By understanding how your teacher grades tests you can significantly raise your math grades even if you have not completely mastered the concepts.


As a middle and high school math teacher I graded thousands of math tests and all along the way I had to determine how many points I would reward a student for their efforts.  The process was fairly subjective and I often used my “gut” or best judgment to make a decision on how many points I would award a student for the work on their test.  Of course each teacher will grade tests slightly different, but I can assure you most math teachers are looking for certain indicators before they award points.  Students can really help improve their grade if they know what their teacher is looking for and it’s much more than the correct answer.


How teachers determine grades and how to maximize your scores:

1.       Correct answer

Clearly the sure fire way to increase your math test score is answer as many questions with the right answer! So study and be as ready as possible for tests and quizzes. However, let me give you an inside tip to make your study time even more effective. Before your test ask your teacher as many questions about what will be on the test – you will be surprised on how many details you can find out if you pester your teacher for inside information on a test!  Knowing more about what will be on a test can focus your efforts to study the right material. Also, you can almost be certain that 70% of the test questions on a math test will be a version of a homework problem or lecture problem covered in class—review your notes and homework problems because these problems will be repackaged as the test questions.  One last point to stress, even if you answer a question right make sure you show the supporting work. Most math teachers don’t trust magically appearing right answers without evidence that you understood how you arrived at the solution. Many teachers will give you NO credit for correct solutions without supporting work! Be smart show off what you know!


2.       Simplified solution

Give me the correct answer    as the fraction  and I will take points off!  Every math teacher I know will deduct points for correct answers that are not simplified. Examples of correct solutions that are not simplified are unreduced fractions, answers that don’t have the proper of units of measure (like an area or volume problem) and variable or number expressions that are not finished. So when it comes to racking up easy points on your tests, finishing and simplifying your solutions go a long way.


3.       How much work you show

The best thing a student can do for their grade beyond getting the correct answer is show as much work as possible…even if you don’t know what you’re doing!  Of course the work you show has to be a serious effort at trying to figure out the problem, but if you provide written evidence that you really tried to answer a question you will most likely earn some “charity” points—it all adds up in the end and can make a major difference in your overall grade.

4.       How many questions you attempt

Never, never, never leave a question blank—this is the kiss of death for your math test score!  I would like to stress a few points here.  When taking a test, first invest the majority of time on the problems you feel that you can answer correctly. However, you always need to leave a little time to attempt questions that you doubt you can figure out. I’d like to refer you back to my 3rd point “how much work you show” as what you need to be focusing on with these last ditch problems. Always try your best to leave no question blank. If you show your teacher that you at least tried each problem, often you will discover they will “kick” you a few extra points for your effort.


5.       How much understanding you demonstrated

 If you show that you understand some parts of a problem your teacher will reward you even if you’re not able to complete the problem. For example, let’s say you’re working on an equation and wrote each step correctly until you were stumped. Guess what…you have earned some points!  Now let’s take the same problem with the attitude, “I can’t do this, so it’s a waste of my time” this approach will always yield in no points.  The main factor in collecting points on your test score is demonstrating what you know even if you can’t get the problem right!  Partial credit is what I’m talking about and as teacher I can tell you that partial credit can often be the difference between a B- and an A-.  Be smart and get credit for what you know!


6.       Whether your work is clear, neat and understandable

Even if your work is correct if your teacher can’t understand it, you’re at risk of not getting points!  Neatness is a struggle for many students, but overcoming sloppiness can result in big points.  A way to get on a teacher’s good side (which will always improve your score) is to write your work so neatly that it’s easy to read and understand.  Now, frustrate your teacher by complicated “chicken scratch” and they won’t be as motivated to stick around and find points from your answer.  Remember that increasing your math test scores will be the sum of a lot of little things you do and writing neatly is definitely one of them!


7.       Your attitude and effort  

Talk in class, disrupt a lesson, and don’t do your homework…I guarantee your teachers will not be extra creative to find points on your tests.  Teachers will absolutely help those that help themselves and often that means the difference between a 69% (D) and 70% (C).  Of course if you’re interested in getting better math grades than you need to act like it in class, your teacher can tell if you’re trying.  Ask questions,  ask for help and do your best—that alone will yield more points and could very well be the difference between passing and failing.