Preparing for a math olympiad is not easy. Simply knowing math is not enough. You have to possess the time management skills that will allow you to finish each question on time and have enough time left over for the rest. On the plus side, if you prepare well and ace the test, you can add it to your CV and motivation letter when you apply to college. This experience can help to set you apart from all the other students.
We’ve prepared a list of tips for students preparing for a math olympiad. Check them out and make sure to implement them in your study routine.
Get a head start
Don’t leave everything for the last moment. Math olympiads are nothing like the tests and quizzes you get in class. You might feel confident enough to not prepare for those, but you have to study for your olympiad. The earlier you start, the more time you will have. Besides having the time to learn anything you don’t know, you will also be calmer knowing that you’ve still got time.
Make a study timetable to start and include all the topics you need to brush up on. You can study for 15 minutes every day or arrange longer 1-hour sessions a few times a week.
Learn the syllabus
The syllabus will tell you exactly what you need to know to ace this olympiad. If you receive a copy of the syllabus, it would be a shame not to use it! Highlight all the topics you need to revise and use a different color for the topics you don’t know very well. Pay special attention to those. Use the syllabus as your guide for this math olympiad.
Learn the rules
Each olympiad may have a different set of rules. If you’ve participated in a math olympiad before, it doesn’t mean that the same rules apply to your upcoming olympiad. Visit the website of the event and read up on the rules. You can find a lot of valuable information this way. Besides, you wouldn’t want to get disqualified because of a silly mistake. Though doing everything in the last moment sounds fun, it’s better to be prepared.
Practice, practice, practice. They say practice makes perfect and they’re not wrong. It’s not enough to just go through some math rules and memorize the syllabus. You need to actually know how to solve relevant math problems. Let’s be honest, you’re probably a math genius as it is. Solving some geometry and algebra problems will warm you up for the olympiad. Use your free time wisely and find helpful resources for students online. Once you’ve solved hundreds of problems, you’ll know what you’ll need to do after reading the first sentence of the question. Don’t forget to read the whole question anyway!
You can time yourself when you solve individual problems, but nothing can provide the same experience as a whole test. You can find math tests online with similar contents as the math olympiad you’re going to attend. Maybe the website of the olympiad has some free tests you can try out. Print them out so you can write on the test and, most importantly, time yourself.
Timing is where many students fail. It’s not enough to be good at math, you have to be fast. If worst comes to worst, you should know which questions are a waste of time and which you should spend your time on. Doing timed tests will help you prepare for the stress of the olympiad. They will also identify any weaknesses you still need to work on.
Consult someone with experience
Do you have a friend who’s been to this particular math olympiad you’re attending? Perhaps one of your teachers is familiar with the syllabus of the olympiad? Talk to them! Ask them all about the olympiad and what you need to know. They will be able to tell you things that you won’t find on the olympiad’s website.
If there’s no one in your life who is experienced with math olympiads, you can take your questions online. There are so many online communities on reddit that you can join. Ask your questions on Quora and find a wide variety of answers.
Don’t leave your preparation for the last day and don’t stress yourself out. If you do your best in preparing for the olympiad in advance, there is no reason why you shouldn’t do well. Plan your time, practice your questions, and get a good night’s sleep before the event!
Robert Griffith is a writer with a background in teaching. He believes that practice is not always enough. Students need to organize their time and get in the right headspace.