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What I've Been Thinking About Lately #38

Test, Test, and Retest

The common "study -> test -> forget" model used in schools leaves much to be desired, I mainly dislike it for two reasons

  1. It provides no incentive to retain the information after the test, encouraging cramming rather than mastery of the material

  2. It makes failure seem catastrophic, when in reality, failure is an opportunity to identify areas that need more work or outsourcing

The most effective approach I've found to improving somewhere in my life is a continuous cycle of "test -> identify biggest shortcomings (areas of greatest return) -> attack those areas -> retest"

In the real world, there are no defined tests, so you need to make them yourself. A common way you can do this is by surrounding yourself with people who will regularly give you critical feedback, but there is a few ways to get creative.

When studying for the rigorous CPA exams, instead of slogging through the mountains of materials upfront, I literally started studying by taking 1 of the 3 provided practice exams. Classmates thought I was making a mistake for taking a practice test I knew I would fail, but this allowed me to pinpoint my biggest weaknesses first. Then I could focus intensely on just those areas before retesting. This strategic approach required far less overall study time than my peers.

Similarly, I went to a StretchLab where professionals stretch you out. The coaches tested my flexibility and after just a few sessions we identified the specific areas where I was the tightest. Focusing my stretches into 2-3 specific areas has yielded far better results than my generic routine could.

The key is to always be testing your current level, embracing failure as a tool to optimize your efforts. Identifying your areas of greatest potential return, then studying and practicing those intensely before retesting. Be willing to use professionals like trainers, coaches, and instructors as their insight can improve your efforts and provide compounding returns. This continuous cycle of targeted improvement is the path to mastering any skill more efficiently.

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