How to Study for a College Algebra Test

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It is not uncommon for some students' minds to go blank when they first look at an algebra problem. Most times it's because students know that there is only one correct answer, and they worry that they won't be able to arrive at it. However, there is no reason for you to let math anxiety keep you from passing a test. Despite what most people believe, understanding math does not take a special aptitude, but it does require using your common sense. Employing certain study strategies can help take the fear out of your next algebra test.

  • Develop a positive attitude from the start. Too often students will look over a math assignment and decide that they do not know how to do the problems. Start with the easiest exercises that you do understand, and then keep plugging away at it.

  • Practice several algebra problems every day. This will help to build your confidence. Instructors assign homework problems for a reason. If you fail to do the problems, you are not likely to learn. It never hurts to try your hand at some unassigned problems for additional practice.

  • Work an algebra problem one step at a time. Simply following an example may not help you to really understand how you arrived at the solution. Once you complete a problem and have an answer, you need to know how you got there. You may find it helpful to work through the example yourself. Textbooks can be useful resources, as they provide definitions of terms and more detailed explanations of mathematical concepts.

  • Check previous homework assignments to see what you got wrong. This may help prevent you from making the same mistake again. Homework problems often show up in another form on math exams.

  • Attend class regularly. Most new math concepts are built on what you learned previously. Pay attention so that you do not miss anything that you need to know. Some math instructors encourage students to join a study group or find a study buddy, as it is often helpful for students to work together in completing math assignments.

  • Ask questions. In all likelihood, one or more of the other students in class have the same question but are afraid to ask. It is usually wiser to ask the instructor if you have specific questions. Although other students may be willing to help, they might not be giving you the right answers to your questions.

  • Go see your instructor during office hours if you have questions or need help. The instructor is there to help you succeed. Take advantage of any free tutoring services that the college may offer on campus. Some schools even have math labs available to answer students' specific questions.

  • Study regularly. The best way to prepare for an algebra exam is to keep at it. If you learn the material along the way, you will already know what you need to know for the test. But if you put off studying until the evening before an exam, you probably are not going to be able to absorb all of the math concepts being tested.

Tips & Warnings

  • Read each question before you begin working on the exam. Go back and do the problems you know how to do first, saving the hardest problems for last. Always show each step of your work on an algebra exam. While you may not arrive at the correct answer for a problem, in most cases, instructors will award partial credit for any steps that you do have right. Instructors are usually more interested in how much of a math concept you do understand.

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