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There are many standardized tests that require students to have a good knowledge of math, particularly algebra.  There are also tests that the College Board administers that help colleges to decide what kinds of students they want to have joining their student body.  Because of these tests, it is very important for high school students to know basic, and even advanced, algebra.  Here are some study tips and curriculum plans for high school students:

Test Preparation

Tests that are put out by the College Board, such as the SAT, put to test students’ abilities to work through a wide variety of problems.  There are usually English, science, and math sections.  Within the math section, there are usually a great amount of problems that require either basic or advanced algebra in order to solve.  Here are some study tips that can get you through different tests:

  • First of all, make sure you know what to expect before you go into your test, whatever test it may be.  Most college-bound tests are timed, so the best thing that you can do is practice.  You can know the theory behind different types of problems, but unless you practice, you won’t be able to do the problems quickly enough.  Not only are you tested on your thought process, but you are also tested on your ability to make it through problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Familiarize yourself with everything that might appear on your test.  When it comes to tests, you obviously never know exactly what is on it, so it is good to know a little bit, or more, about everything.  You can’t know everything about math, but do some research about the kinds of things that typically present themselves on these kinds of tests and make yourself familiar with all of them.  Be sure to familiarize yourself with everything from solving for X to slopes and intercepts.
  • Get enough sleep and eat proper meals the day before, and the day of, your test.  Your brain works significantly better when it has had enough rest and proper nutrition in order to keep it going.  Not only are you likely to think more cognitively, but you will also be able to think more quickly and solve problems easier.
  • Take practice tests that will make you more familiar with the kinds of questions that will be asked of you.  Not only will practice tests familiarize you with different subject materials, but timing yourself when you take them can get you into the habit of answering questions quickly and effectively.  “Practice” is a word that is so overused, but it is true.  The more you practice test materials, the better you will become at taking tests.  Especially if you’re not a very good test-taker like many high school age students, it is very important to practice enough to get you on the right track.
  • When you take your test, move past problems that you cannot solve and then come back to them if you have time.  Because it is a timed test, it is very important to prioritize and finish the ones first that you know you can do.  If you waste a lot of time on a problem that you still cannot solve by the end of the test, you have probably thrown your test away.  It is better to simply go back later or to guess on it than to spend all of your time on it when you could be doing problems that you know how to do.
  • It may seem silly, but make sure you read your test carefully.  Concentrate on each of the individual problems and don’t let your mind wander.  If you misread the directions, you may end up doing the problem wrong and having to go back to fix it.  This will waste time that is already so precious.
  • Familiarize yourself with materials that are allowed on the exam.  If you can use a calculator on the math portion, make sure you have one that you know how to work well.  Make sure you know how to do algebraic functions on your calculator so that you can check answers if you need to.

What Should You Know About Algebra?

There are different kinds of problems on tests that you should be prepared for, but what kinds of algebra problems are typically on them?  Here are a few different things that you should be aware of:

  • Pre-algebra:  You will need to a wide variety of pre-algebraic functions.  You should definitely know how to do operations containing whole numbers, decimals, fractions, integers, place value, square roots and approximations, the rules and concept of exponents, scientific notation, factors, ratio, proportion, percentages, linear equations in one variable, absolute values and ordering numbers by value, elementary counting techniques and simple probability, data collection and representation and interpretation, and understanding simple descriptive statistics.
  • Elementary algebra:  You will need to know some elementary algebra as well as pre-algebra.  These questions will be based on properties of exponents and square roots, the evaluation of algebraic expressions through substitution, using variables to express functional relationships, understanding different algebraic operations, and the solution of quadratic equations by factoring.
  • Intermediate algebra:  There will most likely be a small amount of intermediate algebra on any kind of college-bound test that you plan to take.  These kinds of problems will most likely be based on understanding different formulas, such as the quadratic formula, rational and radical expressions, absolute value equations and inequalities, sequences and patters, systems of equations, quadratic inequalities, functions, modeling, matrices, roots of polynomials, and complex numbers.  It is also very important to remember that you will need to know the basics about algebra in order to do these problems.  For example, it is good to know the quadratic formula, but unless you know the different order of operations, you won’t be able to solve these problems.

A lot of people are afraid of math, but algebra certainly isn’t anything to be afraid of.  With just a little bit of practice, you can ace any test that is thrown your way.

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