Word problems are exercises that require candidates to apply their maths knowledge to a 'real-life' scenario. This tests the ability to filter the relevant information from the text, to find solutions to arithmetic problems, to apply formulas and to be able to calculate efficiently and accurately.

Always try to follow the following step-by-step plan to solve word problems:

  1. Read the entire problem carefully and make sure you really understand what is being asked.
  2. Consider what information is needed to calculate the answer and what information is redundant.
  3. See if any information is missing and write down the sums that can give this information.
  4. Write down the complete sum that you need to calculate.
  5. Calculate the sum.

Start practicing word problems

Below follows an example of a math word problem.

Tom reads a book about birds with 15 pages that have an average of 324 words per page.He reads an average of 4 pages per hour. Umberto is seated next to him. He reads 23% faster than Tom, but he reads a 38-page book. Both books contain on average the same number of words per page. Who finished the book first and how much sooner?

Tip: Read the exercise carefully and you will immediately notice that both books have the same number of words per page. You do not need this information to answer the question.

Now you can fill in the missing information. You want to know

  • how long it takes Tom to finish the book.
  • How quickly Umberto reads
  • how long it takes Umberto to read his book.

If you know all this, you can calculate the difference and give the answer.

Step 1: calculate how long it takes Tom.

Tom finishes the book in 15/4 = 3.75 hours.

Step 2: calculate how many pages per hour Umberto reads.

Umberto reads 4 * (1 + 0.23) = 4.92 pages per hour

Step 3: Calculate how long it takes Umberto.

Umberto finishes the book in 38 / 4.92 = 7.72 hours.

Step 4: Calculate the difference.

3.75-7.72 = -3.97 hours.

Multiply this by 60 to get the answer: 3.97 * 60 = 238.41; It takes Tom 238.41 minutes less than Umberto to finish the book.

The calculation required to find the answer is usually not very complicated, it is mainly about filtering the correct information from the text and seeing which intermediate steps are needed to complete the entire sum. In general, all problems can be solved with basic math skills (multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and percentage changes).

If you have difficulty with this, we recommend that you first read the math section and do some practice sets.

Since it is mainly important to practice a lot with word problems, we will stick to 1 example in this explanation. All sums that you can practice on Assessly have an extensive explanation. We therefore recommend that you practice a lot of our exercises and that study the explanations. In this way you prepare optimally for your assessment!