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Math Phobias? Conquer Them With Common Sense!

Math symbols Are you the kind of person who is intimidated by math questions? If so, you're not alone. Studies show that for many test takers, adults in particular, test anxiety increases when the questions involve math. What does this mean for you as you prepare for the real estate exam?

If you're one of the many adults who are plagued by both math and exam anxieties, we have some good news: there is a simple tool you can use to help you select the right answer to a math problem, and it's something you probably already possess. It's called common sense, and it will help you answer just about any math problem you're likely to encounter on the real estate exam.

As you may already know, the state exam does not focus extensively on complex math problems. You will, of course, encounter questions that require you to solve math problems; in order to do well on these questions, you'll need to understand the concepts and formulas you have learned in your exam prep coursework. So far, so good—it's really not that complicated!

Now comes the fun part. As you may have noticed from the practice exams, any question requiring math will relate to a real-world situation, usually involving money or square feet. Because you are an adult, with real world experience, you are already equipped to give a fairly accurate estimate of the correct answer. In fact, you probably perform these estimates as a matter of course in your daily life, without really stopping to think about it. By relating the question to situations you've been through, you can usually eliminate a couple of the wrong answer choices using this simple technique: Before you begin working all the way through the problem, estimate a reasonable answer.

Let's look at an example. Say you are faced with the following question on the exam:

Cindy is buying a house from Tom, and closing is set for April 30. The annual real estate taxes are $15,800 and Tom is in arrears from January 1. Assuming the escrow agent is using a banker's year, how much will need to be withheld from Tom's proceeds to cover his prorated share of property taxes?

a) $ 8952.00
b) $ 5265.60
c) $ 526.56
d) $ 5347.80

You already know that Tom's share is four months' worth of taxes (January 1 - April 30), and you can reasonably estimate that one month's tax is somewhere between $1000 and $1500 (1000 x 12 is 12,000 and 2000 x 12 = 24,000). Therefore, four months' worth of taxes would lie somewhere between $4000 and $6000. Or, estimated another way, four months is one third of one year (12 ÷ 4 = 3), and one third of $15,000 is $5,000 (3 x 5 is 15). With nothing more than common sense and some simple mental arithmetic, you are able to eliminate options a) and c) from consideration. The only two viable options are b) and d), and you begin your calculations to determine which of the two is correct.

Now let's imagine that instead of multiplying the per diem rate by 120 days, you miss the zero and enter 12 by mistake. Your calculator tells you c) is the correct answer (43.88 x 12 = 526.56). But you already know from your earlier estimate that c) cannot be correct. You redo the calculation, more carefully this time, and find the answer to be option b): $5265.60. [$15,800 ÷ 360 = 43.88 per diem x 120 days (4 months x 30 days) = 5265.60]

Of course, things don't always line up so neatly, and there will be times when you must perform more than one set of calculations. But as you can see from this example, simply looking at your options and arriving at a commonsense approximation can be a great safety net, especially if you're a little nervous and tend to be intimidated by numbers.

So go ahead–rely on your everyday judgment and squelch those math-phobia nerves!

Remember, Rockwell Institute is happy to answer all your real estate exam questions.