So – I’m approaching the end of my third OU module, MS221^{1}, and the exam is in a few days. I missed all the local revision tutorials through being away with work^{2} and, despite some good intentions, I am woefully behind. Consider this a crammer’s guide for learning university level mathematics in 3 and a half days 😉^{3}.

MS221 consists of four blocks: block A covering sequences, conics and geometry; block B covering iteration and matrices; block C covering more complex^{4} integration and differentiation and Taylor Polynomials; and block D covering complex numbers, number theory, groups and logic and reasoning^{5}. The exam allows an annotated handbook and so it is fairly easy to prepare given a few days of dedicated effort, which (if you’re reading this in time, may help^{6}.

At this stage, there’s no point looking at everything. Get your handbook, the exercise books for each block, your TMAs (with tutor comments) and as many past papers as you have. The day before the exam is reserved for past papers – pick two that you haven’t attempted and put them aside.

For each block, follow these steps:

- Work through the exercise book, using the handbook. If you get stuck on a question, look at the answer and write whatever help you need into the handbook – this might be an example to make the handbook explanation stick or a comments to say “don’t forget to… ” this will help you complete similar questions. Add any cross references e.g. from the module pages to the definitions or relationships earlier in the book.
- Check all your answers and add any extra information based on what you got wrong. You don’t have time to look everything up so just add what you can.
- Go through your TMA answers and tutor comments – check that the solutions make sense and everything you got wrong is covered by notes in the handbook

Make sure that each of the four blocks takes no more that a quarter of your available study time (not counting your past paper day). I’d allow between 5-10 hours per block for this, depending on your rate of work and the number of annotations you need to make. The aim here is to make sure that everything you’ve not already learned is made more helpful in your handbook.

If you have time before past paper day, feel free to attempt any extra questions from tutorials or other past papers that you may have looked at already – this will allow you another check on your annotations.

The day before the exam make sure you have at least 7 hours (two three hour papers and a break). Make sure you are somewhere that you will not be disturbed and attempt the first paper^{7} using only your annotated handbook and calculator. When the three hours are up, mark your paper against the answers and, if necessary, add any extra information to the handbook. Take at least a 45 minute break: eat and drink something. Then attempt the second past paper.

Each iteration should feel easier as you’re adding notes to help yourself each time.

Make sure you have a fresh battery in your calculator, and have everything else you need. Also, relax – you wouldn’t be doing this course if you weren’t interested in and capable in mathematics – you’ll be surprised how much you can remember when you trust yourself.

- MS221 is on its last presentation before being replaced by a different set of courses so the detail isn’t available without an OU login. ↩
- Which you’ll know if you’ve been reading this! ↩
- Yes I know this is a touch Arnold Rimmer spending time blogging when I should be revising – I appreciate the irony 😉 ↩
- More complex than MST121 at least ↩
- I’ve already blogged about Proof by Induction ↩
- The techniques are applicable to most of the OU Mathematics courses ↩
- If you have answers to some of the papers, always attempt the one with answers first. ↩