Tips for Scoring More Marks in Problem Sums During Exams

Whenever the exam papers are returned, most parents start analyzing the breakdown of marks for each question to see where their child is having problems. For Mathematics, the structured or long-answer questions (in other words, problem sums) can take up anything from 20% to 50% of marks for the entire paper, with each question worth 3-5 marks. Hence, parents are always worried when their child is unable to master problem sums.

If your child is able to get the correct answers for all the problem sums but still isn’t getting full marks for each question, it’s likely that he or she is making careless mistakes or not clearly demonstrating how he/she got the answer. Here are some tips to help your child score more marks for problem sums during their exams.

Practising problem sums

1. Show all workings to get method marks

When it comes to solving problem sums, the key is to show that your child comprehends the question and knows the steps to derive the correct answer. The strictest teachers may even require basic steps like “5 sweets x 4 children =20 sweets” to be written down. In fact, writing down these intermediate steps will help your child with the second tip below: checking for careless mistakes.

Even if your child does not know how to get the answer, he or she should still try drawing a model to get marks for representing the problem correctly, and do as many steps as they can. Your child might even realize how to get the correct answer later on when coming back to unsolved questions in the exam paper.

2. Check for careless mistakes

This is, without a doubt, the bane of kids and parents when it comes to exams. There really is no way to prevent careless mistakes other than to read the question carefully. Very often, the careless mistake occurs at the final stage of solving the problem sum where your child may forget to make one last calculation, use the wrong unit, or even write down the wrong name in the answer statement.

3. Avoid the supposition (guess and check) method

It has been hotly debated whether marks should be deducted (or not awarded) for using the supposition or guess-and-check method to solve a problem sum when a more certain method is available. Different schools and teachers have different marking policies for this, but think about it – it makes sense to force students to learn the correct way to solve the question instead of guessing every time. For this, plenty of practice is required so that your child knows the best way to solve different types of problem sums.

When your child still can’t get full marks for a problem sum…

Don’t make a big fuss over every single mark that has been lost. Remember, the best way to motivate your kids is to look at what they have done well – especially if they actually understand the question and have gotten the right answer. Praise them for their efforts, then sit down with them and discuss how they can improve and capture those precious marks.


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