By Sean Alexander

How to Study for Math

Finals are upon us.  I want to share my top study tips and things to avoid.  Early in my teaching career, I learned that most students don't know how to study for math.  Often students can get by without studying for math up until a certain point.  Unfortunately, when the time to study for math arrives, the student doesn't know what to do because they never had to.  This is my ultimate math and physics study guide, I wish I had this in high school.  It took me all of an undergraduate degree in physics to iron this out.  Let me make the mistakes for you!  Here we go...

Do the following to get an "A"

  • Ask your teacher what topics can be on the final.  Not everyone gives review guides these days, which is lame. Regardless if you have a review guide or if you don't, ASK THE TEACHER what is fair game on the final.  It's best to get it from the horse's mouth.  This also forces the teacher to commit.


  • Get your textbook out and find the topics the teacher said are fair game.  Circle 5 problems at the back of the chapter PER topic.  Ideally odd problems if those answers are in the back.  


  • Here's the most important thing:  THE ONLY WAY TO STUDY FOR MATH AND PHYSICS IS TO GRIND THROUGH PROBLEMS ON YOUR OWN.  Nothing else works.  Sounds simple right?  It's amazing what students will do to avoid this.  It's also amazing how well it works if you actually do it.  This is the most important step in learning how to study for math and physics.  This brings us to step 4:


  • DO ALL THE CIRCLED PROBLEMS ON YOUR OWN.  Pretend it's an exam.  DO NOT check the answers until you have finished all the problems.  Oh but it's sooooo tempting when you're stuck to go find an example in the book or check the answer.  DON'T DO IT.  The point is to get used to being stuck.  Feel uncomfortable, that means you're learning.  If you can't figure it out, it's all good, this isn't the real exam.  If you check the answers before you finish, you will find yourself stuck on the real exam with no answers.  Get used to it now.




  • Once ALL problems are completed to the best of your ability, now and only now can you check the answers.  Circle the ones you got wrong.  Find a similar example in the book to try and figure out what went wrong.  If that doesn't work email me, I'm happy to help!


  • Once you've resolved the issues on the problems you got wrong, find 3 more of the same type.  Repeat the process until you've gone through all the topics.  You are now sure to have an "A" if you actually do all these steps.  Most will not, but don't say I didn't warn you 🙂


DON'T do the following
  • Just read the chapter.  Many students will read the chapter to avoid doing problems, this accomplishes nothing.


  • Rely on an "equation notecard".   Many teachers will allow a notecard for you to write equations or whatever you want on.  It's the golden ticket right?  Wrong.  So many times I see students relying on their cheat sheets instead of doing problems.  Guess what:  THEY WON'T HELP YOU AT ALL.  Nothing.  Nada.

I myself relied on an equation notecard for an electromagnetism final in my Junior year of college.  I wrote down every example problem in the book in microscopic handwriting so small you practically needed a microscope to see it.  I did this instead of grinding through problems.  I figured I could just find a similar example on my cheat sheet and figure it out, right?  Bombed it, should have just worked through problems.

  • Wait until 3 days before the exam to start studying.  The time to begin preparing for finals is NOW.  It's already late, get going!  Your final is probably cumulative which means you have a lot of problems to work through if you use this method.

I genuinely how this guide teaches you how to study for math and physics for the rest of your academic career.  From the entire AT family, we wish you or your child the best of luck on finals this season!  We are thinking of all of you and will light a candle in each of your names during finals.  Good luck!  And as always, don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or if we can be of support in any way.  Book a time to chat with Sean!


  • Sean Alexander

    COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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