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How to avoid careless mistakes

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Stuck to your everyday routine religiously for months: studying for hours every single day, sacrificing leisure times and recreational activities to make sure you understood concepts without a problem, to practice questions to the point where it just comes right off your fingertips.

You are confident that you at in the best condition to perform in the upcoming examination, and there will be absolutely no issues in clinching the “A” right in front of you.

On results day, you received your examination papers with excitement, just to stand there agape. The score written so clearly on your paper in bright, red ink, “48/100”.

A thousand and one things went through your mind, time slowed down as the words of others go muffled, the ringing in your ear intensifies. Your eyes get blood-shot as tears welled up, thinking about the “A” that has gone further, and further away.

Trust us, you will never want to experience the situation above throughout your education journey. It is a painful and disappointing process, seeing your efforts going down the drain and all gone to waste.

So, what was the culprit that caused all these havoc despite sticking to the schedule of a model student?

You might have already known by now from the title shown above, yes – we are talking about careless mistakes.

Whenever students see a careless mistake, regardless whether if its in their assignments or examination papers, they will simply just say, “Ah, it’s just a careless mistake” and shrug it off.

Students nowadays neglect the importance of being meticulous in order not to make careless mistakes, which under unrealizing conditions, had been costing them tons of marks.

Today, Math Lobby is going to offer some tips and advices for you to avoid careless mistakes at all costs, and ensure that the marks obtained during examinations are secured tightly without a chance of getting it marked down. Let’s begin!

1) Check your answers by substituting it back into the original equations

When it comes to mathematics, the laws and rules are there to regulate and sieve out the abnormalities so that you are well-protected from careless mistakes.

What we mean by this is that whenever you are solving questions involving equations (be it algebraic, simultaneous, modulus, logarithmic or trigonometric), you are always able to check if your answers make sense by substituting your final answer back into the original equation.

This is the best way of ensuring that your answer is correct because if there’s anything that deviates from what you have gotten in the original equation will hence defy the laws of the concept/theory, which is a big red flag to remind you to double check your workings and the values you used again.

2) Careless mistakes are not just careless mistakes. Take them seriously!

The issue with students and careless mistakes is that students are just so nonchalant whenever they see a careless mistake they made in a question. They think that it is not as important as having a conceptual or methodical error, which is why careless mistakes always prevail in robbing the marks off students.

Students must understand and realize that it is essential that they take every single mistake they made, careless or not, serious and to make sure that they do not repeat the same mistake again.

Take note of what is wrong, and create a mental warning sign so that whenever you come upon a certain type of question, you are able to have your guard up and tread cautiously through the working steps and obtain the correct answer.

3) Always check that your answers make physical sense

Unlike primary school mathematics which questions involve John buying 53 watermelons and eating 30 of them, secondary school mathematics are more realistic in their approach since it involves far more than just mathematical operations.

Questions are more closely-linked to the real-world context and hence, more often than not, you are able to check to see if your answers make logical sense.

For example, if you get answers like a pen costing $1500 or Tim is able to run his 2.4km IPPT in less than 3 minutes, you should have a gist of something is really wrong somewhere, so you should start checking your steps to see if you have missed out anything.

4) Always make sure that you have attempted every single question in the paper

One of the most common mistakes made by students is to skip questions and forgetting to re-attempt. These questions might not necessarily be questions that they do not know how to do, it could just be that they think it requires more time than other questions to complete and hence, they skipped it first to secure marks from other questions.

These are extremely precious and valuable marks that could have determined a pass from a fail, or an “A” from a “B”.

Therefore, always make sure to make it a habit to flip through your examination papers back from the start each and every time after you have completed the last question. Also be sure to look out for the page numbers as there might be pages stuck together!

5) Always check for careless mistakes yourself

When checking for careless mistakes, it is of utmost importance to do it yourself instead of asking your teacher, tutor or friend to check it for you because in an examination, they will not be there to help you.

Learn and practice to check and identify careless mistakes yourself, so that during examinations, you are able to scan through each and every of the working steps and answers more efficiently and quickly to make sure your answers are correct, since time is the bane of all students during examinations.

If you have a hard time trying to deal with time management during examinations and revision sessions, Math Lobby have articles that give specific tips and advices on those difficulties faced by students, so click on the link above to check them out!

6) Do not skip steps!

We know that skipping steps can help us save a whole lot of time from writing down the working and get straight to solving the question and get the final answer.

However, if you decide to try and solve everything mentally and skip steps, you are in the most vulnerable state for carelessness to strike at you. You might be thinking of too many things at a time, which causes you to mix the numbers up in your brain, and even if that doesn’t happen, the mistake might surface when you are typing into your calculator.

Another reason why you should skip steps is because more often than not, for questions that carries more than one mark, it is required for you to show your workings in order to score the method marks.

So, why not just kill two birds with one stone by write your workings down to secure the method marks and at the same time, minimize the potential for making careless mistakes?

7) Never stop checking until time is up!

What we typically see nearing the end of examinations is that students then to just place their heads down and sleep on the desk, or sit there and stone until the examination is over.

Those are things you should never be doing until the examination is actually over, because the precious spare time you have can be placed into much better use! Spend that time to check your paper over and over again, think of ways to make your presentation better, key the workings into your calculators again to make sure everything is in order.

At least if you were to receive your test papers back again, mistakes you make will not be due to carelessness, which is times more painful than making conceptual mistakes, which are genuine errors that can only be rectified in your revisions.

And that’s all for today, students! Math Lobby hopes that after reading through this article, you have gained valuable insights on how to avoid careless mistakes and necessary precautions you should take to minimize potential errors in your examinations/revisions!

If you have any pending questions, please do go on to our Facebook page, Instagram or contact us directly at Math Lobby! We have certified mathematics tutors to aid you in your journey to becoming a better student!

As always: Work hard, stay motivated and we wish all students a successful and enjoyable journey with Math Lobby!

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