past papers is a great way to see how well you perform under pressure.
It’s also a great way to see how competent you are at each subtopic within your subject; you might find that you actually don’t understand a topic as well as you thought you did, or that you actually understand a complicated concept more than you imagined. If you’re not yet at GCSE or A-level, you can search on Google for past papers or practice tests aimed at your academic level.
Plan your revision
There’s nothing worse than having to cram your maths revision the night before - maths just isn’t one of those subjects! Highly theoretical and often scientific, maths requires a complete understanding of each topic - and subtopic - so you need to adequately plan your revision timetable to ensure that you have enough time to cover everything you wish to cover.
If you’re studying for several tests or exams at the same time, you’ll also need to make sure that you have time for those subjects too. The best way to plan your revision is to make a revision calendar; assign subjects, topics and sub-topics to each day, and organise each day by activity (such as group study, past paper taking, or general revision.)
As you probably already know, maths can be a complex and complicated subject. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to try and spend hours upon hours going over the theoretical side of things. Your brain needs a break now and again, so it’s a good idea to spend around 1-2 hours revising, before taking a quick 15 minute break. Have something to eat or snack on, get some fresh air, watch a funny Youtube video - just give your brain a break from equations and division problems.
Make sure to time your breaks - if your break goes on for too long before you’ve finished your studying, you might lose your motivation and find it difficult to get stuck back in.
Hire a math tutor
If you’re struggling with maths and can’t seem to understand certain concepts - or if you’re simply in an oversized class and find it difficult to get some one-on-one time with the teacher, it can be a good idea to hire a math tutor to help guide you through some of your revision.
A math tutor will be able to offer direct feedback on your work, help you understand complex equations, guide you through your calculations and problem-solving skills, while also answering any questions that you might have about any topic or subtopic within your course.
Hiring a maths tutor is especially recommended if you’re sitting an important maths test, such as your GCSE exam or A-level exam. You can find maths tutors for around £20-£25 an hour in the UK, many of whom are former students and will be able to talk you through the exam process.
Mark your past papers and study your mistakes
We all know that making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn - and this is true when it comes to academic study, too. Once you’ve taken your past papers, go through the answers sheet and mark your work. While doing so, highlight the errors you’ve made and try to figure out where you went wrong.
If you hire a maths tutor, this can be an even greater revision exercise - your maths tutor will be able to tell you where you went wrong, and by seeing where you’re making mistakes, you’ll be able to get to where you need to be. So don’t be discouraged if you mark your first past paper and find that you’re making lots of errors - this is the point of past papers! Plus, learning via errors is one of the most efficient ways to retain information - you’re much more likely to remember your mistake and not repeat it.
Practice good habits
Before your maths test, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re getting enough good food, enough sleep, and enough personal rest. There’s no use in revising until the early hours if you have to be up at 7am - your brain needs sleep in order to remember and retain important information!
Eat well, get a good night’s sleep, study during waking hours, and don’t forget that getting some time in for yourself is important too - take time to read, watch a film, or get some fresh air during your revision period.
This post was updated on 01 Aug, 2023.