You've no doubt heard the adage that "practice makes perfect." But that's not necessarily true. I prefer the legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi's variation that goes, "Perfect practice makes perfect."
You see, how you practice and prepare for your exam matters. I want to shed some light on that for you so that you're able to maximize your study time. In fact, if you internalize and take action on the three tips I'm going to share with you, you'll be able to get more right answers on test day without having to put in a lot of extra hours. Time is valuable, so why spend more of it preparing for your exam than absolutely necessary?
Okay, let's dive in.
Consider the following two hypothetical students studying for their respective exams.
Candidate A: Studies for 100 hours.
Candidate B: Studies for 80 hours.
Which student do you think is likely to get a higher score?
It's a trick question. On the surface, it seems like Candidate A is the obvious answer. But more isn't always better when it comes to studying for your test, especially if you're not doing the right things. Let me give you a little more detail about each candidate's study habits and see if that changes your mind.
Candidate A: Studies for 100 hours. Has the TV on in the background and checks her phone every time a message comes in. Often takes several days (or even weeks) off between study sessions. Spends most of her time doing practice problems from the textbook without actually learning the underlying content first. Quickly glances back at the answer explanation as soon as she feels stuck on a question.
Candidate B: Studies for 80 hours. Sets aside an hour of dedicated time every day and turns off all distractions. Watches video lessons that teach relevant strategies and methodologies for the question type she's working on before doing practice problems. When she feels stuck, she wrestles with the problem a little longer on her own before reviewing the answer. Takes note of the questions she gets wrong to look for patterns, then invests extra time studying up on those topics. Sends particularly challenging problems that she doesn't understand to her tutor for feedback.
Now which candidate do you think is likely to get the higher score on test day?
It's pretty obvious that Candidate B is more deliberate in her practice and is therefore putting herself in a better position to excel on test day, despite fewer total hours invested in studying. If she tacks on some more hours with the same good study habits, so much the better! But ultimately quality trumps quantity when it comes to preparing for your test.
Now, let's get a little more specific.
You may have noticed the short video/audio at the top of this article. It's an excerpt from a podcast I listen to called "Chasing Excellence" by esteemed CrossFit coach Ben Bergeron. In it he talks about the idea of "deep" (or deliberate) practice, and how to achieve it. I thought it applies perfectly to the types of things you should be thinking about when practicing for your exam, too, which is why I'm sharing it.
By way of background, just before this clip picks up, Bergeron had been talking about Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hours" concept. In his book Outliers, Gladwell explains that 10,000 hours is the minimum amount of practice time you must put in before you truly master something. But as Ben points out, many of us have done lots of things for more than 10,000 hours (e.g. driving), yet we're not masters at it. Why not? Because our practice hasn't been deliberate.
So too with the exam you're studying for.
I often have prospective students e-mail me with the following complaint: "I've studied for months and done every single practice problem in the Official Guide textbook, but my practice test scores aren't improving. Can you help me?"
Usually when we dive in to the person's study habits, it turns out she's more like Candidate A than Candidate B. The fix? Deliberate practice.
Here are the three components of "deliberate practice" that Bergeron describes in the clip above, along with my tips for how you can apply them to improve your exam preparation.
Deliberate practice is...
I thought I'd leave you with this funny take on the "10,000 Hour Rule" by the ever-sardonic Dilbert.
Hopefully you now understand that 10,000 hours of preparation isn't necessary to do well on your exam. Heck, even 100 hours may be over-kill depending on where you're starting from. The whole premise of our courses here at Dominate Test Prep is that you don't have to be a math major to get a high score. Rather, your goal is to get right answers at all costs -- and if you study the shortcuts and strategies we teach and increase the "deliberateness" of your study sessions just a bit, I think you'll be amazed at the results you're able to achieve.
Ready to really kick your preparation into high-gear? Let us coach you! Click HERE to see our course options and choose the one that's right for you.
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