If you want to get rich, get involved in the multi-billion dollar standardized testing industry. Test creators, software and hardware companies, tutoring companies, and college consulting firms get richer every time you have to take a test; and their coffers swell when some genius decides to change a high-stakes test (i.e the "new and improved" SAT). That means new software, new materials, new everything. I'm no economist, but I think this is called planned obsolescence--the same principle that forces you to purchase a new iPhone because the new OS won't support your existing one.
So where does all of this skepticism leave you? You still have to take the redesigned SAT in April (or the ACT, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, or some other evil acronym) and your admission will depend, somewhat, on your performance on said test. Some faceless admissions counselor will look at that score and triangulate it with your GPA, recommendations, personal statement, and some other factors of which you may or may not be aware (for example, your Twitter feed--yes, they look at that).
How to approach the test then?
First, keep in mind that you can try your best on something that you don't completely agree with. So approach the test with a balance of respect and dismissiveness. Remember that, in the grand scheme of your life, it means nothing. That's right. Nothing. Your value as a human being has nothing to do with this exam. That said, if you want to get into Michigan you will need to score X on the new SAT. And yet, I would argue that if a university does not admit you because of test score, then you probably don't want to go to that university. This is not unlike the guy on Match.com who can't get a date because he has a beard; consider it a great way to weed out non-prospects. Further, anyone who asks you what you got on the SAT (or any standardized test for that matter) is doing you a favor by eliminating him or herself as a potential friend. It's just plain classless and ugly to do such a thing.
So over the next few weeks, you will probably be doing a lot of test prep both in and out of school. It probably will help you, but it may not. You probably will do well on the test, but you may not. Remember that what's most important is that you do the best you can, then quickly remind yourself that it doesn't matter. If that seems paradoxical, it's because it is--so is life.
Plus, you can always take it again. And the testing industry will be happy to take your money.
Wonder why some students seem to always do well on tests while others struggle? The common--albeit lazy--answer is often "they're just smarter" or "they're really interested in the material."
The reasons students do well on tests actually has more to do with the way they define the word "study," which actually has two definitions:
1. Look at closely in order to observe or read.
2. Devote time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject.
Which most accurately reflects how you study?
If, when your teacher says, "Okay guys, you've got 15 minutes to study before the exam starts," and you proceed to stare at your notes--skimming, rereading, and "going over stuff in your head,"-- then you're doing the wrong kind of studying.
If, on the other hand, you join up with a couple of classmates and ask each other questions, write down key ideas, discuss ways to remember important concepts--in other words, actually devote time and attention--now you are really studying.
Think of the first definition like watching TV. You're sitting back passively, letting the content wash over you.
The second is more like playing a video game. You're interacting with the material, manipulating it, making meaning as opposed to "going over stuff."
And be careful about over-digitizing your study session. You can make online flashcards, but print them out when it's time to study. It's fine to look at videos to review, but take old-fashioned notes as you watch. The research, overwhelmingly, supports the importance of speaking and writing the old-fashioned way as you study. This helps to rewire the neural pathways that have been short-circuited by all of your texting, Instagramming, and Snapchatting.*
In summary, to do better on exams, do so with the second definition in mind:
1. Devote time. Never wait until the day of the test to study; your brain processes while you're sleeping. Think of it as a computer emptying the trash.
2. Devote attention--activate the material through speaking, writing, drawing, etc, preferably with other human beings.
It's amazing how just knowing the meaning of a word can change your approach. Now stop studying (#1) this blog and start studying (#2) for your exam!
*For a haunting, impossible-to-refute argument on this subject, check out Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Ever heard of John Dewey, the father of modern education? Well, he's dead, and he's turning over in his grave.
Has your teacher ever said, "You better pay attention because you will need this on the test," or "you will need this in college" or "this is preparing you for the next step." My go-to line was "The real world isn't going to stand for this!" As if the real world only starts after your walk across the stage. This message comes from your teachers, your parents, your counselors, your principal, your coaches, your supervisors, your siblings, your aunts and uncles, even your president. The recent obsession with "college and career readiness" has become so prevalent that it's now trite. Your life, as a high school student (or college for that matter) is all about getting ready for something else.
The thing is, these people aren't lying to you. They're actually trying to help you, and to an extent, what we're saying is true. But treating learning as a means to an end rather than an end in itself will not sustain you in high school, in college, or after. As Dewey taught us, "Education is not the preparation for life. Education is life."
So a question like "will this be on the test?" is an indication that your approach to learning is more transactional than transformational. Everything you learn, I don't care if it's the quadratic formula or the meaning of the word "synecdoche," is, in itself, helping to expand your mind and improve you as a person right now, in this world, which is actually real.
You've probably heard the saying, "Boring people get bored." Here's how to not be boring : embrace new concepts and new skills not as some sort of currency that you can cash in later in life, rather as an automatic payment to your brain, right now.
Ever notice when you go to the gym, that all of the unfit people look completely miserable? They're watching the clock on the treadmill, hoping for a circuit to break, trying to distract themselves with TMZ or Judge Judy. They see working out the same way too many kids view learning--as a means to an end. Notice that the people who are in shape seem to be purposeful, intense, almost serene.
Approach learning the same way and you will find that high school, college, and work will be so much easier, so much more gratifying, and so much more fun.
Now get back to your homework!