How to pass O level Mathematics

Time yourself using past exam papers.

Exams are not much about how much you know but also about how fast you can answer correctly all that you know. More than half of the students who fail mathematics fail because they run out of time before completing the papers.

To practice time management you have to figure out the exact time you should take to obtain each mark using a past exam paper as a guideline. For example, if the exam paper time duration is 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) long carrying a total of 100 marks, you would theoretically need to work at 1.5 minutes per mark. However in an actual exam you would have to work fast than this in order to have extra left to go through and polish up your answers. In this case I would recommend you work at 1 minute per mark and that would leave you with an extra 50 or so extra minutes.

Try to practice with as many past papers as you can. You can download some O level Mathematics Question Papers here

Grab what you can and run

If lets say you are halfway through a tough question whose last part suddenly becomes to tough to be tackled, do not lose precious time trying to solve the entire question. If it was easier for you to get the first part of the question right, so be it, jump to the next question.

Even if you were halfway through the question, it is wiser for you to move on to the next question and try to get some more marks rather than focusing all your efforts on one question that you are likely fail eventually. You can always come back for the question later.

Deal with your weaknesses

When revising and preparing for your exams, list all the topics in the curriculum, then test yourself on each topic separately. The objective here is to identify your weakest topics.

After identifying your weaknesses, if there is still time before the exams, revise your weakest topics at a rate of one topic a day. End each revision session with a revision question from your stronger topics. Remember to always leave time to revise topics you are stronger topics.

Here you might also consider creating study groups with some of your more serious friends. This should ideally be done when you have at least a month to go before the exams.

Also remember to seek advice from your teacher or private tutor on how to deal with your weakest topics. If you do not have access to a teacher or private tutor try asking friends who you know are good on the topic. You can even try researching for help on online on revision websites. There are plenty of websites on the internet with enough free resources to help you with your learning.

Know the exam requirements

Many students fail exams due to not paying attention to the little details on the question they are answering or on the front page of the exam paper.

If you look at the front page of the Zimsec Math O Level question paper, you’ll see that it mentions that "omission of essential working will result in the loss of marks". So make it a habit to show every little bit of working that you used to get to the answer. If its a construction question, make sure to show all the arcs and construction lines. The calculation stages are more important than the correct final answer.

Get sufficient sleep and rest.

Many people usually take this part for granted. Fatigue can significantly reduce your mental capacity without you even noticing it. The worst part here is that you might never notice that you are fatigued whilst yet its affecting you. This is something that most students fail to realise. Make sure that you get sufficient sleep the night before the exam lest you suffer a mental blackout in the exam.


Believe in yourself. If I did it, then you can do it. Thank you for reading.

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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