Tag Archives: preparation

History abounds with examples of strivers who worked relentlessly for success in one endeavor or another and exceeded even their own lofty ambitions. Equally plentiful are tales of those who showed just as much commitment and effort, yet failed to achieve their ends. If history teaches us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed in this life, except maybe another season of The Simpsons. This infinity of outcomes may confuse the connection between effort and achievement. After all, anyone seeking to defend skipping practice (or a study session or leg day) can easily find an example of a scenario where someone slacked off the same way but still achieved the desired goal. That’s why considering the connections between processes and outcomes can be so critical to reliable and sustained success. Shane Parrish at Farnam Street explored the ramifications of making–or missing–these connections: Good decisions don’t always have a good outcome, just…

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Test anxiety can hurt test takers, sometimes literally. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America describes debilitating physical symptoms of test anxiety, ranging from headaches and excessive sweating, to shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and light-headedness leading to full-blown panic attack. Nausea and gastrointestinal distress can also occur, which probably only exacerbates the emotional and cognitive toll. Clearly, test anxiety takes a toll on test performance… or does it? Psychologist Sigmund Tobias explored this very idea in a 1990 research paper titled Test Anxiety: Cognitive Interference or Inadequate Preparation? In that paper, he sought to review the differences between two interpretations accounting for the poor test performance of highly anxious students. The interference hypothesis asserts that test anxiety interferes with recall of prior learning in testing situations. The deficit hypothesis theorizes that lower test scores obtained by test anxious students are attributable to inadequate study habits or deficient test taking…

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Recently, someone asked an odd but strangely compelling question on Quora: “What is it like to take the SAT without any preparation?” As this question seems to focus more on feelings than consequences, you might as well ask what it’s like to do anything unprepared: You’ll feel anxious as the challenge of the task reveals itself. You’ll feel uncertain as you try to learn rules you could have mastered ahead of time. You’ll feel rushed as you struggle with pacing and time management. You’ll feel embarrassed for thinking you knew more about the task than you really did. You’ll feel foolish as you underperform compared to how you would do with preparation and practice. You’ll feel regret for wasting time and blowing an opportunity. Imagine trying to sing a song you’ve never tried before in front of all your friends on karaoke night. Of all the emotions that would wash…

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Ask ten, twenty, or even a hundred people to list their favorite activities, and you can bet that “studying” won’t appear in anyone’s Top 10. Sure, researching the most minute details about your favorite show or book or hobby can be extremely diverting, as anyone who spends hours sifting through scraps of player news for their fantasy sports teams can attest. But the mere thought of studying anything you are not interested feels like a bother. In this context, bother happens to be a technical term, in that a person may be bothered by the idea of spending precious time attending to one task when other equally valuable options also beckon for attention. Clinical psychologist Tim Carey Ph.D. has been exploring the nature of botheration, which he defines as a clash of conflicting interests: Bother is the natural byproduct of fierce, yet evenly matched, competitions between an individual’s own private…

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As any parent who has helped a high schooler prep successfully for the SAT or ACT can attest, the adults in this process sometimes have to study as much as their kids! No, you don’t need to master math problem solving or immerse yourself in the fine points of American founding documents and the Great Global Conversation. Instead, your responsibility lies in understanding the why, when, and how (you already know who) of effective test preparation. Where does a busy parent decades removed from his or her own exam experience begin to figure out what questions to even ask about prepping for the SAT, ACT, PSAT, and Subject Tests? How about right here? Is preparing for a test even worthwhile? How hard is the SAT or ACT for the unprepared? Is there a secret to score improvement? How does effective test preparation work? Should/can someone study for the ACT and…

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What if I told you that you could become a virtuoso piano player in just one hour a week? Would you believe me if I promised you could play college basketball if you only work at it in the spare moments between more pressing commitments? How about fluency in a foreign language without ever having to practice? I hope, for your sake, that you find these claims dubious at best and, more likely, delusional. Clearly, nobody achieves greatness in any challenging endeavor with minimal effort or practice. Yet, every day, I encounter students, parents, and even other educators who imagine that amazing test scores can be earned with just one hour of instruction a week, whenever they can fit it in, without ever taking a practice test. For most students, this simply will not suffice. Sure, some high schoolers may ace the SAT without any prep, but these are usually…

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