Michelle...I'm sure you've had this before...but remember PEMDAS...which stands for Parenthesis.....Exponent...Multiplication...Division...Addition... and finally Subtraction...always solving a multiple function/operation equation from left to the right.
Write PEMDAS on your notebook...paste it into memory...because once you learn it...you will be the MASTER...oh...as for your question...you complete the operation/problem inside the parenthesis first...if there are exponents outside of the parenthesis. However,
if there are exponents inside the parenthesis...you do whatever is inside the parenthesis...which means sometimes completing the exponent...AS LONG AS IT IS INSIDE THE PARENTHESIS. Hope this helps...good luck