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Taking the Real Estate Exam: Math Anxiety

Math anxiety Are you getting ready to take the real estate license exam, but suffering from math anxiety? Many of us tense up at the thought of dealing with numbers—a fear that some of us can trace back to childhood classrooms where we cowered at our desks, hoping the teacher wouldn't call on us.

Well, the good news is that you probably have more than enough ability to solve almost any math problem on the real estate exam. So—if you already have the skills to solve the math problems—how do you get past the anxiety?

Here are two techniques that can really help: (1) diagramming the problem, and (2) breaking the problem down.

Diagram the problem. Some problems, such as area problems and legal description problems, seem mystifying until you draw a diagram. When you look at the picture you've drawn, the math doesn't seem so tough.

Break the problem down. Sometimes a math problem will involve several calculations, but don't worry. Longer doesn't mean harder. Take it one step at a time and you'll get to the answer. Use some of the scratch paper you're given when you enter the test site. Jot down the first calculation, then label the result you get on your scratch paper. That will help put your mind at ease, and give you the confidence to go on to the next step.

Let's look at an area problem and see how these techniques can help.

A radish field is bisected by an access road, leaving two triangular lots with a depth of 800 feet and a frontage of 384 feet. If the land sells for $5,000 per acre, how much is each lot worth?

Yikes! Looks complicated! But you can begin solving the problem by taking these steps:

1. Draw the field
2. Draw the bisecting line
3. Add the dimensions

Drawing a field is easy enough, but what does "bisected" mean? Maybe you're familiar with the word, but if not, try this: notice that the problem says that the access road splits the lot into two triangular lots, which essentially tells you what bisecting means. The only way a road can leave two triangles is if it runs from corner to corner.

Math diagram Now you just need to add the dimensions. Your completed diagram will look something like the drawing shown here.

Now that you've made a diagram, you should find the problem much easier to solve. Remember to take it one step at a time when doing your calculations.

Use the formula for calculating the area of a triangle, ½ B × H (½ of 384 feet times 800 feet). The result is 153,600 square feet for each of the two triangular lots. (If you're wondering how you're supposed to know how to figure out the area of a triangle, keep in mind that you will have to memorize a few common formulas, such as the formulas for calculating the area of a rectangle and a triangle.)

On to the next step! There are 43,560 square feet in an acre. So divide 153,600 square feet by 43,560. The result is 3.526 acres (rounded off).

The final step is to multiply the number of acres (3.526) by the price per acre ($5,000). The answer to the problem is $17,630 per lot.

See—what started out looking pretty complicated was really pretty simple, once you broke it down into steps.

Most of the math problems on the real estate license exam are no more difficult than this one. So if you can figure out this problem, you should have no trouble with the others!

Many math problems require a calculator. If you want to know more about taking a calculator to the real estate license exam, check out our blog entry on calculators. We'll continue to offer tips on taking the real estate exam from time to time on this blog. If you want more tips right away, check out our real estate exam test-taking tip videos.