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How to Stop/Reduce the Number of Stupid/Careless Mistakes? (1 Viewer)


May 17, 2018
My greatest problem in maths tests is my ever-present amazing ability to perform an amazing feat; to make the stupidest mistakes possible. And by stupid, I mean STUPID.

For example, in my first prelim maths exam a few weeks ago, there was a question regarding absolute values worth 7 marks in total. It was about working out the different regions on an absolute value graph from a given equation then graphing it and using the graph to work out the following question. You see, for that one, I managed to figure out the equations correctly (hooray!) BUT I forgot how to draw lines. That's right, I forgot how to draw simple, y=mx+b lines and which way negative lines sloped towards, so I lost 5 of those 7 marks ( :'( ). But anyway, that was an extreme example of my idiocy and carelessness.

Of course, there are the usual slip-ups like forgetting to simplify completely or entering the wrong numbers into the calculator, but still- just- how would I stop making these stupid mistakes?


Active Member
Apr 25, 2017
I feel as though this is an age old question that will persist until the end of time. The unanswerable, almost seemingly unavoidable "Silly mistakes."

I will, however, try to shed some light on how you can decrease your chances of making one of these "silly mistakes."

Practice doing questions at home to a standard that you wish to replicate in exams, and make sure to always adhere to this. Mark your work thoroughly and catch "Silly mistake" trends that are forming so you can correct them and make a mental note of the issue. Some of the mistakes may be easier to avoid than others.

Common mistakes:
Typing things wrong into a calculator? Do it SLOWLY, and maybe even repeat the calculation to ensure you put it in correctly.
Failing to do mental arithmetic? If it is confusing, use a calculator.
Forgetting to simplify? Make a note of ALWAYS simplifying as far as you can in practice questions, so this becomes habitual and you are more likely to remember to do so in an exam.

Specifically for your 5 marks lost (Or rather, not gained), it would have been beneficial to have left the question if you felt unsure, and moved on with the exam. This gives time for your subconscious to solve the problem from its bank of knowledge, and potentially avoid the mistake altogether.

The benefit here is that you are still in prelim, so you have a while to form positive study habits (More specifically, positive mathematics habits). But remember not to undermine all mistakes as silly, as some will be conceptual and this will need re-learning or revising.

P.S. I still make silly mistakes xD

Robert Ollis

New Member
May 15, 2018
Hi Alussovsky,

If only you were alone in this dilemma, but you are just one of thousands of students with the same problem. It’s called exam pressure or stress. I have also been a victim of it during my many years (8 in total) of university exams.

The first thing to realise is that an exam or test is a performance, just like sporting teams have to perform on the day of the match. You may remember when teams such as the Sydney Swans buckled under stress in a grand-final, so don’t feel so bad, you didn’t have millions watching.

Here are my tips for avoiding stress at tests or examinations; many students that I have coached have found that these simple steps are effective.


Note: An examination is a performance, it doesn’t matter how much you know, if you can't perform on the day you won't pass.

Bearing this in mind, it is better to have a free night prior to any examination so that you are refreshed and relaxed on the day.

On the examination day itself avoid any activity that causes stress, anything that you don't know now doesn't matter.

At the exam.

(1) Always enter the examination room in a positive frame of mind. Make sure that your physiology reflects your attitude. (Walk into the room as though you are the one.)

(2) Read the examination paper thoroughly and focus on each question. Read the paper through at least four times.

(3) The fourth reading should be after the examination has started and at which time you should mark the paper with any relevant information that springs to mind. (e.g. formulas, questions to do first, hints etc.)

(4) Decide on the order of answering the paper, starting with the easiest question first. (Don't waste any time on a question that is causing you undue difficulty, leave it and come back to it at the end of the exam if time permits.)

(5) Mark off each question on the examination after it has been done. Use some code to mark questions, which have been completely done, which can't be done, and those ones that you have left to return to.

(6) Use all the time allowed for the examination.

(7) If you are stuck on a question write down something, try and experiment with the given information, draw a good diagram if a diagram is required. Let your pen do your thinking.

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