March 15, 2024

How to Prepare for the UIL Mathematics Competition

As we discussed in our previous insight, fostering strong math skills in students is not just an academic pursuit; it's an investment in their future. To motivate students in developing strong math skills, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) created by the University of Texas at Austin conducts yearly Mathematics competitions for all Texas schools.
Unlike the UIL Number Sense contest however, the UIL Mathematics contest is offered only at the middle school and high school levels. The middle school (grades 6 to 8) UIL mathematics contest is a 30-minute test, and it consists of 50 multiple choice problems. The high school (grades 9 to 12) UIL mathematics contest is a 40-minute test, and it consists of 60 multiple choice problems. While calculators are prohibited in the middle school UIL mathematics contests, students are allowed to use calculators in the high school contests.
Since the UIL Mathematics contest covers a multitude of math concepts, students should devote an adequate amount of time to prepare for the contest. The amount of time each student should devote on preparing for the contest will depend on the student’s existing skill level. Students in lower grades will need to spend more time learning the concepts as some of the concepts would be entirely new for them. Students in higher grades would need to spend relatively less time to prepare. We recommend the following preparation times based on about 2 to 3 hours of preparation time per week:
Student Grade Preparation Time
Grade 6 - 8 6 to 12 months
Grade 9 & 12 3 to 9 months
Students seriously preparing for the UIL Mathematics competition should follow these steps:
  1. Devote the first 4 to 12 weeks (depending on existing skill level) entirely to review and internalize the concepts and tricks by working through the myQBook UIL mathematics concepts and practice problems. At this stage, don’t worry about taking the sample tests at all.
  2. Make sure to do all the sample problems after learning each concept. If needed, repeat doing the practice problems after few days to fully internalize the concept and the problems that appear in the contest.
  3. About 16 to 20 weeks before the contest date, start taking one test every week. Schedule the practice test approximately at the same time and day of the week that the actual context will take place. Make sure you will not be disturbed during the time of your practice test.
  4. After taking the test, go back and review your completed test and understand what problems you got wrong and why. Also understand how you solved each problem and whether that was the fastest way to solve the problem. Compare your approach to the myQBook recommended method and understand the difference.
  5. Throughout the following week review the concepts you didn’t score well on the test and practice sample problems.
  6. On the week of the contest, try to relax and not study too much. Just review some of the concepts as you were doing in the previous weeks. Don’t take any more tests during the last week.
As you prepare for the contest, here are some other important points to keep in mind:
  • Learn your multiplication tables – Middle school level at least till 25, and high school level till 30.
  • Memorize the most commonly used squares, square roots, cubes, and cube roots listed in the myQBook UIL mathematics concepts.
  • Understand and learn the Equivalent numbers (relationship between fractions, percents and decimal numbers) listed in the myQBook UIL mathematics concepts.
  • Memorize the “Measures to Remember” in the myQBook concepts.
  • While learning a concept think about why does the concept work and other applications of the same concept.
  • Learn how to recognize various number patterns.
  • Learn to break complex problems into smaller parts and then solve each part separately.

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