Give me that A* !!!

Some students may achieve B+’s and 85% grades, which sounds great but.. how do we get them to a 100% score ? Scoring 85% is already excellent so you may feel it is ‘good enough’. Is it sufficient to get into the top set at school, or be part of the math team, or even get into the honors or HL programs ? What does it take to score 45 at IB or be part of the elite 800 scorers in the SATs ?

How do we reach those incredible scores or perfect exam results ?

1.Real practice sessions:

Drilling past papers with a clear time pressure, no help, no distractions just like in the real exam setting. Scoring it fairly using the mark scheme. Encourage yourself to come to the dinner table and do a past paper or a timed section of a past paper daily at least 3 times a week in the buildup to the ‘real thing’ and review the score with someone. See which sections need work and address these. This will alleviate a portion of the stress and help boost confidence if scores are consistently high.


2. Become a number theory whizz

Number theory is an area of mathematics where divisibility rules, factorizing, quick multiplications, powers and algebra rules are well understood. Knowing the ‘timestables’ is great to start and when you tackle middle school or high school mathematics you will need to up the ante and learn additional counting methods. ‘Counting’ takes a whole new meaning when you watch Math Counts or TV shows with 10 year olds multiplying large numbers in a few seconds. We at Mathemagic believe wholeheartedly in the importance of a strong background in number theory for Math Olympiads, SAT prep and most exams. Get in touch with us to see how you can help your child embark on this journey with our unique numeracy program.



3.Be well rested and mentally prepared

So, a good night’s sleep is useful. Perhaps the stress levels pre exam and the amount of knowledge circulating in the mind is too much to handle. With so much at stake and pressure to perform, no wonder so many students arrive sleep deprived and completely stressed out, this creates mental blocks and difficulties in accessing information in the mind or thinking creatively for harder problems. The most useful tool these days is mindfulness, visualization, recognizing emotional states, letting go, observing the ‘monkey’ mind and so many areas which a real mindfulness coach can help your child address. Feeling positive and visualizing a successful outcome with positive mental affirmations go a long way for high level athletes and executives. You can empower your child with these ‘self help’ methods. IQ needs emotional intelligence. Check out ‘the mindfulness community‘ and ask them how they can help.


4.Don’t waste time staying stuck on a question !

So question 10 seems impossible and it’s not happening. I can’t find the answer, I won’t get it ! Panic onboard ! SKIP IT IMMEDIATELY and mark it for later. Gain marks everywhere else where you know what you’re doing and make sure you rack up as many points as fast as possible so that you CAN come back to question 10.. Who knows, maybe it’ll be clearer then. Wasting time on a question you can’t get and missing out on another one you could have done is a sure way to under perform.



5.Write your working out and use clear labels

Mark schemes often give points for the ‘technique’ as well as the result. So even if the results aren’t 100% right you could gain marks for the rest of the working out. Labels are helpful for another person to see what you’re doing and understand how you’re thinking. It also prepares you for the real world and keeping your work legible so others can pick it up while you’re away on leave !

You’re calculating the area of a semi circle ?


Asc = Area semi circle

Asc =

Then everyone knows what you’re referring to !

6.Arrive at the exam venue early

If you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late. (copyright my father in law, ex pilot in the US Airforce). This is SO true. Arrive early so you can settle in and take your time, breathe calmly, relax and remind yourself of all the formulas you need. Settle into your environment, get your mind ready and get your pencils or pens out !

7.Revise over a period of time not last minute

Your exam is 2 months away. Start reviewing now ! Topics in mathematics start at a very basic level, then there are ‘variations’ of each question so you will face similar problems but the type of question or skill set is different. A good review plan is to gain perfect understanding of the ‘technique’ before applying it in different ways. So try to ensure you know what the different question types are and that you’re confident with all of them before moving on. Once you’ve ‘mastered’ every section in your program, start past papers. You should be ready for your big exam and able to take a break the night before. This way you’ll sleep better !



Getting top marks is difficult but not impossible by any means. You should have a firm knowledge of your materials and get to a point of true mastery. Getting 100%, A* or a grade 7 at IB means you didn’t struggle, it means you knew the questions which you were asked to solve AND all the questions you weren’t. It means knowing a section or a program inside out. It is both commendable and deserving of a huge accolade. Go for it, set standards for yourself, aim high !

Karim Arditi is the program director for Mathemagic, Higher Math and Science Studies. Karim teaches Mathematics for Mathemagic.