Advice for Beginning Calculus Students

This is some advice provided by Calculus students I have had, at the end of the semester, for future beginning calculus students.


For Calculus I, the requirement should be a strong background in mathematics. This course requires that you study about ten to fifteen hours a week outside of class. Work ahead of the professor's lecture and always read the section before you go to class. Never give up, and always try your hardest.

Make sure that you're in the right class (don't get stuck in the wrong class).

Be prepared!Calculus is a tough course and it helps to have a strong background in precalculus algebra and trigonometry.Be sure to really know those trig functions.

In Class

During class, view the examples seriously, and copy them quickly in detail.

Read the section before coming to class, it would help a lot. Ask lots of questions in class.

Go to each and every class. If you don't understand something, try reading the book. Learn how to write good notes.

Do not depend on your instructor to teach you everything.

Be prepared for class:read over the section an attempt to work a couple of problems before you go to class ... review your notes after class, and donít put off doing homework.

Ask questions.Go to the mathematics [tutorial lab].

Time & Energy

This is a very difficult and time-consuming course. Expect a lot of time to be spend on homework assignment, and take advantage of office hours. Attend classes: every lecture helps.

The biggest piece of advice I can give future calculus students is to make sure that their schedules permit them a sufficient amount of time every week to study and do homework. By this I mean at least eight to ten hours. This was something I didn't do and I got really overtired and stressed because of it.

During the semester you take Calculus I, take a lighter workload than usual:no more than 12-14 credits.

You must be able to commit most of your time to this class.


The best advice I can give to future calculus students is to get ahead in their work. By getting ahead, they will be prepared in class to ask questions about the homework or about information in general. Any concepts that aren't understood can be explained further in class: you don't want to find at 10 pm the night before the test that there's a concept that you don't understand.

Do NOT procrastinate! I would recommend doing homework early and have as much time as possible to do it.

Donít wait until the night before itís due to do the homework:do it the day of the lecture or the next day, when the material is still fresh.

Don't wait until the last minute to do homework: putting it off to the night before is not cool! And don't put it off because you don't understand it! Don't be afraid to ask questions either! Study groups kind of help but be prepared to do more socializing than studying!

Be prepared to spend a lot of time on homework. Be ready to not just do the homework for a grade, but to completely understand it. The tutor labs are extremely helpful, and form study groups. And don't stress out.

Calculus I is definitely a very challenging course and there are times you feel discouraged and let down ... In order to succeed in this course, practice, practice, practice.

Do as many practice problems as humanly possible. The practice problems really helped me.

Draw pictures even if you don't know how the graph will look or if it is not required: it may keep you from making silly mistakes!

Be prepared to spend many hours trying to understand what in the world calculus is all about. ... luckily, it kind of comes together at the end of the semester.

Practice and working out problems is the key to passing the class.Do all the homework to the best of your ability, read through all the chapters, and ask for all the help you can get.

Read the book!Do all the problems in the chapter, not just the assigned ones.

Donít slack off because if you get behind, it will be hard to get caught up again and you will be confused.

Keep on trying with hard problems:the answer will come sooner or later.

The best way to learn is to teach someone else, or say it aloud to yourself (when no one is looking).At a minimum I would do 15 hours of classwork outside of the classroom each week [this for a 4-hour calculus course].

Take advantage of the homework and read the sections of the book that the professor goes over.Reading the sections, doing the examples, and then doing the homework really helps you on the test.

Do every odd-numbered problem in each section, and check your answers.Focus on the problems you missed, and work on them to get the right answer. The more problems you practice, the more you will recognize patterns, and the tests will be simple for you.Think of mathematics as a foreign language:the more you immerse yourself in it, the more natural it will become.

Do any extra credit that is offered.

Do the homework for each section the night that you go over it.Waiting until youíve covered something else will only confuse you.

Do not allow yourself to become calculator-dependent during your practice.

Do at least an hour of homework every night of studying;spend time on what you donít know and make sure you learn it before the class meets next or else you are left behind.It is better to be ahead than to play catch-up during finals week.


Learn the unit circle [this for precalculus trigonometry].

Getting Help

I think it is good to find people you can trust and rely on as good friends and study partners. Being in a group makes studying easier and more fun.

Don't give up. Eventually the answers will come to you, and if not, don't be afraid to ask. The tutor lab is great and they're very helpful. Students should also form study groups and meet with them on a regular basis. AND DON'T STRESS OUT.

Keep up on the homework: do not let yourself go behind. If you get confused by something, get help then: don't wait until the exam to learn what you did not understand. There is tutoring help for a reason. Do not feel stupid going to it. If you do not go there, get help from the teacher, a fellow classmate, or a friend. DO NOT GIVE UP!

When a problem or question arises, it is always helpful to go to the professor for extra help. The professor is usually willing to help and explains methods to obtain a better understanding. Review notes before after they are fiven in class. Always do your homework so you will know what each section is about for the test, and do practice problems within the sections to help review for the exam. Also, don't procrastinate and put studying off: always stay on top of things. Another piece of advice is to partner up with a few people in class to study with and go over homework because two or three heads is better than one.

Get additional help:itís free!Go to math lab or (at USF) get an assigned tutor at Argos.


Relax before a text and give it all you've got.

Start studying for the exams early. Do good on the beginning chapters: the chapters become harder and harder, so itís best if you ace your exams in the beginning. It's not like high school: you can't just study the night before and ace the test.

Remain focused no matter what do you or what grade you get. College is tough: you may hit a few bumps on the road, but keep trucking.

Get enough sleep before the test, and always take advantage of the full time period allotted for the test.

Sleep well before tests, even more than eight hours if you can, and eat within three hours before the test.

The more and closer to the test you cram, the worse your grades will be.

Start studying for tests at least three or four days before the actual test.Donít cram!

Always do the review problems in the back of the sections before quizzes.They help a lot!So do note cards with the formulas:they come in handy while doing homework and studying.


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