Over my years as a statistics tutor in New York, I’ve heard countless clients across age ranges and genders say, “I’ve never been good at math” or “I just don’t get statistics” before we start working together. I’ve even had medical doctors complain of the same problems! This fear causes many people across ages and industries to struggle in class or simply give up; however, I believe these are underlying confidence issues, not a true indication of their abilities.
Of course, as any good statistician knows, individuals differ in cognitive skills and processing abilities. That’s why today, I want to offer four general methods that will make statistics classes easier regardless of your natural ability, and hopefully raise your confidence for exams!
Tips for Conquering Statistics
1) Outline your book!
Outlining a statistics chapter can even put a statistician like me to sleep, but it’s critical for understanding the course. In most cases, the formulas and concepts are novel to students and outlining breeds familiarity. Because statistics builds on previous chapters, familiarity with formulas truly helps with later conceptual work. It also reduces fear of the unknown. I recommend reviewing the previous day’s notes beforehand and then outlining a little bit every night. Even writing one formula can go a long way.
2) Study vocabulary
Like many subjects, statistics comes with its own vocabulary. Words like “discrete,” “normal,” “population” and “probability” have their uses in every day vernacular, but they take on new meaning in statistics. Treat these words like you would vocabulary in a language course--make index cards!
3) Work backwards from examples
Most professors will use examples to illustrate and test a concept on an examination, but I’ve had many clients struggle with the connection between application and theory. Most people don’t know where to start! Here’s where knowing your vocabulary comes in handy! You can use the statistics vocabulary to translate the prompts.
I recommend reading through and looking for words that are synonyms to the statistics vocabulary. I would then underline these critical words and translate them. Once you have the pieces of the puzzle, you can put them together to figure out what to do! For example, if they say “separate group” you know you have two independent groups. If they say “more than,” or “less than,” it’s a one sided hypothesis test, and if they say “different than,” it’s a two sided test.
4) Practice, practice, practice!
As in most subject matters, the old saying holds water, “practice makes perfect”. If you’re taking an introductory stats classes, chances are your test problems will be similar to your textbook or homework problems. There’s a reason for this! Experimental design and hypothesis testing require certain conditions to be met or values to be available. Statistics is a rule-based science. These conditions will stay the same whether you’re talking about measuring babies’ weight or measuring bean stalk growth. Do extra problems at the end of each chapter that have answers in the back, and always take the sample midterm or final provided by your professor. And if you’re still struggling, consider having a few sessions with a statistics tutor. Cambridge Coaching offers statistics tutoring with Harvard- and MIT-trained professionals in New York, Boston, and online. Give us a call today!