# The Secrets to Algebra With these few simple tips you will maximise your marks in the exam.

The number one way of gaining marks in the exam is to re-check all your answers. You can afford to do this as both Maths papers allow two and a half hours which is more than enough to double check everything!

No matter how good you are at algebra it is still easy to make sloppy mistakes and therefore lose precious marks. By following these steps below you can minimise your mistakes and ultimately maximise your overall grade in maths, remember about 40% of the marks in the Junior Cert maths test come from the algebra section – so it is vital that when you look over your test you can see and fix any mistakes before it is too late.

• Bimdas – “Brackets, Indices, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction”. Make sure you approached all questions in your test in the correct order. Deal with the brackets first (If there is any) then the indices etc.
• Fully simplify all answers – Always make sure that you have broken your answers down to the lowest fraction/simplest form where possible, especially in questions were you are asked to simplify. It is very easy to leave an answer not fully simplified but you will be penalised for this, and it is a problem that can be easily combatted.
• Relate all answers to their appropriate question – If you are asked how much something would cost, if something is true/false or ‘How many apples Jenny had’, always make sure to answer appropriately. (Eg. ‘€5’, ‘\True’, ‘Jenny had 5 apples’). Never leave your answer as ‘x=4’ if stated otherwise in the question.
• Include all work-ins – Make sure you have written down all work done and steps taken in answering a question, if you write down all your work-ins you can still get most of the marks even if you get the final answer wrong.
• Make sure all your signs are correct – Remember that (+ x + = +), (- x – = +), (+ x- = -), (- x + = -), and ‘Over the bridge (Equals sign), change the sign’. It is easy to get your signs mixed up, but if you look over your answer with a fresh mind and these rules in your head it can be easily prevented.
• Inequalities – When you have a negative number on either side of an inequality you can cancel the minus signs out, but make sure that when you do this that you have switched the inequality sign around as well. Eg. -5 > -x =     5 < x
• Adding and subtracting large fractions – When you want to add or subtract fractions you simply join them together to make one fraction, using the Lowest Common Denominator of the two original fractions. But remember, when there is an equals sign involved you must use a different method to simplify, this method involves multiplying each fraction by the lowest common denominator of all fractions in the sum. Make sure that you haven’t mixed these two simplification methods up in any of your answers.
• When your answer is a square root – If your answer is a square root, for example x = , make sure when you simplify it that you have included a plus and minus in your answer as the square root of four is both +2 and -2. (Eg. X = +/-2)
• Decimal Places – Make sure you have given your answer with the correct amount of decimal places you are asked for, and that you haven’t rounded up or got rid of decimals unless asked to.
• Subbing in – For most questions in algebra you can actually check if your answer is right by subbing it back into the question. Eg. 3x = 5x – 6, the answer to this question is simply x = 3, and I know that this is correct because I can sub in my answer and both sides are equal. 3(3) = 5(3) – 6, 9 = 15 – 6,      9 = 9. If you have time at the end of your test, I recommend doing this to all questions where possible, so are you are fully confident that you got these questions right, and if you have gotten them wrong you can see this and fix it before handing up your test.

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