Write an essay where you tell us what test preparation practices work best for you and why.

My eyes darted to the bold, red lettering on my calendar: DiffEQ Exam! With unit exams acting as the sole determiner of my grade, I needed to be on my A-game, literally. Thus, daily review of specific concepts began early.

I gathered my colored pens, college-ruled loose-leaf paper, and notes—ready to turn frantic in-class scribbles into a color-coded, cohesive study guide. Equipped with a pen, I wrote, “Unit 3: Linear Differential Equations of Higher Order.”

Unit 3 was two weeks long, and I could barely remember what I had for breakfast that morning. After rereading my notes, I wrote down important definitions and proofs. They wouldn’t be on the exam, but fully understanding the purpose of mathematics makes solving problems more straightforward.

Then, I copied in-class examples, solved each one again, and came up with a step-by-step process to solve similar problems. No longer did solving a nonhomogeneous linear differential equation seem so intimidating; instead, it’s become a simple six-step process.

After rewriting the material, I broke out my red pen to write friendly reminders. “Don’t forget to consider repeated roots for the particular solution!” “Make sure the lead coefficient of the differential equation is 1 when using variation of parameters!” I didn’t want any points off for silly mistakes!

After a week of review, my study guide was complete—the vibrant colors and concise organization instilled a new confidence in me as the exam date neared. Weeks after receiving an A on the Unit 3 exam, the material still feels fresh in my head. Investing time into my exam preparation allowed me to be successful in both the short and long term.

As an Applied Mathematics concentrator at Brown University this fall, this preparation strategy will prove invaluable. No matter how difficult theorems become or how tedious problems feel, I know I’ll be successful—as long as I have my colored pens and college-ruled loose-leaf paper.

Greta from Illinois
High School Senior
Prospect High School