Test Taking And Homework Hints

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Problems in the book and tests often tell you to simplify, evaluate, solve, or put into standard form. They mean different things, and the answers can look different.

Simplify
Change the expression until it is in simplest form.
The answer should be an expression.
Evaluate
Simplify until you have a number. May involve substitution of variables with numbers.
The answer should be an number.
Solve
Find values of variables that make the expression(s) true.
The answer should look like X = (some number or expression).
Standard Form
Change the sentence into the standard for for that sort of sentence. There are many standard forms.
The answer should be in the standard form.

Sometimes we are so intent on solving the hard part of a problem that we forget what the problem originally asked for. One really good trick to avoid forgetting the kind of answer wanted is to write down as much of the answer as you can at the beginning of the problem. For example:

If the problem says solve
write the variables and equal signs in the answer space.
If the problem has units
write the units of the answer in the answer space as soon as you know them.
If the answer has a graph
label the axes immediately.
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