With Year 12s in Western Australian about to embark on their final exams as they complete their final stage to achieve university entrance, we thought it would be a good time to share our advice on just how students should and shouldn’t study for maths.

These upcoming exams are worth 50% of their overall ATAR score, and so it’s not too late to tweak a few techniques and emphasise more efficient and worthwhile study habits.

Please pass this article on to anyone you know with kids about to embark on these examinations.


  1. Rewrite Your Notes

Perhaps this is a good strategy for English or Society and Environment but it is of no help when studying Maths. A lot of students like to begin studying by rewriting their notes but this is pure procrastination. Instead, while working through questions on the topics you are studying, refer back to your notes when you get stuck or need help.

  1. Only Read Through Examples

Reading through worked examples is not a helpful strategy when studying for maths if this is all that you do. You want to do the questions yourself, practise the steps and learn the concepts by actually working through questions. After you have attempted to work through a question yourself or if you have tried a question and are stuck, then reading through worked examples is a good step forward.

  1. Only Practise From the Textbook

You want to attempt a variety of questions in a range of styles. Sometimes questions from the textbook will be of a similar difficulty level or perhaps they approach a concepts from one angle. If you are practising questions on the angle of elevation, for example, when you begin each question you already know what it is testing and therefore this eliminates your need to decipher which concept it is which you need to think about. This is a key test/exam skill because in tests and exams the questions are all mixed up and some even require work from two different areas, this is why doing a mix of test and exam style questions is essential for your study. Textbook questions are good practice but they should not be your only source of practice.


  1. Practise As Many Test/Exam Style Questions That You Can Get Your Hands On

Following on from the last point, you want to practise as many different styles of questions as you can get your hands on. Test questions and exam style questions are the best practice. These questions often present work in a slightly different context and require students to really demonstrate their understanding rather than simply following steps which can be rote learned. The only way to improve one’s skills at tackling the ‘challenging-out-of-the-box’ type test/exam question is to practise, practise, practise.

  1. Start Early

You want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to adequately practise a variety of questions from each topic that you have studied throughout the year. You also want to practise whole tests and exams from cover to cover. Best practice is to start your studying early and make a schedule to ensure that you are able to cover everything in time.

If you are allowed to take notes into your exam with you these should be made early as well. A lot of students throw their notes together the night before the exam but writing them early gives you the following advantages. 1. They are more useful: because as you are doing practice questions during your studying, every time you have to look something up in your book, this is something which you can write on your notes. Rather than thinking the night before the exam, ‘What will I need on my notes?’ you have completed your notes by writing down things which you have needed along the way. 2. They are easier to use: If you make your notes early then you can use them while you are studying and therefore you will be more familiar with what you have on your notes and where you have written everything. Thus saving you time in your actual exam!

  1. Work In Exam Conditions

The best way to build up a resilience to the pressure of tests and exams is to work in those same conditions at home. Set up a time and a space where you will sit and work for the whole allotted time, without your textbook and without any breaks and with only the materials you would be allowed in the actual exam. This will help you to work under time pressure and it will also help you to maintain your focus and concentration during the silence of exams. During this time it is best to practise actual tests and exams. Ask your teacher for past papers or have a look at our practice tests papers.

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