If you are thinking of taking college algebra next semester then you might be wondering how hard it will be.

This post will show you how hard college algebra is and what you can do to make it easier for yourself.

So, how hard is college algebra? According to this report, 50% of students get a grade lower than a C when taking college algebra. However, if you did well in algebra class in high school then you will likely do well at college algebra as well.

How difficult college algebra is for you will depend largely on how well prepared you are for it, your work ethic and a number of other factors. There are also a number of things that you can do to make it easier for yourself.

It depends on how much math you have already done

How difficult college algebra will be for you will depend largely on how well prepared you are for it.

If you did well in algebra 1 and 2 in high school then you will likely also do well in college algebra provided that you do all of the homework and you make sure to learn the material. Even if you did well in high school, college algebra will still be difficult for you if you do not make sure to keep up with the work throughout the semester.

If you didn’t do so well at math in high school then you will likely find college algebra to be more difficult. However, that doesn’t mean that you will fail the class. You can make up for being underprepared by following the tips mentioned below.

It will be necessary for you to study

Regardless of whether or not you have a solid foundation in math, it will still be necessary for you to study throughout the semester. The reason that 50% of students fail the class is mainly because they think that they don’t need to study outside of class time which is not the case.

However, if you do study throughout the semester you will be much more likely to do well in the class. By studying throughout the semester it will be easier for you to understand what the professor is teaching, you won’t have to cram the night before the exams and you will retain the information more effectively (source.)

It will depend on the professor

The difficulty of the class will largely depend on the professor that is teaching the class.

Depending on the college, the professor will usually dictate the pace that the class is taught at and what is on the exams. They will also be in control of the scope of the exams. Some professors will say that you need to know everything that is in the book while others will give you a study guide and tell you what specific topics to understand.

Before scheduling the class it would be worthwhile to look at the website ratemyprofessors.com to see what other students have said about the professors in the past. Make sure to schedule the class as soon as scheduling opens since you will likely find that the classes taught by the professors with high ratings will be filled up quickly.

Don’t take other difficult classes at the same time

Since most students find college algebra to be a difficult class it would be worthwhile for you to try to avoid taking other difficult classes at the same time.

If you take other difficult classes in the same semester then it will mean that you will have to be putting a lot of effort into multiple classes at the same time. This could cause you to struggle to keep up with the work especially during finals week.

Plan the schedule out in advance

In order to make sure that you stay on track throughout the semester it would help to plan out the schedule of the class as soon as you are able to. Normally, on the first day of college algebra, the professor will give you a syllabus detailing when the exams will be, how much weighting the exams will have and when the homework is due. Sometimes the syllabus will also tell you what the homework is as well.

If, on the day that you get the syllabus, you plan out when the tests will be, when the homework will be due and the topics you’ll be covering it will help you to avoid missing any exams or homework due dates. It will also help you to see in advance when your schedule with your other classes will get tight.

Make sure to do well on the homework

In college algebra, there will usually be a reasonably high weighting on the homework. A weighting of about 20% would not be unusual and sometimes it can be higher. Ensuring that you do well on the homework will be extremely beneficial. It will help to make up for any poor exam results, the professors will usually be more lenient on students who do all the homework and it will help you to prepare for the exams.

You can ensure that you do well on the homework by reading the book before starting it, avoiding waiting until the day before it is due and using resources such as Google and Youtube to study parts that you get stuck on.

One other option would be to use the website chegg.com where they will give you to solutions to the different textbooks. However, it is important to make sure that you actually learn the material and avoid simply copying the answers otherwise you will struggle on the exams.

Read the book before trying to solve the problems

Often, students will try to solve their homework problems based on what the teacher taught in-class without reading the book.

The problem with this is that some the teacher might skip over parts of the chapter from the book, the questions will be based on the material in the book and you won’t understand the material as well as you could.

Instead of jumping straight to the homework problems it would be more effective for you to read the relevant chapter first and then to try to solve the questions from the book after.

Get help when you get stuck

It is important to get help when you really get stuck. By getting help you will be able to show the professor that you are putting an effort into the class, avoid having gaps in your knowledge on the exam and you will be able to have a higher homework grade.

However, while it is important to get help when you get stuck it is also important to try to figure out the solution yourself beforehand. This means that you should reread the relevant chapter, look at tutorials on Youtube and look at any lecture notes that you might have first.

Prioritize any material that the professor gives you

Usually, you will find that the material that is given to you by the professor will be the most likely material to be on the exam. When you are preparing for the exams it is important to make sure that you fully understand anything that the professor gave you.

In addition to this, sometimes the professor will also give you a study guide. If your professor does give a study guide ahead of exams then make sure to start studying it straight away since it will be very likely that the exam will be similar to the study guide. If you don’t understand any material on a study guide then make sure to learn it ahead of any exams.

Revise material that you don’t know already

If you have not taken any math classes in a while then it would be helpful if you were to start revising high school level math now so that you don’t need to play catch-up during the semester.

One playlist that I would highly recommend would be the one below that is taught by Professor Leonard. He is a very good teacher and he goes teaches in a step by step and easy to understand manner. If you can understand the material on the playlist below then you will be very well prepared for college algebra.

Here is the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqk4vcuKoBQ&list=PLDesaqWTN6ETc1ZwHWijCBcZ2gOvS2tTN

Prepare for college algebra using a book

In addition to the video series above, you could prepare in advance with a college algebra book that is designed for self-study.

One book that you could use would be this one on Amazon that features step by step solutions for common problems that most college algebra courses will cover.


I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.