Question: How do I reduce silly mistakes in exams?
1. Keep a Notebook for Mistakes 📝
(recommended by Hayley Yong – Co-Head of Junior Maths) I highly recommend keeping track of what kinds of specific mistakes you’re making, then reviewing them periodically. These reminders will stick the best when you repeatedly recall and apply them, so having a little notebook handy will be a big help to reinforce the good habits you’re trying to build, and stop you from making the same mistakes multiple times! For example, what worked for me is writing down in my notes or a post-it note “remember to multiple everything in the brackets!!”
2. Slow and Steady Wins the Race 🐢
(recommended by Carol Shi – 2U Maths Teacher) I used to make so many silly mistakes! I found that what helped was going slow and checking my work as I go (like literally re-reading every single line of working out 2 times at least after I wrote it down). I found this was more helpful than checking my work at the end of the exam because sometimes you have like 2 mins left and you go “ah I’m not bothered…” Another thing is that a lot of people make silly mistakes by not reading the question properly, so I used to go back to read the question again after I’ve solved it, just to make sure all my initial conditions were correct and I have definitely answered the question properly. It might seem like this takes a lot of time but it’s probably the same amount of this as if you went back at the end and checked :)
3. Watch Out for Traps 👁️
(recommended by Leticia Liao – Chemistry Tutor) It really hit me when I asked my 4U Maths tutor Alec the same question and he phrased it as the following: “Preventing careless mistakes is actually about doing SO many past paper questions that you know exactly where could go wrong or where the question is trying to trick you”. It’s also about how attentive and focused you are when you are doing a question (and this is also why having enough sleep is important)! So whenever you make a careless mistake again, instead of blaming yourself for once again being “sooo stoopid”, try:
- Reflecting on why a question tricked you (once again)
- Making a plan on how to expose yourself to as many past paper questions/ question types as possible
- Noting down your mistakes (in a notebook or a Google doc) so you can review them right before your next exam
As my Chemistry tutor Shirin would say, “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.” Don’t let the same trap get you twice!!