## 28 Nov How to Avoid Careless Errors in Mathematics Exams

Every student who has taken a mathematics test has experienced the frustration of knowing exactly how to answer a question but having marks deducted unnecessarily due to thoughtless mistakes.

During frequent revision, mistakes may sometimes be a frustrating phenomenon. How many times have you been bogged down trying to get the correct numerical answer to a question, having to recheck your work multiple times and even entertain serious doubts about whether your conceptual approach to the problem is valid, only to discover some obscure careless mistake buried deep within your tedious algebra?

Both math students and math instructors require a clear strategy for reducing thoughtless errors and making arithmetic a more pleasurable experience.

**Ongoing practice**

The first pointer is very self-evident. Practice, as they say, makes perfect, and this is especially true in mathematics and the mathematical sciences. Constant practice enhances your ability to handle complicated algebraic equations, execute numerical operations smoothly, and, in general, dot your i’s and cross your t’s accurately the first time. That is not to say that if you practice sufficiently, you will not make mistakes. It implies they are less likely to occur, and when they do arise, you will be able to discover them more quickly.

**Develop an acute sense of what numerical answers appear reasonable.**

Something may be wrong if you calculate a man’s weight to be 200kg. To avoid confounding the learner, teachers generally design questions with plausible final answers from a physical standpoint. Constant practice enters the scene once more. After being exposed to a wide range of questions, you should have a basic idea of the range in which numerical responses should fall. Certain numbers are mathematically impossible to compute. For example, if you are asked to compute the sine of an angle and get a response that is less than negative 1 or larger than positive 1, you know you have made a mistake.

**Make it a habit to double-check your work.**

When taking a math exam, the temptation is to go through all of the questions as soon as possible. Unless you are rushed for time, continuously review what you have written in the past few minutes to check for obvious errors. Remember to double-check that you have answered all sections of the question once you have finished it. Begin by cultivating the habit of frequent checking throughout your normal revision, and you will discover that the procedure should not take too much time under test conditions. Do not just fly through without stopping to glance back.

**Be passionate and attentive to what you’re doing.**

This may seem overly philosophical, but it is true, and I can confirm from personal experience that being driven and excited about what you are doing decreases the likelihood of making obvious mistakes. Pay great attention to the arithmetic issue at hand, establish the habit of remaining aware and vigilant throughout revision and exam circumstances, and you will notice that errors are noticed far more quickly and made considerably less frequently.

**Thoroughly understand the ideas and formulas.**

This is, once again, plain sense counsel. If you completely comprehend the topic and have the equations at the tip of your fingers, you should be less prone to casual errors.

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