TMUA Preparation: Your 6-Month TMUA Preparation Timeline
Written by: Matt Amalfitano-Stroud
Welcome to Exams.Ninja’s 6-Month Preparation Timeline for the TMUA.
The Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA) is all about your maths skills, so there’s a lot of work to be done in the months preceding the exam. Join us, alongside an LSE graduate and TMUA expert, as we take you through the whole 6-month journey to ensuing your success in the TMUA. Let’s get started!
Understand the TMUA Format
First things first, how does the TMUA actually work. This table explains the basics of the TMUA format:
This is all very simple stuff, but you’re going to need to know more about it to become truly confident in taking it head-on. Therefore, starting off with a bit of research is highly recommended. For example, why not take a look at a TMUA past paper? Don’t worry about trying to solve all the questions or completing it within the time limit, just have a look through and see what it looks like. If you look through a recent paper, you’ll get a good understanding of what your TMUA paper will look like. We’d recommend sticking to one though, you’re going to want the rest of the past papers to be new to you when you attempt them later on!
The other essential resource to go through is the TMUA specification. This document explains pretty much everything about the test, from the format to the topics covered in the syllabus. You should be using the document religiously when planning your revision, but ensure you are using the most up-to-date version as it sometimes changes slightly from year to year.
Lastly, you can find out more from former TMUA test-takers and successful offer-holders through various means. This could be videos, blogs and websites (like The Student Room), basically any platform that gives students a place to talk should have some kind of discussion on the test!
Creating a TMUA Preparation Plan
Once you’ve got a firm understanding of the TMUA, it’s time to start preparing (or at least preparing to prepare). The key to any successful revision is a plan. This plan can take many forms but we would always go for a structured timeline!
Six months is a long time to be planning for, so you’re not going to need to detail every last second of time between now and the exam! The best place to start with is all the immovable deadlines and events that will be taking place between now and then. School exams, UCAS deadlines, open days and anything else important that will be happening should all be noted down to ensure your revision schedule can work around it.
From there, you’ll need to start setting out your dedicated preparation sessions. This isn’t so much about how you’ll revise, you’ll be able to figure out the most effective methods as the time goes on. Instead, you just want to know when you’ll be revising and potentially set times in which to do it. Be realistic with this, but make sure you actually are giving yourself enough time to prepare properly.
It’s a fact; rushing things is almost always going to reduce the quality of the work. Revision is, of course, no different. Take a look at these two graphs:
As you can see, you could either attempt to get all of your work done in one short amount of time or spread it out over the course of all the time you have available. The former method is certainly useful for some tasks, but revision is not one of them.
The point of revision is to retain as much information as possible before a certain time, in which you will need to implement said knowledge. Trying to do this as quickly as possible is only going to reduce the amount of knowledge you actually retain, leading to worse results when it comes to testing. You have lots of time before the TMUA, so use that time wisely and you’ll reap the rewards when you’re on your way to university!
One other thing that will be helpful is to take stock of any revision resources you have available. Beyond just your textbooks, this could include any websites you’ve found helpful, any classes you’re due to attend, or any question banks you have found. If you want to go the extra mile with your preparation, you could also invest in a preparation service to access even more resources. For example, the Exams.Ninja TMUA Preparation Platform grants you access to 100+ tutorials, 500+ practice questions and a collection of TMUA past papers. All of that will definitely give your resource collection a boost!
Now it’s time to begin implementing your preparation plan!
At this point, you should have a good amount of experience with maths exams and (hopefully) revising for them. The TMUA isn’t too different to your GCSE/AS exams or equivalents, with one key difference: the whole exam is multiple-choice! Generally, this does make things easier, but the difficulty is made up for with the actual questions, as these are going to be some of the toughest maths problems you’ve encountered yet!
However, you’re still going to need to revise in the traditional way to start with. You may still be attending classes at this point, so ensure that you make the most of these by taking notes and engaging with the teacher. Beyond this, you won’t need to be in full swing just yet. You’ve still got plenty of schoolwork left so it’s advisable to wait until the summer holidays before you begin your more intensive preparation. If you do want to do a little bit extra, there are plenty of articles and guides available online that can give you interesting tips for tackling certain topics, such as our guide on TMUA Algebra!
For international students, it’s important that you check your school syllabus early in your preparation. The reason for this is that some schools may not teach essential subjects until after the TMUA has been sat. if you find out that something isn’t going to be taught in time, then this will give you time to teach it to yourself. This is going to take more effort overall but once you’ve got it, it could get you that extra mark that you need to get a place on your desired course!
Start with the Basics
As you can see from the TMUA syllabus, the content is split into two parts; standard and advanced mathematics. (There is also Section 2 of the syllabus, but we can cover that at a later point).
The standard mathematics portion is pretty basic in terms of the required knowledge. It essentially covers the foundations of each topic that advanced mathematics covers, as well as your extremely basic principles of maths, such as the four number operations and index laws.
It seems silly to say that you should revise how to add and multiply because it is! But you shouldn’t gloss over this part entirely. Have a careful read through it and make sure you understand every single bullet point listed here, as missing even one of these could ruin your chances of understanding the more advanced topics.
From our TMUA Expert:
I’ll admit, I went into my TMUA preparation feeling pretty arrogant. Hearing that it was a multiple-choice exam with a fairly generous time limit made me think it was going to be easy.
I got a bit of a reality check when I had a read through Part 2 of the syllabus and realised there were a couple of areas that I didn’t actually recognise! After doing a bit of investigating, I discovered that I could’ve gone into the exam not remembering some really basic stuff, so I was much more careful with my revision going forward.
Ramping up Revision
For most students, school finishes in July. It’s a chance to get some R&R, but this year it’s also your best chance to get some intensive TMUA revision done! It’s going to take a good amount of restraint to not phone it in but your preparation plan should already have allotted time for work and time for fun!
The question remains though, what should you do with all this time?
Mathematics is a subject that can’t really be revised by reading through textbooks. It’s a subject that mainly consists of rules and methods that need to be used to solve problems, usually with very little in the way of facts or context required. Therefore, the best way to revise something like this is to just do it. There are plenty of different ways of doing this, but the general point is that you’re going to be answering questions.
At this stage, it may be better to answer more general questions rather than TMUA specific questions. Essentially, you should be looking out for questions that aren’t multiple-choice. Multiple-choice questions are inherently easier than most other types, as they give you a foundation to start your work from. You know the answer has to be one of these options, so you have the ability to work backwards or use the process of elimination. This just isn’t possible with a more traditional question. So logically speaking, if you can answer questions with no choices given, the TMUA questions that come later should be more than manageable.
The other important thing to remember is to ensure you are keeping track of your strongest and weakest topics. If you can determine all the topics that you struggle with, then you’ll be able to dedicate more time to them as your revision goes on. Through repetition, you’ll eventually get to grips with your weaknesses!
From our TMUA Expert:
During this stage of my preparation, I was getting tempted to start using TMUA past papers as a source of questions to revise from. The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that it would be detrimental to my preparation. Taking past papers under actual exam conditions is one of the most effective ways to prepare for a test, but it only works when you feel confident with the majority of the topics covered. If I had attempted them too early, or just used questions from them outside of exam conditions, then I wouldn’t have been able to take the paper in a realistic way later on. I would have already known all of the answers!
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TMUA Practice Questions
At this point, it will be time to start looking at actual TMUA styled questions.
These aren’t the easiest to find as the test has only been running since 2016, but are plenty of good question banks available (such as the questions included in the TMUA Preparation Platform).
Once you have a good selection, you should be mindful not to speed through them all instantly. These questions are your most valuable revision resource right now, so you should plan your use of them carefully so you can make the most of them all.
As we mentioned before, the TMUA consists entirely of multiple-choice questions, so you should be focusing on those from now on. The format is easier than traditional questions, but the questions themselves are not, so don’t be mistaken into thinking the hard part is over!
Paper 1 questions should start feeling pretty familiar by now. They’re pretty typical “solve the problem” style questions. All you need to know here is how to use the required mathematical methods, which is what you should’ve been learning this whole time!
But then there’s Paper 2 of the TMUA…
When taking an exam, timing is key! While you definitely shouldn’t be implementing strict time limits at the beginning of your revision, you will get to a point where you can start attempting questions in a speedy manner. Each paper in the TMUA contains 20 questions and last 75 minutes, so you’ll have about 3 minutes 45 seconds to answer each question. However, this doesn’t include time for checking answers at the end of the paper, so a better target would be around 3 minutes. That may seem like a good amount of time, but one tricky question can break your whole flow, so be sure to practice your timing extensively.
TMUA Paper 2
Paper 2 is a bit different from what you’ve been revising so far. The topics are still the same but the style of questions is unique. Paper 2 tests you more on your ability to assess scenarios and other people’s work more so than simply solving a problem.
As an example, a question may present you with someone’s working out for a problem they attempted to solve. Their answer is incorrect, so your job could be to determine where they were incorrect or find the correct answer based on their own work. It’s not simply a case of solving the problem, it requires you to use mathematical reasoning and assessment.
Just like Paper 1, the best way to revise this is to just answer questions. You’ll get the best understanding of how these questions work by just working through them, especially as these kinds of questions aren’t too common in other maths exams.
The biggest sin you can commit when preparing for the TMUA is using a calculator! It’s tempting to use it “just this one time” if you really aren’t getting a question right, but it defeats the whole purpose of exam preparation! The simple fact is that you’re not going to have one when you sit the test, so if you find yourself in that same situation in the exam hall, you’re going to regret not learning to solve it by hand.
Extra TMUA Revision Tips
As the test draws nearer, you may begin to feel the stress of it all. Here are a few more things you can do to keep your revision on track:
You should get used to skipping questions now, because you’ll likely have to do it in the actual exam. It’s normal to hit a question that you just aren’t able to answer at that exact moment, but trying to brute force your way to an answer won’t help much and you’ll lose a lot of time that should be spent on other questions. As long as you leave yourself enough time to go back to it when you’re finished, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of getting the mark!
When you’re not getting anywhere trying to understand something by yourself, you can call on someone else for help. This could be a teacher, mentor or friend, someone who you know will be able to explain things to you in an understandable way. You could even try asking on an online forum. There are plenty of people who have experienced the same thing you’re going through and will have great advice on how to get through it.
Setting milestones for yourself is one of the ultimate motivators! These could range from completing a certain number of questions or past papers to finally getting a question right on the thing you’ve been struggling with the most. Rewards could be whatever you think would get you to follow through with your tasks, but the best reward will be the feeling of pride when you accomplish something and, better yet, when you get through the TMUA with ease!
Taking TMUA Past Papers
The testing date is getting even closer now, so it’s time to perfect your TMUA techniques! There’s a lot to keep in mind when taking past papers, but the key is to treat them like the actual exam.
Your first few attempts probably aren’t going to end as well as you hope, whether it’s due to getting a low score or running out of time. That’s perfectly normal and is exactly why you’re practising in the first place! Through repetition, you’ll learn from your mistakes and figure out a method that works best for you.
Remember, your past papers are limited as the test has only been running since 2016. Don’t rush into all of them in one go! If you ran out of time on your first attempt, try to improve your speed with some practice questions before you do another one. The best thing a past paper can do is show you how you will react in the actual test.
Here are a few key points to consider when taking past papers:
TMUA registration begins on September 1st, which is a process you will want to get started as soon as possible.
The TMUA is administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing(CAAT), but the actual registration will need to be handled by your school or college at your request. These are the steps for arranging this:
- The first step is to find your nearest test centre which will usually be your school/college. If not you can find your nearest centre or apply for your place of education to become a test centre via the CAAT website.
- Once the nearest centre is confirmed, you will need to talk with your school’s exam officer to get things started. You’ll have to provide some personal details, including your name, date of birth and UCAS number, as well as confirming which course you’re applying for.
- Once the process is complete, you’ll be given a unique candidate number which will act as your confirmation of registration. Keep this number saved somewhere so you don’t lose it.
Registration ends on September 30th, so you only have 30 days to get yourself completely registered for the test. You should aim to be registered long before then, as you don’t know what kind of delays or setbacks could occur before the deadline. If you have any additional access requirements or a modified paper, they need to be submitted on the CAAT website or with your exams officer by September 16th.
UCAS Application Deadline
In 2023, you’ll be sitting the TMUA in October. That’s not the only thing that happens this month though. For people applying to the University of Cambridge, your UCAS application and personal statement are due on October 15th, just 3 days before the TMUA! Of course, you have the option to submit it earlier than this (and you probably should), so be sure that your preparation plan has accounted for the time needed to get these completed to a high standard. If either of these are submitted late or are of low quality, then all of this revision will have been wasted.
Final Weeks of Revision
You’re now in the final countdown to the TMUA testing day. For applicants in 2023, the decision has been made by Cambridge Assessments Admissions Testing to hold the TMUA on October 18th instead of its typical time slot of early November. This will be a setback to every applicant’s preparation plans, as you have lost over two weeks of revision time. However, the best way to offset this loss in time is to start your preparation early, as we have suggested in this timeline.
October is going to be your last chance to achieve what you want to achieve from your studies. These tips will help you through your last few weeks of preparation:
Are you running thin on practice resources? There are plenty of other mathematics exams that have past papers to try out, such the MAT and STEP. You could even venture outside of the pure maths tests and find exams that have dedicated maths sections, such as the NSAA or ENGAA. The important thing to remember is that the questions will be different to the TMUA in subtle ways, so these should just be taken as practice questions.
Assuming you’ve been highlighting areas that you’ve had difficulty with during your practice, now would be the time to ensure you understand them as best as you can. Start by reading the principles behind them again, then take on some practice questions to see if you get them right this time.
Keep everything outside of your preparation as stress-free as possible. This will be tricky at this time of year, with UCAS applications, personal statements and school work to worry about all at once, but the key is to manage your breaks well and stay aware of your motivation levels. If you feel close to burning out, perhaps work out a way to incentivise revision beyond the eventual reward of a good result.
TMUA Testing Day
This is the day when all of this revision will pay off. In the day or two before you sit the TMUA, here’s what you can do is prepare your body and mind for the exam:
Don’t leave anything to chance on testing day. If one thing goes wrong it could ruin your whole application so make sure you’re prepared for any potential problems.
A final word from our TMUA expert:
The TMUA can catch you out a bit at first. It seems pretty easy when you first look into it, 40 questions in over two hours, and all on subjects I’d already learnt! But once I actually began preparing, I realised just how much work this was actually going to be. My main piece of advice for anyone taking the TMUA is not to underestimate it. The only way you can truly guarantee your success in the exam is with thorough preparation. If I hadn’t organised my time as effectively as I did, I may not be where I am today!
This brings us to the end of our preparation timeline. You’re admissions journey isn’t quite finished yet, as you will still need to send your results out to your chosen universities (as well as your interview if you’re applying to Cambridge).
It is our hope that you will be able to use the guidance we’ve provided to build your own preparation plan that will see you through to victory! There isn’t one method that is correct compared to the others, it’s simply down to how you learn and study best. As long as you’re putting the time and effort into improving your mathematics and exam skills, you’re increasing your chances of success! Whatever you choose next, we wish you the best of luck with your application!
It’s time to start thinking about your TMUA Preparation!
When you sign up to the TMUA Preparation Platform, you’re signing up for loads of amazing resources to help you get through your TMUA prep with ease! Your upgraded account will get you instant access to all of these great features:
Training Temple- Explore over 100 expert tutorials covering everything you need to know about the TMUA, as well as plenty of exam tips and tricks!
Practice Dojo- Test your maths skills with over 500 practice questions from each section of the TMUA. Learn from your mistakes with our fully worked solutions so you’ll get it right next time!
Exam Arena- The final challenge! Take on our collection of TMUA past papers and see how you do in simulated exam conditions, complete with an accurate score at the end!
Sign up today to try the TMUA Preparation Platform for free!