Math 21a - Exams

Out of sequence exams are only offered for the following reasons:

  • A medical excuse: please have your resident dean contact the course head.
  • A university-sponsored event such as an athletic tournament, play, or musical performance (but not athletic practices and rehearsals)
  • A religious holiday
  • Extreme hardship such as a family emergency: please have your resident dean contact the course head.
Out of sequence exams will only be given before the actual exam.

Exam dates are:

Exam 1

Exam 1 will be Tuesday 10/16, 5:30 - 7:30 pm. So that you as students can be confident that your exam is taking place in an environment of academic honesty, we will be using assigned seating for this exam. Please look out for an email from Stepan Paul on Monday 10/15 letting you know your assigned seat.

If you have a valid conflict (see the top of this page), please fill out this exam conflict form by Tuesday 10/9 to arrange an earlier exam time. Please note that most section meetings and lab sections can be rearranged to accomodate an exam, and we expect you to contact your section organizers right away to arrange to attend a different section if your section conflicts with the 21a exam.

What to Expect

The exam will cover the material on Problem Sets 0 - 12. Remember that Math 21a emphasizes deep and flexible understanding of the material. As such, you should expect the exam to include problems you haven't previously encountered, so that you can demonstrate your ability to apply the fundamental concepts to new problems.

Books, calculators, and notes will not be permitted on the exam.

Earning back points on the mini-exam: Some problems / parts of problems on Exam 1 will be very similar to problems on your mini-exam. We'll calculate your percentage on these parts of Exam 1 and average this with your mini-exam percentage. If this average is higher than your original mini-exam percentage, we'll change your mini-exam percentage to this new average.

Sample Study Plan

Here's a sample study plan:

  1. (8 - 10 days before the exam) Start by doing a quick overview of the topics we've covered, just to identify any topics you've forgotten. For example, you might try answering these review questions. If you've been keeping a list of the key ideas and skills from each class, look back at that. If there are topics you definitely don't remember, go back to your notes, worksheets, and homework to refresh your understanding.
Don't spend too long on Step 1, because the single best thing you can do to study is to complete a few practice exams without looking at the solutions or using extra aids, and you want to leave plenty of time for that!
  1. (A week before) Try Practice Exam 1 without using any aids. (It's very tempting to peek at the solutions when you get stuck, but we have found repeatedly that this is not a useful study strategy. Recent research backs this up!)

    The first practice exam you take is mostly a diagnostic to help you figure out what topics you need to study more, so take as much time as you like with the problems.

  2. Once you're done (and before looking at any aids), do this practice exam reflection.
  3. If there are topics you now realize you're shaky with, go back to the worksheets and homework, look in the book for extra problems on those topics, or go to office hours.
  4. Try another practice exam, and do the reflection afterwards. Then repeat this with another practice exam. It's a good idea with at least one of these practice exams to put yourself in an "exam environment": find a quiet place and give yourself 2 hours, so that you practice working under time pressure.
  5. You may not have time to do every problem in every practice exam; that's okay! Prioritize working on the problems that you don't immediately know how to solve, as those are the ones you'll learn the most from trying.

Review materials

Review Session

There will be a course-wide review session on Tuesday 10/9, 4:15 - 5:30 pm in Science Center E.

Mini-Exam

We will have a mini-exam Tuesday 9/18, 5:30 - 6:20 pm.

If you have a valid conflict (see the top of this page), please fill out this exam conflict form by Thursday 9/13 to arrange an earlier exam time. Please note that most section meetings and lab sections can be rearranged to accomodate an exam, and we expect you to contact your section organizers right away to arrange to attend a different section if your section conflicts with the mini-exam.

What to Expect and How to Study

The exam will cover the material on Problem Sets 0 - 3. In particular, you should be comfortable with:

  • Graphing equations in Cartesian, polar, cylindrical, and spherical coordinates
  • Dimension
  • The distinction between the graph of a function and level sets of that function

After you've reviewed, we recommend that you take the two practice mini-exams below without looking at the solutions or using extra aids. (Why? Testing yourself is one of the most effective methods of learning, but research shows that looking at the solutions while doing problems creates a "false sense of mastery".)

If you want additional practice, the textbook is also an excellent source of problems; answers to odd-numbered problems are generally in the back of the book.

Solutions

Here's a blank copy of the mini-exam in case you'd like to try it again, and here are the solutions.