The Big Secret: Do not think about the problem until you write down all of the factors.
Sounds too easy, right? But it's where everyone gets stuck. Start by carefully reading over the entire question from start to finish and decode the important factors. Then, go back and slowly read it again, writing down only the necessary factors. Factors are not just numbers, but also things like days, percent signs, pm, or whatever will help keep things straight for you. Also, neatly write numbers below or above numbers that will be added or subtracted and set-up any fractions.
Write an Equal sign where it belongs
This is critical; the equal sign is like a trigger to our brains that we've been taught since 3rd grade. Now that the problem is written in terms with an equal sign in place, the light will generally go on and you'll start working the problem. From here, the only hang-ups you may encounter are things like not knowing conversions or needing to convert to all like factors. Even if you write down the factors wrong the first time, you'll likely see how to re-arrange them and get started.
Sloppy writing is not allowed in math:
Your success at math is contingent on writing all of the factors neatly and organized. When you come across a math word problem, the first thought that should come into your head is to grab for a piece of paper to write it out. As you jot it down, write neatly and leave yourself some space between lines.Beware: Exam writers prey on your bad habits.
When I create practice math word problems for the free practice exams, I have to think up three dummy answers. How do I do it? It may sound sadistic, but I try to consider what answers would come up if someone was sloppy. I think about things like if a factor was left out, or if someone did the equation in a rush, or their head. Exam writers who write for official exams do the same thing. After all, the exams are used to weed out unqualified applicants. If you want to pass the exam, get in the practice of writing things down completely, neatly and organized.
When you get to a question that's a math word problem.
First, relax and know that all of the facts are in there for you to solve it. Then take a deep breath and follow these steps: Do not try to rush or use a short-cut
Read it at least twice
Write down the only necessary factors
Put an equal sign where it belongs
Do the Math
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