Get a Good Score on the California High School Exit Exam: Math

Because every question is worth the same number of points, do the easy ones first. To do your best, use this positive approach:
  • First, look for the questions that you can answer and should get right.

  • Next, skip the ones that give you a lot of trouble. (But take a guess.)

  • Don't get stuck on any one of the questions.

Here's a closer look at this system:

  1. Answer the easy questions as soon as you see them.

  2. When you come to a question that gives you trouble, don't get stuck.

  3. Before you go to the next question, see if you can eliminate some of the incorrect choices to that question. Then take a guess from the choices left!

  4. If you can't eliminate some choices, take a guess anyway. Never leave a question unanswered.

  5. Put a check mark in your test booklet next to the number of a problem for which you do not know the answer and simply guess.

  6. After you answer all the questions, go back and work on the ones you checked (the ones that you guessed on the first time through).

Don't ever leave a question without taking a guess. There is no penalty for guessing.

The Elimination Strategy

Sometimes the best way to get the right answer is to eliminate the wrong answers. As you read your answer choices, keep the following in mind:

  1. Eliminate wrong answer choices right away.

  2. Mark them out in your test booklet.

  3. If you feel you know the right answer when you spot it, mark it. You don't need to look at all the choices (although a good strategy for some questions is to scan the choices first).

  4. Try to narrow your choices down to two so that you can take a better guess.

Getting rid of the wrong choices can leave you with the right choice. Look for the right answer choice and eliminate wrong answer choices. Take advantage of being allowed to mark in your test booklet. As you eliminate an answer choice from consideration, make sure to mark it out in your test booklet.

You can also mark some answer choices with question marks, signifying that they are possible answers. This technique helps you avoid reconsidering those marked-out choices you have already eliminated and helps you narrow down your possible answers. These marks in your test booklet do not need to be erased!

Avoiding the Misread

One of the most common errors is the misread, that is, when you simply misread the question.

A question could ask, if 3x + x = 20, what is the value of x + 2?

This question doesn't ask for the value of x, but rather the value of x + 2.

A question could ask, which of the following is the best estimate of 511 × 212?

Here, you are looking for the best estimate.

A question could be phrased as follows: What is the probability that a spinner will not stop on green if you spin it one time? The word not changes the preceding question significantly.

To avoid misreading a question (and therefore answering it incorrectly), simply circle or underline what you must answer in the question. For example, do you have to find x or x + 2? Are you looking for what can happen or what cannot happen? To help you avoid misreads, circle or underline the questions in your test booklet in this way:

If 3x + x = 20, then what is the value of x + 2?

Which of the following is the best estimate of 511 × 212?

What is the probability that the spinner will not stop on green if you spin it one time?

(Sometimes the test has key words underlined for you.)

And, once again, these circles or underlines in your test booklet do not have to be erased.

A Quick Review of Basic Strategies

  1. Do the easy problems first.

  2. Don't get stuck on one problem — they're all of equal value.

  3. Eliminate answers — mark out wrong answer choices in your test booklet.

  4.  Avoid misreading a question-circle or underline important words.

  5. Take advantage of being allowed to write in the test booklet.

  6. No penalty for guessing means "never leave a question without at least taking a guess."