10 tips for writing a great ICSE Math paper

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For the Class 10 ICSE board exam, you have 2 and a half hours to solve 24 sums. That’s roughly 6 minutes per sum. That includes thinking, checking, neatness, fiddling around for a pen, pencil, eraser, sharpener, graph sheet, the odd cancellation and rewriting, workings, underlining the answer and the actual solving of the sum.Add to that, the pressure of a competitive exam, and you realize that 6 minutes is just barely enough time.

Add to that, the pressure of a competitive exam, and you realize that 6 minutes is just barely enough time.

Here then, are the best tips to save time, overcome your fears or anxiety and top your score by about 15 to 20 percent in your ICSE (or CBSE or any other) 10th Std Mathematics paper:

Master the basics:

One way to save time is to master the basics. When you prepare, learn the multiplication tables up to 20, addition, subtraction and division shortcuts. Learn the squares of numbers up to 25. This can improve your calculation time by up to half. If you used to spend about 3 minutes on calculations and working per sum, you can now save a minute and a half per sum. Multiply that by 24, and you save 36 minutes overall. Huge!

Be organized:

It’s very basic information for a Class 10 student, but many students still mess this up. Carry 2-3 long pencils, erasers, a sharpener, one compass with a short pencil in it, a fully equipped geometry box and 3 pens with new cartridges for your Mathematics exam. It’s not advisable to take just 1 pen with a bunch of cartridges. Needless to say, keep all pencils duly sharpened. A lot of precious time is wasted sharpening pencils and changing cartridges.


Keep your working column or rough sheet as neat and as orderly as the rest of your answer paper. This helps in checking for any silly mistakes. Also, the same calculations can be used in more than one instance, as and when needed. Write reasonably large, well spaced out letters and numbers for better readibility.

Practice the art of checking your sum thoroughly:

When solving your sums at home or in class, get into the habit of checking your sum thoroughly the moment it’s done. This will save you time overall and also eliminate the chance of losing marks due to silly mistakes. Especially check your working, calculations, formula, substitution and the units for your answer. If you can check your sum thoroughly and correct any silly mistakes in less than 30 seconds per sum, it’s fantastic. It’s way better than glossing over the whole paper in a tearing hurry after you finish the entire exam.

Don’t brood:

Despite your best preparations, if you encounter a sum that gets you to gaze up at the ceiling and look philosophical for over a minute and a half without progress, move on. Leave some space for that sum and move to the next sum. If you ponder on it for too long, negativity sets in. Plus, you are eating into time for another sum that you may be able to solve easily. Moreover, if you have time at the end, you can always come back to this sum after completing your paper, when the pressure is less. You never know, inspiration might strike you then!

Learn all the formulae:

Even if you are not sure about how to fully solve a particular sum, but you know the formula and write the substitution for that correctly, you may get an extra mark. In the ICSE, even 1 mark can make a significant difference as far as ranking or securing admission in a good college is concerned.

Gather your thoughts:

Teachers don’t always tell you this, but take a deep breath, close your eyes and sit still in your seat once, and only once for about 30 seconds before you start your exam. This brings in a sense of calm helps you to focus on the task at hand.

Number your sums properly:

Write the main and the sub question number for each problem, especially if you’re in the habit of solving the sums in a different order. For example, write 1(a), 1(b) or 6(b), 6(c), not 1(a), (b) or 6(b), (c). And certainly not VI (B) instead of 6(b). Remember, the person who corrects or grades your paper corrects many, many papers and it’s annoying for that person to keep turning the pages searching for the corresponding answer number. It could take up your time also, if you decide to go back on a problem later.

Don’t scratch untidily:

The right way to cancel a word written in pen is to make one single strikethrough, and enclose the same in a pair of single brackets like this (error). No multiple scratches or using untidy erasers. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid whiteners. I think they are messy and a waste of time.

Follow the steps in order:

After carefully reading and re-reading the sum, a good student should use the following approach. First, write what information is given. Second, list what is to be found out. Third, write the formula to find the unknowns followed by the substitution for that formula. Lastly, don’t forget to write the units for the answer if there are units involved in the sum (be wary of having to convert units in some problems, like metres to centimetres). Also, don’t forget to underline your answer clearly.

Posted by: Hubert John D\'Mello. in Exam Preparation , Test preparation , General | Date: 15/02/2016

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