Tricks of the Trade: Mathematically-based Exams

As a physics major I’ve had my fair share of physics and mathematics tests. They can be pretty crazy, but there are some things you can do to prepare yourself. These are just a few of the tips that have worked for me! I hope they help you too.

~AJ Salois


  1. Write down all of the equations you think will be on the test and make sure you can match which equations relate to which problems. I would usually do this just to be thinking of general problems. Sometimes I write numbers of example problems in the books next to the equations to do as practice.
  2. Work to understand even the smallest and most inconsequential equations. These often will be built upon later (they never really go away!)
  3. If you don’t understand a particular problem or equation talk to someone about it! At the ELC [Enhanced Learning Center] there are some great tutors or you can even make an appointment with the professor. Chances are…that will be the problem on the test!
  4. Review all of the homework. Professors tend to choose similar problems from what you’ve done already. Go through the notes to review. As I go I highlight things that stand out and seem important.
  5. Write out a review of important concepts. Again match which problems go with which concepts. This can help you to make that “bigger” connection.

And always remember to breathe! If you don’t breathe during the test, no oxygen is getting to your brain. Take it easy, and remind yourself that you can do it! And don’t forget to double-check your work!

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