How to Get a Last Minute Passing Grade on a Mathematics Exam

It's only human to be behind in something you were meant to be studying, and it's fairly normal for students to be way behind in some things with just a decent amount of time left. However, sometimes, in exceptional cases, you may find yourself ridiculously behind and not have an absolute clue of it, with only hours before the test.

Whether this came due to illness, a complete misinterpretation of what was going to be on it or even pure procrastination, it's not important now; it's important to note that this is definitely NOT guaranteed to work, but if you read on, you can get tips on how to pass anyway!


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    Accept that you are going to take the test no matter what. Never even dream of missing a test completely just because you don't know anything - even 5% is worth something and it's an experience in doing an exam. Who knows, you might even get a pass!
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    Know what you need to learn. If you're not sure, ask! Don't be afraid that people will be horrified at how little you know, they might understand, as most people have been through this situation. Ask a teacher or preferably other students for notes, even if it is very late, for important exams; it is perfectly normal for people to still be going over, checking and in some cases relearning the material, even on the day of the exam, so chances are they won't figure out how little you actually know.
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    Have a piece of paper to write down the essentials on. Learn formulas and get an idea of how to apply them. It always looks impressive if you have the formulas spot on and make some confused steps towards the outcome. It's subjective what a good step and a poor/clueless step is in mathematics, and that definitely may earn you a pass, if you know how to do your thing.
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    Get a good night sleep before the exam. It may be tempting to stay up all night and revise but if you're tired, your brain won't function properly. If you get a good night of sleep, your brain will be alert and you will probably find you know far more than you realized. Eat a good meal before you go out too!
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    Prioritize. Spend 70-90% of the time trying to come to grips with the methods and reading over the formulas. Obviously, you might want to forget about understanding it at this stage - understanding was what the other students did during the year, what you're hoping for is that you can somehow get away without doing any of that. However, understanding why something works has it's advantages as, while memory can let you down, true understanding of something won't. This really depends on your ability to understand or memorize things - pick what suits you the best.
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    Have constant focus. Spend right up until the very last second continually visualizing and repeating the stuff you feel is most important to know in your head. As much of it as you can. Just visualize and try to be able to understand/memorize it. Think about the problems you might encounter as well, to feel prepared.
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    Start right away. Go straight into the exam hall and if it looks like you might be able to, start writing on the exam script before the exam paper is received and the exam starts. You probably won't have very long, but you if you can just get those images, and especially the nasty equations, you have in your head down it'll save you so much time and mental energy later, when all you have to do, is go back to the first page and copy them. That's what you want - loads and loads of stuff in your temporary memory.


  • Always remember to stay calm and relax. Look at the question carefully.
  • Try not to let anyone distract you.
  • Sometimes previous knowledge and understanding of the material or even just mathematics in general and a huge effort in the final few nights/even hours is sometimes all you need to pull through.
  • If there isn't much time focus on the big picture not the tiny details.
  • There's no harm in pulling a few bits of the question and doing something almost random with it, if you have a lot of time left on the exam.
  • If you feel you are up to it and it does not usually get unpleasant or sick after doing it, liberal amounts of caffeine and/or energy drinks/foods during the night may give you the energy you need.
  • If you study in advance, you can avoid this ever happening again.
  • Look up, this is as much an opportunity to pull off something fantastic as it is a horrible situation. Some people make hard work of mathematics and you may be able to skip some corners.
  • Know about what you have to study for your exam and get notes or little hints from your friends. Then study that important things repeatedly by taking notes .
  • Always study and practice before the due date. This will help you feel more confident working on the exam.
  • Creating a group of flashcards to practice with can help you improve your memory of the topic.
  • Write notes on the main topics/theorems/postulates/equations/formulas before the test.
  • The answers are mostly within the question. So, read the question Carefully!
  • Next time, pay attention and study all your notes.
  • Try teaching it to somebody else.


  • If the material on a final exam is needed for the next course, then you might be better off not passing without understanding it; the next course will end up being that much harder. This is especially true in college/university, where you may have more flexibility than in secondary/high school and can retake the course at your own time. It's one thing if you need to pass a general-education requirement to avoid flunking out; it's another matter if you don't need to pass until next year and you'll really need to know the stuff in later courses.
  • If there is one part of it that you couldn't figure out during the year despite spending lots of time on it, forget about it. It'll be highly annoying, but your time will be much better spent putting down what you DO understand in that part of the exam.
    • It's hard especially if you know you might have to miss out on 20% of the exam completely by doing it, but you have to take a chance.

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Categories: Surviving Mathematics | Tests and Exams